Stuck in the Cold War


(Photo Credit: U.S. Army Photostream)
New America Foundation/Economic Growth Program Policy Director and The American Way of Strategy author Michael Lind has an excellent new column over at Salon that traces the roots of the United States’ strategic insolvency.
Lind argues persuasively that the United States suffers from outdated, Cold War-era national security and economic strategies. The “bases for markets” grand bargain – according to which Germany and Japan allow the Untied States to base its forces on their soil in exchange for access to American markets – is no longer tenable from an American perspective.
Lind concludes that

For the time being, however, America’s out-of-touch foreign policy establishment continues to favor the policy of expanding America’s geopolitical frontiers while allowing our self-interested industrial rivals to hollow out the American economy. Policies that made sense in the early years of the Cold War emergency continue to be followed out of inertia, when their original strategic rationale has long since vanished. In the words of the philosopher George Santayana, “Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.”

The entire piece can be read here.
— Ben Katcher


19 comments on “Stuck in the Cold War

  1. Sweetness says:

    Well, actually, now that you mention, sometimes one’s eyes DO lie,
    or get fooled at least. My understanding is that O’Keefe was also
    thrown out of a bunch of ACORN offices until he hit pay dirt.


  2. questions says:

    You don’t defund and bankrupt an entire organization for the idiocy of a couple of workers AND since the video tapes were doctored, there’s a lot less incriminating stuff there than was originally indicated. Jerry Brown allowed immunity from prosecution in order to get access to the undoctored tapes. I’ll track down links eventually and post them.
    It’s just not as awful as the right wing sound machine made it out to be.


  3. nadine says:

    Yup, all we have on ACORN is ACORN workers on videotape blithely offering to help set up brothels full of underage sex slaves from Ecuador, with government aid. In five separate offices in five separate states. Nothing to see here, move right along, situation normal. Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?
    You really want to climb on this limb, questions?


  4. questions says:

    There doesn’t seem to be good place for this, but it’s a nice summary of stuff I’ve been seeing around for a week or so now. Nadine, it’s really for you:
    Koch Industries’s funding of climate denial. A lot of money, a lot of symposia, a lot of pushing of those e-mails…..
    And by the way, have you noted what’s been going on regarding ACORN — we now have Brooklyn and California both noting no criminal action, no dressed up pimps, nothing really horrific at all. Jerry Brown mentioned document dumpstering — not good. And some bad judgment, but nothing that earned ACORN’s fate. Lots of video splicing, though. Don’t trust Fox or IBD.


  5. nadine says:

    Hans, US levels are also unsustainable. Social Security just tipped into the red. This year for the first time, it pays out more than it takes in.
    And the US has 2.1 births per woman plus a good track record assimilating immigrants.
    If US levels are unsustainable for the US, there are much more unsustainable for Italy.


  6. Hans Suter says:

    Nadine, Italy will simply lower pension levels to those of the US.


  7. chumanist says:

    The wisdom of evidence has amply proved the thesis that maintaining its quest for gun-power/gunpowder the US has been declining its economic strength.


  8. nadine says:

    Dan, no society where the average births per woman is 1.2, as it is in Italy, can be called “sustainable”. The number of 21 year old native born Italians in 20 years has been determined by the number of 1 year old Italian babies today. There aren’t enough of them to maintain the pension schemes, not even close.


  9. Don Bacon says:

    The point is that is it not an “utter waste” to those who are enjoying the financial rewards of this charade. Dick Cheney’s net worth is estimated to be between $30 million and $100 million. Diane Feinstein’s husband Richard Blum owns 75% of Perini Corp. which has received over 800 million dollars in war-related construction contracts — here’s a photo of Dianne’s digs:
    So it simply doesn’t matter to those that matter that the US economy is being hollowed out as long as some are getting rich, and those that think that this is only a question of “national security strategy” are naive. The winners are laughing all the way to the bank. It works for them, and they thank us very much.
    Regarding Europe, could the US count on European support on Iran, for just one example, if the US weren’t holding Europe by the short hairs in “national security?” Without Europe, and Canada, which otherwise would have no interest in Iran (or Afghanistan) the US would be without allies.
    The US realized long ago, about the time of Wilson and the US late entry into WWI, that military dominance was a key to political dominance and political alliances. They go together like love and marriage, or apple pie and cheese. (Okay, I know.) That’s why the US got involved in Europe’s wars, and now it’s payback time. The US plus Europe & Canada are now “the world” — the US can’t do it all (world dominance) alone.
    This is the US “national security strategy” — financial success for a few based on high military expenditures (equal to the rest of the world combined) and political dominance. It’s nothing personal, Iran and Taliban, and Axis of Evil. A world power requires enemies. It’s just good business.


  10. JohnH says:

    I agree with French connection to the extent that the US is largely done defending Europe. Who is going to attack Europe?
    Since the US lost its role as the “protector of Europe” with the fall of the Soviet Union, it had to find other ways to “protect Europe” and maintain its position as the “indispensable nation.”
    So now the US strives to “protect” European oil and gas supply while attempting to make sure that Europe does not become too closely enmeshed with that unreliable, nasty Russian rival.
    However, I do agree with Wigwag that it’s time for Europe to take care of its own interests. And that includes securing their own sources of energy. What sense does it make for Americans to fund bases in the Caspian basin to protect European energy sources?


  11. Dan Kervick says:

    The European Union economy is now larger than the US economy. In terms of per capita GDP, 15 of the top 25 countries in the world are in Europe. Europe also contains 18 of the top 25 countries in the world when it comes to productivity (PPP per hours worked.) It would be absurd for the US to move away from Europe. The Europeans have demonstrated staying power because they consistently achieve a better mix of economic liberalism and state management than any of the other regions in the world, and seem capable of continual social and economic innovation and regeneration. They are also blessed in recent decades by the experimental pluralism provided the European Union, a situation that allows them to enjoy the fruits of integration and strategic economic coherence, but also try different approaches in different countries, and then broadly copy the approaches that work best.
    Americans work very hard, and eagerly and frenetically pursue opportunity. But Europeans work smarter and more coherently, with more attention to the social infrastructure needed for a rationally ordered society, and as a result maintain a civilization that is capable both of producing great wealth, and also of sustaining a way of life capable of enjoying that wealth, and distributing and using it wisely, without so much of the crime, chaos, waste, savage inequality and wretched excess that characterizes the American wild west hustle. While the world


  12. frenchconnection says:

    “American taxpayers have been subsidizing French, German and British citizens long enough. Let them figure out their own solutions to the Balkans; let them resolve the problems between Serbia and Kosovo.”
    it’s truly amazing that you believe that crap.
    Even if its true that the US played a crucial role in the fifties-early sixties to boost European defense in the aftermath of WWII AND TO PROTECT ITS OWN INTERESTS (in other words they would have put the same amount of money ANYWAY if Europe had the same population density than Canada), this is over.
    1) NATO is financed to 75% by Europeans and Canada.
    2) The Bosnian/Kosovo problem is over. Most of the US intervention which was to 90% air based was somewhat successful in Bosnia (where the Serbs gave up mostly because of the Croatian intervention and the French/British ad hoc created rapid intervention force) and a failure in Kosovo (only 10% of targets destroyed. The Serbs gave up because the Russians forced Milosevic to give up. During this war the US presence on the ground was minimal and arrived AFTER the cease-fire. The Europeans stood for the occupation to 90% in form av NATO or EUFOR and reconstructed the whole thing with their money. AND CURIOUSLY THERE WAS NO COUNTERINSURGENCY, at most some riots. 10 years after all those countries are EU appliants and one has already become a member, Croatia is next. Compare with the “successful” nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    wigwag, your arrogance goes in pair with complete ignorance of facts.


  13. Roci says:

    Very well done piece. Reading it calls to mind the calls that have been used to justify expanding military expenditures to meet “New threats in a new world.” and a host of other platitudes. But the nettlesome question remains, from Sun Tsu to today. What happens to any military adventure wherein the equipment and the means of making war change, but the strategies and tactics of the leaders remain the same?
    There is a word for it. It isn’t a word one likes to hear in the face of all the jingoistic clatter that’s drummed up when a nation goes into combat. But it is a word that needs to echo in the minds of those making policy, as well as those giving the orders to those who will go out and die for that policy and those tactics. That word is defeat.


  14. JohnH says:

    Don Bacon, agreed that its tough to tell whether the chicken or egg came first–the “national security state” or the hegemonic justifications for it. You may well be right that the military-industrial complex was simply unwilling to let its enormous government market disappear after WWII. Exaggerating the threat posed by a Soviet Union devastated by WWII helped make the case for both the merchants of death and the imperialists.


  15. frenchconnection says:

    Lind is just another exceptionalist libertarian paeloconservative with basically a protectionist/isolationist worldview. The bases he names play not even a minor role is the named countries economy. The USA has those bases because they are a part of the system of global hegemony after WWII. The people of those countries doesn’t like those bases (specially in Japan) except the local mayor who sees them as a source of income which is a trifle in a national perspective.
    The USA isn’t “protecting Germany”, the cold war is over. The US nuclear component in Germany is totally obsolete and more a liability than anything else. Germany is in reality protected by the French/British nuclear submarines and modern airplanes equipped with hypersonic missiles, the whole package with second strike capacity. But the few remaining European US bases are useful as projection platforms for NATO (which is to 75% manned by Europeans) interventions in the ME and Africa. Since Russia isn’t going to invade Europe, the bases role in that case is only hypothetical.
    Regarding Japan the thing is more complicated because of the role of China and North-Korea. But the primary role is to protect US troops in South Korea.
    In other words the US “protection” of other countries is much overrated and belongs a lot to the exceptionalistic mantra. The US is protecting itself and that’s perfectly OK.
    FYI JohnH, Europe gets the most of its fossil energy from the Northern Sea/Russia and in form of gas from Russia for some Eastern countries. The import is very diversified and only 15% comes from Saudi Arabia. Besides the imports haved decreased with a staggering 50% due to the crisis since 2007. Even if it’s likely that they will climb again with the recovery, energy savings makes it not likely they will go back to the old level, the most optimistic prognoses give a 30% increase towards 2015. In other words the Saudi could collapse and it wouldn’t a real problem for us except a temporary skyrocketing of prices.
    I think that 80% of Japan’s oil comes from Saudi-Arabia, so the Okinawa base is of little help for that.
    and what US intervention in Kosovo ? Do you mean the one 1999 ? Even if most of the air campaign was sustained by US planes, out of 80 000 occupying forces, 2500 were US and based in Macedonia. Today everybody is leaving, leaving only a residual force. Serbia has officially asked for membership in the EU. But camp Bondsteel was useful for renditions.
    But that the US militarily suffers from outdated strategical theories is right and the Afghan campaign has sown it until Mc Chrystal took over. The economical problem is more due to the astronomical sums engulfed in dead-end projects like the JSF or missile shields that don’t work and unnecessary wars like Iraq, than in some bases here and there.


  16. Don Bacon says:

    Calling the unchangeable course of the US military-industrial complex a “security policy” is like putting lipstick on a pig.
    The US became a militarized state beginning with the National Security Act of 1947, which led to the rise of a national security bureaucracy within the executive branch. American thinking about national security was transformed by this Act and the military establishment rose to prominence, even predominance, in American life.
    From this came the full-time standing army, which hadn’t been foreseen prior to this, and certainly not by the Founding Fathers. With a full-time standing army we get a full-time commander-in-chief who commands full-time preparedness. And why be prepared and not utilize the forces? And so US military forces have been utilized, and continue to be, albeit foolishly.
    Allied to the concept of preparedness was the emerging idea that national security required all elements of national power, not just the military, to be addressed in peace as well as war. This linkage of national security to so many interdependent factors, whether political and economic or psychological and military, expanded the concept, with the subjective boundaries of security pushed out further into the world, encompassing more geography and thereby more issues and problems.
    This expansive concept of US national security led most importantly to the growth of the production and service industries needed to sustain the national security state, to the point where the financial aspects of the security state out-weighed any rationale need for the huge expenditures that flowed to corporations. These expenditures have been flowing into every national congressional district, with the result that they cannot ever be ended or even curtailed. Congressional representatives brag about the amount of military dollars they are bringing into the district for procurements and military installations.
    The necessary sustenance of this financial monster requires that the US must devise enemies and scenarios that will require the application of the services of the standing military machine
    So the “strategy policy” that is devised is only an artifice meant to justify the two billion dollars per day that must be spent on the military, without any meaningful debate, at a time when the US is not threatened by any foreign military.
    Let’s not make more of it than it is.


  17. WigWag says:

    This is a very interesting article; Lind gets it mostly right. Especially when he says this,
    “For half a century America’s economic establishment, turning a blind eye to Asia’s crude and Germany’s subtle mercantilism and pretended that American protectionism was the greatest threat to the world economy. It is gradually dawning even on former free-trade fundamentalists that you cannot have a liberal global trading system in which three of the four largest industrial capitalist countries — China, Japan and Germany — pursue policies that permit them to enjoy perpetual trade surpluses, which require perpetual trade deficits by the U.S. and other countries.”
    The time to get tough on the surplus nations is now while the United States still has significant advantages over its economic adversaries.
    Why not fight with China about its currency when China is shooting with all blanks? Lind correctly points out that,
    “In the 2000s, debt-fueled consumption in the U.S. kept the system going for a while. China kept its currency low by using its huge dollar surpluses to buy U.S. federal debt, thereby keeping interest rates low and allowing Americans to borrow to pay for Chinese imports. But like all Ponzi schemes, this collapsed, leaving China with overbuilt export capacity and not enough customers either in the U.S. or at home, where the consumption of the Chinese people has been ruthlessly suppressed.”
    A trade war between the United States and China would be far more devastating to China than to the United States; China’s massively overbuilt export capacity would be a lead weight around its neck without the American consumer. If China cut back on its purchase of American bonds, there’s plenty of demand out there and if the dollar fell as a result it would help U.S. exports and diminish the value of China’s accumulated wealth. Let China diversify into the currency used by the Greeks, the Irish, the Portuguese and the Spanish if that’s what they want to do.
    Similarly its time to get tough with the Germans. During the recent economic crisis they refused to do their part to prop up aggregate demand; they left all the heavy lifting to the Americans and to the British. Let


  18. JohnH says:

    Correction: “…manifest ever since WWII.”


  19. JohnH says:

    The American way of strategy is far more than simply than a deal where, “Germany and Japan allow the United States to base its forces on their soil in exchange for access to American markets.”
    There was much more to the “deal,” manifest ever since WWI. A big part was to have America “protect” European and Japanese access to Middle Eastern and Indonesian oil, respectively, in exchange for their assuming a secondary role in governing the world.
    Most recently, US intervention in Kosovo can be seen as a US attempt to insert itself between Europe and its energy sources, as a way to assure their ongoing dependence. What other strategic rationale could Camp Bondsteel possibly have?
    There are no such problems with Japan. With the depletion of Indonesian oil, Japan has become ever more dependent on US “protection” to get its oil and gas from the ME.
    Aggressive US activities in the Caspian basin and Iran can clearly be seen as a further attempt to insert US “protection” into regions with critical energy sources, which will supply major Asian markets, including China, India, as well as Europe.
    The US has little interest in these areas as a suppliers to the US. Rather the US interest lies in maintaining control over the industrial world’s life blood and preventing challenges to American preeminence.
    Given that US protection now costs US taxpayers almost $1 Trillion per year, it is correct to ask whether the benefits of providing “protection services” to the world’s other powers is justified. How long can the US continue to provide this “service” without some levying some “protection fees” against those countries?
    Alternatively, when will those countries tire of being “protected,” and simply let the US bankrupt itself trying to maintain its hegemony?


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