In his recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama stressed the importance of America retaining its position as the world’s greatest nation. His plans to ensure that status implies expanding the role of government. That possibility aggravated and further alarmed those concerned about growing the catastrophic $13 trillion U.S. debt.
Meanwhile, a sudden civilian revolt in Tunisia, which has now spread to Egypt and threatens other entrenched oligarchies in the Middle East, surprised the world, and apparently the State Department. The hopeful expectation is that these revolts will usher democracy into nations that have long endured harsh totalitarian governments — many of which have been steadfastly supported by the United States.
Our pragmatic foreign policy never allows our principles to subvert our self-interests. While we are the world’s ostensible standard bearer of democracy, we will, nevertheless, fund even the harshest of tyrants when it is advantageous to some skullduggery of our government. Sometimes that policy backfires as it did in Iran in 1979 when the U.S.-backed tyrant there was overthrown by angry Iranians and replaced by new tyrants who hate the United States, but who love nuclear weapons. Sometimes it is just difficult to know which tyrant to back?
Should the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt result in democratic forms of government there, it will have happened without deploying 150,000 U.S. troops and spending more than $600 billion in a nearly decade long dubious effort to install democracy. It will have happened in spite of our longstanding support of the tyrants there. But, who knew democracy could happen without U.S. help or hindrance?
Currently, the United States spends more than $685 billion a year on defense. Much of that is to maintain a military presence in nearly 1,000 locations around the globe. More than 300,000 U.S. troops are deployed in more than 150 countries; 80 percent of the world’s nations have some degree of U.S. occupation.
Already $13 trillion in debt and growing worse every minute, can we really afford to maintain pan-global military muscle that is of dubious effectiveness in supporting despots or preventing popular revolutions? Is it really necessary? What or who is the perceived enemy that requires such massive deployment of military might? Is all this muscle about protecting fossil fuel supplies in the Mideast, or crushing the drug trade in Latin America, or blustering about the high seas and air corridors to impress or intimidate friends and foes?
What ever it is, it is going to significantly contribute to our bankruptcy or turn us into blatant imperial predators robbing the wealth of other nations while refusing to pay our debts, and daring anyone to stop us. Either possibility is disastrous. The latter would be dastardly.
Our economy, near shambles these past three years, is teetering toward disaster under the gigantic burden of federal debt. By maintaining our massive military presence around the world we have taken on a huge mortgage to buy an empire we cannot afford. Some of the greatest empires in human history have faltered financially just before suffering collapse or conquest.
If Obama really wants to maintain America’s peerless position in the world, he should focus on finance not empire. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have drained our treasury of $1 trillion so far. Obama should honor his campaign promises to quickly withdraw our military from Iraq and Afghanistan and end those treasury-draining, misbegotten military misadventures.
We should downsize our defense budget to just defend the nation, not maintain the trappings of empire. Why do we still need a huge military presence in Europe? What are we doing with military outposts in Latin America? Chasing coca-growing leftists? What for? Bring our troops home and put them along our southern border. That would be true national defense.