Monday, May 13, 2013

The Case For Strength

Despite being a libertarian, I often espouse neoconservative views when it comes to matters of foreign policy. The world is full of failed and failing states, many of which could destabilize international trade. And international trade is one of those technologies (and it is a technology) that we rely on to maintain our astonishingly high standard of living.

And that is the entire basis for our foreign policy. To ensure that the supply chains of the modern economy are not threatened by instability abroad. And the best way we can ensure the integrity of those supply chains is with overwhelmingly powerful armed forces. Right now, we are in possession of a military that is incomparable in strength. And so long as we have the largest economy in the world, it needs to stay that way.

If progressives were dictators of the US, they'd gut the defense budget. That desire is couched in two reasons. They think that even if we halve defense spending, we'd still have the most powerful military in the world (and that's actually true) and that we don't need to concern ourselves with being the "world's policeman".

I'll be the first to admit that there is a huge amount of wasteful spending. But that fault lies mostly with self-interested Congressmen vying for dollars to be inefficiently spent within their district and state who want extraneous military bases kept open and unneeded production of various weapons systems to keep their constituents happy. I'd be all for finding efficiencies within the Pentagon's budget, but unlike the progressives, I don't want our operational capabilities reduced.

Many of them will argue that we have no need for 11 supercarrier battle groups or bases in Europe and Asia or a gigantic air force. But we do. And it's because this gigantic logistical framework is what's needed to project military power in every corner of the globe. The unfortunate reality of defense is that the military can't afford to rest on its laurels or let down its paranoia. They have to envision every plausible threat, how it could occur, and how to best neutralize/prevent/contain it. That's why we had plans to invade Canada up until 1939 and hadn't declassified those plans until 1974.

It's also why we've had an active naval base in the Middle East since 1948. The reason is quite clear. At one point in time, before we had the technologies capable of extracting petroleum from shale and tar sands, the Middle East contained up to 80% of the world's proven oil reserves. Given the fact that the modern economy depends on (relatively) cheap gasoline, it becomes quite clear why the US has been so engaged in the region for so long.

With the advent of unconventional oil (with the vast majority located in the Americas), there have already been calls to ratchet down our engagement within the region. This is a good thing. But it doesn't mean we need to completely disengage. The fact of the matter is nobody knows what the future holds and which area of the planet is going to be the next decade's geopolitical hotspot.

That uncertainty in the future means we need a strong military now and always. And we need a strong military that is capable of projecting force anywhere on the earth. Because when the great Melange Wars of 2056 occur in the region of the world formerly known as Madagascar, the United States of North America will need to be able to send its Obama class aircraft carriers to secure the peninsula.

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