One of the big problems arising out of the Trump presidency is the pass that Trump gave Putin and also extended to a degree to the Chinese. He was so obsessed with not admitting that the Russians helped him with the 2016 election, he was blind to the fact that Putin was playing him like a piano. The Chinese are in this for the long game, so they don't think of short term objectives. They just slowly expand their influence in parts of the world that the western powers have taken their eye off. There is much talk about how powerful the US is and I understand that, the administration can't be seen to be having any doubt as to their place in the world order. However, there's no question that those responsible for national security, are more than concerned at the growing influence of China. In addition, the power play that Russia is currently engaged in at the Ukrainian border, represents a real escalation, let alone what they are doing in the middle east.
Biden has been around the block a few times and has wasted little time in drawing a line in the sand with Russia. However, gone are the days when the might of the US has the same impact as it did in the past. Russia has tiptoed into NATO's back yard. Previously, the US would have stamped on such an action, but in the Trump era, Putin was able to step into areas of the world that previously would have been off limit. The closer relationship now enjoyed between Russia and China is another cause for concern. Whilst nobody doubts that Russia is punching above its weight at the moment, what it lacks in hardware, it makes up with propaganda surrounding new weapons development. It's all designed to destabilise and cause international anxiety. I think Putin is very close to testing US patience in Ukraine and might even make incursions to test international resolve. The question then becomes where does the US stand and will it step in to help Ukraine?
Having given Putin a 4 year free pass under the previous administration, the US is playing catch-up at a time when it is facing huge problems at home from the pandemic, not to mention political and social division. This makes it vulnerable and stretched thin. Let's not forget, the US still has its own Capital protected by the National Guard and is in a state of constant high alert. The question is, where should the US focus be at this very difficult time? Who would have thought that any new administration would have to deal with a significant number of opposition lawmakers that don't even recognise that Joe Biden is the legitimate president?
I have spoken in positive terms as to the opportunities that present themselves for the Biden administration moving forward and I remain positive. However, opportunity needs to be converted into transformational action. There has long been debate on US military spending and the huge sums it takes to maintain the most powerful army in the world. At $730 billion in 2019, military spending accounted for more than 53 percent of the federal discretionary budget (the budget that Congress sets each year during its annual appropriations process). In the same year, as a percentage of GDP the figure was 3.4%. US Military spending in 2019 represented 38% of all global military spending, at $732 billion. China spent just over a third of that with $261 billion. Russia was in fourth place with $65 billion. My question is REALLY? Is that level of spending necessary for the security of the nation? If it is, then there must be more to fear than any of us are aware of.
All just numbers I know, but you have to ask, what return on investment do you get from military spending? When Republicans talk about socialism, they attack things like medicare for all, or programs to aid the disadvantaged and the poor. The Postal Service and other societal necessities all come under fire. In the world of the GOP, everything has to turn a profit or fall by the wayside. It is a remarkably old fashioned, short sighted and outdated fiscal ideology. The only sector allowed to exist without turning a profit in their mind is the military and them as lawmakers. National security seems exempt from the need to represent good value for money. It is the Republican Party sacred cow that has spawned the highly profitable private military sector, which not only makes huge profits from government contracts, but also has the benefit of not having to abide by the normal US military rules of engagement. This can of course be very useful when circumventing human rights laws.
The major question for me, is what place does a traditional army have in the modern world? The US is about to withdraw from another folly of a 20 year war. It has lost 2300 service members, the Taliban is arguably as strong now as it was when the US entered the war and Afghan women are about to move back to the dark ages. I'm struggling to see who the winners are, aside from arms manufacturers and private military contractors. We can talk all day about the perceived good, but just like in Iraq, little has changed. It was the same in Vietnam, where the US military was introduced to insurgent warfare on a large scale for the first time in modern history. My question is, does the US military need to be reimagined for the 21st century? I can hear dissenters saying 'We're doing that anyway. We are constantly looking at the role of the military' My answer would be do it quicker, because if you think there's waste in government, then waste in the military will simply blow your mind.
So what is the point of this post? The point I am trying to make, is that when looking to the military, it should not get a pass on due diligence. I am absolutely NOT saying you should degrade the US military, I'm simply saying that in these challenging times, a wide-ranging HONEST strategic review is needed, to look at efficiency and future planning, to identify any savings that can be made. Agility is the name of the game in modern military engagement. Americans rightly offer their full throated support for their servicemen and women and I echo that. However, I remain of the opinion that savings can be made and better used to advance social objectives. I realise that any such suggestion commonly meets with derision, but in these times of national need, everything should be on the table when it comes to building back America better.