The Suicide of American Power
With automatic spending cuts on the horizon, America’s armed forces are slated to feel the pinch. On Friday the Washington Times reported a statement by Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh to the effect that a service-wide cutback in flying hours would begin on May 1. According to a congressional aide quoted in the article, even if normal funding is assumed through July, only about 40 to 50 percent of American combat aircraft will be “capable of meeting wartime requirements.”
While Russia and China stockpile gold and work to undermine the dollar, and while the United States continues to bleed out financially, the real loser is going to be national security. Of course, U.S. national security costs too much. It is said that the Pentagon is the greatest welfare program of all, and that corruption and waste are rampant within the Department of Defense. However that may be, the system is approaching bankruptcy and military cutbacks will occur to the detriment of U.S. power.
As many readers know, America has been fighting a very expensive overseas conflict which also has included outrageously expensive nation building efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The federal government has poured out its treasure to secure the blessings of liberty for people who probably hate us. Once America’s blood and treasure has been spent and there is no more to spend, America’s withdrawal will be accomplished with the consequence that Iraq and Afghanistan will sink back into the same status as before; that is to say, conflict-ridden societies where brute force wins and America’s enemies return to power.
America has not been wise in its foreign policy. As James Burnham wrote in Suicide of the West, “United States foreign policy has seldom been deliberately directed for any length of time toward clearly defined Grand Strategic goals.” Instead, U.S. foreign policy has ever been “an amalgam of abstract moral ideals with material interests having, in many cases, no intelligible connection with the abstract ideals.” Burnham further noted that this has been “the double face of United States foreign policy that has so annoyed Europeans, who often, and wrongly, consider the material interests … to be the only genuine part of the amalgam, and the ideals merely a sheen of cynical hypocrisy.”
America’s twenty-first century adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan illustrate this point nearly five decades after Burnham wrote those words. All too often America sacrifices financial sense on the altar of “democracy,” “international law,” or “peace.” The hypocritical sheen of abstract ideals is no hypocrisy at all. If only it were! It is those very abstract ideals that are breaking the bank – at home and abroad. Grand Strategic interests are regularly sacrificed in favor of parties and movements “given to liberal forms and slogans.” One has only to consider the Arab Spring, which presently wears a liberal mask. All is paid for by America in order to benefit a potential Islamic enemy whose material and strategic interests are antithetical to U.S. interests.
The United States would have plenty of money to defend itself if national survival mattered more than certain abstract ideals. Sadly, our prevailing idealism requires America’s impoverishment and destruction – just as it dictates the destruction of the propertied classes. And, as far as we are idealistic, our policies must be suicidal. In fact, we should never consider the long-term consequences of generosity to the wrong people, or the consequences of nation-building in places where nation-destroying forces and circumstances are bound to have the upper hand.
“Probably no other nation,” wrote Burnham, “has been so often ‘surprised’ by international happenings: surprised that Mao or Castro turns out to be communist … and [that] human beings, as the ultimate surprise, [act] like human beings.” Where it really gets dangerous, noted Burnham is when this habitual American obliviousness takes hold in relation to war. “The United States has never been prepared militarily, politically or psychologically, for its wars,” noted Burnham. And so, we will not be prepared when Egypt sides with Iran in a future conflict; or when Iran conducts a nuclear test over New York City.
This short-sightedness has been built into Americans. They have no eye for what lies ahead. And this applies to America’s financial situation most of all. Americans do not see the bankruptcy which is approaching. If they did see, they would not have re-elected the current president. They would not be holding onto dollars but shifting into gold and silver. So one ought to ask what these people will do when the moment of crisis arrives. How will they deal with the end of prosperity?
People do what they habitually do. That is to say, if they have been deluding themselves for the last fifty years they will continue to delude themselves. If they have believed in empty slogans then we may assume they will continue to believe in empty slogans – however altered by the necessities of the moment. The errors which caused the bankruptcy will continue to prevail, and will continue to be at work; for what counter-argument is likely to prevail, and what demagogue will set the error straight?
Therefore, the United States Air Force will have fewer combat aircraft “capable of meeting wartime requirements.” America will have fewer weapons of all kinds, and its influence abroad will be negated as Russia and China exercise dominance over Europe, Asia and Africa. Furthermore, the pensions and welfare benefits of today will be discontinued and the United States will succumb to a series of political crises. Such is the ultimate price of America’s abstract idealism. As James Burnham warned, “Western civilization could not survive as a going concern … without the United States. I take it as too obvious to require discussion that, if the United States collapses or declines to unimportance, the collapse of all other Western nations will not be far behind….”
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