US Approach to National Security Leaves Us Vulnerable
The United States has amassed the most powerful military force in the history of mankind. We spend roughly the same on our military as the rest of the world combined. Yet polls show that roughly half of Americans are unaware of our military might. Perhaps that is partly due to the fact that our defense strategy is so incredibly stupid. Or Daesh (ISIS) policy is counterproductive. The ways we deal with both conventional weapons systems and lone wolf attacks are nonsensical. Our data-analytics and threat-assessment are pitiful.
The main problem, of course, is that War is a Racket. War equals ratings, clicks, and large font for media conglomerates. They cheerlead for war by prominently featuring neoconservative so-called experts, fear-mongering politicians, and retired generals who see the military as a hammer in a world full of nails. That type of general gets hired by defense contractors in retirement to go on television and promote the industry of war under the guise of patriotism.
Part of the problem is that we don’t take seriously the fact that our president represents civilian control of the military. During war time, they are commander-in-chief. We’ve allowed the presidency itself to become a permanent title of militaristic propaganda, while at the same time ceding authority to the military industrial complex. We’ve gotten rid of the draft, so the children of the elites who send poor kids to die in foreign lands go unscathed. With our voluntary force, only one percent of the population has served in Iraq or Afghanistan. We’ve allowed war to become an abstract notion.
We’ve also allowed it to become impolitic, post-9/11, to question anyone in a uniform. In fear, we’ve become a nation of boot-lickers. And victors tend to keep fighting the last war. We have all the best aircraft carriers. We have all the best tanks and bombers and nuclear subs. We’ve lapped the field to the point that no one would dare attempt to best us with conventional weapons. China has a huge military, but their weapons systems are weak. Russia has the nukes, but using them would require a suicidal determination for mutual annihilation. (We can’t get Europe or China to level sanctions against them, so we are once again at an impasse.)
Our situation is as old as battle strategy itself. Our Revolutionaries knew they couldn’t stand in a field and trade volleys with the powerful British army. We were called terrorists for attacking their flanks, hiding snipers in trees, and targeting officers. Post-WWII, the shoe has been on the other foot. The Vietnamese fought us in ways which we found reprehensible (tunnels, human shields, child-soldiers). Yet we refused to admit that the great US military could lose. We kept sending more and more poor kids to sacrifice their lives to slaughter brown people. As Russians bankrupted themselves in Afghanistan before.
As we are doing now with Daesh. We couldn’t possibly be more unproductive. We know that defeating an ideology cannot be done by military means. We know that fellow Muslims must defeat them on the battlefield and in the battle of ideas. Yet we have politicians who legitimize the terrorists by associating them with the religion of Islam. In doing so, we force Muslims to choose between terrorists operating under the guise of Islam, and the assimilation with the West. We are actively promoting a religious and cultural world war with 1.6 billion people.
By eliminating diplomacy as an option, we are only left with war. Which we aren’t very good at. Our war on terror has only produced more terrorists. We suspended habeas corpus to lock people away without charge and torture them. Prisoners of war, farmers, and some, I’m sure, were actual worst of the worst guys. We’ve somehow managed to arm opposite sides of wars in Syria, Yemen… We’ve bombed wedding parties and funeral processions. We’ve purposely bombed journalists and first responders. We’ve purposely bombed American citizens. Hell, we’ve purposely bombed Doctors without Borders hospitals. We call it collateral damage. We call the victims enemy combatants. It was a mistake. It’s classified. It’s not a war crime when we do it. Nothing to see here. Nearly everything we do seems purposely designed to give the terrorists what they want. From creating more recruits to echoing their recruitment message. From eschewing our values to surrendering our freedoms.
Daesh doesn’t have a plane or a ship, yet we are terrified that they are an existential threat to our security. We would have been better off if we had never invaded Iraq. We’d be better off if we washed our hands of military intervention in the Middle East yesterday. But we can’t help but knee-cap ourselves with stupidity.
We surrender our freedoms and inconvenience ourselves in a foolish attempt to stop lone wolf attacks. One guy tried to blow up a plane with his shoe, so we all take off our shoes now. (Well, most of us – an uneven application which defeats the purpose.) Another guy tried to blow up a plane with his underwear. Yet we have not implemented standardized undergarment removal - thus revealing the ridiculousness of the shoe policy. And the fact that politicians just wanted to do something, anything to seem like they were keeping us safe from the bad men.
We’ve told the NSA to unconstitutionally (4th Amendment) scoop up all of our communications and online activities. When deluged with such vast amounts of data, our intelligence agencies can’t possibly analyze it all, and useful information goes unnoticed. Boston, San Bernadino, Orlando, Charleston… They’ve been forced to admit under oath that they’ve failed to thwart a single attempted terrorist attack by violating our civil liberties, yet they insist upon continuing the failed and unconstitutional practice.
Practically, lone wolf terrorists cannot be stopped. Perhaps the odds can be reduced, but doing so would require microphones and cameras in every room. From boardroom to bedroom. It would require East Germany-style paranoia, distrust, and turning-over of friends, neighbors and family members. It would require criminalization of thought crime.
Even then, we’d only be surrendering freedom for a false sense of security, leaving us with neither. Israelis are far more susceptible to attack, yet they don’t choose to adopt a stupid policy and put themselves through nonsensical motions just to board a plane.
Military bases and defense contractor operations have been strategically positioned in virtually every congressional district. Slowing the military industrial complex could mean fewer local jobs and depressed local economies of congressfolk. Openly questioning war means defense contractors will support your opponent next election. Because our campaign finance system is inherently corrupt.
The way we treat the voluntary members of our armed forces is disgusting. We send the same brave souls again and again until their minds are ravaged by the carnage of war. When the bravest one-percenters return home we tell them they were sent to the wrong places for the wrong reasons. We refuse to properly fund the VA for their healthcare needs. We deny benefits if they were discharged for surviving sexual assault. We tell them their combat experience (especially classified) isn’t occupationally relevant.
We refuse to show images of the flag-draped caskets of their fallen comrades. And when images of atrocities committed in our name and with our tax dollars are leaked, we lock whistle-blowing patriots under the jail and call them traitors. We sit drone operators in a video game to rain death from the sky from thousands of miles away before going home to dinner every night with their family and no time to mentally readjust. We waste billions on F-35s that pilots refuse to operate because they can’t fly in the rain.
We waste billions on amphibious landing vehicles (as if we’re preparing for Normandy) which we can’t actually use because mines are so cheap. We insist upon giving the Pentagon more and more tanks that they don’t want and wind up collecting dust in the Nevada desert (like we’re preparing to go to battle with Hitler’s Panzer division). We hand out grants to purchase and unleash weapons of war in local communities by an occupying police state.
War and national security are topics which must be taken seriously. And I worry that our resources are focus are being directed in a manner which leaves us vulnerable. We have all the fanciest toys. But a swarm of relatively small and inexpensive drones could kamikaze then to smithereens (or at least to the point of inoperability). Our fancy toys all run with computers. Our weapons could be hacked and disabled, even turned against us.
Our enemies needn’t even attack our military. An electromagnetic pulse could render all of our electronics useless. Numerous nations and NGOs could hack our power grid and shut the lights out for months at a time. No one could work without electricity. Bills for shelter and communications couldn’t be paid. No gas to move goods or people. No cash machines. Where would we get food? How would we fill prescriptions? We would ration power to hospitals with generators. But how would citizens communicate in the case of emergency? Economic and human destruction. Who would we bomb to make it a cyber attack stop? What country would we invade to find a group of people operating not on a traditional battlefield, but online?
We are wasting our resources in the most useless of manners. Our focus needs to be on cyber-security; not more tanks and air-craft carriers. We need to have an honest conversation as a nation about lone wolf attacks and the real reason our government wants unfettered access to our communications. We need to have a serious conversation with the rest of the world about the ethics of drone wars and technological attacks. We need to stop burning precious tax dollars which could be funding useful things such as education and healthcare, infrastructure, and research & development for tools to fight our gravest threat: climate change.