Endless Military Superiority | The Nation


Endless Military Superiority

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Even more significant, perhaps, is the Pentagon's plan to enhance US capabilities along the temporal axis--developing weapons that will not be used for many years against enemies whose identity can only be guessed at today. As explained by Secretary Rumsfeld on January 31, the nation must be prepared to defend itself "against the unknown, the uncertain, the unseen, and the unexpected" and must prepare its forces "to deter and defeat adversaries that have not yet emerged to challenge us."

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Michael T. Klare
Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the defense correspondent...

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Senior politicians in both parties have become so intoxicated by the idea of an American surge in energy production that they have lost their senses.

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One might ask why we should spend vast sums at this time of domestic austerity in order to defend against enemies that do not now and may never exist. By the same token, one might speculate that preparing now for future combat with a hypothetical adversary like China or India could be a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that it generates fear and hostility among foreign leaders who might otherwise choose to become friends or allies. But such arguments will meet with deaf ears at the Defense Department, where officials are determined to press ahead with a wide range of visionary and experimental systems.

Most of the programs in this category are still in the research and development stage, or are hidden in secret ("black") accounts distributed throughout the budget. Some, however, have been the subject of public discussion. One such endeavor is the Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle, an armed UAV that would hover over enemy territory and strike targets of opportunity when prompted to do so by their American ground controllers, located dozens or even hundreds of miles away. Such systems, says Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers, "have the potential to change significantly the way we fight and perhaps even the nature of warfare itself."

Another new system being funded in 2003 is the DD(X), a high-technology warship that will incorporate a wide range of innovative weapons and technologies. Although details are still sketchy, it is expected to incorporate radar-evading stealth technologies of the sort now found only on aircraft, and to carry a wide variety of antiship and land-attack missiles.

Some weapons now on the drawing board will make it to full-scale production; others won't. The point is that these systems are being developed in the absence of any credible threat from any adversary possessing anything even remotely resembling America's existing military capacity. No nation or combination of states in the world today can overcome America's military establishment, and none are likely to appear on the horizon with this ability for another three or four decades, at the very least.

The question facing all Americans, therefore, is whether the expenditure of hundreds (later thousands) of billions of dollars to defend against hypothetical enemies that may not arise until thirty or forty years from now is a sensible precaution, as contended by the President and Defense Secretary, or whether it eventually will undermine US security by siphoning off funds from vital health and educational programs and by creating a global environment of fear and hostility that will produce exactly the opposite of what is intended by all these expenditures.

Another vital question is prompted by the Administration's new emphasis on anti-access-denial systems. Stripped of jargon and obfuscation, this is a plan to enhance America's capacity to invade and overpower hostile countries with a significant defense capability, like North Korea and China. In essence, this means shifting the primary orientation of US forces from defense against aggression (the original purpose of NATO) to offense and intervention. Surely this will not go unnoticed in other parts of the world, and will undoubtedly prompt countries that may have cause to fear US intervention to beef up their defensive (anti-access) capabilities--thus justifying further US spending on anti-access-denial systems. Here again, one has to wonder whether we are not exposing ourselves to an increased level of risk by creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

These are critical questions that deserve intense debate at every level of society, yet Congress has rushed to endorse virtually every Pentagon initiative without the merest pretense of oversight. We must put pressure on our representatives in Washington to give careful thought to the long-term implications of a strategy of permanent military supremacy.

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