“From 1882 until 1922, the British promised the international community 66 times that they would leave Egypt, but they never did.” -Niall Ferguson
We got Osama bin Laden, and we’ve been slapping the Taliban around for 10 years now. We’ve gotten an eye for eye, have we not? Maybe a few eyes? But we can’t declare victory and bring the troops home? While the federal government is on the brink of bankruptcy? Seems crazy, right? Well, it’s not. And it has happened before.
The US dollar was de-linked from the gold standard because of the need to print money to keep the Vietnam War going. Our troops could have easily forced Hanoi to surrender, but they were told to play nice with the north. Defense contractors were making a fortune on the war, and they wanted to keep the party going.
…until the federal government went belly-up. In the post-World War II Bretton-Woods system, the dollar was pegged to gold, and major currencies were pegged to the dollar. Spending on the Vietnam War forced Nixon to cut the dollar loose from gold in 1971. That brought down the system and ushered in the inflationary 1970s.
And here we are again. Waging endless, pointless war, and going bankrupt.
If you think that the military-industrial complex will say: “Golly, the federal government might default. We better scale things back a bit” then you get an F- on your paper.
The military-industrial boat anchor will sink the federal government just like they did in 1971 – without blinking an eye. They couldn’t care less, as long as the fat contracts keep rolling in. As a matter of fact, if the Treasury Department stopped paying interest to China, for example, that’s more money that could be spent on new military projects.
That’s how they look at the situation.
You have been warned.
And there were more than economic consequences for Vietnam-War spending. There were geopolitical consequences. The federal government’s financial problems were plain for the world to see. Our enemies knew that we were weak, and many American-owned oil facilities around the world were nationalized during that period. Even worse, the Soviets trained and equipped the Egyptian army and sent them into Israel in 1973, which brought on the Arab Oil Embargo.
The consequences of imperial overstretch can arrive quickly. Already, there are tectonic shifts going on in the Middle East. Lucky for us, this time around it is the bumbling Persians who are the troublemakers rather than the far more competent Russians. The Saudis are distancing themselves from the USA and building a Muslim coalition to counter Iran. The Saudi-led GCC has already taken over Bahrain, and Pakistan has boots on the ground there, with more to come if needed.
Do we need to do something about Iran? Maybe not. Imagine the Saudi-Israeli-GCC-Sunni coalition that would rapidly grow in our absence. It would have the money, manpower, and military know-how to thwart Iran.
There’s an exit strategy for you.
What about Afghanistan? Sure, there’s a sprinkling of terrorists left, but one thing we have learned is that fighting terrorists with aircraft carriers isn’t exactly cost-effective.
The way to de-imperialize a place like Afghanistan is to stop enforcing the phony borders drawn by the British Empire, let the tribes fight it out and establish defensible borders. Let a thousand “stans” bloom. I’m no fan of the Taliban, but if they take over Pashtunistan, my guess is that they would be a little more careful about allowing terrorist camps on their turf. If not, what would stop us from going back and delivering further punishment?
There’s another exit strategy for you.
After getting bin Laden, the Obama administration started to “worry” about “uninformed” citizens insisting on bringing the troops home. That’s a sign that there are no plans to even pause our quest for global military domination. It’s similar to what we did after we won the Cold War. After the Soviet Union collapsed, we actually went on offense, with the CIA biting off chunks of former Soviet territory in places like Ukraine and Georgie via “color revolutions”. (That strategy ultimately backfired; the Russians felt cornered, and elected a strong man: Vladamir Putin.)
We are still on the offense now – even if it is “community organizer” style warfare in Libya.
Now, if the oil companies need the US military to make Central Asia safe for oil and gas development, then they need to step up and start paying for the service. Or maybe an “Oil Security” tax is in order? Clearly, $4 gas and a huge national debt due to excess military spending aren’t exactly working out for the taxpayer, now are they? Much of our military spending can be seen as a transfer from taxpayers to oil company shareholders.
The USA has no military rivals. And even the best terrorists don’t amount to anything more than ankle-biters in the grand scheme of things. What would happen if we cut our defense/intelligence budget in half and saved about $500 billion dollars per year? Would there be any geo-political consequences?