More interventionism = More defense spending

With all eyes focused on the Republicans and Democrats trying to out-incompetent each other on the federal budget, I thought it best to keep quiet until that exercise is complete. But I think the unreality of the whole budget mess is so pervasive that I decided to throw in my two cents in the area where I have at least a bit of knowledge and experience; that is, on the issue of interventionism.

Our interventionist foreign policy costs large amounts of money to conduct and even larger amounts to defend America against the hatreds and wars it causes. Indeed, the United States is today at war with an increasing portion of the Muslim world and, under President Obama and Mrs. Clinton, the interventionism that is fueling that war is accelerating.

Now, a major point of focus for cutting federal spending has been the defense budget. That certainly is a worthy target for reduction, and would be an ideal venue for deep cuts if our interventionist foreign policy was not in a belly-up condition and our national security was not withering away. While it seems likely that we could do with fewer nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, any money that would be saved on such items — and much more — will have to spent in other defense- and intelligence-related areas as long as U.S. foreign policy remains an affair of full-bore interventionism. At least five factors will drive increased — not decreased — federal spending on defense and intelligence in the next few years.

  1. The cost of the Arab Spring: The fall of the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia and our efforts to overthrow the Libyan and Yemeni regimes eliminates four major counterterrroism allies. These disasters come after we destroyed our best counterterrorism ally — Saddam Hussein — and replaced him with a government that, after U.S. forces leave, will have neither the interest nor the capability to prevent Sunni mujahideen moving through Iraq to the Levant and other destinations to the West. And the cost of removing Syria’s President al-Asad — if that occurs — will be to make even easier the westward travel of Sunni fighters from South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula. Thus, the wonderful “Arab Spring” hailed by Obama, Clinton, Graham, and McCain will soon present the U.S. and British intelligence communities with an enormous amount of new, expensive, and manpower-intensive work that was once done to help protect America and its allies by those we paid — until we decided to knife in the back. Those costs will, of course, will come on top of the huge amounts both parties are bound to spend on useless efforts to build secular democracies in the former Arab tyrannies.
  2. The need for more intelligence officers and soldiers: The above costs of the Arab Spring, the failure to win the Iraq and Afghan wars, and the ongoing geographical spread of al-Qaeda and other Salafi insurgent groups and individuals leaves America with a far broader conflict and a much more numerous Islamist enemy than we faced at 9/11. Drones and Special Forces have not and cannot defeat the enemy in South Asia, and they will fail just as surely in Yemen, Somalia, etc. The war against al-Qaeda and its allies is first and foremost an infantryman’s war, and we will soon need to add troops to the Army and Marine Corps to relieve a force that is now stretched to, and perhaps over the limit. We will need these troops for the on-the-ground combat role U.S. forces will be forced to assume in Yemen, Libya, and elsewhere, as well as against Islamists inside the United States over the next decade. Both combat roles will be the direct result of Washington’s interventionism.
  3. Border control: With Washington having done nothing to ensure the physical control of our northern or southern borders since 9/11, no level of government in the United States has any idea of how many fighters al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups have inserted into America. Each month the border authorities publish the number of Middle-East-origin individuals they have stopped from illegally entering the country, but they have no idea whatsoever of how many they failed to detect. The data captured in bin Laden’s residence clearly shows al-Qaeda’s strong interest in attacking U.S. infrastructure targets, and the recent warning from Texas law-enforcement officials about the vulnerability of the Port of Houston — which is essential to the U.S. energy sector and overall economy — suggests that we will pay a heavy price for Washington’s thirty-plus year failure to recognize that border control is an indispensable component of national defense. (The ongoing spillover of violence from Mexico’s nascent insurgency likewise emphasizes the danger from open borders, but to date it has only stimulated the Obama administration to new efforts to undermine the 2nd Amendment.) Once a national-security calamity occurs that stems from open borders — and one is coming — we will have to spend enormous sums and devote significant numbers of military and law-enforcement personnel to a crash effort to control them.
  4. Forces needed to protect oil supplies: With Libyan and Yemeni oil production all but stopped and recent attacks on pipelines in several Arab states, the stability of oil supplies is unpredictable — stable today, but what about tomorrow? Two locales are of particular concern for the United States: Bahrain and Nigeria. The Bahraini regime’s crackdown on its so-called Shia democracy protestors has left a still simmering standoff that may or may not become violent. The threat in Bahrain really involves much of the Arab Peninsula as the Bahrainis, Saudis, and Emiratis have made clear they will not tolerate a Shia state on the peninsula and will kill Shias in whatever numbers are necessary to prevent that outcome. Large numbers of Shias killed by Sunni soldiers might well prompt Iran to intervene on behalf of its coreligionists and then the U.S. would be at war with Iran because while the Gulf states buy huge amounts of U.S.-made weaponry they cannot defend themselves against anyone armed with more than rocks and few AK-47s. In Nigeria, political stability and oil production are subject to an evolving threat posed by two insurgencies, a largely secular one in the Niger Delta, and another in the country’s north led by an Islamist militant group called Boko Haram, which apparently is training some of its fighters with Islamist forces in Somalia. With a good deal of U.S. crude imports coming form Nigeria, any prolonged disruption of production there might well have to be addressed by U.S. forces.
  5. Israel-Firsters, Evangelical leaders, and Neoconservatives: Each of the above problems is worsened by these U.S.-citizen-dominated but fundamentally anti-U.S. and Islam-hating entities; indeed, they also are fundamentally anti-Israel entities. Safely ensconced in North America with family, employment, and bank accounts safe, these groups champion a maximalist position for Israel vis-à-vis the Palestinians; hunger for America to be at war with Iran — a non-threat to the United States; and work for an ever-increasing level of Western hatred for Muslims. These individuals are both war-lovers and cowards, ready to push others into fighting and dying for their selfish objectives, while they remain unctuously self-righteous and personally safe far from the front. Together these three groups are one of the main reasons America is facing an endless war with Islam, and the loyalty of each to a foreign nation — and their effective lobbying for that nation — will drive increases in defense and intelligence spending.

These areas, it seems to me, are going to require significant infusions of money to address legitimate and expanding U.S. national-security concerns. The debt negotiators may for the moment ignore the fact that America is in a worldwide war because of their policies, but whatever defense-related cuts they implement eventually will have to be much more than restored when the reality of war again sinks into their heads.

At day’s end, relentless U.S. government interventionism cultivates more and more lethal enemies and sheds allies. The ultimate cost of this war-with-Islam-causing interventionism will much more defense spending not less.

Author: Michael F. Scheuer

Michael F. Scheuer worked at the CIA as an intelligence officer for 22 years. He was the first chief of its Osama bin Laden unit, and helped create its rendition program, which he ran for 40 months. He is an American blogger, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst.