Along with the entire the military-industrial complex.

By Andrew J. Bacevich
January 24, 2018
The American Conservative

Here’s what we can say about the Trump administration’s just-released National Defense Strategy: it’s not a strategy and its subject is not defense.

Bearing the imprimatur of Pentagon chief James Mattis, the NDS—at least the unclassified summary that we citizens are permitted to see—is in essence a brief for increasing the size of the U.S. military budget. Implicit in the document is this proposition: more spending will make the armed forces of the United States “stronger” and the United States “safer.” Simply put, the NDS is all about funneling more bucks to the Pentagon.

Remarkably, the NDS advances this argument while resolutely avoiding any discussion of what Americans have gotten in return for the $11 trillion (give or take) expended pursuant to the past 16-plus years of continuous war—as if past performance should have no bearing on the future allocation of resources.

Try this thought experiment. The hapless Cleveland Browns went winless this year. How might Browns fans react if the team’s management were to propose hiking ticket prices next season? Think they might raise a ruckus?

The Pentagon has not recorded many more wins than the Browns of late. Yet a trust-us-we-know-what-we’re-doing attitude permeates the NDS. And amazingly, it’s almost certain that Mattis will get whatever additional money he wants.

The NDS contains several extraordinary statements. Yet none top this one: “Today, we are emerging from a period of strategic atrophy.”

What exactly is this supposed to mean? To atrophy is to waste away. Muscles atrophy from non-use, from too much sitting around and too little exercise.

Whatever else one can say about the United States military, it has not suffered from too much sitting around and too little exercise. If anything, the reverse is true. Under Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump, U.S. forces have been constantly on the go. I’m prepared to argue that no nation in recorded history has ever deployed its troops to more places than has the United States since 2001. American bombs and missiles have rained down on a remarkable array of countries. We’ve killed an astonishing number of people.

To what effect? In Washington, the question goes not only unanswered but unasked.

Despite all this extraordinary activism, the NDS tells us we’re in big trouble. The global “security environment” has become “more complex and volatile than any we have experienced in recent memory.” What the NDS refers to as a “long-standing rules-based international order” is coming undone. In short, things are bad and they’re getting worse by the minute.

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