I’ve been trying to work out what is ahead of us when it comes to US military spending and strategy now that James Mattis the Defence Secretary has been terminated. I’d like to start my journey after the end of the Second World War.
For over 70 years the USA has been at war continuously taking part in at least 25 wars since the end of WW2, including big ones such as Korea, Vietnam, 1st Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan. The cost of these wars has been astronomical in multiples of trillions of dollars. Does America really have so many enemies?
All the senior military leaders developed a mindset that America was the world’s ‘policeman’ and they could be relied upon to do the right thing and make everybody safe in a more democratic world. The leadership functioned like Roman generals who were taught to do what was good for the Empire. Like the Romans the Americans established rule and law and order, made friends and allies and when necessary used military force to solve problems.
Today the rules of engagement have changed and the USA like a bankrupt Britain at the end of WW2 has some unpalatable decisions that must be made. James Mattis and other senior military leaders, like the British generals and diplomats who were trained to run the British Empire, are dinosaurs as the name of the game has changed.
Many at the top of the US military are in denial and refuse to accept that it is all over and to be honest shame on them for failing to face up to their brutal reality. Pax Americana is now dead.
A few months ago, Henry Kissinger commented on Donald Trump, remarking that he is one of those figures whose moment in history is marked by a geopolitical shift, being the man in place at the time of the shift.
Today Putin is expanding Russian influence around central Asia and into the Middle East. He is also worrying the Baltic States and Scandinavians and during a recent visit I made to Tromsø in the north of Norway it was very evident that the Norwegians are investing in the far north partly driven by fears of what Russia plans to do.
In South-East Asia the Chinese are expanding their navel capacity and power, stirring up a hornet’s nest as they use their muscle to enlarge their presence offshore. None of the neighbouring countries are prepared to take the Chinese on head to head and instead are looking to the USA for their final offshore defence solutions.
Looking forward, will Xi Jinping, as a civilian leader, manage to control a more powerful military as times change? Will the officer corps become hyper-nationalistic and bellicose in the future as the new world emerges with nuclear weapons everywhere and regional powers testing the limits of each other?
Today we need to recognise nationalism is growing across the globe in the form of America First, Brexit, the Gilet jaunes movement in France, the rise of the far-right in Germany, the election of a far-right nationalist president in Brazil, etc.
A long time ago I found out if you are weak you need strong allies and personally not sure where this is all heading.