Pax Americana Hubris: America cannot afford SyriaBy John Griffing
War is not always a "moral" question. Nor is it a choice based on the simplistic dichotomy of isolationism versus interventionism. But this is the prism through which the American public is now being conditioned to view the Syrian Civil War.
The drumbeat of "proxy" war in Syria, which usually gives way to full-scale invasion (Iraq), has begun. The American people are now bombarded with emotional pleas. John McCain is already criticizing the Obama Administration for not doing "enough" to help Syria.
"After all," we are told, "With great power comes great responsibility."
Those who disagree that war in Syria is our responsibility, and contend that war should require a threat to national security, or at least be waged against an enemy that poses a credible threat to vital national interests, are often derided by the same people who used to protest our involvement in Iraq.
But apart from the argument over whether or not it is right or justifiable for America to go to war, particularly this war, there is still the simple question, "Can we afford it?"
The issue of whether or not our nation can afford to project global power is almost completely ignored. At this critical juncture in world history, the question of adequate resources to support US military intervention must be given proper attention.
President Obama has gutted the Navy, the Air Force, and Marine Corps, eliminating America's ability to fight two wars in two separate theaters simultaneously. Defense insiders place the ability to fight two full-scale wars above many other strategic considerations.
Obama has also announced his intention to cut the US nuclear arsenal down to 300 warheads - with or without Congress. These cuts will prove catastrophic for the national security of the United States, if generals are believed.
American readiness to face the asymmetric threats posed by Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, et al. has diminished considerably.
An Air Force that is today 50 percent smaller than it was in 1990 committed over forty percent of its strength in the Bosnia campaign -- more than was committed in the first Gulf War, to sustain what was arguably a small-scale contingency. The USAF mission capable rates have declined from 80 percent in 1991, to 74 percent today, and to as low as 40 percent readiness for our B-1B bombers-a critical component of America's "nuclear triad."
But the strain is not confined to the Air Force. The Army has paid a price for American overseas excursions. Over 70 percent of combat units report degraded readiness from "peace operations."
Let's review recent history: Iraq was never really a "win" for the U.S. Though America routed Saddam's forces in the early part of its invasion, against impossible odds (4-1), boots on the ground were insufficient to completely eliminate the enemy and prevent insurgency. Saddam's Fedayeen and Special Republican Guard donned civilian attire and used civilians as tactical weapons - bogging the U.S. down for 10 full years.
If America cannot even eliminate the enemy in a cakewalk scenario like Iraq, how would it fare in facing other more potent adversaries, e.g. Iran?
And yet, the numbers of soldiers, bombs, tanks and planes America possesses become increasingly irrelevant when the financial dimensions of war and power projection are taken into account.
Fact: America has more debt than any nation in history. America owes its GDP, and then some, to foreign creditors. No empire that claims any title to global superpower status has sustained debts greater than roughly half its GDP (WWI and WWII being wartime exceptions.)
America owes the world in excess of $100 Trillion in unfunded fiscal liabilities. This number is four times world GDP, and can never be repaid, even in several lifetimes.
American creditors are responding accordingly, openly de-linking from the U.S. Dollar and shifting assets into safer investments - fleeing the American empire of debt-creation for safer shores - making currency collapse or instability a distinct possibility.
The problem with such a move is clear to economists: the global financial system depends on American debt as a lubricant. America props up the world's numerous export-dependent economies by purchasing the majority share of manufactured goods and services.
In return, at least since the end of Word War II, nations benefiting from American largesse have reciprocated by investing their surplus dollars in U.S. Treasury bonds and other dollar-denominated paper. This preserved global financial stability and became a zero sum game - in effect, a house of cards with seemingly no limit.
Except that China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia now own the table on which the house of cards that is Western Civilization sits.
The old system has ceased to be viable, since America is now creating more dollars than creditors can absorb, and is arguably abusing the mechanism traditionally utilized to maintain high trade volume and suppress the global price of goods, to monetize massive debts owed to the American taxpayer in the form of outrageous promises. These promises include, but are not limited to, "free" healthcare, "free" food, and money for not working.
When China is demanding public infrastructure, roads, buildings, as collateral on American loans, invading still more countries sends the wrong financial message.
The real conversation that Americans should be having at this point in history during any prelude to war should not be whether intervention is good or bad or neutral; the conversation Americans need to be having is whether or not intervention is even financially or militarily possible. The question is no longer "who, what, where" but "how?"
The critical question Americans should be asking President Obama is why when we can no longer afford to keep the White House open to the public (only to the IRS Executive Director for his casual visitations), we can miraculously finance a proxy war with Syria?
Nobody benefits in the event America collapses from imperial overstretch. The first thing a flight attendant says when explaining the function of an air mask is for adults to put theirs on first, before assisting children.
We should pause for reflection before we continue to pursue intervention as official policy.
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