Friday, August 15, 2014

What Will "Strategic" Mean in Our Children's Lifetime?

U.S. military bases (and oilfields) in the Mideast

We are likely to wake up some day and realize that we have succeeded in evolving our economy away from fossil fuels -- toward a zero carbon economy -- and that means our "interests" in the Middle East will no longer be so strategic any more.

What will be strategic then?

Despite the temptation to name some other part of the world -- to pivot to the idea that now China is where we need to be in control -- perhaps the answer is: "strategic" will no longer have to do with how much stuff we can get, but with how successful we can be at spending less.

This leads me to wonder: will the next revolution lie in reining in the out-of-control network of U.S. military bases around the world?

"High-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles pre-pared and stored
by the 2d Battalion, 401st Army Field Support Brigade, stand ready at
Camp Arifjan, Kuwait." (Photo by Galen Putnam, 402d AFSB Public Affairs)
(From "Commanding an Army Field Support Battalion" by Lieutenant Colonel
Michael T. Wright, Army Sustainment, March-April 2012)

Just like a family that has extra rooms in its house which inevitably become filled with stuff, the U.S. has thousands of bases -- here, there, and everywhere -- that inevitably create the "need" to spend.

It's a very Zen idea -- that perhaps the most impactful thing we, as a nation, could "do" is to "do" less.

But perhaps it's necessary to explore. Perhaps we have gotten caught up in the wrong argument, i.e. whether this or that military action is right or wrong, justified or misguided.  Perhaps we're fiddling while Rome burns. Perhaps we have to simply cut the discussion off at the knees and say, "What would be good would be a massive paradigm shift in what constitutes desirable activity -- economic and otherwise."

How could we possibly make this happen in our lifetime?

U.S. Military Bases
Posted 24th October 2012 by Toni Nicolle

More detail at . . . 

May 9, 2014: "Hagel Renews Push for Pay Cuts, Base Closings," by Richard Sisk, "The HASC [House Armed Services Committee] markup provided for a $552 billion base Pentagon budget and $85 billion for overseas contingency operations while rejecting Hagel's proposal for another round of BRAC. Senate leaders have also warned that any move to close bases had little chance of succeeding in an election year."

March 31, 2011: "Bring War Dollars Home by Closing Down Bases: Closing U.S. military bases overseas is a key part of moving the money to meet human needs at home and abroad," by Sukjong Hong and Christine Ahn on Foreign Policy in Focus. (Emphasis in this article is est. 70 military installations and bases in South Korea, and the new joint U.S.-South Korean naval base under development on Cheju Island.)

April 14, 2009: "US Military Bases on Guam in Global Perspective," by Catherine Lutz

Detailed guide to potential closures of overseas U.S. bases provided by Carlton Meyer

9 More Ideas You Won't Hear

at Chicago Ideas Week . . .

Related posts

What people in Asia (and others) have seen for the past century is that something is happening in the Pacific, and it's being driven in part by advances in naval (and, subsequently, aviation and electronics) technology, and in part by powerful nations (principally, but not limited to, the U.S.) proximate to the area.

(See The Imperialized Pacific: What We Need to Understand)

I'm grateful to my friend, Jim Barton, for framing the problem in a way that is adequately broad, and yet contains a measure of hope.  It's about the future, and whether we have one -- or can construct one -- he said.  Young people today are asking: Do I have an economic future? Does the planet have a future? Will (nuclear) war extinguish everybody's future?

(See A FUTURE: Can we construct one? )

People are talking about cuts to the military. It couldn't happen to a more deserving half of our national budget. HOWEVER . . . we need a lot more people jumping into this debate, because the cuts being talked about are too timid . . . AND because the most dangerous and illegitimate (and frequently illegal) forms of military force are being advocated for the "efficiency" and "cost-effectivneness."

(See Talk of the Town: Shrink the Military )

What would happen if every member of Congress "adopted" a foreign military base and demonstrated what would happen if all the money spent there were brought home to local districts? Do you think the constituents would welcome THAT initiative?

(See How About a REAL (Tea) Party? SHUT DOWN THE MILITARY BASES! )

The problem: the U.S. "pivot to Asia."

The opportunity: asking ourselves, "What would we do differently if we revised our myths of Asia?"

(See U.S. Militarism in Asia: THINK DIFFERENT!)

Right now we're "stuck" -- the portion of the public that wants to cut military spending has hovered in the high 20%s since 2004; it just can't seem to break the 30% barrier. (The percentage of people in favor of expansion is about the same.)

(See Cutting Defense: Are We STUCK? )

Other related links

October 14, 2014 - "Pentagon Signals Security Risks of Climate Change" by Coral Davenport in The New York Times. Predictably, the Secretary of Defense did NOT suggest responding to the climate crisis by burning less fossil fuel. "The Pentagon on Monday released a report asserting decisively that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. It also predicted rising demand for military disaster responses as extreme weather creates more global humanitarian crises."

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