It is no secret that the United States maintains a higher level of military spending than any other nation; in fact, the U.S. spends “more on defense than the next seven countries combined,” according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.
Much of this money is spent on the hundreds of American military bases stationed in at least seventy countries. Still, the Pentagon wants more: The New York Times reports that “the Pentagon has proposed a new plan to the White House to build up a string of military bases in Africa, Southwest Asia and the Middle East” in order to combat the rise of ISIS and to establish positioning “for future counterterrorism missions.”
“The bases could be used,” the Times continues, “for collecting intelligence and carrying out strikes against the terrorist group’s far-flung affiliates.”
As with most military operations in the age of the “war on terror,” this proposal comes with no expiration date: “The plan would all but ensure what Pentagon officials call an ‘enduring’ American military presence in some of the world’s most volatile regions.”
The Pentagon’s plan includes the creation of “hubs,” which “would range in size from about 500 American troops to 5,000 personnel, and the likely cost would be ‘several million dollars’ a year, mostly in personnel expenses.”
While the Times reports that there is some resistance to the proposal coming from those who are concerned “about a more permanent military presence across Africa and the Middle East,” there seems to be no fundamental challenge to the idea that more military operations are the answer to our ever-evolving problems.
This approach has characterized American foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. Rarely is the view that the United States should intervene less — or at the very least more strategically — given a fair hearing.
The range of acceptable opinion within American foreign policy discourse has become so narrow that it is not unreasonable to suggest, as journalist Jeremy Scahill has, that we have only one party when it comes to national security issues, and that is the “war party.”
While there are no clear answers to our most pressing foreign policy concerns, a few questions deserve to be asked: Does our permanent military presence around the world make us safer, or does it worsen our security concerns?
Is it reasonable to expect that more invasions, more bases, more troops on the ground, and more airstrikes will eradicate the very real terrorist threats we face, given the fact that such interventions have actually spawned greater threats in the past?
As these threats continue to evolve, and as we react to confront them, what is the end-game?
Do we have no choice but to be perpetually engaged in military conflict worldwide, or is Andrew Bacevich correct in suggesting that it is “the height of folly” to conclude that we have no other options?