Commentary: 'Beyond the last war'

By ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE, UPI Editor at Large  |  May 3, 2013 at 7:31 AM
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WASHINGTON, May 3 (UPI) -- Topic A among geostrategic thinkers is how to avoid getting sucked in to another war while taking on the biggest threats to U.S. security and prosperity.

It is not rocket science. Richard N. Haass, president of the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, writes in his latest book, "Foreign Policy Begins at Home," and "the biggest threats to U.S. security and prosperity come not from abroad but from within."

Better late than never.

After the two most recent bloody conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade, and the expenditure of $2 trillion, Haass argues "for a new foreign policy doctrine of Restoration, in which the United States limits its engagement in foreign wars and humanitarian interventions and instead focuses on restoring the economic foundations of its power."

While engaged in unpopular foreign wars, opposed by the overwhelming majority of Americans, U.S. President George W. Bush and his planners and advisers failed to notice we were sapping the sinews of American power.

Notwithstanding Haass's warning against foreign military entanglements, the same visionaries that gave us Iraq and Afghanistan are agitating for action against the Assad regime in Syria. President Bashar Assad is using chemical weapons against his own people. And this, they say, demands retaliatory action by the United States.

Robotic bombing by drones, they suggest. The only problem with hastening Assad's downfall is al-Qaida and its Associated Movements. It is a major factor in the anti-Assad resistance.

U.S. bombing would enhance AQAM's image and credibility -- against the United States even though fighting the same enemy.

U.S. President Barack Obama hesitates because everything he has read or heard reeks of mission creep.

China, meanwhile, has been building the foundations of a 21st-century economy. It has also deployed more than 5 million workers in developing economies, mostly in what was once the Third World, to build future markets for their burgeoning industries.

In the Bahamas, 20 minutes by cab from Nassau airport, and a 45-minute flight from Palm Beach, Fla., some 6,000 Chinese workers are erecting a casino complex that will dwarf any gambling emporium in the Caribbean.

There are even serious predictions that China's gross domestic product will surpass the United States' by 2016 (the International Monetary Fund says) or 2019 (says The Economist).

If China's economy is growing 8 percent a year and the United States by less than 3 percent, some tasseographers -- tea leaf readers -- conclude China's leaders will soon rule the global roost.

Coffee grind readings, a tad more accurate, show the American giant reassessing priorities and making Haass' prescription a national priority.

Several books are out predicting an historic shift in the world balance of power.

Last month, China disclosed plans to build several more aircraft carriers after commissioning its first flat-top, the Liaoning, originally an unfinished Soviet carrier, now undergoing sea trials.

The petty antics on Capitol Hill, projected as a dysfunctional system of government by global, round-the-clock television news (e.g., al-Jazeera, BBC, A2 France in English) don't enhance the image of American democracy.

Haass's latest tome argues brilliantly "for a new foreign policy doctrine of Restoration, in which the United States limits its engagement in foreign wars and humanitarian interventions and instead focuses on restoring the economic foundations of its power."

The United States, busy fighting non-essential foreign wars, barely noticed that its crumbling infrastructure, in many areas, is slip-sliding into nationwide obsolescence.

America's burgeoning deficit and debt, says Haass, second-class schools and outdated immigration system, all say it's time for a refit.

Haass rejects any thought of isolationism and firmly believes global leadership is critically important for the United States in the 21st century. But this, he writes, can only be "anchored" in restoration on the home front.

On the defense front, "Beyond the Last War" is the title of a major study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on "Balancing Ground Forces and Future Challenges Risk in USCENTCOM and USPACOM," abbreviations for the Middle East and the Pacific theaters.

A former U.S. Army chief of Staff said privately, "the hardest thing in Washington is turning the Pentagon around to face the wars of the future."

By the "future," he made clear he had robotic and cyber warfare in mind. But the Pentagon is yet to decide what to do with 9,000 tanks as major tank battles recede into a glorious past.

The CSIS study is the penultimate phase that bridges "five pacing archtypes: humanitarian response, distributed security enabling and support activities, peace operations and limited conventional campaigns."

Not exactly a recipe for global imperialism.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates acknowledged as much when he noted in his farewell address at West Point:

"When it comes to predicting the nature and location of our net military engagements since Vietnam, our record has been perfect. We have never once gotten it right. From the Mayaguez to Grenada, Panama, Somalia, the Balkans, Haiti, Kuwait, Iraq, and more -- we had no idea a year before any of these missions that we would be so engaged."

To complete the list one should add Korea 1950-54 (a draw); Vietnam 1959-1975 (a defeat); Dominican Republic 1965 (win); Beirut 1989 (defeat and withdrawal after 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French soldiers killed by terrorist bombs); Grenada 1989 (win three days after Beirut defeat); Gulf War I 1991 (win); Somalia 1993 (defeat); Haiti 1994 (win); Bosnia 1994-95 (win); Kosovo 1999 (win); Afghanistan 2001 (ongoing); Iraq 2003-11 (lose).

CSIS' "Beyond the Last War" says if this century "is to be another American century ... then this nation must possess a land force -- Army. Marines and Special Forces – of sufficient capacity to meet numerous challenges, as well as opportunities, an uncertain future will present."

Haass' prescription says charity starts at home.

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