Rebuttal of Stephen Walt’s lies about America supposedly being safe

In one of his latest blog screeds, extremely liberal professor Stephen Walt, who calls himself “a realist in an ideological age”, claims that “America is really, really secure”, and recites an entire litany of blatant lies to back this claim up and thus to lull the American people into a sense of security:

“One of the great puzzles of contemporary national security policy is why the mighty United States gets its knickers in a twist over lots of security issues in lots of unimportant places. After all, it’s the world’s most advanced economy, by far the world’s most powerful military force, it is insulated from many world problems by two enormous oceans (which do still matter, by the way), and it has an array of stable allies in most corners of the world. And oh yes, it has a nuclear deterrent consistent of thousands of warheads, more than enough to devastate any country that threatened the United States directly or threatened our independence.

Yet Americans are constantly fretting about supposedly grave threats in far-flung corners of the world, and marching off to spend billions (or even trillions) fighting long and inconclusive wars in strategic backwaters like Afghanistan. To be perfectly blunt, it makes one wonder if the national security establishment in this country is even capable of a careful, sober, even-tempered analysis anymore.

I say all this as a preamble to a recommendation for your reading list: Micah Zenko and Michael Cohen’s terrific Foreign Affairs article “Clear and Present Safety.” It’s a rare piece of analytic sanity, and I hope it gets widely read. Money quotation:

“Within the foreign policy elite, there exists a pervasive belief that the post-Cold War world is treacherous place, full of great uncertainty and grave risks…There is just one problem. It is simply wrong. The world that the United States inhabits today is a remakably safe and secure place. It is a world with fewer violent conflicts and greater political freedom than at virtually any other point in human history…The United States faces no plausible existential threats, no great-power rival, and no near term competition for the role of global hegemon. The U.S. military is the world’s most powerful, and even in the middle of a sustained downturn, the U.S economy remains among one of the world’s most vibrant and adaptive…[Yet] this reality is barely reflect in U.S. national security strategy or in American foreign policy debates.””

All of his claims (and those of the two left-wing hacks he approvingly quotes) are completely false.

In short, the foreign policy elite is right to say that “the post-Cold War world is treacherous place, full of great uncertainty and grave risks” because it is. Contrary to Zenko’s and COhen’s lies, the world is not a safe, secure place, and is hardly more secure or more peaceful than it has ever been. Wars have not become more frequent, more prolonged, impacting more people, and involving more countries than at any time since WW2. Since the UN, which was supposed to prevent war, was established, wars have been occuring more frequently than before 1945.

Firstly, the claim that the US has by far the strongest military in the world, with no peers, is (sadly) not true. I wish it was true, but it isn’t. China is already as strong militarily as the US, and in some respects it’s militarily superior. It has DF-21 IRBMs that can eliminate not only ground targets, but also satellites (as confirmed by America’s own generals) and USN ships (including carriers, vide the DF-21D variant). It has cyberweapons and an army of hackers that attack and disrupt US computer networks, and steal American secrets, on a daily basis. It has a larger Navy than the US does (in terms of the number of ships) and has an aircraft carrier. It’s now developing its own stealthy fifth generation fighterplane, the J-20 (some analysts say it will be a medium fighter-bomber), while the US is not producing any F-22s (their production line has been shut down) and orders for F-35s have been dramatically cut. And that’s before Obama’s newest defense cuts are implemented and before the sequester kicks in!

Russia has reemerged as America’s military peer. It now plans to spend $770 bn over the next decade to modernize its arsenals of weapons, both strategic and conventional, and is aggressively modernizing its nuclear triad while the US nuclear triad and nuclear stockpile are atrophying through neglect and nonmodernization (not to mention American nuclear facilities, which date back to the days of the Manhattan Project). It also has by far the largest tank fleet in the world – over 20,000 tanks. So Zenko’s and Cohen’s claims that

“The United States faces no plausible existential threats, no great-power rival, and no near term competition for the role of global hegemon. [And] The U.S. military is the world’s most powerful…”

are blatant lies designed to lull the American people into a false sense of security. China and Russia are great-power rivals and near-term competitors for the role of the global hegemon; indeed, China wants to replace the US as the hegemon and is now openly talking about this goal. China, Russia, North  Korea, and Iran all constitute existential threats to the US.

Near term threats are just as deadly, if not more. Iran is defiantly continuing its nuclear weapon program, installing thousands of new centrifuges and embargoing oil to Europe even AFTER UNSC, US, and EU sanctions. North Korea continues the development of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles unimpeded, and already possesses ICBMs capable of hitting the US. Pakistan, an unstable state, has 100 nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and carries them around in unguarded trucks. Terrorist organizations are becoming ever more dangerous, despite OBL’s death.

Walt’s claim that the two oceans that flank the US from the East and the West is probably the most laughable, most ridiculous one. The oceans were not capable of protecting the US already as of the late 18th century, not to mention today. In 1788, as the American people were pondering whether to ratify the Constitution and authorize a standing army and a standing navy, Alexander Hamilton warned them in Federalist #24 that:

“Though a wide ocean separates the United States from Europe, yet there are various considerations that warn us against an excess of confidence or security. On one side of us, and stretching far into our rear, are growing settlements subject to the dominion of Britain. On the other side, and extending to meet the British settlements, are colonies and establishments subject to the dominion of Spain. This situation and the vicinity of the West India Islands, belonging to these two powers create between them, in respect to their American possessions and in relation to us, a common interest. The savage tribes on our Western frontier ought to be regarded as our natural enemies, their natural allies, because they have most to fear from us, and most to hope from them. The improvements in the art of navigation have, as to the facility of communication, rendered distant nations, in a great measure, neighbors. Britain and Spain are among the principal maritime powers of Europe. A future concert of views between these nations ought not to be regarded as improbable. The increasing remoteness of consanguinity is every day diminishing the force of the family compact between France and Spain. And politicians have ever with great reason considered the ties of blood as feeble and precarious links of political connection. These circumstances combined, admonish us not to be too sanguine in considering ourselves as entirely out of the reach of danger.”

Matters have grown only worse since 1788. Today, oceans can no longer protect the US. Russia, China, and North Korea all have ICBMs capable of hitting the US with nuclear warheads; Russia and China also have SSBNs. Iran is projected (by US intel as well as Israel) to have such ICBMs by 2015, by which time it will almost certainly have nuclear warheads and be able to mate them to such missiles. Russia and China also have large submarine and surface fleets and each of them has an aircraft carrier, with Russia planning to build 6 and China 3 additional carriers; China is also developing pilot schools and the expertise needed to operate carrier fleets. China also has ASAT and cyberweapons, as does Russia. Several countries in the Carribean, including Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela are run by Communists. Venezuela has allowed Iran to build an IRBM base on its soil. Iranian Musudan-ri BM25 IRBMs, if launched from Venezuela, can reach the CONUS. Rogue states could also hit the US with SRBMs launched from mobile launchers on container ships close to American shores. The fact is that these days oceans cannot, in any way, protect the US. Walt’s assumption that they can is laughable, ridiculous, and dangerously out of date. It reeks of isolationism.

Walt claims that the US “gets its knickers in a twist over security issues in far-flug corners of the world” and worries about “irrelevant” countries and regions. Does he mean China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela? Because while all of these countries are geographically distant and therefore “far-flug”, they are hardly irrelevant, unimportant, or weak, and they are all, with the exception of Venezuela, GRAVE threats to America.

Walt is rightonly about wars being fought by the US in strategically irrelevant countries like Afghanistan, but even on that one he’s been wrong, claiming that the US spends trillions on it, when the cost of the Afghan War to date totals only $500 bn. And that’s over a decade.

Contrary to Walt’s false cliam, Zenko’s and Cohen’s screed is NOT “a piece of analytical sanity”; it is a litany of blatant lies, aleftist propaganda paper designed to lull the American people itno a false sense of security. It is not worth reading. The Foreign Affairs Magazine should be ashamed of itself for publishing it.


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