War Footing

Updated: March 12, 2014


By J.E. McCollough

“If we (the United States) minded our own business we would live in a far less dangerous world.”

— Former Representative Ron Paul

“America must move off a permanent war footing.”

— President Barak Obama

It is difficult to read Rep. Paul’s and President Obama’s comments at a time when Russia is re-starting the Cold War and America’s long war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates shows no sign of stopping. Statements like these, along with efforts by the Obama administration to cut the military budget, are bewildering and completely disconnected from historical precedent.  The US minded its own business and two world wars happened anyway. The US moved off of a permanent war footing after the Cold War ended and Kuwait was invaded and the US homeland was attacked as America tried to reap a so-called ‘peace dividend.’

The world is a small place in this new era of globalization. A drawdown of global American power does nothing to reduce the impact of world affairs on the United States, it only reduces America’s ability to impact world affairs. The reality of our time is that the defense of the nation is not restricted to defending our borders, we must maintain the ability to shape events long before they reach our borders if we wish to remain safe. Paul and Obama, in making the above proclamations, do not appear to understand this dynamic.

The world keeps turning despite the general progressive and Libertarian desire for, not American global retreat, perhaps, but certainly American retrenchment.

Less than a week after an unidentified DoD official defended the military budget proposed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel by saying, “…you can’t carry a large land-war Defense Department when there is no large land war,” Russia invaded the Ukraine. Russia_Ukraine

As of this writing it has been a ‘subtle invasion,’ that is, the shooting hasn’t started. Yet. If it does, the United States could potentially be drawn into a very large land-war indeed due to the Budapest Memorandum, an agreement we signed with Ukraine in 1994 to get them to give up their nuclear arsenal. If nothing else, we are reminded that a ‘large land war’ is never more than a politician’s blunder away. 

The Obama administration’s approach to international involvement has been premised with the notion “the tide of war is receding.” In this year’s State of the Union Address, President Obama made several statements that reflect this vision. In January, Obama said, “And in tight-knit communities all across America, fathers and mothers will tuck in their kids, put an arm around their spouse, remember fallen comrades and give thanks for being home from a war that after twelve long years is finally coming to an end.”

The Hagel military budget proposal seems to be an effort to canonize this idea, regardless of what might actually be happening throughout the world, like Russian invasions. The Hagel budget abandons the policy of being able to fight two major wars at the same time, the lesson we learned from having to fight the Japanese in the Pacific and Germany in Europe in World War II. 

This proposed budget is, in essence, a strategy proposal. It would force a change in strategy due to claimed budget constraints, despite the fact that US defense spending is only about 4.2 percent of GDP. In comparison, Russia is spending 4.5 percent of its GDP on its military. China is spending two percent, but is estimated to be increasing its military budget by twelve percent annually. In my opinion, the safety of the nation is paramount, all other expenditures must be secondary. Imagine if an architect designed a building without fire exits because of ‘budget constraints.’ 

Congress is going to change Hagel’s budget. The axe has been given to the A-10, the Close Air Support airframe so beloved by American infantry (and feared by the enemy), but the fight to save it is already on. However, no matter how it’s changed in Congress, the budget is going to almost certainly draw down the size and composition of the military. It will curtail procurement, which will necessarily constrain the options of future American presidents. This will force them to accept the current administration’s premise that the US should not maintain a global military presence by removing the option of being able to maintain a global military presence. In essence, it sets the United States on a trajectory for global marginalization.Hagel

Chinese naval militarism against Japan, Iranian hegemony in Iraq, the ongoing Syrian conflict, Al Qaeda and affiliates establishing safe havens in Pakistan, Yemen, Syria and Iraq, tension in Thailand and Venezuela, and of course the Russian invasion of the Ukraine all conspire to undermine the president’s assertion “the tide of war is receding.” All these troubles will impact the US regardless of whether or not we withdraw our military, as Obama and Ron Paul would have us do.

Degrading our military capabilities in the face of increasing threats is dangerous in an ever-threatening world. Parity among teams is a good thing for a sports league, no one wants to watch a Super Bowl blowout. Parity among countries, however, encourages conflict as nations jostle for military or economic advantages.

The president’s vision for America’s future among nations seeks parity, not the strength of the American superpower. Hagel recognizes this. He said, “We are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies and in space can no longer be taken for granted.” The Hagel budget would intentionally relinquish American dominance and invite conflict.

If we are to learn anything from dramatic events like September 11th or the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, it should be that the world we think we know can utterly change in a day, or a weekend. We as a nation should be preparing for future wars, not relinquishing the ability to win them.




  1. JoeC

    March 12, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    We were hardly minding our own business when the two World Wars broke out. In both cases we were supplying personnel and materials to the war efforts of our allies while pretending to not be involved.

    While I think it is silly to say that war would end if we kept our nose out of everyone else’s business, we wouldn’t have nearly as many countries to worry about if we didn’t play world police. Every country we help results in us becoming weaker.

    • Common Sense

      March 12, 2014 at 8:21 pm

      The US did not support any of the Allies with materiel until well after the Austro-Hungarians/Nazis had begun their invasions, and war had been declared by France and England. The original statement is correct.

    • Sergeant Van

      March 12, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      We may have been supplying supplies and materials before we actually got involved in both world wars, but the wars themselves started well before we started that aid to our allies.

    • ThomasT

      March 12, 2014 at 11:17 pm

      We were supplying materiel and personnel to *all* sides when both world wars broke out. And our eventual *refusal* to continue supplying petroleum products to the Empire of Japan which they required in order to prosecute their conquest of China is why they “declared that a state of war existed” between Japan and the U.S., subsequent to which, (and as as pre-planned and pre-launched consequence of which) they attacked Pearl Harbor less than 24 hours later and the Philippine Islands in less than 72 hours. There’s no question that Lend-Lease grossly subverted our erstwhile neutrality between Germany and England (and thank God, say I) but Hitler was under no diplomatic obligation to come to Japan’s aid in the case of a Japanese-provoked war between Japan and the US. He declared war on the US unilaterally. Yes, there was provocation, from both sides, in both theaters, in both wars. But God, man, *read history*.

      As for: “Every country we help results in us becoming weaker.” that’s statistically POSSIBLE, but it’s logically fallacious in so many ways I despair of you. Where’s your proof? How has our aid of Britain made us weaker? Of Norway? Of Holland? Of Belgium? I think you can make the charge that “some countries we help make us weaker” You could have a serious go at “most”. But “every?” Tough to prove. You can’t do it.

      • JoeC

        March 14, 2014 at 8:55 am

        Reading history is of little use in finding the truth when history is written by the victor. Any way you slice it, we were involved before entering the wars and were drawn into them because of it. Would we have been drawn in anyway? More than likely, but it doesn’t matter because that isn’t how it happened.

        I can prove “every” just as easily as you can disprove it. What has been our return on investment for helping all of these countries? Every dollar we send overseas with no return hurts us. When we assist another country in industrializing, not only does it cost us money it also gives them the opportunity to compete without the restrictions we face here which leads to American jobs going elsewhere. Look at what we’ve invested in the Middle East. What have we gained for that? Was it worth the money spent and lives lost? We have done nothing that is a lasting solution, so how long until we have to go back and do it again? What will our benefit be then?

    • JoeC

      March 13, 2014 at 9:45 am

      I will rephrase my statement because it is incorrect as I wrote it.

      We were hardly minding our own business prior to the U.S. entering either World War.

      How does that work?

  2. leftoftheboom

    March 12, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    The problem in this nation is the lack of integrity and resolve at the top. Should we mind our own business? We cannot. It is said that the U.S. economy is the engine that drives the world. At this point, the interconnectivity of trade, alliances, and resources leave every nation joined with the other. But that does not mean we all get along.

    I believe that our main issues are as follows:

    Since the end of WWII we have had a small problem with our elected representatives mustering the courage to follow through on the wars they get us involved in. We went from the powerhouse nation at the end of WWII to where we are because of a steady decline in the political will and understanding in what it means to fight a war.

    Leadership in this nation has eroded to the point that we look, politically, like immature children to the rest of the world with our constant squabbling, name calling, and inability to perform the most basic tasks of governance.

    Integrity has withered away to the point that no one trusts the spoken word of anyone else and our erstwhile leaders have been caught in one lie after another on the public stage and made to look like the fools that they are.

    If you are going to fight a war, you bring every ounce of force you have to bear on the enemy and you smash them until their very means to resist is destroyed. You do not fight a war unless you have to but once you do, all political squabbles stop, unity for the needs of the moment become paramount, dissenting voices shut the hell up, and all effort, power, will, and violence are focused to getting the war fought and won as fast as possible.

    We will always be in a state of war. We do not have the ability to be isolationist in this day and age. So we have to say what we mean and mean what we say. Our leaders need to either understand that they must demonstrate the utmost integrity and that their word must be their bond or we need to get rid of them until with find someone who can match that requirement.

    We must hold our elected officials to a higher standard and call them out when they fail until either they stop failing, or we find good people. Stop accepting the status quo.

    Part of the problem with being the world’s police, is no unifying laws to enforce. I am not interested in policing the world. I would state my national objectives, establish my strategic goals, and inform the world on the areas that I consider vital to my nations security. Then obliterate the fuck out of anyone who fails to understand that I meant exactly what I said. I don’t think we would have to do it more than once.

  3. Common Sense

    March 12, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    “Leadership in this nation has eroded to the point that we look, politically, like immature children to the rest of the world with our constant squabbling, name calling, and inability to perform the most basic tasks of governance.
    Integrity has withered away to the point that no one trusts the spoken word of anyone else and our erstwhile leaders have been caught in one lie after another on the public stage and made to look like the fools that they are.”

    While I agree that this needs to change, it is no different than the governments of almost all other countries. All elected governments have opposition, and will continue to argue. Europe has all the same problems, as does much of Asia. Governments will fall, arguing will continue.

    That said, the big issue is a specific public policy and national strategy. Those are the pieces that are lacking.

    • leftoftheboom

      March 12, 2014 at 9:44 pm

      It is true that other nations have the same problems. But if we ever intend to fix things, we cannot start by accepting that everyone does it that way. I am not saying that is what you said but emphisising that is what we need to change.

      How do we effect that change starts at the voting booth. We need to find people we trust and help them gain office. Until that happens, we will continue down the same broken road.

      Or we can watch it burn. I am good either way.

  4. boomgotya

    March 12, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    I have to agree with Ron Paul. For a couple reasons. I used to think it was bullshit. But after having a couple friends die in wars politicians start, but don’t care to win, I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to stop being the worlds police. I believe that we will be more than alright if citizens were allowed to exercise their 2nd amendment rights as intended. 300 plus million armed citizens, will a standing amryand nuclear aarsenal is not something anyone would mess with. Yes, it is hard for me to admit, as I was a soldier for 10 years. But we are spending way to much money of the military industrial complex, yet our soldiers marines sailors and airmen still use a 50 year old weapon system.
    The swiss are a great example. Then again, their citizens take it seriously. Many Americans refuse to invest themselves in anything other than a sport or Hollywood.

  5. Chute-Failure

    March 12, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    The problem with the budget is not the reduction of it but how it is allocated. The F-35 is eating up a huge portion of it and in its attempt to please all 3 flying services will be unable to fully accomplish any of its missions. Furthermore, the Army has decided to keep more Armored BCT’s than any other type. In a fast-paced world with ever-changing threats the ability to get troops on the ground quickly is paramount. For the Army, in my opinion, this should mean an expansion of Airborne forces, not Armored. This gives the Marines a greater role as the ability to deploy a MEU to a conflict zone will be vital to controlling a situation before it boils over and becomes more problematic. We should pull some forward deployed units home and save some money while increasing our expeditionary capabilities. That does not mean that we are withdrawing from the world, just changing our posture to be more sustainable. The proper allocation of our funds and personnel is what really needs to be looked at and what is really important here. I fully believe we can do more with a smaller force if they are well-trained, well-equipped, and if they are actually capable of conducting real-world missions.

  6. Tilden

    March 12, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    I DO find it difficult to read Mr. Paul and Mr. POTUS’s comments. But my lack of corrective lenses aside, I do find it somewhat worrying as well, just not as badly or deeply if the POTUS had not become, or turned out to be, such a complete and utter JACKWAGON as he has proved himself. It was suggested to me by a brother infantryman this morning (an older brother, who led a platoon in the Delta in Vietnam.) that Obama’s lasting legacy will be making Jimmy Carter look like a competent President. I know I’m displaying my age, but I have to agree with my older brother.

  7. william quiroz

    March 12, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    There are consequences fighting wars all over the world. The United States cannot police the world but use diplomacy and alliances to put the pressure on other nations to take action. Libya was an example of how effectively using minimal force from the US with gained support from our allies. It would have been better if POTUS would have carried on that strategy with taken down Assad’s regime after his whole “red-line” speech. Russia is by no means a threat when you have most of the NATO Alliance on board with the exception of Georgia and Ukraine. It will be interesting to see how the situation in Crimea plays out because I’m sure China is watching closely on our response.

  8. Chris Z

    March 13, 2014 at 9:04 am

    Ate the food for thought, and here are my thoughts.

    There are some serious flaws with this guy’s thinking.

    He basically says that

    (1) the budget cuts would render us militarily impotent
    (2) these various conflicts (Crimea, Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand, etc.) around the world impact our national defense

    and most disturbingly of all

    (3) that national defense involves making the world run the way we think it should run

    He never makes much of a case to establish the first two.

    For example, yes Hagel went to Congress with some serious budget cuts, and yes the Obama administration should probably never be trusted. I’m sure there are ulterior political motives. But let’s take the proposed cuts at face value. In the age of hi-tech warfare, where a couple of guys sitting in a container in the New Mexico desert can use an Xbox controller to blow someone up on the other side of the world, is cutting 20,000 soldiers and 7,000 marines going to put us so far behind everyone else? Just an example. I suggest that, now that we are almost done occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, maybe we can spare a few thousand troops.

    And as far as the conflicts around the world: what do all these situations have to do with us? He says that “all these troubles will impact the US,” but he never explains how.

    But it’s that third point that I mentioned that is most troubling (and that probably underlies his view of the other points I raised).

    He talks about “America’s ability to impact world affairs.” I read that and think, “uh-oh.”

    These war-hawks have the mentality that America has the right/responsibility to ̶m̶a̶k̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶w̶o̶r̶l̶d̶ ̶r̶u̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶w̶a̶y̶ ̶w̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶n̶k̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶s̶h̶o̶u̶l̶d̶ ̶r̶u̶n̶ defend freedom around the globe.

    There are two fundamental problems with this way of thinking.

    First, it fails the moral test. The Golden Rule says “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” What if China decided to invade the U.S. because they thought we might have WMDs? Or if Russia decided to remove our President because he was a despot? Or if North Korea established a military base just off our coast to ensure stability in the region? We wouldn’t like that very much. So how do we justify acting in a similar fashion? (So even if our motives were to defend democracy, find and eliminate WMDs, etc., it would fail the moral test. But of course those are almost always just the false pretenses we give for war. We usually have much baser motives, like controlling the price of oil.)

    Now, having brought up the moral test, I realize that it is not compelling to most war-hawks; they will either try to justify their position (typically by some variation of “might makes right” or by “we are a morally superior people,” both of which are laughable arguments), or they will just dismiss the moral test as naive and unrealistic in regards to the world we live in.

    So I would then bring up the reality test. Let me borrow this author’s “fire escape” analogy. If I am building a building, and I am running out of money and can’t afford to build enough fire escapes, MAYBE I NEED TO STOP BUILDING SUCH A HUGE, EXPENSIVE BUILDING! Similarly, if we are building an empire, and we are running out of money to fund our empire, maybe we need to stop building such a huge, expensive empire! It might be nice for the world to run the way we think it should run, and to be able to go invade every country where ̶o̶u̶r̶ ̶o̶i̶l̶ ̶s̶u̶p̶p̶l̶y̶ freedom is under attack or ̶l̶e̶a̶d̶e̶r̶s̶ ̶w̶h̶o̶ ̶d̶o̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶l̶i̶k̶e̶ ̶A̶m̶e̶r̶i̶c̶a̶ ̶a̶r̶e̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶p̶o̶w̶e̶r̶ people are being oppressed – it might be nice to right every wrong, but it is simply unsustainable in terms of men, materiel, and morale. Not to mention the fact that empire building is a great way to create enemies (someone needs to inform this author that 9/11 didn’t happen in a vacuum – the terrorists don’t hate us because we are a good Christian nation that minds our own business); blowback is another inconvenient reality that we can’t afford to ignore.

    These war hawks like McCain, the military industrial complex they work for, and the well-intentioned but misguided patriots like this blogger who parrot their rhetoric are a much greater threat to the stability of our nation than whatever is going on in Venezuela or Crimea or Thailand.

  9. some dumb grunt

    March 13, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    I above all people am not pushing for open war with russia, but at the same time in elementary school learning about WW2 there was a definition term. that term was Appeasement. And it was drilled into our heads. Is that not what we’re doing with russia? please tell how ignoring georgia and ukraine isn’t appeasement. Whatever happend to learning from history so it doesn’t repeat itself.

  10. Jonathan Wronski

    March 13, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    War is an ugly thing that many people can’t stomach. Those of us who have gone to war view things a bit differently. Many of the Soldiers that I still keep in contact with, who have been to Iraq are questioning what they did after seeing the recent reports on the situation there. War is ugly, but should not be ended because some politician is trying to score points with the population. It should end because our mission is accomplished. It should end because we brought the fight to the enemy so brutally that he has lost all will to fight. Scaling back on our military, pulling out of a conflict because the politicians are trying to score points with the population, having peace talks with a group of terrorists, these are all things that make us appear weak on an international level. F*CK ALL OF THAT! We need to make it so that no one will ever even think about attacking either us or our allies again.

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