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DEFENSE PLANS FOR WHAT?


New plans and cuts in the Defense budget announced yesterday reflect the consequences of Iraq and Afghanistan.  It is clear we will henceforth be relying on a  much smaller footprint — special forces and drones to the fore – recalling the concept of "offshore balancing."  The idea, much advocated by University of Chicago Professor John J. Mearsheimer, relies on friendly regional powers to offset hostile ones.

Questions remain because no one has articulated an overall political strategy or objectives.  So, what do we need our armed forces for?  Does demand for the world's resources have a role?  If so, it is worth noting that China seems to be wrapping up almost everything in Africa.

And with regard to China, do we plan to contest the Pacific as its influence grows and ours ebbs?  If so, what will we need?  Are there means other than the presence of force?  These might well offer the potential of a plus-sum instead of a zero-sum game.  Otherwise, Mearsheimer's 2001 book, "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics", which illustrates his theory of offensive realism and foresees bleak prospects for peace in northeast Asia, is likely to be the apt predictor.  Anarchy in the world system, according to this theory, obliges states to seek dominance, forcing even peaceful nations into a relentless power struggle.

There has to be a time when the human race is able to resolve conflicts through mediation and international law, or diffuse them into rivalries; it becomes particularly important as worsening climate change affects the whole planet, and solutions inevitably require cooperation and trust between the nation states that govern us.

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