Archive for Wednesday, August 20, 2008

US looks more vulnerable

August 20, 2008


Suddenly the world is beginning to seem a much more dangerous place.

When I was growing up it was the Cold War. At school we learned to "duck and cover" in case of a nuclear attack. I remember during the Cuban missile crisis staying home and watching the television news wondering when the bombs would start to fall. Thus it was with incredible relief that I heard President Reagan announce the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War. I rejoiced at the notion of a "peace dividend," that the United States would be able to spend the vast sums which had gone to the military on solving social problems like poverty and disease.

Of course, the tragic events of 9/11 ended all that. Suddenly we were at war again, not with a superpower, but with a shadowy terrorist group: al-Qaida. Within a few years we were fighting not only al-Qaida but Saddam Hussein. Our military was mired in Iraq and struggling to keep the peace in Afghanistan. But, at least, I thought, we didn't have to worry about the old Soviet threat anymore. And, it seemed for a brief moment that we didn't have to worry about small confrontations becoming all-out global nuclear war.

But in the last few days, even that small amount of security seems to be disappearing. The Soviet Union may be dead, but Russia is resurgent under Vladimir Putin. The invasion of Georgia not only threatens the security of the region, but it also holds open the possibility that the only three oil and gas pipelines that run to Europe from Central Asia not in Russian control, may soon be in Russian control. The geopolitical and economic consequences of such a change are momentous and frightening. It would give the Russians a stranglehold on all of Western Europe.

And then there is Pakistan. For years the United States has depended upon the "friendship" of Pakistan's leader Pervez Musharraf and turned its eyes away from the growing dissatisfaction of his own people with him. We can do so no longer. He has resigned, just one short step ahead of impeachment.

But who will replace him, and will his replacement continue to be an American ally in the face of growing popular anti-Americanism? And if his replacement does not follow his pro-American line, what does this mean for the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and for the terrorist strongholds on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border?

Worst of all, I think, is our own military vulnerability. The Iraq war has sapped a great deal of strength from our military. We are short on soldiers and on equipment. The Pentagon has released information that the Army will not have enough officers, particularly majors and captains, for several years to come. How can we counter the multiplying threats from Russia, perhaps from Pakistan, and from terrorists without a military at full strength?

In the past few months campaign discussion has moved away from foreign affairs toward the domestic economic crisis. Most commentators attribute this shift to the progress American troops have made in Iraq as a result of the surge. But the last few days make it clear, I think, that we cannot assume that foreign affairs are less important. Those who are not our friends have seen our vulnerability. Russia is not going to sit back and allow us to continue to play the role of the only "superpower." Pakistan may well refuse to follow our lead in the war on terrorism now that Musharraf is gone. And what of China, after its Olympic triumph?

We have a weak economy and a strained military. We are at risk in the world. The next president and the new Congress are going to have an immense burden on their shoulders, both domestically and internationally. Over the next few months candidates must address our new vulnerable position in the world and propose ways to fix it as quickly as possible.

- Mike Hoeflich, a distinguished professor in the Kansas University School of Law, writes a regular column for the Journal-World.


Mkh 7 years ago

The US has been caught with its pants down. I've been trying to rack my brain for over a week now in attempt to understand what the heck the Bush Administration was thinking.Clearly, Georgia would not have attacked S. Ossetia without the knowledge of the US. There is no way that the US could not have seen the Russian Army lining up along the southern border for weeks in response to Georgian troops doing the same on their border. Therefore, it seems that the Bush Administration completely under estimated Russia. Putin saw this as the perfect opportunity to prove to the World that the balance of power has shifted and that America has become weaker, we are not the almighty superpower that we think, and Putin is rubbing our face in it.

hoeflich 7 years ago

I truly hope that I am being pessimistic, but I find Putin quite worrisome. I believe that Pres. Bush utterly misread him and that the U.S. has sat by as Russia under his leadership has rebuilt its military using petrodollars. Russia has always been an expansionist power and I think that the menace to the former Soviet satellites like Georgia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Poland, etc. is very real and will require international intervention if Russia is to be contained. I certainly don't want us to be again adverse to the Russians, but I think that Putin may well force us into this position. If we don't help our East European allies stay free and independent, then no one will ever trust us again. As to the strength of the military, all you need to do is talk to officers who have been in Iraq or Afghanistan to know that the Army and Marines are woefully strained. Just take a look at any National Guard center; if there's equipment at all it's old. As far as the draft is concerned, I fear that it will be necessary, regardless of who is President, although I would hope that it would be universal, with few exemptions, and include domestic service opportunities as well [the German model is worth looking at]. Not everyone can be a soldier, but everyone can do something to serve their nation and community, such as driving emergency vehicles, helping the elderly and disabled, etc. A bit of self-sacrifice won't hurt anybody.

hoeflich 7 years ago

If it is naive to expect a future president to have plans to deal with serious domestic and international crises, then I'm naive. As to the charge about medicare and ss, I favor cutting back substantially on ss benefits so as not to harm younger taxpayers. As to medicare, we need to set limits to available treatments and eligibility on the Oregon Plan model. Personally, I'm not planning to rely on either. If you are going to attack my views, at least find out what they are.

chet_larock 7 years ago

I wonder what Mike would say to the wingnuts on here who claim that the overstretched military is an idea put forth by "liberal pacifists" to scare people into thinking McCain will reinstitute the draft. Doesn't he know that the US possesses the code for invincibility?

Brent Garner 7 years ago

Mike Hoeflich,A well written column. Add to your list of woes a public unwilling to do what is needed to fix the problem. No one wants to give up their lattes or anything else in order to address the issue. I fear we truly have become a nation of whiners. As I have stated in other places, the parrellels between the 1930s and now are becoming increasingly alarming and we know what the 1930s passive response to aggression and refusal to rearm led to. I am afraid we are about to experience the same thing only it will make WW2 look like a picnic.

jayhawklawrence 7 years ago

I always like Mike's column but I think this one might be a little too pessimistic for me. I prefer to see some of the positives that are coming out of this Administration, such as, Americans seem to have finally woken up to how we have been misled and ill served by our political leaders and we are sniffing out a lot of the lies these political parties have been feeding us for far too long. The bottom line is we elected a lot of bad leaders and we weren't responsible enough to stay on top of the issues. Meanwhile, we let the coyotes into our chicken house (Big money lobbyists and special interests).You can bet these same folks are arrogant enough to believe it will be business as usual after the election and we will be fooled again. They certainly made enough money with Bush in charge to buy a lot of votes.

Mkh 7 years ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says: "Therefore, it seems that the Bush Administration completely under estimated Russia.""I think they got exactly the response they wanted, which allows them to whip up the cold-war mania again, just in time for McBush to be elected as our new warmonger-in-chief"-----------------------------------------------I hate to burst your bubble Bozo, but the neo-cons are exactly following the game plan of Obama's senior foreign policy advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski that he laid out in the infamous book "The Grand Chessboard".So in reality, they are more likely preparing the American public for McBama as our new warmonger-in-chief.

Mkh 7 years ago

Russia has just announce to Norway that they have cut all military ties to NATO. Things are getting icy.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years ago

You know, jaywalker, when you have nothing of a substantial nature to contribute to the discussion, your sophomoric quips make you look juvenile, not clever.

Mkh 7 years ago

I suggest everyone read this recent op-ed by Paul Craig Roberts, it's on the same topic, but from a much better source.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years ago

"Georgia and Russia both know we're not going to start a war or send forces against them."And did I say we would? No, I didn't. We don't have any forces to spare, even if BushCo wanted to do something really stupid as parting shot to the world.But it does ratchet up the level of warmongering hysteria, which is very good for keeping "defense" expenditures at very high levels-- in other words, it's good for bidness.

KU_cynic 7 years ago

"... and propose ways to fix it as quickly as possible."What an unfortunately naive way to end this column. Real threats to our security such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and the potential for armed conflicts in pivotal regions such as the Middle East are not going to be "fixed" quickly by any politicians on the campaign trail over the next few months. Nor are long-term economic problems such as actuarially unsound plans for financing Medicare and Social Security benefits to boomers like Hoeflich.

jafs 7 years ago

It seems to me that this would be a very good time for America to re-assess our priorities.Perhaps it is time to reduce our scope and influence around the world and focus on improving our own nation.All empires (superpowers) rise and fall - if we do it gracefully, it will be easier.

jaywalker 7 years ago

"I think they got exactly the response they wanted, which allows them to whip up the cold-war mania again, just in time for McBush to be elected as our new warmonger-in-chief."Oh, come oooooon! No doubt Georgia poked the dog with a stick, but Russia's retaliation and invasion are NOT Bush's fault, and certainly not what he wanted. Nor would Georgia poke that dog because Bush told them to. Look at what's been transpiring for the last five years under Putin. Russia has been angling back into the world power stage and their aggression right now is a not so subtle middle finger to the EU and the U.S.. The EU gets their fuel (oil), their heat (natural gas), and their food (wheat) predominantly from Russia. So in this chess game, they're in check. The U.S. is counting on Russa to help bring Iran under control. Check. Georgia and Russia both know we're not going to start a war or send forces against them.But bozo's back spouting conspiracy theories. The quiet was lovely while it lasted.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years ago

"So in reality, they are more likely preparing the American public for McBama as our new warmonger-in-chief."You could be right-- they are systematically sabotaging all aspects of government, except those that are the cash cows of the superrich and super powerful. From Iraq to Afghanistan, and perhaps now Eastern Europe, whoever becomes president will have very limited choices available.

acoupstick 7 years ago

"Russia's retaliation and invasion are NOT Bush's fault"Maybe not directly, but if we weren't overextended in an unpopular war having burnt diplomatic bridges throughout the Bush administration, this likely would never have happenned. Let's also not forget Georgia's apparently mistaken impression that we had their back. Reminds me of the false promises of support given to Shiites at the end of Desert Storm. Sadam crushed them.Here's an interesting look at some of the geopolitical failures by Bush and Clinton adminitrations that have led us here:

Mkh 7 years ago are just confused as can be.Georgia most certainly is a pawn of the US, this is not a conspiracy, we have installed both of their recent leaders, the most current Saakashkvili, was a direct product of the National Endowment for Democracy, a neocon thinktank group.We (and Israel) have armed and trained the Georgian Army for the past 15 years. This is not "conspiracy", it's fact. Georgia doesn't sneeze without the US saying it's ok.And you are dead wrong how I feel about the United States, the US is the greatest nation ever. The problem is it has been highjacked by international elite and used as the tip of the sword for their New World Order. Which as Saakashkvili just said on national television the other night is the end goal.Don't take it from Paul Craig Robert's latest op-ed

bondmen 7 years ago

Well some of us might remember the USSR rolling tanks into Czechoslovakia and Hungary and our politicians then did nothing either. This is in Europe's sphere of influence. Only the Russian's are great chess players and they have made the moves necessary to effectively bend the Europeans over the oil barrel! Checkmate?Not much has changed.

jaywalker 7 years ago

"You know, jaywalker, when you have nothing of a substantial nature to contribute to the discussion, your sophomoric quips make you look juvenile, not clever."Ya mean sorta like the above example? Besides, bozo, when a 5 yr. old spouts ridiculous nonsense it really doesn't matter how 'substantial' your response might be, reality is he doesn't have the capacity to grasp formative thought. And by the way, you referring to anyone else's 'sophmoric quips' is like Fred Phelps referring to someone as a homophobe.

bondmen 7 years ago

Politicians of both parties have over promised largess from the people's treasury and the debt is coming due. Solutions to reduce benefits which cannot now be afforded are ridiculed and postponed only delaying the day of reckoning.Rick Warren's candidate forum didn't address government promised excesses nor were borders, language and culture discussed. It's largely a hollow campaign for a TV hypnotized nation.

topekan7 7 years ago

America will NOT by stymied by rhetoric from either Mike Hoeflich or Russia.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years ago

"Therefore, it seems that the Bush Administration completely under estimated Russia."I think they got exactly the response they wanted, which allows them to whip up the cold-war mania again, just in time for McBush to be elected as our new warmonger-in-chief.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years ago

"Longing to speak German, bozo? Japanese?"I already speak German, Japanese not so much. Do you have something against these languages?

jaywalker 7 years ago

"But it does ratchet up the level of warmongering hysteria, which is very good for keeping "defense" expenditures at very high levels- in other words, it's good for bidness."Thank you, Mr. Rosie O'Donnellstone. I would recommend you stay hunkered down in that thar basement, the sky is falling and it's Bush's fault.

BrianR 7 years ago

When I read the first sentence I thought this might be an entry for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.I remember the duck and cover drills too. The government spends a lot of energy keeping the people afraid of one thing or another. Helps keep the arms coffers full, I suppose.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 7 years ago

"US looks more vulnerable"WE look more vulnerable.( ... another remnant of BushSpeak )

acoupstick 7 years ago

"He's absolutely right.. the NEXT congress will take care of things better than this Democratic Led / 9% approval rating bunch of morons that were elected by uninformed whiners:"And the Republicans accomplished SO much the preceding 6 years..........................

jayhawklawrence 7 years ago

Mike Hoeflich is one of the brightest minds in our community but you cannot be right all of the time. I enjoy his columns and I hope he continues to write them.We cannot continue to be the policeman of the world. We are not qualified. Nobody is.We are at a disadvantage with Bush. God help us. We need a smarter guy running the ship.

jayhawklawrence 7 years ago

We have been kicking Russia quite a bit over this Georgia thing. Time for an alternative point of view from Mikhail Gorbachev who has written an article in the NY Times. you don't get the link, then just google it, it is a very good article.Seems to me that we are still living with a Cold War mindset and our habit of shipping military hardware all over the world and the way we are expanding NATO is incredibly foolish.We need a congressional investigation into our foreign policy and who decides who gets our military weaponry. Who profits? What are the long term damages from this policy and how much damage has it caused in the past? In other words, where is the accountability?Even a High School student can see the folly in this, why can't we "adults".

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years ago

"Ya mean sorta like the above example?"No, jaywalker. If you read my comments on this thread, with one exception, they are all about the topic of this thread. The one exception is my response to your continual need to engage in name-calling and personal attacks. I'm fairly thick-skinned, and realize that such attacks are almost always an indication of the poster's inability to constructively engage in reasoned discussion/debate, so I don't take it personally or seriously. But really, if you want to discuss these issues, why not just discuss the issues? Otherwise, you're little more than the equivalent of an annoying mosquito at a backyard gathering.

jayhawklawrence 7 years ago

"LibertarianJimThe greatest threat to our freedom is not Russia, Pakistan, China, Islamic Fascist, Mexico, etc. It's our Federal Government's betrayal of the Constitution and insistence on being policemen of the world."Man, I could not agree with you more.

libertarianjim 7 years ago

The greatest threat to our freedom is not Russia, Pakistan, China, Islamic Fascist, Mexico, etc. It's our Federal Government's betrayal of the Constitution and insistence on being policemen of the world. To think we can control events not on our soil militarily is foolish. Scare merchants (mainstream media) want you to believe we must dominate every other culture. They have squandered our blood and treasure for their own personal, professional and political gain. The Republicans have become a party of foreign intervention and domestic moralizers. The Democratic party is hell bent on Government social experiments that redistributes income from hard working Americans to those who would rather let someone else do the work.Bureaucrats now have more power than the people they are suppose to serve. The larger the government the more oppressive. These two parties are responsible for the current state of our Union. The United States is and must be a Champion of Freedom around the world, but defender of only her own.Vote Libertarian for change!Mike, are you a Faux News Contributor?

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