by Jacob G. Hornberger
A good example of the military mindset that has predominated in American society since at least World War II is found in an op-ed in the Washington Times today. Its title is “China’s Imperialism on Full Display” and is written by Retired Navy Admiral James A. Lyons, who served as commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.
The introductory sentence sets the tone of the op-ed: “To foster its imperialistic goals, China for the past two decades has funded an unprecedented military expansion program.”
Now, that’s an interesting sentence. Is Lyons saying that any country that funds an unprecedented military expansion is automatically doing so to foster imperialistic goals rather than preparing for self-defense?
If so, where does that leave the United States? After all, surely Lyons is aware that the U.S. government has also funded an unprecedented military expansion program, not only for the past two decades but ever since World War II.
And while we’re on the subject of imperialism, Lyons would certainly agree that it’s the U.S. government, not the Chinese government, that has some 700-1000 military bases in more than 130 countries around the globe.
Also, we shouldn’t forget that it’s the United States, not China, that has invaded and occupied two separate, independent countries in the last ten years — Iraq and Afghanistan.
In fact, let’s assume that the Chinese communist regime suddenly did the following things: began spending as much money on military armaments as the U.S. government; began invading and occupying countries for the purpose of installing pro-Chinese regimes; began instituting an international assassination program; began supporting military coups in countries with the aim of installing pro-Chinese dictators into office; began imposing deadly sanctions and embargoes on other countries for the purpose of bringing them into line with Chinese policy; began sending troops and intelligence agents into countries around the world, including the United States, to kidnap terrorists and enemy combatants and then rendition them to North Korea for purposes of torture; began building a series of secret prisons around the world for the purpose of holding prisoners indefinitely without trial; began building Chinese military bases in more than 100 countries, including Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, and Nicaragua; and began sending Chinese and North Korean naval fleets into the Gulf of Mexico for military exercises.
Question for Admiral Lyons: What would be your reaction to those things?
I’ll tell you. Lyons would exclaim, “Why, those no good communist thugs! They’re trying to conquer the world. We’ve got to be prepared to defend ourselves. We’ve got to start spending more money than ever on the military and the military-industrial complex. We don’t have a choice. If we don’t, the dominoes will fall and America will succumb to the communists. Why, maybe we should even think about going back into Vietnam and stop the commies there!”
But what does the good admiral say when confronted with the fact that the U.S. government is engaged in all these actions?
Oh, then things are different. No doubt, Lyons would exclaim, “All this is necessary so that the U.S. military and the CIA can continue defending the freedoms of the American people.”
While people such as Lyons can easily recognize statism when it’s committed by Chinese or Soviet communists, alas they have a blind spot when it comes to American statism.
At the end of World War II, U.S. statists convinced the American people that a perpetual military machine was necessary to combat America’s World War II ally, the Soviet Union. Thus, America’s military expenditures grew exponentially, decade after decade, as U.S. military officials continually scared Americans into believing that the dominoes were going to fall and America was going to fall to the Soviet communists.
In 1989, the unexpected happened. That official threat came to an end with the fall of the Soviet Union. For several years, the statists argued that it was all a Soviet conspiracy to lull Americans into complacency and, therefore, that America’s military machine should continue to expand exponentially.
But the supposed conspiracy never materialized, the Soviet Union remained dismantled, and the Berlin Wall wasn’t reconstructed. No problem. The U.S. government went into the Middle East, stirred up some hornet’s nests, and came up with a new official enemy, one that was even better than the Soviet communists — the terrorists. After the 9/11 blowback attacks, U.S. officials said that it was now more necessary than ever that we expand America’s military and military-industrial complex.
But proponents of American imperialism and militarism know that if they’re forced to exit Afghanistan and Iraq, the terrorist threat will dissipate. Thus, it’s never too soon to begin preparing plans for a new official enemy, one that can be used to justify the continued, ever-growing expansion of America’s warfare state. The Chinese communists can fit the bill. Just ask Admiral Lyons.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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