“In this timely, pointed study, Glain challenges the efficacy and wisdom of continuing an enormous, costly U.S. defense buildup abroad in the face of the flimsiest excuse for an enemy and where statesmanship would better be served. A work of smoldering focus and marshaled evidence that just might have found its publishing moment.” — Kirkus Reviews
STATE vs. DEFENSE
The Battle to Define America’s Empire
By Stephen Glain
As of 2010, the Pentagon acknowledged the concentration of 190,000 troops and 115,000 civilian employees inside 909 military facilities in 46 countries and territories. The price of America’s military base network overseas, along with the expense of its national security state at home, is enormous. Over $1 trillion—equal to nearly 8 percent of GDP and more than 20 percent of the federal budget—is spent annually (5 times the combined annual security budget of China, Russia, Cuba, Iran and North Korea). Quietly, gradually—and inevitably, given the weight of its colossal budget and imperial writ—the Pentagon has all but eclipsed the State Department as the center of U.S. foreign policy.
For most of the twentieth century, the sword has led before the olive branch in the shaping of U.S. relations abroad. In STATE vs. DEFENSE: The Battle to Define America’s Empire (Crown Trade; August 2, 2011), veteran journalist Stephen Glain shows how America has managed its imperium and explores the constant tension between the diplomats at State and the warriors at Defense. A masterful account of how 60 years of American militarism created the Cold War, fanned decades of unnecessary conflict, helped fuel Islamist terror, and threatens to bankrupt the country, STATE vs. DEFENSE is the first book to provide a historical narrative about how and why American foreign policy became militarized.
Glain shines a light on the corruption of George Kennan’s containment doctrine into a mandate for endless war and the resulting mismatch between America’s diplomatic and military resources. He dispels the notion that the Pentagon’s policy-making primacy is a legacy of the Bush administration and it’s War on Terror; rather, Glain identifies landmark events when successive American presidents, largely out of political imperative, chose military solutions to what were in fact diplomatic challenges, if not opportunities, including:
* Harry Truman’s decision to maintain Washington’s monopoly on atomic weapons despite opposition from his Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, who warned that not internationalizing the bomb would lead to “a desperate arms race.”
* The U.S. decision in 1950 to isolate Mao Zedong despite his appeals for entente via State Department China experts, a rebuff that led to expanded wars in Korea and Vietnam.
* A series of CIA-engineered coups under Dwight Eisenhower, such as the putsch against Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, despite warnings from diplomats and intelligence agents that toppling the freely elected leader would result in blowback.
* Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 decision to militarize the U.S. role in Vietnam in response to charges from the political right that he was appeasing the Sino-Soviet bloc, which by then had ceased to exist.
* The provocative Carter Doctrine, unveiled in retaliation for a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that was wrongfully interpreted as a move on Persian Gulf oil supplies.
* The Reagan military buildup, including the deployment in Europe of intermediate-range missiles which, together with unusually aggressive U.S. military maneuvers, nearly precipitated a nuclear war in 1983.
* The demand by Congress in 1988 that the Pentagon lead the “war on drugs” in violation of posse comitatus, the legal principle that restricts the military’s involvement in law enforcement. Today, such peacetime missions, referred to by the defense establishment as “stability operations,” are the Pentagon’s stock-in-trade.
* The Bush administration’s militarized response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and its steam-rolling of Secretary of State Colin Powell in the run-up to the Iraq war; the “Building Global Partnerships Act of 2007,” which allows the Pentagon to directly allocate funds among foreign governments to modernize not only their militaries but other “security forces;” the growing frequency with which U.S. military teams conduct operations in foreign countries without the concurrence, and sometimes knowledge, of U.S. ambassadors.
The founding fathers feared nothing more than the corrosive properties of a standing army. Even Alexander Hamilton, who for his imperial ambition could be regarded as America’s first militarist, warned against a permanent military class. Thankfully, in faith with the founders’ vision, the military has kept to the barracks, and there is no popular desire for generals to assume a dominant role in the making of security polity, or for the lifting of constraints on legislators to make it easier for them to declare war. Despite this, U.S. relations with the world, and increasingly America’s security policy at home, have become thoroughly and all but irreparably militarized.
In STATE vs. DEFENSE, using declassified Soviet archives, Glain shows how U.S. security experts inflated Soviet military capacity throughout the Cold War (Not only did the Soviets reject a nuclear first strike policy, they feared that public comments from the Reagan White House about “winning” a nuclear war was a prelude to a pre-emptive U.S. attack.). The book also pays special attention to the significance of America’s far-flung regional commands, legacies of the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act, which has empowered combatant commanders at the expense of Washington’s diplomatic corps; and, it examines the Defense Department’s proprietary authority over foreign military aid that violates the spirit, if not the letter of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act, which concentrated responsibility for such programs within the State Department.
Finally, Glain considers whether the militarization of U.S. foreign policy can be reversed at a time when some form of confrontation between the U.S. and China appears increasingly likely. “Already,” Glain writes, “the two countries are skirmishing in disputed waters off the Chinese coast. Should another Gulf of Tonkin incident erupt, would a U.S. president be able to resist the centripetal forces of militarization, which have so deeply intensified over the last eight years?”
STEPHEN GLAIN has been a journalist for twenty years. He spent four years in Hong Kong writing for the local South China Morning Post before joining the Wall Street Journal in 1991 with stints in Tokyo, Seoul, and then Tel Aviv and Amman. His articles on U.S. foreign policy, East Asia, and the Arab world have appeared in The New Republic, The Atlantic, The Nation, the Financial Times, Gourmet, Smithsonian, Newsweek, The National, and The Progressive and elsewhere. Glain has appeared on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate, PRI’s The World, CSPAN and CNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews among others. He is based in Washington D.C.
State vs. Defense | Stephen Glain
On-sale: August 2, 2011 | Hardcover | 496 pages
ISBN: 978-0-307-40841-9 | Price: $26.00
Also available as an eBook
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