We no longer live in Eisenhower or Reagan's America. Even the post-Cold War world of George H. W. Bush, where America was a global hegemon, is history. In both relative and real terms, the U.S.A. is a diminished power.
Where Ike spent 9 percent of GDP on defense, Reagan 6 percent, we spend 4 percent. Yet we have two wars bleeding us and many more nations to defend, with commitments in the Baltic, Eastern Europe, and the Balkans we did not have in the Cold War. As U.S. weapons systems are many times more expensive today, we have fewer strategic aircraft and Navy ships than Ike or Reagan commanded. Our active-duty Army and Marine Corps consist of 700,000 troops, 15 percent women, and a far higher percentage of them support rather than combat troops.
With so few legions, we cannot police the world, and we cannot afford more. Yet, we have a host of newly hostile nations we did not have in 1989.
U.S. interests in Latin America are being challenged not only by Cuba, but Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Honduras. Brazil, Argentina and Chile go their own way. Russia is reasserting hegemony in the Caucasus, testing new ICBMs, running bomber probes up to U.S. air space. China, growing at 10 percent as we head into recession, is bristling over U.S. military sales to Taiwan. Iran remains defiant. Pakistan is rife with anti-Americanism and al-Qaida sentiment.
The American Empire has become a vast extravagance.
With U.S. markets crashing and wealth vanishing, what are we doing with 750 bases and troops in over 100 countries?
With a recession of unknown depth and duration looming, why keep borrowing billions from rich Arabs to defend rich Europeans, or billions from China and Japan to hand out in Millennium Challenge Grants to Tanzania and Burkina Faso?
America needs a bottom-up review of all strategic commitments dating to a Cold War now over for 20 years.
Is it essential to keep 30,000 troops in a South Korea with twice the population and 40 times the wealth of the North? Why are McCain and Obama offering NATO memberships, i.e., war guarantees against Russia, to a Georgia run by a hothead like Mikheil Saakashvili, and a Ukraine, millions of whose people prefer their kinship to Russia to an alliance with us?
We must put "country first," says John McCain.
Right you are, Senator. Time to look out for America first.