National Security Indicator
National Security Indicator
by Colonel Daniel M. Smith, Ret.
(Updated April 2003)
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” H. L. Mencken
“The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” Justice Louis D. Brandeis, Olmstead vs. United States, 1928
From the very beginning of the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicator process, the principle that National Security is essentially a state of mind rather than an objectively measurable reality has been the foundation of the analysis of this indicator. This remains true today.
One need only look at the measures that actually or potentially curb civil liberties that pass with nary a murmur from the American public. In the last few months alone we have seen draft legislation leaked from the Justice Department proposing expanded government powers under the so-called Patriot II Act, revelations of executive and administrative orders modifying the ban on “targeted killings” and broadening the powers of law enforcement to question peaceful protesters about their prior political activity and monitor conversations and public gatherings – even those in religious buildings – and the continued detention of at least two American citizens in Navy brigs in the continental United States with no recourse to lawyers. And there were rumors that Congress might try to make permanent many of the provisions of the October 2001 Patriot Act, which currently are to expire at the end of 2005.
Government officials periodically warn of increased terrorist threats, based in part on the volume of “chatter” intercepted by the National Security Agency. The color code describing the threat level – orange since the invasion of Iraq – has been routinely displayed on the cable networks, which have gone to 24 hour coverage of the fighting. Yet just as the U.S. perception of the threat that Saddam Hussein would use chemical or biological weapons against coalition forces proved unfounded, so too have been the alerts about potential terror attacks in the United States. In both cases, fear of failure to anticipate the worst drove institutional reactions. And it may well be that the added precautions constrained Iraqi battlefield and terror cell behavior.
Conversely, there is still no hard evidence that Saddam had weaponized chemical or biological agents or that realistic, implementable terrorist attack plans existed. Since negatives can never be proven, even the end of the Baghdad regime will not settle the question as it pertains to Iraq. And of course, since the war against terrorists with global reach is one of unlimited duration, the only certainty will be those attacks that might not be thwarted..
So where does this never-ending fear of the unknowable on which the administration thrives in its quest for law and order leave us? The rapid erosion of civil liberties, which are always curtailed in war but never fully regained in the post-war period, and the parallel obsession with “securing the nation,” has moved the U.S. well down the path toward a regimented if not a semi- mobilized society in which suspicion of others is encouraged and reporting “unusual” activities to authorities a civic virtue. The growing number of stories in this vein � ethnic profiling, insults directed at “Middle Eastern-looking” men (who as often as not are South Asian), pilots barring passengers who don’t look right – even imams who scrutinize those entering mosques in this country for prayers – illustrate the point.
A second development is the so-called “Bush Doctrine” of preventive war waged by a militarily dominant United States. Although described in general terms in a number of presidential speeches as an inherent right – and by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as “anticipatory self-defense – the Bush Doctrine was not fully articulated until the publication in Sep. 2002 of the administration’s National Security Strategy (NSS) of the United States. Essentially, the administration claimed the right as a matter of policy to use dominant military force against any country that might conceivably pose a threat to the national security of the United States. Two excerpts from the NSS make this policy crystal clear:
- “It is time to reaffirm the essential role of American military strength. We must build and maintain our defenses beyond challenge…The United States must and will maintain the capability to defeat any attempt by an enemy – whether a state or non-state actor – to impose its well on the United States, our allies, or our friends….Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.”
- “The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater the risk of inaction – and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively (sic)…. [I]n an age where the enemies of civilization openly and actively seek the world’s most destructive technologies, the United States cannot remain idle while dangers gather.”
The NSS does make a rhetorical bow to multinationalism. But it is half-hearted. After acknowledging that “no nation can build a safer, better world alone” and affirming that “the United States is committed to lasting [international] institutions,” the document asserts that “Coalitions of the willing can augment these permanent institutions.” Moreover, countries accepting international obligations will not be permitted to do so simply “to rally support for an ideal without furthering its attainment – clearly an unspoken threat of action.
Finally, I would offer a philosophical observation on this point.
If democracy has an Achilles heel, it is the absence of a sustainable focus that would transform it into an “ism.” Yet this very absence makes it possible to adapt the democratic spirit to changing circumstances and myriad forms of governance – and gives it its undeniable staying power. But if those who wield power see only the absence and not its persistence, their impulse is to find or create an “ism” that can act as a catalyst for systemic change. Religious morality, which brooks no compromise, fits this need. Thus, the 2002 National Security Strategy states: “The aim of this strategy is to help make the world not just safer but better.”
Just as one man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist, “better” is subject to many interpretations. And while multiple viewpoints might be desired on some issues, making the world both safer and better conflates two distinct ideas into a single ideal that can then be singularly defined by the most powerful country.
A third outcome of this constant promotion of fear is the establishment of a third executive branch department whose primary function is to recreate a wartime atmosphere conducive to the imposition of a broader uniformed national security apparatus. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security by amalgamating all or parts of 22 federal agencies creates a behemoth that is surpassed only by the Pentagon. In point of fact, considering the mandate of the new Department, it could reasonably be renamed the Department of National Defense while the Pentagon, under its new preventive war marching orders, could properly be called the Department of International Offensive – or revert to the pre-1947 land force title, Department of War.
Whatever these departments might be called, they require funding. And while the main cost to the nation is the loss of life when war occurs or, as happened September 11, 2001, a terror attack succeeds, the financial implications of the new militarism are enormous.
In FY2002, the total request for federal discretionary spending was $679 billion, of which $343.2 billion – 50.5 percent – was allocated for the 050 account (Pentagon and national defense activities of the Department of Energy). Additions brought the dollar figure to $350.2 billion. In the aftermath of September 11, Congress authorized $40 billion, of which $19 billion was for all homeland defense activities, including those undertaken by the Pentagon (e.g. CAP).
The FY2003 request for discretionary spending came to $767 billion, of which $396.1 or 51.6 percent is going to national defense – an increase of $45.5 billion or 13 percent over FY2002. It is also 15 percent above the Cold War average. The lion’s share of the supplemental appropriations legislation to be passed this week by Congress – $62.6 billion – is for the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, which raises the military’s total to $458.7 billion. Moreover, a further supplemental, again primarily for the military, is expected sometime in mid-summer after the president’s tax cut package, modified by Congress, is assured. Homeland Security funding doubled in the FY2003 request to $38 billion. The supplemental being considered added $4.25 billion for various functions related to Homeland Security.
The FY2004 discretionary spending request is $782 billion, with DoD getting $399.1 billion or 51% of the total request. This means that the annual defense budget will have increased by roughly $60 billion since Sep. 11, 2001. In FY2009, as currently projected, the 050 request will exceed the half trillion dollar mark. Homeland security garnered $41 billion, of which $36.2 billion is for the new DHS.
In all, the administration plans to spend $2.7 Trillion on the military over the next six years. At the same time, both the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office project a federal deficit in the range of $200-$300 billion just for FY2004.
The FY2003 supplemental is destined to pay for Iraq war expenses and begin the occupation and reconstruction phases. The second supplemental will probably go for similar projects. And of course, more money will be needed to restock precision munitions, repair and replace equipment damaged and destroyed, and, because of unprogrammed additional wear and tear on equipment, purchase more of the newer, more expensive equipment in the pipeline. But then, war has always been costly.
Has all this money made us safer? Considering the repetitive warnings about impending terror attacks, the depth and breadth of anti-U.S. sentiment evident not only throughout the Muslim world but even among allies such as Japan and South Korea, and the fracturing of international organizations by what others see as unilateralism gone amok, one would have to answer: No.
A basic law of physics – that every action generates an equal and opposite reaction – has its counterpart in international relations: every hegemon eventually generates opposition alliances that, over time, causes the hegemon to overextend and overspend in an effort to remain dominant. The U.S. is so dominant that it may take longer for coherent and sustained opposition to form, but form it will unless the U.S. reintegrates itself in the world community.
Unfortunately, if Iraq is any indicator, the U.S. is in no rush to rejoin the world community.