The Jewish Policy Center doesn’t/can’t want to tell people what to do. We write about foreign and domestic policy to encourage people to think about what to do, and our members are quite clear about what they think. We posted an article about the possibility of Chinese mayhem near, but not directly against, Taiwan so others could determine how to think about China, the defense budget and American policy in the Pacific. A member very pointedly said we were foolishly missing a “historic moment” by writing about China instead of …
Well, instead of what?
Everything we are as Americans—and everything we want for and from others—is determined in some measure by how we define our allies and how we defend against our adversaries. So, some stock-taking on defense is appropriate.
We currently have the first administration since Eisenhower that has not engaged us in a foreign war. The Abraham Accords were done without the promise of American money or U.S. troops as “monitors.” (Remember President Bill Clinton offering to put American soldiers in Syria to monitor an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights? What would we have done when Syria and Iran decimated the country and dropped chemical weapons on Syrian civilians with Russian help?) This step back has allowed the United States to focus on a broad defense of the global commons, not being involved in other people’s civil or border wars, except for the appropriate punishment of Syria for using those chemicals and the destruction of the territorial base of the ISIS caliphate.
NATO has better accepted the challenge of defending itself, and its members have increased spending on their own defense, as well as redistributing the financial burden.
The United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, because Iran cheats. In a similar vein, the United States is withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty because Russia cheated. As with the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the president has made it clear that America will not remain a party to a treaty that does not serve U.S. interests.
The defense budget, which had declined precipitously under the years of crippling “sequestration,” has had as its priority restoration of a ready force. We have largely, though not completely, done that. The next focus of defense spending will be on R&D for future battles.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, China had been called out for acquiring American high-tech, which goes straight into the Chinese military, often under the pretext of “academic research.” Chinese technology has been banned from various Pentagon-related programs, as well as 5G communications programs. And new arrangements allow rare earth element mining to reduce reliance on China for minerals essential to weapons development and production.
The United States had gone too long without examining the internal machinations of the arms of the American intelligence establishment. Current events will take care of that.
Punishing the use of chemical weapons; ousting an international terror organization from its territorial base; holding China, Russia and Iran to account for their aggressive policies; encouraging our NATO allies to hold up their end of collective defense; spending closer to what we need to spend on our own defense; and limiting American exposure in foreign wars while defending the global commons.
On balance, it’s something to think about.
Shoshana Bryen is senior director of the Jewish Policy Center and editor of inFOCUS Quarterly.