A New Reason Defense Matters
I used to be a freelance columnists, and decided to dust off a few of my old columns and repost the (attributing original publication source, of course.)
I wrote this one seven years ago and revisited it recently as I read recent news stories of Chinese and Russian military provocation of US forces. China and Russia see the US and EU floundering, and are pivoting strategically to shift military and economic global power centers east. I also suspect both are contemplating limited, deliberate military engagement with American military forces in the near future for one purpose: to bloody our nose on the world stage, and to therefore shake confidence in American global leadership. I think both these adversaries suspect they can get away with it without serious repercussions.
To do so would be a big gamble, but not for military reasons, but because in today's global economy upsetting one apple cart upsets them all.
With that said, I think this article is a pertinent now as it was in 2009.
"American Military Strength Keeps GLobal Economy Intact"
By Brian L. Braden. Originally published 12 Jan 2009, Air Force Times.
Here’s an economics lesson for the American serviceman. Reach into your pocket and pull out a dollar bill. Its value isn’t set by gold or any precious metal, only law and world currency markets determine its worth. Why, then, would someone buy mere paper not backed by a tangible asset? For the same reason you might buy stock in a company. Foreigners buy our dollars because they know America has the greatest return on investment of any endeavor in history.
Historically, America is where the world’s smart money runs in troubled times. But now America finds itself in hard times. No longer a manufacturing giant, we’re a consumer economy shouldering crippling public and private debt. We’re hemorrhaging trillions in real estate and corporate wealth while embroiled in two expensive wars. A 2007 BBC survey found America’s standing abroad ranking only above Israel, North Korea and Iran. With all this gloom, does the world’s smart money still consider America a safe bet?
Absolutely, and the US serviceman has something to do with it.
Since the early 1990s America led the way creating a post-Cold War global economy built on international free trade. For better or worse, the United States is the lynchpin holding it all together. When the world buys our dollars and debt they essentially cast a vote of confidence in America and the global economic system we helped establish. This is still true, even during the current crisis, due in large part to the US military.
Defense critics point out the US spends more on defense than the next 14 nations combined. True, but we also directly or indirectly protect those 14 nations’ access to international trade. From Bangkok to Baghdad, international merchants know goods and services flow unhindered because of US military power. This arrangement benefits our friends and rivals alike. China, the world’s manufacturing superpower, exported $1.2 trillion in goods last year. Even though she recently sent token forces to fight the Somalia pirates, China doesn’t protect the international trade routes on which she so strongly depends. Nor is it African ships leading the charge against pirates off Somalia or OPEC armies guaranteeing the flow of oil through the volatile Persian Gulf region. It’s largely the American fighting man and woman keeping global trade free.
Foreign nations may rail against US military power in public, but privately they vote with their money. They understand two important facts: our forces operate with immense restraint and in strict adherence to law; and no international coalition can yet match America’s military prowess. Would China act with our humanity and restraint? Can the U.N. match our decisiveness and competence should they become protectors of the global economy? This is why, rhetoric aside, the world trusts us to protect the global market.
For this reason our newly elected leaders must tread carefully. Recently, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) called for a 25% cut in the defense budget. One lesson the financial crisis taught us is risk assumed by one global player is risk assumed by all. If America can’t or won’t protect the global trade system then our national stock will surely go down. Investors will take their money elsewhere and other nations will fill the power vacuum we leave behind. What will our dollars and debt be worth then?
The 21st century US Military isn’t just protecting our homeland or hunting down terrorists, but ensuring the global economy remains free. If you’re an American serviceman reading this, you truly hold that dollar in your hands. It isn’t backed by gold.
It’s backed by steel.