What exactly constitutes a threat to national security? In a recent Washington Post Opinions article, Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, warns of the strategic threats posed to US military dominance by the ever-increasing military advancement of both China and Iran. Krepinevich echoes the same threats perpetuated throughout the media for years and addresses them with a tired Cold War mentality that downplays the new global reality of interdependence and the emergence of a multi-polar world.
Krepinevich claims that Chinese and Iranian military advancements are “clouds on the national security horizon” and these developments threaten “regions long considered to be of vital interest to the United States: the Western Pacific and the Persian Gulf.” This outlook rests on a huge, glaring assumption; the only way to ensure America can get what it needs from these regions is to maintain superior military capability in theatre. This assumption is both false and dangerous.
While Krepinevich’s assessments of the threats posed to US military capabilities by the advancement of Chinese and Iranian weapons, tactics and strategies are valid, they hardly constitute a barrier to US interests in themselves. It is to be expected that the militaries of sovereign states prepare for threats from abroad, not the least of which include countering the insanely advanced and omnipresent US military. Military build-up does not automatically trigger an aggressive will against foreign nations. The term “threat to national security” is used too often; if the US always responds like it sees aggressors, it may create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It should be expected China will create a sphere of influence in the Western Pacific as it rises to superpower status. Arguing against this would be like arguing the United States does not warrant a similar status in North America. New spheres of influence do not automatically ensure regional instability and can be beneficial for the region if the largest power is able to develop peacefully without feeling threatened by foreigners. Krepinevich admits that China almost certainly does not want a war with the United States. Why should Americans be worried about China’s natural military growth? While it is true the US has obligations to protect other nations in the region, it cannot deny China’s advancement. Such a denial constitutes more of a threat than allowing its natural growth.
Iran is often demonized in Western media and its nuclear program has been used by war hawks time after time to gain support for military action against the nation. Iran is surrounded by enemies on all sides and is threatened by nuclear weapons states including the US and Israel. Again, it is obvious the Iranian government would strive to be prepared to counter these threats, and if one is concerned about a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, one should not be quick to blame Iran for starting it when Israel already possesses upwards of 200 deployable nuclear warheads. The fundamentals of Mutually Assured Destruction apply to Iran as they do with all nations and Iran cannot risk a conventional war let alone a nuclear exchange. It is time for dÃ©tente with Iran.
A threat to national security from these countries is possible, but there is also a threat from nations considered allies of the United States. Americans should not be easily scared into supporting policies that further military expansion based on assumptions and possibilities. The Cold War is over and US dominance is fading as a multi-polar world emerges. Globalization and mutual dependence provide better guarantees of prosperous relationships than military-imposed US hegemony, especially amidst US economic decline.