Michael Auslin at AEI is piecing together the recent activities of America and her allies, and the picture that’s shaping up isn’t pretty:

Decisions by the governments of Japan and Great Britain and the passage of the bankrupting health care bill in the US spell the coming end of America’s overseas basing and ability to project power. Should these trends continue, the US military will lose its European and Asian strategic anchors, hastening America’s eventual withdrawal from its global commitments and leaving the world a far more uncertain and unstable place.

To sum up his arguments, Britain and Japan’s recent decisions to reach for their own “reset buttons” with America, combined with an unprecedented budgetary mess in Washington may result in America having no money to pay for forward deployed power, and no friends willing to host forward deployed forces for extended periods. Given that the U.S. has been the most active nation in working to bring about stability–and the one most willing to do heavy lifting–the product of these changes will be more global instability.

The “stinger” has not yet been struck, but it appears for all intents and purposes America’s pushing itself–and being helped in our efforts–towards the world’s brow. What say you?

Posted by Chris van Avery in Foreign Policy

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  • Paul

    Global security requires global responsibility. We’ve provided the bulk of protections for the free world since 1945. I think it’s about time that those countries who have benefited from that blanket step to the plate and spend some more of their own money ensuring security. Send their ships to do anti-piracy patrols in greater force. Have them serve as a bulwark against potential Chinese expansion and see how much it actually costs to ensure some form of “stability”.

    I think the whole “bankrupting healthcare bill” is a red herring and is being used as an excuse for their actions. The article also mentioned renditions, punitive actions and other concerns that are threats to each nations ability to enforce their own laws within their borders. I don’t think healthcare compares to the ire over that, especially since both Japan and GB have universal health care!

    Who would that instability affect more, us or them? If Japan is short sighted enough to feel that they don’t need our umbrella, and our dollars that’s their choice as a nation and has a government– not ours.

    Ok, if they want to be independent, so be it. See what happens when Argentina gets antsy over the Falklands and there’s no sidewinders being express shipped to Ascension Island, or the Chinese take the Spratleys for oil and the 7th Fleet is at Pearl.

    Plus, as I recall, there aren’t any countries out there without a “budgetary mess” of their own doing.

  • Total

    I think that as soon as he invoked “health care” as the thing busting the budget, he lost all credibility. The health care just passed is going to cost about $90 billion/year. That’s a hell of a lot of money, but’s it’s still only a small fraction of the overall federal budget. It’s enormously smaller than the military budget, just to take one not-so-random example.

    The same argument could have–and probably was–made in 1938, with lots of fulminating about that Commie stooge FDR and Social Security, unemployment insurance, etc. Shockingly, within seven years, the United States was the dominant global power (the USSR could not project power globally).

  • UltimaRatioReg


    As soon as your sacred cows were mentioned? If you believe the $90 billion/yr figure, I have a bridge you might be interested in. Social spending in Health and Human Services and the SSA total about 2.5X the defense budget, about $1.73 trillion. This does not count two Federal departments, HUD and Department of Education, totaling $150 billion, that did not exist 50 years ago. Count those departments up and you are looking at “social spending” approaching THREE TIMES that of defense spending… So tell me where the deficit is being generated from? Iraq? Afghanistan? Please.

    Your FDR reference is also flawed. The Roosevelt economic policies from 1933-1939 proved ineffective and are even considered by many economists to have done further damage to the economy. War production in 1939-41, under “Cash and Carry” and then Lend-Lease, to the UK and USSR proved an influx of capital that revitalized the US steel industry and kept afloat a great deal of heavy manufacturing that would otherwise have disappeared.

    Roosevelt, more than slightly pink though he was, saw the war clouds. His implementation of the 1940 peacetime draft caused a great deal of criticism and resentment in both parties, and he was labeled a war monger by both the far-right isolationists (Taft) and the far-left internationalists. If only this guy had the grip on the international scene that FDR had!

  • Gundog15

    From USFFC Blog, “How the United States Lost the Naval War
    of 2015” by James Kraska:

    “…by the 2000s, beginning with the worldwide unpopularity of the Bush administration and the apologizing Obama administration, the United States lost the position of the planet’s self-proclaimed tutor. Challengers no longer accepted the U.S.- constructed post-war world, questioning everything from the primacy of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency to U.S. counter-proliferation policy against Iran.”

    “History shows how the maritime balance of power can shift suddenly, rearranging global order. ‘‘[i]n 1935, with no armed forces to speak of and an economy in decline, the United States wanted nothing more than for the world to leave it alone. Within ten years, flush with victory, economically prosperous, and in sole possession of the atomic bomb, the United States became the single most powerful nation on earth.”


    And lastly:

    “It follows than as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious.”

    President George Washington, 15 November 1781


  • Gundog15,
    If you want more Kraska, we interviewed him on Midrats Episode 12: China. You can hear the archive by clicking here.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    “It follows than as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious.”

    President George Washington, 15 November 1781

    Now in the eighties, the strategy was to maintain sufficient capability to deal with what was referred to as “two and a half regional contingencies”, meaning wage three of any kind of widely geographically seperated conflicts, from covering a non-combatant evacuation in a bloody revolution to a Korea sized full scale conventional war, with the light hearted assumption that no more than two would be at the larger end of the spectrum. By no means a perfect strategy, open to any number of cricisms not pertinent to this note.

    This was yoked with a commitment to rapidly, massively reinforce the NATO army in being maintained in Western Europe “to defend the inter (between east and west) german border against aggressive attack by the forces of the Warsaw Pact.” There was a goal of “X divisions (the entire uncommitted Army) in X days.” Catchy, that.

    Then one morning the Army went to morning brief and got asked the question: “What inter-German border, and what Warsaw Pact”.

    The problem for the Nav and Corps was more derivative. They had accepted a threat based budget model because it was sufficient for their world wide responsibilies, which while obvious and traditional, were not generally formulated in terms of the existing reality…maintaining Pax Oceana Americana. Or if you prefer, “conduct overseas contingency operations as required while maintaining a sufficient residual fleet in being to “reinforce Nato defense of western Europe with X divisions…” yadda yadda.

    The stated rationale for the NATO alliance having popped like a soap bubble, the political powers that were bought into the “history has ended” idiocy and forgot the rest of the world, or anyway the second and third world. Which meant ignorant machine political hacks were free to turn the “threat based” budget paradigm and the NATO defense fixation into a license to loot the Defense (and therefore Dept of the Navy) budget for payback to the special interests that paid for their election campaigns. Or use the “peace dividend” for the American People, if you like with ginger ale and a pink little umbrella.

    When the dust settled, they had taken half. Then 9/11 hit. Bush the younger and Rummy-Cheny initiated a “Global War on Terror” (which looks amazingly like two and half regional contingencies) without a Declaration of War (and the explicit and implicit war powers resulting), without full mobilization of the Reserves (implicit in the old 2 and half strategy)and with the force in being without significant expansion.

    Bad Idea. The progressive talking pols were in no mood to give back the half a cold war defense budget and fought (dirty) to keep it.

    As usual, the peace time “warlords” and generals needed to go and the talent search needed to go into high gear to find the best fitted young Colonels to kick upstairs and run the war. It happened, but it took way too long. Old men, in general, shouldn’t run an oddball war and SECDEF was the oldest man, and among the last to get replaced. The voters got impatient.

    Enter the Obama Administration. Not a strategist in the inner circle, much less a naval strategist. FDR, on the other hand, was a “former naval person” and a naval enthusiast.

    Rig for heavy weather, stand by for heavy rolls, weather decks are off limits until further notice.

    We headed into a typhoon, gentlemen. Navigator, determine the best course to weather the storm and prepare to brief your recommendations to the Captain ASAP.

    Navigator…Navigator…WHERE THE HELL IS THE NAVIGATOR!

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Much of what you say is indeed the case, but there is a very important element that is ALWAYS overlooked.

    With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there was indeed a palpable “what now”? However, George HW Bush and his SecDef, Dick Cheney, went back to the drawing board and conducted an in-depth analysis of what they believed a “post-Cold War” military should have for required capabilities. This review specified a force structure capable of a combination of rapid deployment and forward deployment, and the ability to fight two Major Regional Conflicts (MRCs).

    In 1993-4, Bill Clinton and Les Aspin dictated the infamous “bottom-up review” which essentially tossed all of the GHW Bush estimates aside. The drawdown due to the “peace dividend” began then. The Army went from 18 divisions, to 14, to 10. The US Navy went from 570 ships to eventually, 285. The USMC and USAF were cut accordingly. Social spending as a result soared. The idea of “fight one, hold one” for MRCs came out of that bottom up review. The 1990s were an acquisition “holiday”, which, for the Navy, saw many vessels still with useful service life decommissioned and disposed of, with very few replacements. We are likely due for another “holiday”, and the results may be a permanent weakening of this nation’s defenses, particularly our maritime capabilities.

    There is no navigator, Grandpa. The Captain decided to dismiss the navigator as a cost-saving measure, and has the helm himself. The gyrocompass is broken and there is no money in the budget for repairs, and they left the sextant on the pier.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Isn’t that what I just said err implied, err, imputed? I just compressed the events and left the party names out.

    I was thinking the Captain of the good ship USN rather than the ship of state. Maybe we should have put some more money and talent into our own college. You never know when you might need a good strategic thinker to navigate the whole damn Navy.

    Do we have one? Turkey trots to water…

  • Paul

    Trouble is from what I read from Proceedings the concept of the long term strategic thinker is something that is in short supply. One thing to consider as well– when other countries look at the US they are assured that for the most part our policies will change every four or eight years and there’s no predictability with that change.

    I don’t agree with apologizing but then again I don’t agree with riding alone as well into Indian country. Allies are nice, but again, if they think they can maintain the peace I’m all for it, and good luck. I know it smacks of isolationism but all we got for attempting to ensure a fairly stable world is a kick where the sun don’t shine.

    There’s a great fictional book out there by John Birmingham called “Without Warning” which is sci fi but imagines what happens to the world without America.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    The problem with isolationism as a successful concept for national defense is that folks think it means less military expenditure not more. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    No overseas basing? You need a fleet train capable of UNREPING everything with everything. You need contingency lift on standby to tranport at least an Army if not an Army group. You need MarAd vessels sufficient to supply that… and the escorts to assure its safe delivery. You need Amphib and Carrier Task Forces to kick in the door anywhere we need to and MAGTF sufficient to seize and hold the lodgement(s) until the transports get the Army and the AF ammo, fuel, and base op and defense hardware to the lodgement to take it over. You need the 1944 Navy’s capabilities updated for modern tech. You need predesignated and at least some advance positioned (Guam, Saipan, Maine, south Florida, Aleutians, Samoa and the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Midway, Wake) consumables and repair parts (ammo, tires, POL, medical stores, combat individual equipage, spare and repair parts for vehicles, sensors, weapons for the Army and AF sufficient for at least 180 days of combat. Then you need to replenish it when it goes out of shelf life. Readiness becomes even more of an issue, as does equipping, training and mobilizing the reserves. And you need a huge number and variety of specialized Auxiliary Commissioned ships, starting with Tenders and hospital ships.

    No airfields and hospitals in Europe. Ditto Japan, plus ship repair facilities. Diego Garcia gone, Philipines, not available. Iceland, Bermuda…nope. Okinawa ditto. Plus the expense of seriously fortifying all the overseas territories, commonwealths and states that are US territory.

    Back to the 1920’s, except the colonies are nations in their own right, China a major power, Russia rising and the Islamic world, well, who knows.


    Of course we could just wait to get surprised by an aggressive, vastly culturally different, and recently nuclear power. Then all we have to do is recover from the initial attack and go on to win in half a decade and half a million casualties. That’ll work.

    It’s easy. Check out how easy on HBO.

  • Paul

    Grandpa Bluewater:

    Shouldn’t we first begin by defining what exactly our overseas interests are? I agree with you Grandpa, that isolationism as defined by the 1920’s and 30’s is not the way to go– to totally withdraw America from overseas commitments would be impossible, but at the same time are we trying to be something that other’s don’t want anymore or are literally too short sighted to see the consequences of that choice?

    If we had to go region by region to define our strategic interests, what could we say about the North Atlantic? For 60 years we maintained a strong presence against the very real threat of the Northern Fleet attacking SLOC’s in the event of an all out war. Now what? Is the Atlantic Fleet still oriented in such a way or what is the mission?

    The other oceans we maintain a presence in, the Med, Indian and Pacific are a bit more easier, but all three are surrounded by potential allies and enemies or worse, those who sit on the fence and do nothing, and contribute less. If we had to define strategic interest in those regions, what would the definition be and then what would be needed to make that work?

    Your commentary about supply is well taken. Do we now have the capability to maintain a sustained presence overseas in the face of a conflict at sea? What would it take for that to happen? That’s my concern about strategic thinking– and I’ve seen none of it in the past, well heck, since the end of the Cold War. Lot of talk, lot of money spent but no addressing those key problems.

    The one here that I think we’re not going for is the big question. What do we do when a country tells us we’re not wanted there anymore?

  • Grandpa Bluewater


    “What do we do when a country tells us we’re not wanted there anymore?”

    I assume you mean tell us to remove all military presence.

    Officially, express regret, pack up in an orderly manner and depart. Stay friends as much as possible. Say nothing bad about the former friend/host.

    Try the line: “Gee, I’m sorry, was it something we said. Can we work this out, maybe find something to smooth over some ruffled feelings?”

    Unofficially, work the in laws, friends, contacts, sources, local press underbelly, local party out of power, bar girls, madames etc. to figure out why, in detail. Of course you need to have some humint in place the locals don’t keep in a bubble eating cake, or even know about. (Warning: if you don’t want to deal with bad people, move to a small town in central Kansas or Georgia, open a Hallmark card store (hire carefully), join the local independent nondenominational but upscale church and lie to yourself a lot.)

    Look for a new friend or a closer relationship with an aquaintance down the block.

    Adjust. Treat your new friends very well. Treat your other old friends better. Treat your spies even better. Treat your moles best of all. Stay paranoid about moles in your back garden, it’s cheap insurance.

    Watch out for that word “inconceivable” in the future.

    Smile. Keep smiling. Once you know why…our fault: fix it; their fault: let ’em know you know and figure out a way to woo them back or make them regret it, depending on if it’s a tiff or an evil plot or somebody clumsy wants a (bigger) payoff; somebody else’s fault: be sure, SURE you know who and plan a cold cold dinner.

    Talk real real nice.

    But hey, diplomacy isn’t my strong suit. Suggestions, anyone?

  • Paul

    Grandpa– Yup, that makes sense; takes me back to the Philipines and leaving there.

    I guess I’m looking for what the ulterior motive is for the Brits and the Japanese to start to look at “realigning” their defense commitments with us. I see a world that is getting increasingly and increasingly unstable and yet they want to adjust their ties with the big dog on the block? I still don’t buy the whole healthcare excuse as they’re just as deep in the hole as we are. So, what’s going on that we’re not seeing?

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Brits: Tiff, justifiable tiff, but tiff none the less. Flowers, candy, Hallmark card, big slice of humble pie, it can be fixed.

    Japanese: Strategic recalculation, China close aboard and rising, USA far away and apparently going through one of her periodic fits of unwisdom.

  • Paul

    Understandable about the Brits– committing to a full deck carrier after years of “through deck cruisers” is a big step and that means closer ties with the US for tech and training. That isn’t calculated to make their neighbors to the east too happy.

    Japanese more interesting– their new “destroyer” looks like, well, no, can’t be, right? But, the point is well-taken about the Chinese. That begs the question, since when has Japan been intimidated by China? I know things change in history but this would be a huge ego shift for the Rising Sun. There may be something else there that is deeper.

  • Perhaps our nation is NOW realigning its global policies with its founders core values … LIFE/HEALTH, Liberty/Safety & pursuit of happiness/environment?

    Assuring global “sustainable well-being” for future generations requires major mind-shifting from C4I/Enforcement-Response models to those enabling i4C/Empowerment-Presponse decision-making …

    For more background, please preview: http://futurethought.pbworks.com/BSC-inherent-dynamics

  • wally

    Its about time the US did something for its own people! No civilised country could tolerate the situation thousands of its citizen are in and all coming from greed and moneymaking!
    Balance was lost and the US is finally doing what it should have done a long time ago, caring a bit more for its citizen and letting other countries take their responsability!
    It is senseless to keep huge us bases in Europe, focus is shifting away from it and the Pacific rim becomes predominant. A strong US fleet is needed in the Pacific, not in the Atlantic!
    If the US had more ships usable by smaller countries then it could sustain them better and urge them to action as during the 50 and 60 when a huge amount of US warships were tranferred.But what can Belgium do with enourmous carriers nobody can pay for?

  • Derrick

    I’m not sure if US national security is as simple as letting other countries take their own responsibility. The US is heavily dependent on trade and international economic ties; a lot of cheap consumer goods are imported from overseas. Therefore I’m not sure the US can afford to reduce its overseas military presence more than it already has.

    At a bare minimum, I would imagine the US economy would require the US navy to at least maintain peace in the world’s oceans, so the flow of global trade the US economy is so dependent on cannot be easily disrupted.

    My own personal opinion is that I still prefer overseas US military installations as its cheaper to have an US air force presence in Germany or Japan than it is to build the required carrier strike forces to substitute for the land based presence.

    If it comes down to it, I would like to know what tradeoffs (ie the cost) to the US taxpayer that Britain and Japan would require to maintain an US military presence there.