Tuesday, January 6, 2009

American Security, Gaddis & Chomsky

Gaddis on page 9 of The United States and the End of the Cold War writes, “Like the British, from whom they inherited the tendency, Americans had traditionally associated their security with the balancing of power in the world. Just as they worried about their own ability to wield power wisely and equitably, so too – and to a much greater extent – they distrusted the ability of others to do the same thing. When others threatened to accumulate power in sufficient quantity to upset the international equilibrium, Americans were prepared, if reluctantly, to build up their own power to counterbalance the threat, or to form combinations of power with those who shared their perception of the danger at hand.”

Concern about security is something every nation feels. What Gaddis writes above reminds me of a book I read in 2003: Dreadnaught, Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War, by Robert K. Massie. Security, or better “insecurity,” was something that motivated both Germany and Britain in the build up toward World War One. Germany didn’t trust Britain; so it strove to develop a navy as powerful as Britain’s, but Britain had no land army to match Germany’s; so it took comfort in having Naval superiority. Having Naval superiority made them feel secure and so they viewed Germany’s Dreadnaught-building efforts with alarm. The build-up toward World War One had other factors, but the fact that Britain and Germany so mistrusted each other that they were willing to spend huge amounts of money building competitive Dreadnaughts was clearly a significant factor. One might with justification see the Dreadnaught race, and Massie certainly sees it in this way, as an arms race much like the later nuclear arms race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.

So we all agree that security was a huge motivating factor in the Cold War, right? Unfortunately that is wrong. Chomsky and his Leftists will not grant us that. They see nothing in the Communist aggressively taking over country after country or in the building of armies and nuclear arsenals that should inspire fear in the U.S. Quite the contrary, they see America inspiring fear by pushing free trade around the world. America is the aggressor, they argue, and the poor Stalinist USSR built up its weaponry and established a buffer of East European States because it feared America’s economic takeover and the rapaciousness of American Capitalists.


If anyone wanted to seriously consider Chomsky’s arguments, they might want to search for this America of Chomsky’s nightmares that is Imperialistic and rapacious. Where is it? Let’s see a show of hands: How many of you are Imperialists? Okay. And how many are rapacious capitalists? Gosh, not one hand appeared. Perhaps they don’t read this blog, or perhaps they don’t exist. I once worked for a very large Capitalistic enterprise that began as Douglas Aircraft; which merged with McDonnell, and at long last was swallowed up in Boeing. Part of the time I worked on proposals presented to the Air Force. I was also involved in our response to the government’s IFBs, Invitation For Bid. I knew the Air Force people working on those proposal efforts and I knew the people on our side preparing them. How rapacious were we? Airbus got the support of the French Government in their competitions against Boeing. Boeing got no support from our government. This was muddied a bit by Airbus alleging that Boeing indeed got support because our government bought Boeing Airplanes, but neither Boeing nor McDonnell Douglas was rapacious in my opinion. In fact, many fault McDonnell Douglas and Boeing for selling important technology to the Chinese, which is the very opposite of being rapacious.

Chomsky would counter such an argument as mine with anecdotes. Such and such a company official did thus and so and he would cite some obscure newspaper article as evidence. I’ll grant that in advance. Individuals do bad things. Boeing officials have gone to jail. Bad things happen in a free-enterprise system. Individuals are given a lot of freedom, but when they violate laws they are fined or go to jail. We are not the totalitarian nation which Chomsky implies that we are. Neither are our giant corporations guilty of conspiracy-theory-type control of the world. I’ll be interested in seeing whether Chomsky names any of the corporations he thinks guilty of such controlling behavior in his book. Since it was written in 1970, chances are most have been swallowed up by other companies, or by some holding companies that could care less about foreign affairs. They care only that the current CEO brings them a profit.

In the meantime, our government is still motivated by matters of security. Concern about security was why we chased the Taliban out of Afghanistan. It was why we believed the intelligence at the time in regard to Saddam Hussein and his nuclear weapons. I know the Left has other explanations for why Bush invaded Iraq, but the obvious one, and the one that solemn historians are sure to credit 50 years from now, is that he was afraid of further attacks like 9/11 and acted upon faulty intelligence. We know that the intelligence community was eviscerated during the Clinton administration. The CIA just wasn’t up to the job of providing Bush with adequate intelligence in regard to what Saddam Hussein had or didn’t have.

Will Obama strive to get better intelligence during his administration? One notices that he selected a fellow with no intelligence experience to head the CIA: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2009/01/obama-panetta.html Just off hand, Peneta seems an imprudent choice, but time will tell. However, what we can be pretty sure of is that Obama will be concerned about American security. He will not assume that our enemies mean us no harm. Neither will he assume that our businesses mean harm to other countries economically. Which probably means that Chomsky isn’t going to be a big Obama fan.

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