is a New Zealand-based legal and political analyst who focuses on US foreign policy in the Middle East, Asia and Pacific region. He is fully qualified as a lawyer in two international jurisdictions.
As the bodies rack up and the economy goes into freefall, the US continues to spend a fortune on its military. It’s time the public asked whether the money could be used more wisely.
Even in the face of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, the US military appears to be operating across the globe unabated, undeterred and almost completely unchecked. If the reports are anything to go by, there are at least 150 US military bases and four aircraft carriers which have already been hit with the virus. After arriving in Guam, the carrier Theodore Roosevelt had 940 cases alone – around 20 percent of its personnel.
Never one to back down in the face of adversity (or pragmatism), the US military apparently will keep on doing what it does best. On Tuesday, the US special envoy for Syria justified an ongoing illegal troop presence in the country by framing it as an opportunity to force Russia into a quagmire (something the US already has extensive experience in).
To anyone paying attention over the past few decades, admissions of this type are hardly surprising. Even as the US watches thousands of its own people die at the hands of an invisible enemy, it is still ramping up operations which result in the deaths of innocent civilians in overseas theatres. Take, for example, the ongoing air war in Somalia, which has increased over the first few months of 2020, killing civilians with close to zero media scrutiny.
Or how about the Pentagon’s intention to arm its marines with versions of the Tomahawk cruise missile carried on US warships as a mechanism to counter China in the western Pacific?
Combined with its decision to continue conducting its so-called “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea – including two US navy ships which sailed into the region to counter Beijing just a few days ago – it seems apparent that aggravating a conflict with China remains one of the highest priorities for the US government. Coronavirus, on the other hand, falls ever lower on the list of things the US president should take responsibility for.
Sending two B-1B supersonic heavy bombers over the skies of northeast Taiwan this month, as well as a number of bombers across Europe and the Pacific, only further confirms Washington’s prime concerns during the pandemic. If you want a fuller list of what your American taxpayer dollars are continuing to fund during this unprecedented turmoil, check the Department of Defense’s website.
Mythical foreign bogeymen
What will the reaction be when the American public looks at the number of its population killed by the Covid-19 pandemic – the death toll currently stands at over 80,000 – and realizes the country has wasted billions of dollars defending the homeland from potentially make-believe, foreign bogeymen, but isn’t even remotely prepared to defend its people from the wrath of the coronavirus? What happens when Americans wake up and start to question whether or not funds and resources could be better allocated?
As War on the Rocks bluntly explained, the “security afforded by America’s far-flung military forces has been entirely irrelevant” when dealing with the global pandemic. The polls may one day tell the full story, but this is notable considering that in June 2019, Gallup recorded a whopping 73 percent of respondents expressing a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the US military.
The coronavirus pandemic is exacting a death toll on the American public which most genuine enemies would fail to do on their own. But ultimately, what may separate the Covid-19 crisis from any other in the eyes of the American public is its sheer cost. Will the public continue to trust the US president to spend billions of dollars on its military adventures overseas as the bodies rack up and the economy fractures?
Irrespective of what the people say or think, the US appears to be pumping as much energy, money and resources into the military as it possibly can, while the pandemic continues to ravage what is left of the global economy.
The rate of unemployment in the US is currently at its greatest since the Great Depression, with some predictions indicating it could be as much as 20 per cent. Unless the US military is intending to hire a fifth of the American population, its perception as the saviour of the US mainland may start to fade over the course of the year.
“When written in Chinese,” John F Kennedy reportedly once said, “the word crisis is composed of two characters – one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.”
Will the US public make the most of this opportunity to return their verdict on an administration that is wasting billions? Or will widespread apathy allow the Pentagon to continue on its warpath to counter adversaries such as Russia and China in priority theatres across the globe?