Thursday, November 5, 2015

Disengaged Means Only Three Wars?

I have repeatedly blogged and tweeted about the most annoying canard: that the US has stopped trying to lead, that it has become disengaged in world politics, that it is no longer doing what it once did in International Affairs.

So, I must cry out: what is the war threshold for disengaged?  The US is currently involved in how many wars?  Afghanistan, still.  Iraq, check.  Syria.  Yep.  This does mention other engagements that are not quite war: training the Ukrainians, sanctioning Russia, confronting the Chinese over their island creation, and on and on.

Is three small wars < engagement or = disengagement?

Profanity ensues below:

For fuck sake, the US is still putting its soldiers at risk in a number of places, spending over $500 billion dollars (more than that probably) on defense, sending ships and planes hither and yon.  How is this disengagement?  Negotiating a multilateral arms deal is engaging.  Participating in a successful trade bargaining round--the TransPacific Partnership--is engagement.  Still selling plenty of arms (thanks, Sara).

The US is not isolationist unless that term has no meaning whatsoever.  Disengaged?  I repeat myself: For fuck sake! What does that mean?

This came up during my Trident Juncture junket, and I just could not stand it.  No, the US is not the dominant force in this effort, but it is involved.  The goal is getting all of the NATO countries to interoperate.  If there are too many Americans, then the other allies will have fewer opportunities to learn from each other.  Instead, they would just learn to play with the Americans.  That is handy, but not the only way to be a multilateral effort.

Perhaps people think the US needs to engaged in bigger wars.  Ok, to what end?  What did we learn from the past 15 years?

Or, another way to ask this question is: what is the normal American stance?  Starting from post-Vietnam, the normal stance before 9-11 was not war.  Sure, an occasional short war against an easy opponent (Grenada, Panama, Iraq 1991), a few peacekeeping missions (Bosnia, Kosovo) and two freaking disasters (Lebanon, Somalia) that were supposed to be humanitarian efforts, but the steady state was a state of not war.  Did we call the US disengaged in the 1980s when Reagan ran away from Lebanon?  Did we call the US disengaged when Bush 41 didn't take Baghdad?  Did we call the US disengaged when it only intervened in Bosnia and not Rwanda?

How did we get to the point where choosing to lessen US involvement in counter-insurgency campaigns (at which the US, frankly, sucks) = disengagement?

All I can say is: for fuck sake, the US is plenty engaged.  One can argue that the various engagements are going well or poorly, can be done better or worse, but, for fuck sake, the US is not disengaged.


Erik Bruvold said...

How about that those variables/concepts are meaningless/impossible to objectively measure? You don't need to quantify everything but as a concept it is pretty worthless to explaining if we can't take even a remote stab at operationalizing it.

R. William Ayres said...

Keep in mind that many of the folks crying "disengagement!" are American (Republican) politicians who would disagree with Obama if he called the sky blue. Never listen to politicians.

On the other hand, if there are others spouting this nonsense, that's crazy talk. It's just that I expect crazy talk from people who are campaigning.