National Defense Strategy Is Offensive

Defense Secretary James Mattis recently delivered “bombastic” remarks on the U.S.’s new National Defense Strategy report, which former spook Philip Giraldi calls “occasionally . . . actually delusional” and “bizarre.” His remarks have again revealed the idiocy and aggressiveness of current U.S. foreign policy.

By Phil Giraldi

On Jan. 19, Secretary of Defense James Mattis delivered prepared remarks on the upcoming year’s National Defense Strategy report. His comments were based on the unclassified summary of the document, which was also released on the same day.

Reading the report is illuminating, to say the least, and somewhat disconcerting, as it focuses very little on actual defense of the realm and relates much more to offensive military action that might be employed to further certain debatable national interests. Occasionally, it is actually delusional, as when it refers to consolidating “gains we have made in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere.”

At times Mattis’s supplementary “remarks” were more bombastic than reassuring, as when he warned, “those who would threaten America’s experiment in democracy: If you challenge us, it will be your longest and worst day.” He did not exactly go into what the military response to hacking a politician’s emails might be and one can only speculate, which is precisely the problem. The report opens the door to all kinds of mischief wrapped in a poorly defined and infinitely expandable package that claims to represent essential “national security.”

One of the most bizarre aspects of the report is its breathtaking assumption that “competitors” should be subjected to a potential military response if it is determined that they are in conflict with the strategic goals of the U.S. government. It is far removed from the old-fashioned constitutional concept that one has armed forces to defend the country against an actual threat involving an attack by hostile forces. With this document, none of that need apply when Washington seeks to flex its muscles, and, as the possibility of an actual invasion from Mexico or Canada is infinitely remote, the entire concept of forward defense is clearly an excuse for serial interventions overseas.

The report summary states, “Failure to meet our defense objectives will result in decreasing U.S. global influence, eroding cohesion among allies and partners, and reduced access to markets that will contribute to a decline in our prosperity and standard of living.” It supports overwhelming military strength and reliance on hard power to maintain “influence” and friends while also enabling higher living standards for some lucky Americans even though diplomacy and soft power can accomplish the same things without having to threaten half the world.

Some real zingers in the report and in the remarks by Mattis relate to China and Russia. He said, “We face growing threats from revisionist powers as different as China and Russia, nations that seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models—pursuing veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions.” He clearly is referring to Russian attempts to minimize the impact of a hostile NATO having expanded up to its very doorstep and to Chinese assertion of maritime zones relating to disputed islands that it has occupied in the South China Sea. There is, however, no evidence that either country is exporting “authoritarian models,” nor are they vetoing anything that they do not perceive as direct and immediate threats frequently orchestrated by Washington, which is intervening in local quarrels thousands of miles away from the U.S. borders. And when it comes to exporting models, who does it more persistently than Washington?

The report goes on to state that Russia and China and rogue regimes like Iran have “. . . increased efforts short of armed conflict by expanding coercion to new fronts, violating principle of sovereignty, exploiting ambiguity, and deliberately blurring the lines between civil and military goals.” As there is no evidence whatsoever that Russia, China, and Iran are actually seeking to threaten the United States militarily, there is considerable irony in the claim about confusion of civil and military. It is what the United States itself has been doing in various places, to include the initiation of armed conflict, most notably in Libya, Iraq, and, currently, Syria.

But the scariest assertion in the summary is the following: “Nuclear forces—Modernization of the nuclear force includes developing options to counter competitors’ coercive strategies, predicated on the threatened use of nuclear or strategic non-nuclear attacks.” That means that the White House and Pentagon are reserving the option to use nuclear weapons even when the opponent is not nuclear armed and where there is no imminent or existential threat as long as there is a “strategic” reason for doing so. Strategic would, of course, be defined by the president and Mattis while the War Powers Act allows the country’s chief executive to legally initiate a nuclear attack.

What might that mean in practice? Back in 2005, I reported how Vice President Dick Cheney had requested “a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States . . . [including] a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons . . . not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States.”

The planned use of nukes was also confirmed by award-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. The possible employment of a “weapon of mass destruction” was reportedly in response to intelligence suggesting that conventional weapons would not be able to penetrate the deep underground hardened sites where many of the Iranian military facilities, to include their presumed nuclear weapons labs, were believed to be located.

As it turned out, Iran had no nuclear weapons program at that time and attacking it would have been totally gratuitous, which should surprise no one. Some other neocon-inspired plans to attack Iran also had a nuclear contingency built in because it was feared that the country would actually resist and not roll over when confronted by the American force majeure. To make it cease and desist, a small nuke might well be dropped in a sparsely populated area to send a message.

Thus, we Americans can anticipate another year of playing at defense by keeping the offense on the field. Hopefully we will get lucky and nobody in the White House or Pentagon will decide to drop a nuke.

Philip Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer and a columnist and television commentator. He is also the executive director of the Council for the National Interest. Other articles by Giraldi can be found on the website of the Unz Review.