How America’s Wars Have Created Piles of Debt (And Little Strategic Benefit), by Jacob Heilbrunn

The welfare state by itself could probably put America into bankruptcy, but the warfare state has done its share. From Jacob Heilbrunn at nationalinterest.org:

America risks the return of the very fiscal and foreign policy perils that Walter Lippmann warned about almost a century ago.

When Defense Secretary James N. Mattis spoke at the 2018 Center for the National Interest Distinguished Service Award dinner in late July, he outlined a foreign policy strategy for the United States that focused on the resurgence of great-power competition. Mattis also warned that the United States could endanger itself from within. Specifically, he stated that the growing national debt amounts to a form of “inter-generational theft” that Congress must address.

The solvency of the United States and the balance between commitments and power has been an abiding theme of foreign policy realists. In his book, U.S. Foreign Policy: Shield of the Republic , the dean of American realist thinkers, Walter Lippmann, observed in 1943:

No one would seriously suppose that he had a fiscal policy if he did not consider together expenditure and revenue, outgo and income, liabilities and assets. But in foreign relations we have habitually in our minds divorced the discussion of our war aims, our peace aims, our ideals, our interests, our commitments, from the discussion of our armaments, our strategic position, our potential allies and our probable enemies. No policy could emerge from such a discussion. For what settles practical controversy is the knowledge that ends and means have to be balanced: an agreement has eventually to be reached when men admit that they must pay for what they want and that they must want only what they are willing to pay for.

In 1987, Samuel Huntington wrote an essay in Foreign Affairs called “Coping With the Lippmann Gap.” He reiterated that America was incurring commitments abroad that it was not willing to pay for at home. Such warnings have gone largely unheeded.

To continue reading: How America’s Wars Have Created Piles of Debt (And Little Strategic Benefit)

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