OP-ED: US Marine General: US military must buy Russian war machines. Seriously?

By Tom H. Hastings
Tom H. Hastings
Tom H. Hastings

An alternative to violent force is nonviolent force. This can look like many things, but economic sanctions are a major category of compulsion by nonviolent means. Do they always work? This question is answered best with another question, does violence always work? In fact, no method of compulsion always works (with the possible exception of a crying baby).

When we consider trying to make an extremely powerful opponent behave in a certain way that we like, and to stop misbehaving in our estimation, economic sanctions are one of the only possible approaches. Flying to Russia with bombers and rolling into Russia with tanks is mutually assured suicide and clearly irrational at any level, no matter what Bill O'Reilly or Sean (Ins)Hannity might claim.

This leaves us with a few options, including global opprobrium, sanctions, and aid to Russian civil society opposition. Putin is nearly impervious to public embarrassment and scoffs at all such attempts. It is highly dangerous for Russian civil society to be branded as tools of the US or EU, so that limits support for their civil society dissidents, even if Russians come to know how much the West loves Pussy Riot. And so we look to sanctions.

By far the most screwed up approach to compelling an opponent to behave better is to be dependent on him. This is precisely what the US has done with Russia and most stupidly and astonishingly, with military contracts. It is beyond belief that the Pentagon should self-sabotage so utterly, but that seems to be their modus. A 17 July 2014 Reuters story details the missteps and the inevitable self-defeating outcomes.

President Obama announces more sanctions on Russia, including blocking new military contracts with them. His nominee for Commander DuJour in Afghanistan, Marine General Joseph Dunford, goes public and calls that "catastrophic." He says that "young Americans" will be exposed to increased attack in Afghanistan, primarily because the US won't be able to order spare parts for all 88  Russian Mi-17 helicopters it is gifting to the oh-so-democratic government we've installed in Afghanistan.

Are there words for the depths of corruption, incompetence, and inanity this situation reveals? I mean, I'm a pacifist but even I know how poorly it redounds on the US military to buy gear from the opponents, if not enemies. And Dunford even asserts that the US could not keep those helicopters in running order without Russian parts. Seriously? The US arms industry, by far the largest on Earth and in most respects the most advanced, cannot reverse engineer some spare parts?

It's one thing to buy some Russian ballet DVDs or Russian chess master instructional texts. Cutting off the supplies to those would not degrade anyone's security. But to seek out purchase of military hardware and then become so dependent on the adversary that Russian behavior toward Ukraine--possibly including providing the anti-aircraft missile that just shot down nearly 300 traveling people on Malaysian Flight MH17--is unanswerable by sanctions, that is by far the most short-sighted military policy imaginable, and the Pentagon imagines many of them on a daily basis.

Obama has tried sanctions to a greater degree than ever, but his White House team needs to replace many of the Pentagon team with those who can think a bit more clearly. Taking the Russian Mi-17 helicopters out of the equation, and never again purchasing a single military item from the Russians, would seem like a barebones basic first step. As it is, the US military knows it has zero military response to Russian aggression in Ukraine and the US military has now thus compromised the security of Ukrainians, Afghans, and US personnel. Brilliant.

                                    * * *

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director.


Comments powered by Disqus