In 1946 the article “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” was published, laying out the policy of containment that proposed that the best way to defeat the Soviet Union was not to attack it, but to contain it. If the US was able to merely counteract Soviet influence, then the internal problems of their communist system would inevitably lead to its collapse.
The article had a profound impact on American foreign policy, and it worked.
When it was published, the article was simply signed X, but the author turned out to be the American diplomat George Kennan. Now a new article has been published, but this time signed Y. The new article points out that the policy of containment — with its massive military build-up and quasi-imperial policy aimed at countering Soviet influence — is still in place even though it is no longer needed and is actually hurting us. The fact that we spend more on defense than all the other countries in the world put together might have made some sense when we were facing down the Soviet empire, but is now pointless and is bankrupting us.
When we have so much military power, we tend to favor military solutions instead of political solutions. Which is why we have gotten bogged down in multiple wars and vastly overreacted to Islamic terrorism. And we have fallen into the oldest trap in the world:
Washington needs to make sure that the United States does not fall into the imperial trap of every other superpower in history, spending greater and greater time and money and energy stabilizing disorderly parts of the world on the periphery, while at the core its own industrial and economic might is waning.
Instead of running up our national debt on pointless wars, the article says that we need to be investing in the real sources of national power: our youth, infrastructure, and economy. Instead of seeing the rest of the world as threats to be fought, we need to fight hard to promote American competitiveness, influence, and innovation. Above all else, we need to spend more money on education and invest in our children in order to ensure our future.
By investing energy, talent, and dollars now in the education and training of young Americans — the scientists, statesmen, industrialists, farmers, inventors, educators, clergy, artists, service members, and parents, of tomorrow — we are truly investing in our ability to successfully compete in, and influence, the strategic environment of the future. Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America’s youth.
But what is really ironic about this article is that it was not written by some bleeding heart socialist, it was written by two senior members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That’s right, two of our top military strategists say that we need to stop throwing so much money at the military and instead spend more money on our people.
I am shocked and awed.