In reading a very interesting post by Walter Pincus at The Cipher Brief about Bernie Sanders’s views on national security, a few things occurred to me. If “Walter Pincus” is not a household name for you, he’s a long-time columnist for the Washington Post who’s won just about every award available to journalists and writes on national security issues. My inference is that he would probably describe himself as a liberal.
My first observation in reading the post is that Bernie Sanders is very much a garden variety transnational progressive. That places his views very much at odds with my own since I think that greater reliance on international institutions and coalitions is a formula for unending U. S. involvements in wars that are only peripherally related to our national security and which we cannot win.
I guess that places Sen. Sanders in good company since I disagree not only with transnational progressives but with “national greatness” conservatives like John McCain who never met a war they didn’t like and neoconservatives who believe in spreading democracy by the sword to countries that can barely be called “countries” let alone liberal democratic ones.
My second observation is that it’s not clear to me what the relationship between military spending and national security actually is. I’m skeptical that there’s a direct causal relationship between the two. Increasing military spending can make us more secure, less secure, or have no effect whatever on our security. It depends on how the money is spent.
Although I’ve never been an actual defense contractor, I’ve had a number as clients over the years and I’m painfully aware of the Pentagon’s monumental inefficiency. If you like the centralization of power, that’s something you should get used to. Not only are bureaucracies inefficient but they are inherently inefficient and the Pentagon is probably the largest bureaucracy in the history of the world. The larger the bureaucracy the less efficient. Nothing can be done about it. It’s the nature of the beast.
My final observation is about U. S. leadership. A decline of U. S. leadership on the international scene is inherent in a greater reliance on international institutions and coalitions. I’m not sure how big a problem that actually is. It seems to me that an equally and maybe more significant problem a vacuum in U. S. leadership is a lack of international followership.