2024: The Year Foreign Policy Delusions Die Hard
America’s leaders are out to lunch as the nation lurches forward into a more dangerous world.
The war in Ukraine is ending in catastrophic defeat for Ukraine and the United States. The war in the Middle East is just beginning, and it will not end when the Israeli State decides to stop fighting.
Washington confronts a world it does not know or understand. The House Republicans’ recent “Plan for Victory in Ukraine” exemplifies an acute lack of understanding. It seems certain that Russian forces will push forward to the Dnieper River and beyond. When the forward movement begins, U.S. space-based surveillance systems will detect the westward movement and sound the alarm. Yet Ukraine has no means of stopping the Russian advance.
This point notwithstanding, Washington continues to insist on pushing NATO forces to Russia’s borders, establishing new bases in northern Sweden and Finland and effectively repeating the mistake that led to war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, roughly 1,000 miles from the Ukrainian border, Israel’s war with Hamas has mutated into a campaign to rid Israel of its Arab population. This development pits Israel and the United States in a showdown with the Islamic world, and potentially Russia, China, and the Global South.
Events unfolding in Ukraine and Israel are symptomatic of a new distribution of power created by rising powers such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. The shift in the balance of power is profound. It is decisively shifting political, military, and economic power away from the United States at a time when Washington’s ruling class is presiding over an economy sliding into deep recession or worse, depression.
Wishful thinking normally fails in the face of hard facts, but Washington’s ruling political class ignores the facts. The result is that Washington is guiding the American People down a dangerous path to wider war and financial ruin in 2024.
Yuriy Lutsenko, former Ukrainian prosecutor general, appeared on Ukrainian television on January 7 and said that Ukraine had lost 500,000 dead in Washington’s proxy war with Russia. He added, “Ukraine loses 30,000 people a month in the war as killed and seriously wounded.” He further insisted that Ukrainian authorities should publish the real numbers of Ukrainian losses to show people the seriousness of the situation.
Though Lutsenko failed to mention it, U.S. military advice combined with the performance of U.S. materiel demonstrated a degree of American military weakness not seen since the outbreak of the Korean War. Washington’s foolish attempt to destroy Russia with the use of Ukrainian lives has produced a strategic victory for Moscow and revealed American weakness to the whole world. With the national sovereign debt approaching the threshold of default, and the progressive collapse of American societal cohesion, the potential for American military failure in action is an event Washington should avoid but seems incapable of doing so.
Part of the reason is that Washington lives permanently in the afterglow of America’s military success in Desert Storm. In 1991, the ruling political class acknowledged that the victory owed a great deal to superior American technology, organization, as well as high quality soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.
But the ruling political class ignored how much America’s 1991 victory also benefited from weaknesses in the Iraqi armed forces. Until the outbreak of proxy war with Russia, war for the U.S. military in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya was usually a live fire exercise against generally cooperative targets.
This era has ended. America’s military establishment is more cumbersome and inefficient than ever before. In broad structural and organizational terms, the American military remains a tribute to the Cold War. Today, Washington’s potential opponents possess most of, and in some cases, even better technology than, the U.S. armed forces employ.
In a 2021 report entitled, “A Report on the Fighting Culture of the United States Navy Surface Fleet,” 94 percent of the sailors questioned insisted that destroyer collisions in the Pacific, the surrender of two United States Navy riverine command boats to Iranian Forces in the Persian Gulf, and the burning of the USS Bonhomme Richard were all part of a broader cultural or leadership problem in the Navy.
Cultural and leadership problems are not limited to the Navy. The Army, Air Force and Marines have similar problems. Despite decades of attention and research, the presence of toxic leaders—leaders with undesirable leadership behaviors—continues to plague the U.S. Army and its sister services.
Finally, the military industrial base lacks a surge capability. In other words, factories are not humming with hot production lines to turn out vast quantities of modern missiles, munitions, and equipment as they were in the 1960s. Missile shortfalls present the services with serious restrictions.
In the Navy’s case, there are approximately 3,500 Tomahawk missiles on hand—so few that in the event of a major war the Navy will run out of missiles before it runs out of launchers. The problem was accurately framed in an editorial that appeared in the Financial Times:
The [defense] industry has been caught out by conflict and rising threats. [Defense companies] are struggling to raise production amid labor shortages and supply chain disruption, which is itself a result of rising global instability. Restarting dormant manufacturing lies takes time. Even production from active facilities for complex equipment, such as precision weapons, can take two to three years.
Strategically, Afghanistan never mattered. Washington’s failed military interventions in Vietnam and Iraq were also of peripheral interest to the United States. Unfortunately, Washington’s foolish attempt to destroy Russia with the use of Ukrainian lives has produced a strategic victory for Moscow and revealed American weakness to the whole world. How Washington handles events in the rapidly developing war between Israel and its regional opponents matters, lest Washington court a humiliating defeat in a war for which it is not prepared.