March 8, 2014

Listening to the News

It's been unsettling, to say the least, to watch tensions mount as events unfold in Ukraine. And listening to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the NewsHour last night did little to calm me. In this exchange he seemed to be asserting that our actions were meant to be "reassuring."

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY: We’re clearly trying to send a message to Russia, almost exclusively through diplomatic channels, so that I do have an open line with my Russian counterpart that I have used twice the last two days.

But we’re trying to tell them not to escalate this thing further into Eastern Ukraine and allow the conditions to be set for some kind of resolution in the Crimea. But the message we are sending militarily is to our NATO allies.

So, one of our responsibilities at times like this is to reassure our allies. And so the deployments you mentioned into the Baltic air policing mission, into the aviation detachment in Poland, the deployment of the ship, are really intended to reassure our allies.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the U.S. is saying to the allies, if this were to come to some sort of military conflict, the U.S. would back up NATO?

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY: Well, don’t forget, we have — actually, we have NATO treaty obligations under Article 5 for collective defense.

And, so, when they ask us for reassurance or they ask us to — for contingency planning, we respond, and we do have obligations with NATO.

I don't understand that the buildup is meant to be reassuring.

In conversation with Mark Shields on the same program, Michael Gerson seemed to agree with many critics who say that the foreign policy of the Obama administration is feckless. After all these calls for more strength, @WashingtonWeek seemed to point out what all this show of strength might be good for.

I haven't followed the story closely, but I saw lots yesterday about an increase in militray spending by China. Seems likely that many will use this news as justification for continued high spending for defense by this country. The graph attached to this Twitter post places US military spending much higher than other nations. I don't think it's just the amount we spend on defense that makes us mighty. We've got to spend wisely, and we've got to invest in other areas.