Speaking to the Australian Parliament on November 17, 2011, as his administration declared its intention to pivot to Asia, President Obama expressed his commitment to peace. We “partner to keep peace,” he said. We seek a world in which “disagreements are resolved peacefully,” he insisted. “As we plan and budget for the future, we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region. We will preserve our unique ability to project power and deter threats to peace,” he concluded.
What does the President mean by peace? Budgeting for war equals a commitment to peace?
In a word, yes.
Only the naïve are confused by the conflation of militarism with peace. Realists know better. As Michael Klare explains, in the realm of grand strategy, foreign policy elites have to decide which adversary—Russia or China—is the US’s main enemy. That’s the essence of strategic planning.
Neither choice, however, as Klare observes, will make the US or the world any safer or improve the well being of ordinary people.
Declaring Putin’s Russia enemy number one likely would entail a buildup of NATO arms in Eastern Europe, including delivery of major weapons systems to Ukraine, which probably would provoke Putin and bring about a return of Cold War atmospherics, even nuclear saber rattling. Designating China the primary enemy would likely mean challenging its base building program in the South China Sea with a large deployment of US naval and air forces and escalating military aid to a number of countries (such as Japan and the Philippines) to form a containment ring around China.
Neither choice would reduce the military budget, decrease the deployments of US troops to hot spots around the world, or otherwise diminish the imperial project. Defense contractors would prosper at the expense of the general public. In Klare’s words, “Domestic needs like health, education, infrastructure, and the environment will suffer either way, while prospects for peace and climate stability will recede.”
Obviously, Klare has a different working definition of peace than the President.