Marine Corps Times reports a shift back toward preparing to fight what is now called “near-peer” enemy armies: Russia — in Eastern Europe. Specifically, the Marine Corps fields what it calls a Marine Expeditionary Force: a completely supported infantry contingent of about 25,000 men, essentially a reinforced infantry division complete with its own support elements.
Why do I write about this? Let’s put this into some perspective.
With the Monroe Doctrine, early U.S. leaders looked to secure our borders. The Founders were well-aware of the deadly locked-in-conflict history and geography of the European states. We could have had Spain to our south, France to our north and west, and the British in the region of Washington and Oregon. They were there: we actually fought the British briefly over the U.S. and Canada border. The Monroe Doctrine coupled with the vision of Manifest Destiny resulted in an America “from sea to shining sea.”
Some Americans believed with a fervor that Manifest Destiny compelled Americans to export democracy, to export western civilization’s great experiment in liberty to other oppressed lands. That view justified all manner of foreign expeditions: there was a movement pressing the government to conquer Mexico and annex Mexico to the states.
Forward in time brings us to World War I, World War II, the ghost of Manifest Destiny lives on, animating resistance to the worldwide communist insurgencies — to Vietnam, to North Korea, to Bosnia, to the Middle East, to Africa where we just lost men to an ambush, and potentially back into Europe for a third war, this time against nuclear-armed Russia.
This is not amusing.
The Soviet Union broke apart under the economic weight of communism’s inherent defects. Whatever manner of state Russia is today — with her elements of Russian nationalism and North Slav yearnings for border buffer lands against attacks by the former Roman Empire states, Russia remains a nuclear-weapon armed state. It is no exaggeration to commend Russia and her associated states, and the United States for negotiating an end to the Cold War, complete with nuclear weapon threat deescalation. The Russia we now deal with in foreign affairs is not the same worldwide communism spreading cancer it once was. Dangerous, still territorial, and still poised on the edge of the rest of Europe either as an inviting target or as a looming threat, depending on the decade and the perspective.
But, a threat to us? I think not, other than to the extent that the Russians can corrupt the Democrat Party with bribes. So, exactly why are we amassing troops on the Russian border? Are there not people in Europe who could take up arms if they see the need? If desperate enough for defense, can they not put aside at least some of their differences and ally militarily — as they have done in the past?
I would like to think that we could “export democracy,” and evangelize the blessings of liberty all over the world. Experience shows otherwise. I would like to think that cooler heads will prevail so that warfare does not collapse countries into economic starvation. But, I do not see that it is either necessary for our defense, or authorized in our Constitution for the U.S. Marines and the Army to parade around on the Russian border as if they were in Minnesota as a bulwark against an aggressive Manitoba.
It is definitely time to re-think NATO and to make plain to the European states that the United States is a long way off, with little interest in spats among the factions still fighting each other 1500 years after the breakup of the Roman Empire that imposed some peace on the region. I think most of them would agree — except that they do like our paying for their defense. I recall that they opposed President Reagan’s space-based defense initiative because it would return the opposing forces to status quo — leaving the Russians with the larger conventional military than the collective European military. In other words, they were willing to leave us defenseless to nuclear attack to keep our military committed to the defense of their lands.
It’s time for some serious talks with the NATO allies. It’s time to disengage from our commitment to the defense of Europe. Stated differently, where, exactly, does our Manifest Destiny end? Who will pay in blood for foreign misadventures? Your children?
Forming up an offensive Marine Corps invasion force along the Russian border is an aggressive, destabilizing move. If done for diplomatic purposes, I suppose it might make sense, though this approaches brinkmanship. My real question is not whether the Europeans need a strong, aggressive border defense as a deterrent against Russian ambitions; my question is why, exactly is this force to be drawn from across the Atlantic Ocean, from the peoples warned by General Washington to stay out of European wars?
We are having a hard enough time getting our own government back under control.