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News If the US withdrew from entangling alliances

  1. Dec 26, 2009 #1
    If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    Suppose the US decided it was in it's best interests to withdraw, not just from Iraq and Afghanistan, but from all its military positions outside of its national territory; moreover, to terminate all treaties and obligations to defend any territory except its own? The cry "Yankee go home!" (in some form or other) has been unremitting since 1946. Now the mood I sense in the US is 'yeah, that sounds like a great idea'. The pressure could become overwhelming in a few years, given increasing budget deficits, a falling standard of living and a great need for internal investment in infrastructure and services. The US could still maintain "normal" and balanced relations with nearly all the nations of the world, do business, maintain its membership in international organizations, but eschew any foreign military commitments. A lot of people say they want that, both inside and outside the US.

    What if it happened? I'd like to hear ideas about the future "history", if such a decision were taken, of the subsequent decade or so. Would the world be a better place or a worse place?

    EDIT: No "It won't happen" posts please. Assume it will happen and give your best prediction.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2009
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  3. Dec 27, 2009 #2

    Char. Limit

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    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    It won't happen.




    Sorry, I had to.

    Now, if this were to happen, firstly, unemployment would go up... All those military bases give jobs, you know! (Probably not, though) Secondly, the world would love us for a few years before getting mad at our businesses for staying and Americanizing their culture. Third... South Korea would fall, and you don't want that, do you?
     
  4. Dec 27, 2009 #3
    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    Would the world be a better or worse place overall in your opinion?

    Why can't wealthy and developed South Korea defend itself against the poor and undeveloped North? I do think the US should join with other nuclear powers to retaliate against the first use of nukes. There are less then 35,000 US troops in the South and they are not generally well liked by the South Korean population. I could go into some detail about that but I'll pass for now.. The same for Okinawa and even Japan proper. The US was asked to leave the Philippines and virtually all military forces did leave.

    By the way, I did not say the US would never use its forces to defend other countries. I just said it would not be obligated to do so under any treaties or prior agreements.

    As for military bases, Clinton closed over one hundred military bases and facilities in the US.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2009
  5. Dec 27, 2009 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    I think you'll need to be much more specific in presenting this worldview.

    For example, would the US still be trading with the rest of the world? Would this trade move by sea? Would the US still have a navy to protect this trade? Would this navy have overseas bases or would it have to run out from Norfolk or San Diego every time there is an issue?
     
  6. Dec 27, 2009 #5
    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    The fundamental question is whether the US should continue to be the effective sole guarantor of the world's security; protecting trade lanes, upholding human rights everywhere, punishing bad actors. Moreover, can the US afford to do this? No one country can solve all the world's problems. The US has spent anywhere from a quarter to more than a third of its annual budget on defense since 1946. Was there any reason for the US (other than its membership in NATO) to get involved in the Balkans in the 1990s? That was a European problem. Why couldn't the wealthy EU (which has a larger GDP and population than the US) deal with one small rogue state?

    The EU spends a much smaller fraction of its collective budgets on defense than the US, and invests heavily in its infrastructure and services (which promote a healthier and better educated population). The mind set: We hate the big bad USA; its 'culture', its attitude, its stupid form of government, its stupid people, its erratic foreign policy. But they'll (stupidly) save our butts if need be, so why worry? Let the US deal with Iran. Several European leaders do support a greater national and EU contribution to world security, but the populations by and large aren't interested. I travel quite a bit in Europe and speak French, German and Spanish. I know what I'm talking about. In European academic circles, the US (and Israel) is the world's problem, not the world's savior.

    The worldview I'm describing is not something I necessarily support. I see it as likely, if not inevitable. The US is already rapidly moving toward high tech solutions for its security needs. It will continue to maintain a strong navy which has traditionally been its main pillar of defense since its founding. What the American people seem to object to the most is American land based military activities. US possessions in the Pacific extend as far as Guam and leasing a few other remote bases to protect American trade would not be inconsistent to what I described. I'm saying American people are fed up and want to end expensive entangling alliances. They want better schools, better roads and transportation, better health care and other services, secure jobs and a better life.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2009
  7. Dec 27, 2009 #6

    mheslep

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    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    I think either you won't get much in the way of a useful response, or the thread will spiral off, unless you do some of the work on answering your hypothetical. Most of this post and the OP were stating what you didn't like about the current situation. But of course few to none want large military budgets or deployed troops for their own sake. I see little on working out the consequences of the hypothetical, and then whether or not you'd accept those consequences.

    To start, what would have happened if the US did nothing, or had no presence in
    The Balkans?
    Kuwait/Iraq in 91?
    Taiwan?
    Afghanistan?
    Korea?
    If the present and near future is too speculative, I suggest a historical analysis where we have more detail and attempt to answer the same question about Korea in the 50's, US troops in Germany all through the cold war, or an absent US in WWII?
     
  8. Dec 27, 2009 #7
    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    The US is not operating to guarantee the world's safety; it is operating to guarantee its own safety.

    The US was not drawn in to either of its two latest conflicts due to 'entangling alliances'. It initiated them on its own.

    Finally, you can't say no 'it won't happen posts', and then later say you see it as inevitable. Because, frankly, it won't happen. The US extends itself overseas to prevent threats from reaching its home soil.
     
  9. Dec 27, 2009 #8

    Char. Limit

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    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    Actually, the US is operating to guarantee the safety of Big Business, but that's another story.

    You replied to my hypothesis saying that the US would join with other nuclear powers, the EXACT thing that you asked me what would happen if they DIDN'T do.

    Japan would probably help SKorea, but if as you ORIGINALLY stated, the US was TRULY isolationist, NKorea with their nukes, aided by China, would overrun SKorea. Probably Japan too.

    Second, I'm not experienced enough to hypothesize, so I won't. And yes, "hypothesize" is spelled with a z.
     
  10. Dec 27, 2009 #9
    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    As I said in the first post, ",,,if the US decided it was in its best interest...." Why don't many other nations, particularly in Europe, worry about their safety? Perhaps because they believe the US will always step in, as you apparently believe.

    You're correct if your talking about Iraq and Afghanistan. They were big mistakes IMHO. Americans are increasingly coming to that view. The pressure to withdraw from Afghanistan forced Obama to give a vague 18 month time line. International terrorism doesn't need Afghanistan. They could operate from many places. The 911 attacks were largely the work of a cell in Frankfurt, Germany.

    I said 'likely if not inevitable'. Why can't I ask for posters to give their view if it did happen.
    It could be as simple as saying the world would be a better place or a worst place. As far as the reasons the US "extends itself", that's old thinking. It's what got the US involved in Vietnam.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2009
  11. Dec 27, 2009 #10
    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    I can't read the future and say exactly what the US would do. What can say is that a I sense a trend toward military isolationism and protectionism coming from the left, not the right. This coincides with similar trends in Europe. This is the reverse of what we saw in the 1930's with isolationism and protectionism from right (the Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930). The left is now in power in the US.

    That's the past. Japan and S Korea are strong states which should be capable of defending themselves against likely enemies. Even if they aren't, the US is overcommited and not may be able to help.

    Why is the US the only nation that Taiwan can look to for defense? Other nations consider Taiwan as part China (so does the US officially) and would not intervene if China attacked the island.

    As for Kuwait, the Balkans, Korea (1950), they would have been worse off now if the US didn't intervene, but would the US have been worse off? Probably not much.

    The US was attacked by Japan in WWII and Germany declared war on the US on Dec 11, 1941 (Italy on Dec 10). The US had no choice there. Likewise, the US invasion of Afghanistan was a response to a direct attack on the homeland.

    Had Germany and Japan "won" in their respective theaters absent the US (it's likely that many German forces would have been tied down in Russia and Japanese forces in China), it would not have put the US in immediate danger assuming the US had built up its forces (as they did beginning 1939) and especially if the US had been first to build a nuclear bomb. In the ensuing Cold War it would have been Germany and Japan vs the US and Canada with the US assisting unconquered China and Russia. Obviously other scenarios are possible including the total destruction of America.

    EDIT: Sorry, I missed the US troops in Germany issue during the Cold War. In fact Soviet/Warsaw Pact forces considerably outnumbered NATO forces in Germany. If the Soviets wanted to ram through to the Atlantic, they probably could have done it, given a conventional war. It was the nuclear threat that kept the peace. If the US wasn't present, all of Europe would have been under Moscow's thumb. France and Britain would not have used their nukes. The US would still have had an ocean in front of it and a nuclear deterrent behind it, which they would have used if need be. To be perfectly blunt, the US would have had a lot less competition for its products in world markets with Europe chained to Soviet communism.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2009
  12. Dec 28, 2009 #11
    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    Actually it is tricky. The Saudis sale oil in dollars probably because we protect them (that would be my guess). How long will they take dollars for their oil if we abandon them? Then what will become of our dollar?
     
  13. Dec 28, 2009 #12
    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    I'm not sure what you mean. If you mean an isolationist US wouldn't enter into an understanding regarding first use of nuclear weapons, you're mistaken. An isolationist US would consider this a direct to its security and I assume would be willing to enter into this kind of agreement; perhaps even lead the effort precisely because it wouldn't be willing to use conventional forces in the case of first use of nukes.

    .

    If the US went isolationist, Japan would get nukes very quickly and would not easily fall to to China. As for South Korea, Japan might intervene. But if the South can't defend itself against the North in a conventional war, perhaps it should fall.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2009
  14. Dec 28, 2009 #13
    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    It would probably go up. Japan's yen is very strong and Japan is isolationist in the military sense, which is how we're using the term here.

    EDIT: Who is the US protecting the Saudis from? Anyway, an isolationist America would not be relying on oil from the Mideast. The US has recently discovered huge natural gas reserves. Canada and Brazil has oil to sell. Besides a left of center isolationist government would be very active in promoting carbon neutral alternative energy sources and conservation.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2009
  15. Dec 28, 2009 #14
    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    Massive unemployment. Considering how many people work for the US military or are employed some way by the US military, that is what you would get.
     
  16. Dec 28, 2009 #15
    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    Clinton cut defense budgets and closed many bases without increasing unemployment. In a militarily isolationist US, an adequate defense would still be maintained. In fact, the total uniformed personnel count in the US military is much less today than in the Cold War. Military R&D would be well funded because an isolationist US would have no military allies. Finally, jobs lost in the defense sector would more than be replaced by jobs in other sectors by a left of center government.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2009
  17. Dec 28, 2009 #16
    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    Yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking when the towers fell: Oh no, just look at how much profit will be lost by big business.

    I suppose every other reason for our government to protect our liberty is irrelevant.
     
  18. Dec 28, 2009 #17
    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    Or we would just get the (private sector) jobs back that were lost to pay for the military to begin with, which logically would greatly outnumber any jobs created by government taxing and spending to create jobs.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 28, 2009
  19. Dec 28, 2009 #18

    mheslep

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    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    That is not a blunt statement, it is inane. Where were the markets for US exports after WWII?
     
  20. Dec 28, 2009 #19
    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    Go back and read my reply mheslep. Wrong context or bad historical knowledge. You're referring to the part of my post regarding the US role in Germany during the Cold War. By that time the US was running a trade deficit with Europe. It was years after WWII. Europe was competing in the US market against US manufactures. Much of the tension between the US and Europe regarding US nuclear weapons came to a head in the early 1980s. If the European antinukes, antiwar movement had their way, the US would have had to withdraw. The US would not have had its troops facing the numerically superior Warsaw Pact without a nuclear deterrent. Without US troops or a nuclear deterrent, Western Europe could well have been overrun.

    Again, I'm following your what-if questions. What's inane was the position of the anti-US peace movement in Europe at that time, Again the US was the bad guy, not the Soviet Union.

    My point was that a Soviet controlled Europe would have been worse for Europe than for the US. Do you disagree?

    EDIT: I also said that France and Britain would not have used their nuclear weapons. This is because they did not have the advantage of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). That is, they could not have inflicted enough damage on the USSR to deter a conventional ground offensive and their first use of nuclear weapons would have only resulted in the total destruction of their homelands. As was the phrase at that time, "Better red than dead."
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
  21. Dec 28, 2009 #20

    mheslep

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    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    Yes, and Europe was buying billions of dollars of US exports, making us both better off. That's the nature of trade. Suggesting that the US would be better off if Europe was overrun and "chained to Soviet communism" because "the US would have had a lot less competition for its products in world markets" makes no sense in any time period since WWII. The US would have been deprived of a very big slice of the world market that would not have existed under Soviet control.

    On point and and I agree that was a likely outcome. Next step: Is that an acceptable outcome for the US and your worldview? It is not for my view.

    A soviet controlled W. Europe would be bad for both. The point of your OP is to determine what military posture is better for the US.
     
  22. Dec 28, 2009 #21
    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    My point was that any expansion of Soviet power was considered disastrous by US policy makers at that time. I'm saying that it would have been bad for the US, but much worse for Europe. How long can the US go with "allies" that cost the US money, expect the US to do all the heavy lifting, treat the US like the enemy and take stances that would seem to be against their own best interest. The US was spending over 100 billion dollars in 1982 on it's European military presence. It was about this time that the US current account trade numbers first went negative.

    http://www.internetional.se/toft/usdeficit01.htm See Current Account

    Fast forward to today. The present governments of the UK, France and Germany seem to get it regarding the potential danger posed by Iran, but their electorates don't. Iran already has missiles that can reach Europe, and few now doubt that Iran is developing a nuclear capability. But the prevailing view among the population (admittedly gleaned from reading the European press and watching European TV, talking to people and just getting a personal sense of the situation) is 'let the US or Israel take care of it if it needs to be done, but don't bother us.' That's the moderate view. The left view is 'the US/Israel' better well lay off Iran or we'll attack everything American/Israeli in the country'. (Don't eat at McDonald's anywhere in Western Europe and don't be Jewish.)

    Obama expects NATO to ante up with more troops in Afghanistan. I think he's going to be disappointed. It's politically impossible for almost any Western European government to commit more than a trifling number troops, and then only for non-combat roles. When Obama realizes this, I think that it will be the beginning of the US shift toward military isolationism. The pressure will come from the well organized left of the Democratic party and from a broad swath of American society, not just left wingers.

    .

    It's not a good outcome, but if the antiwar left forced the US out, what choice would it have had?

    The best posture would be to have good allies who agree on common goals and the best way to achieve them. That's ideal. The next best posture is to have a civilized way of ironing out differences as to strategy and tactics. However, it you can't agree on goals, you don't have an alliance. In the view I've expressed, given the current state of the world and the US economy, the US would avoid all military commitments for some period of time, but be free to act in its own interests if its home territory came under a direct threat which is obvious to the public. National security depends most of all on investment in the homeland IMHO.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
  23. Dec 28, 2009 #22

    lisab

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    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    I think you're correct, SW, I've sensed this growing feeling here in the US. People are tired of sending troops (and lots of money) to war, and not just peaceniks feel this way.

    That feeling is coupled with an increasing "buy American" sentiment as well. The seeds of this movement were sown when we saw so much of our manufacturing move to Asia, and it has really grown since the recession hit.

    Also, environmentalists encourage people to "buy local" to reduce the embedded energy in the products we buy (e.g., here in the Seattle area people are more likely to buy homegrown apples than bananas, because it takes less fuel to get them here).

    Whatever the motivation, there is definitely a feeling of hunkering down, keeping dollars as close to home as possible. I don't sense any desire in people here, on the left or the right, to become further "entangled."
     
  24. Dec 28, 2009 #23
    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    Yes, I sense that too. It transcends ideology. It's raw, deeply felt and growing. When I see run down inner city schools or closed libraries, or talk to teachers who lost their jobs due to budget cuts it makes me sick. The answer is 'we can't afford it'. However the US can afford to build schools and libraries in Iraq and Afghanistan, some which have been used to inform students about the evil American infidels that are blowing up mosques. I can understand the motives behind it, and building schools is better than blowing them up (collateral damage of course). However, 'winning hearts and minds' (Where have I heard that before?) can make an explosive political cocktail when mixed with the reality of life in America in 2009. Things are tough in many countries but only one is still spending hundreds of billions of dollars in two wars. These two wars were not due to foreign entanglements, but that makes little difference to an increasingly angry and disillusioned public.

    Obama is trying to have guns and butter with printed money. He has no real choice. He can't just walk away from the two Bush wars (One justified IMHO, but totally mismanaged, the other totally unjustified and totally mismanaged until 2008). Obama came out of the left, but the office tempers ideals. However I do believe this president will avoid the perils of an interventionist foreign policy, otherwise he will lose his base.
     
  25. Dec 28, 2009 #24

    turbo

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    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    Many of the "entangling alliances" were constructed as businesses saw enormous profits to be gained from small domestic bribes. Banana Republic is not just a trade name. How many people have lost their lives and their freedoms so that big US fruit companies could make fortunes on their misery?

    Puppet governments and dictators have been the norm in places where US business interests have enough influence to dictate foreign policy. As long as the puppet creeps claim to be "anti-communist" or "anti-socialist" they have enjoyed the full support of the business-bought politicians in our government. It is high time that we US citizens demand that our government quit demonizing every government or elected representative (Chavez comes to mind) that does not kowtow to the interests of US businesses. US media is extremely timid in this regard. Where is the integrity of the media?
     
  26. Dec 29, 2009 #25

    Char. Limit

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    Re: If the US withdrew from "entangling alliances"

    Thank you, Turbo, for explaining one of my opinions better than I ever could. That's exactly what I was talking about with my "Big Business" comment.
     
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