Wearing the Uniform Has Repercussions

The case for ending discrimination in the military against gays and lesbians serving openly is a strong civil rights claim. However, becoming a full-fledged member of the U.S. military ought to give some gays and lesbians pause.

The Pentagon recently disclosed plans to reorganize foreign deployments and military strategy. One worrisome consequence of this interventionist strategy may be a revival of a Russian-Chinese alliance and increased international tensions as big powers choose sides.

The justification for maintaining large U.S. military bases in Western Europe and South Korea was nullified by the collapse of the Soviet Union. The United States is now scouting for other bases, some within former Soviet states, that allow for the quick deployment of troops—installations “geared to logistical efficiency rather than defensive might,” asserts a long time defense department observer.

Michael Klare, a seasoned analyst of U.S. geopolitical strategies, writes that the U.S. is preparing for new adversaries in areas “far removed from existing U.S. bases.” The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are the start of a new logistics system that is geared to quickly send troops to potential hotspots like Uzbekistan, Nigeria, Cameroon or Angola. These nations either produce oil or have major pipelines. Often they are roiled by civil war and violent ethnic conflicts. The new bases are “steppingstones” for sending U.S. troops into countries without “the support of the host nation, such as the war in Iraq.”

American strategists envisage three threats—terrorism, interruptions in the international oil supply and a looming threat from China. Oil and terrorism overlap in many of the oil- producing nations, and neighboring states. “In 2010, the energy department predicts, China will have to import 4 million barrels of oil per day. By 2025 it will be importing 9.4 million barrels,” declares Klare. China has curried favor with oil-producing states by offering its military assistance, and may revive its alliance with Russia to counter what they call U.S. “encirclement.”

Klare’s predictions about the future conflicts are laid out in the April 5, 2005 issue of The Nation but the question remains whether Pentagon strategists are prudently preparing for future crises or is the United States pursuing high-risk policies that increase the likelihood of conflict?

The expansion of U.S. military might is an outgrowth of Pres. George W. Bush’s notion of preventive war. The application of this doctrine in Iraq is hardly reassuring. No evidence has ever been produced that Iraq posed a military threat to the United States. Asking intelligence agencies to evaluate threats in Nigeria, Tunisia or São Tomé seems a daunting task. Language barriers, cultural mores and the difficult task of accurately analyzing the nuances of political leadership suggest that the U.S. will enter conflicts without adequate planning. By declaring that threats to foreign oil supplies are threats to the United States, the potential for military interventions is endless. The federal budget will tilt towards military expenses and away from health and education. The United States will move in the opposite direction from Europe that drops military spending and preserves social expenditures. Over the long run, an educated and healthy population will strengthen the United States more than establishing a ring of military outposts around the globe.

Reliance on military might postpones important policy decisions about reducing dependence on foreign oil. Apparently, U.S. policy-makers believe that existing supplies of oil will satisfy world demand, and the military will provide the assurance that these supplies are available. This false optimism breeds complacency and interferes with programs for reducing energy consumption by manufacturing hybrid fuel cars, subsidizing high-speed rail transportation and encouraging solar and wind energy technology. In this sense, the military strategy has serious environmental implications. New military bases all over the world make it less likely that the U.S. will adopt a sensible energy policy.

Serious implications also exist for international institutions like the United Nations and the European Union. The long-term solution to many international conflicts is the strengthening of international law. International diplomacy promises more long-lasting global stability than the threat of invasion and war. By stressing our military might, the United States encourages Iran and North Korea to develop atomic weapons. By establishing bases surrounding Russia, the United States runs the risk of provoking a military response or restoring the Russo-China alliance. The balance of power system did not prevent two world wars. Gearing policy towards military strength may revive the scourge of nationalism.

Iraq is clearly the test case. Following the January elections for an interim parliament, optimism has become contagious. These days, one Democratic joke is “The idiot was right,” meaning George Bush might have been correct about the reasons for invading Iraq after all. The new interim government is in place and the insurgents appear increasingly isolated. However, the Iraqi population seems increasingly tired of the U.S. intervention. It is still too early to predict the outcome of the U.S. occupation. But one point made by Klare deserves repeating. Regardless of the constitution to be written and ratified within the next year, the Pentagon will maintain 14 “enduring bases” in Iraq for the foreseeable future.

Bush’s promise that the troops will leave Iraq seems questionable.

Establishing forward bases all over the world will increase the number of terrorist targets. In return, U.S. retaliation will have American troops fighting in far-away locales. Making the United States the guarantor of oil supplies is fraught with dangers.

Lesbians and gays who want to sign-up for military service should consider that the Bush administration considers the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as the prelude for future interventions. When the U.S. could be making dramatic reductions in our dependence on petroleum, American troops may find themselves fighting to preserve America’s access to oil.