Weekend Reading: On: Abigail Adam: To John Adams, 31 March-5 April 1776

Mattheew Fay: The U.S. Military is a Tool, but the President Thinks it’s a Trophy: "The president routinely complains that the United States can’t afford to maintain its alliance commitments... suggests military exercises on the Korean Peninsula are so costly that they can be traded for vague promises of North Korean denuclearization.... The president will preside over a military parade in Washington, D.C., later this year that will cost nearly as much as the exercises. What explains this apparent contradiction?...

...TThe president sees the U.S. military not as an instrument of national power but rather as a symbol of it—which, by extension, makes it a symbol of his own power. This is a dangerous way to conceive of military power for a number of reasons.... Trump... [says] allies should go their own way—even to the point of pursuing nuclear arsenals of their own.... Yet, if the United States no longer has allies to defend, then it has little reason to spend the vast amounts of money it does on defense.... Projecting military power over transoceanic distances to defend allies is an expensive affair.... Since his inauguration, little has changed about the way Trump sees military power. In addition to his boasting about the size of the defense budget, the president appointed retired and active-duty generals to important positions in his administration because they were “straight out of central casting”—that is, they projected strength....

First, [this] is needlessly provocative.... Second, and related, to see the military as a symbol disconnects military power from its instrumental purpose.... Third, the increases in defense spending that underpin Trump’s boasting are fiscally problematic.... Finally, Trump’s symbolic understanding of military power is damaging to American civil-military relations.... There are reasonable—and essential—debates to be had over the political purpose of America’s military instrument. That the American military should be understood as an instrument, rather than a symbol, should not be up for debate. To treat it symbolically is to invite dangers both abroad and at home...


#shouldread

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