America Depends on its Military Power, Not its Economic Power


Occasionally we turn to the editorial pages. Perhaps we are feeling guilty about something and in need of punishment. Or maybe we are just looking for a laugh. On this latter quest, we are usually disappointed. We have not seen a column by Thomas L. Friedman for months.

But opening up yesterday’s International Herald Tribune we found a editorial by James Carroll of the Boston Globe. It is worth reading. Carroll describes America’s curious obsession with “national security.” We have wondered about it too. America’s national security is the least endangered of any national security in the entire world. The United States has the world’s biggest military, by far… and has forward bases all over the world. It is protected by two immense oceans and the tightest border checks outside of North Korea. The security of individual Americans may be in danger… not much from foreign governments or freelance terrorists, but certainly from home-grown criminals… but the nation is as secure as any nation ever has been. It has no enemies capable of launching a substantial attack. The pentagon is clearly the goliath of modern armies; even if the whole world ganged up against it, it would only be an even fight.

While America’s own national security is safe, it regularly puts other nations’ security in danger, in the name of its own ‘national security.’ Why?

“Military power… functions in America the way state religion has functioned in other societies,” writes Carroll. “The Pentagon is the temple of this religion. It has dogmas, rituals, high priesthood, saints, cults of sacrifice, sacred language and a justifying narrative… what theologians call “salvation history.”

When John McCain warns of “taking a holiday from history” he is speaking the language of the pentagon and cultivating America’s delusion of danger, says Carroll, who finds the whole thing remarkable and depressing.

But here at The Daily Reckoning, we see it as just another sideshow in the Big Picture. America operates a huge empire. And an empire is essentially a military enterprise. It depends on the support of the masses, of course, who need to feel under constant threat of barbarian invasion to justify the huge expense of it.

Americans, as we pointed out in our book, Empire of Debt, never got the hang of empire. They send their centurions all over the world to provide stability and order, but they forget to charge for it. They do it at their own expense… which quickly becomes a losing proposition. Today, the pentagon’s imperial agenda is bankrupting America… but no candidate for the White House – save our invisible friend, Dr. Ron Paul – has bothered to even mention it.

Americans have great respect for their military power… and count on it to keep them on top of the world. The people feel proud, and believe their success – even their survival — depends on their military power, not their economic power.

“Yet ‘national security is bogus,” writes Carroll,” – part ghost story with which the nation scares itself at bedtime, part nightly prayer with which it then goes to sleep.”

He does not say so, but the empire is not bogus. It is real. And Americans are fearful because they are afraid it is peaking out. They are right. Old empires must die to make room for new ones. The world must turn. Change happens, whether you want it or not. And the military man, backed by the mob of half-wit voters, will want to fight it. That is when the bedtime dream becomes a nightmare.

Bill Bonner
The Daily Reckoning Australia

Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

Best-selling investment author Bill Bonner is the founder and president of Agora Publishing, one of the world's most successful consumer newsletter companies. Owner of both Fleet Street Publications and MoneyWeek magazine in the UK, he is also author of the free daily e-mail The Daily Reckoning.


  1. Have you ever considered what would happen if one day the USA, seeing its huge debt to other countries, passed some thinly veiled laws which amounted to no more than ‘If you’re from another country, we’re not paying you back. If you don’t like it, talk to the Pentagon’?

    If the value of the USD gets so devalued that opportunistic investors from soverign funds start to buy up critical US infrastructure and property, it could come to pass. Throw in a boogeyman or two, threat of terrorism, and some think of the children rhetoric, and you have a declining economy solution right there.

    It may seem unthinkable now, but this type of action would not be without historical precedent by a long shot.

    Unpopular Truth
    February 28, 2008
  2. Unpopular,

    “if the value of the USD gets so devalued” then the US will have no problem paying back their debt in USD, thus rendering the default unnecessary.

    Basically, that is what will happen long term. Everyone currently holding US government debt is slowly but surely losing money as the US government keeps printing dollars. Eventually, the debt will erode due to inflation. I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would hold US Treasuries right now… Then again, I couldn’t for the life of me understand why so few voted for Ron Paul…

  3. In the 30’s the US President made it illegal to own gold. Could this happen again?

  4. Novus Ordo Seclorum much?

  5. Another idea – what happens to the economies of the western democracies leaching off US military assurance if suddenly that assurance is not there? How productive would Japan and Korea, even much of western Europe be if suddenly they were required to foot the whole bill? Something to think about since the empire is becoming too expensive to service…

  6. The comment above this one is not me, I guess there’s another John?

    And to respond to that comment, I doubt much happens. I don’t think any third world country today feels a true military threat to its borders. The military mindset that keeps these militaries growing is outdated. The only thing a military is good for nowadays is wasting money and invading third world countries.

  7. “Americans, as we pointed out in our book, Empire of Debt, never got the hang of empire. They send their centurions all over the world to provide stability and order, but they forget to charge for it. They do it at their own expense… which quickly becomes a losing proposition. Today, the pentagon’s imperial agenda is bankrupting America… but no candidate for the White House – save our invisible friend, Dr. Ron Paul – has bothered to even mention it.”

    Americans have certainly gotten the hang of empire. They keep printing more paper money, which foreigners have to convince Americans to part with in order to buy oil. That usually requires goods, raw materials, or services.

    This is what keeps America’s carrier battle groups sailing around the world, not charity. And those carrier battle groups prevent other countries from seizing oil for themselves or their currencies rather than slaving away for otherwise worthless US dollars.

    Of course, as the oil starts to run out there will be problems, but that won’t be overnight. If America were to spontaneously give up “policing the world”, their country would collapse in a heap as they would have to start paying market price for the oil, and their infrastructure would have to change drastically to start producing their own goods, etc.

    Major Tom
    March 1, 2008
  8. For Smithy above, who asked about if the government could confiscate gold again. I reckon, to be safe, you should stash some silver away too, as well as your heaps of gold. And essentials,, like food and water and medicine and lighting etc. Then you will have a plan a, and pland b, and plan c. You will then be in a far better position than most of the masses out there who are doing nothing, and who are only interested in such topics as fashion, celebrities, and “does my bum look big in this?”

  9. This whole website is nothing, but dislike toward America.

  10. I realized, long years ago, that Americans are a scared, frightened people and the mass media preys on that fear daily. I, also, realized, long years ago, that Americans are an angry, violent people who love their military and are more than willing to pay for it. This makes for an easily manipulated people who are willing to go to the ends of the earth to kill people they don’t know. Of course, it must be for a just cause as we are “really” peace loving folks who just want the world to live as we do. It has kept our economy and a false sense of national pride going for a long time.
    Eisenhower tried to warn us but, of course, we ignored him.

    Zeke Putnam
    March 3, 2008
  11. Joe,

    Anyone who knows anything about Economics cannot possibly like America. It would be akin to liking somebody making $50 grand a year and having a personal debt of $2 million, yet they keep borrowing and spending thinking everything will be ok.

  12. Is there any better sight than a US Aircraft carrier launching its loaded f18’s and A6’s in hostile territory. Is this not the great equalizer of Western civilization. Without it mates and mon freres, you would be speaking a language not native to your own countries, but rather the fathzaland.
    They say all things are cyclical, and yes we’ve got some serious issues before us. But to crap on the Military and our strategies is short sighted. When/if our friend(s) from the East, decide they need more oil/food/water to sustain/expand their growing appetites and demonstrate their new found power and might,to(your)detriment… Well, I suspect you will be thankful for the latest and greatest technology and it’s patriotic hero pilot launching off the deck of our carriers, to help sustain some form of our privelaged lifestyles.

  13. Chris — This is true –but to live by the sword is to die by the sword.Their is nothing more embarassing than a drunken bully taunting a whole group of people who dont fit his concept of normal.Even though they are minding their own business.this is currently how the U.S. is looking.A monumental srategic blunder has been made.The group being tuanted are currently phoning their mates for advice on how to deal with the drunken lout.

    geoff watt
    March 16, 2008
  14. Well put GW


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