THE “DOOMSDAY PLANE” weighs 800,000 pounds when fully loaded and can withstand the effects of a nuclear bomb or asteroid blast while remaining aloft for 12 hours without refueling. First deployed in 1974, the Boeing E-4B has been the preferred mode of long-range transportation for US secretaries of defense ever since. But when Ashton Carter’s staff discovered the behemoth would literally crush the runway in Sun Valley, Idaho, where he planned to attend the annual gathering of tech elite at the Allen & Co. conference, the SecDef nimbly switched to a sleek Gulfstream V. He jetted in with just a few aides, his wife (the conference is something of a family affair), an overnight bag weighing less than 10 pounds—and the message that the US military has a new spirit of agile entrepreneurialism.
The Spoils of a Single-Minded Focus on War
Between 1492 and 1914, Europeans conquered 84 percent of the globe, establishing colonies and spreading their influence across every inhabited continent. This was not inevitable. In fact, for decades, historians, social scientists, and biologists have wondered: Why and how did Europe rise to the top, even when societies in Asia and the Middle East were far more advanced?
So far, satisfactory answers have been elusive. But this question is of the utmost importance given that Europe’s power determined everything from who ran the slave trade to who grew rich or remained mired in poverty.
One might think the reasons for Europe’s dominance obvious: the Europeans were the first to industrialize, and they were immune to the diseases, such as smallpox, that devastated indigenous populations. But the latter reason alone cannot explain the conquest of the Americas, since many young Native American warriors survived the epidemics. And it fails to explain Europe’s colonization of India, since the Indians had similar immunity. Industrialization also falls short as an explanation: the Europeans had taken control of more than 35 percent of the planet even before they began to industrialize. Of course, the lead Europeans took in developing the technology of guns, armed ships, and fortifications was critical. But all the other major civilizations in Asia had the same gunpowder technology, and many of them also fought with guns.
So what did contribute to Europe’s success? Mostly, it derived from the incentives that political leaders faced in Europe—incentives that drove them not just to make war, but also to spend huge sums on it. Yes, the European monarchs built palaces, but even the huge Chateau at Versailles cost King Louis XIV less than two percent of his tax revenue. The rest went to fighting wars. He and the other kings in Europe had been raised since childhood to pursue glory on the battlefield, yet they bore none of the costs involved—not even the risk of losing their thrones after a defeat. Leaders elsewhere faced radically different incentives,, which kept many of them militarily weak. In China, for example, emperors were encouraged to keep taxes low and to attend to people’s livelihoods rather than to pursue the sort of military glory that obsessed European kings.
At the end of a long and storied career in uniform Dempsey was in a reflective mood, and the one reality he could not escape was just how much war and conflict there still was to be fought, and how many memorials to the fallen had yet to be erected.
Troubling times today for the Cold War-era weapon could mean certain dangers for the near future.
America needs to replace a rotting arsenal of nuclear weapons and counteract an increasingly boisterous Russia, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Tuesday. For these reasons, it must consider the long-taboo prospect of building new nukes.
“Can we have a national conversation about building new nuclear weapons?” Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said in remarks at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. “That’s something we haven’t been able to even have a conversation about for a while, but I think we’re going to have to.”
Russia to add 40 new intercontinental missiles this year
Just last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his plans to boost the former Soviet power’s nuclear arsenal with 40 new missiles. The plan follows a string of provocative comments from top Russian officials who consider a nuclear weapon the most effective method of countering what they consider NATO’s provocative actions in Eastern Europe.
“Russia obviously retains the right if needed to deploy its nuclear weapons anywhere on its national territory, including on the Crimean Peninsula,” Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the Russian Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, said in early June.
Bill Maher and his guests – Philip Mudd, Nina Turner, Rick Lazio, Ian Bremmer and Lewis Black – answer viewer questions after the show.
The United States is bound by a number of treaties that could, in theory, force it to get involved in a war if an ally is attacked. Consider, for example, the situation in Ukraine, a non-member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. If a NATO ally were to find itself under similar threat from Russia, the U.S. may find itself duty bound to war.
Or alternatively, cast your mind to the South China Sea and its territorial disputes. If China were to engage militarily with the Philippines at some point in the near future, the U.S. may well be expected to step in to protect its ally: Since 1951, the U.S. and the Philippines have had a bilateral agreement for mutual defense.
It goes without saying that war with either Russia or China would be a very big deal – especially if that war is on behalf of a third party. This becomes more startling when you realize that, thanks to various treaties and deals set up since 1945, the U.S. government is legally obligated to defend countries containing 25 percent of the world’s population.
That figure comes from “The Myth of Entangling Alliances,” an article by Michael Beckley, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Tufts University, published this month in the International Security journal.
In his calculations, Beckley includes members of a variety of defense pacts in his list, such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and NATO, as well as a number of bilateral agreements such as the Philippines. Beckley also includes two countries where no formal defense agreement has been signed (Israel and Taiwan), arguing that the Taiwan Relations Act and American pledges to support Israel act as de facto pledges of support.
After serving as Norway’s prime minister from 2005 to 2013, Jens Stoltenberg took over as the 13th Secretary General of NATO this past March. As his tenure began, Russia was still fomenting unrest in Ukraine and the Islamic State (also called ISIS) was wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, a revolution in cyberwarfare and other emerging threats challenged the alliance and its partners. In other words, Stoltenberg’s plate was full from the start, but he has also pledged to modernize NATO and how it responds to threats. In April, he spoke with Foreign Affairs Deputy Web Editor Brian O’Connor in Washington.
How has the challenge of dealing with the Ukraine crisis affected your time on the job so far? It has framed my time as secretary general. Because the annexation of Crimea, the Russian violation of international law, and the Russian support for the separatists and destabilization of Eastern Ukraine has been at the top of our agenda, of course. My responsibility has been to make sure that NATO responds to this behavior. And we are responding. We are now implementing the biggest increase in our collective defense since the end of the Cold War. We are doubling the size of the NATO response force. We are making it more ready and more prepared so the lead elements will be able to move within as little as 48 hours. And we are responding by adapting the NATO force structure to what we have seen Russia do in Ukraine.