If Not Now, When?: Duty and Sacrifice in Americas Time of Need
After listening to a talk by a Jewish Medal of Honor recipient in , Kwart became curious and started researching Jews and the Medal of Honor. He went on to learn that 18 Jews have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military award bestowed by the U.
After retiring, he began a business buying and selling rare gold coins and rare paper money. Kwart says his research, done mostly via the Internet and interviews, has revealed quite a different story. From its inception in , the Medal of Honor has been bestowed to more than 3, individuals, many posthumously. One of the 18 Jewish honorees is Cpl. A Hungarian Jew and a survivor of the Mauthausen concentration camp, Rubin received his medal in for his actions during the Korean War.
He had to go through this aggravation, but still wanted to serve. In one situation, he single-handedly fought off a North Korean attack after his entire company had retreated down a mountain in Busan.
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He stopped the enemy from taking that mountain. Puzzled, he returned to headquarters, where his fellow soldiers were astounded to see him. The Nimitz-class behemoths commissioned between and are to be replaced by a new fleet of even more gigantic and complex Ford-class vessels. All have their priorities, but what everyone in Washington agrees on is the need for a huge military build-up.
The resignation of General James Mattis as defence secretary at the end of sparked yet another round of speculation about the politicking going on inside the Trump administration. But we would do better to pay more attention to his interim replacement, Patrick Shanahan, and the agenda he is pursuing. Under Mattis he was the organisational muscle in a Defence Department with a new focus, not on counterinsurgency, but on future conflicts between great powers.
And he has the budget to deliver. Declinists will point out that the US no longer has a monopoly on high-tech weaponry. But that is grist to the mill of the Trump-era strategists. They recognise the threat that great-power competition poses. Their plan is to compete and to win. In any case, most of the other substantial military spenders are American allies or protectorates, like Saudi Arabia or the European members of Nato. The only real challenges are presented by Russia and China. Russia is troublesome and the breakdown in nuclear arms control poses important and expensive questions for the future.
But Russia is the old enemy. Even then, despite their far more tactful leadership, it caused some crashing of gears. From the early s, the days of Nixon and Kissinger, China was enrolled as a US partner in keeping the balance of power with the Soviet Union. Given half a chance, Trump would like to essay a reverse-Kissinger and recruit Russia as an ally against China.
But Congress and the defence community will have none of that. This has the additional benefit that they will have to buy more American equipment. But for Trump and his cohorts that is muddled thinking. You cannot build American strength on the back of a giant trade deficit. Washington is no longer willing to pay for military co-operation with economic concessions: it wants both greater contributions and more balanced trade.
In Europe the Trump administration is proceeding on the same basis. But the problem of burden-sharing has haunted Nato since its inception, and until the s, at least, the Europeans were significant contributors. The break following the end of the Cold War was dramatic, not just in Germany but across Europe. There were also deep disagreements between Germany, France and the US over strategic priorities, particularly on Iraq and the war on terror.
If Europe really feels as safe as it claims to, it should have the courage to push for even deeper cuts. Aside from its value as a work-creation measure, the only justification for this huge waste of resources is that it keeps the Americans on board. The result is a balance of hard power that has for the last thirty years been extraordinarily lopsided. Never before in history has military power been as skewed as it is today. And given how freely that power has been used, to call it a Pax Americana seems inapposite.
A generation of American soldiers has grown used to fighting wars on totally asymmetrical terms. That for them is what the American world order means. And far from abandoning or weakening it, the Trump administration is making urgent efforts to consolidate and reinforce that asymmetry.
How can the US afford its military, the Europeans ask. That was certainly the worry at the end of the s, and it recurred in the fears stoked during the Bush era by critics of the Iraq War and budget hawks in the Democratic Party. And to regard this straightforwardly as a cost is to think in cameralist terms. The hundreds of billions flow into businesses and communities as profit, wages and tax revenue. If Congress chose, defence spending could easily be funded with taxation.
That is what both the Clinton and Obama administrations attempted. The Republicans do things differently. Three of the last four Republican administrations — Reagan, George W. Bush and now Trump — combined enormous tax cuts for the better-off with a huge surge in defence spending. Because they can.
US taxpayers will be making heavy repayments long into the future. But they will make those payments in a currency that the US itself prints.
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Foreigners are happy to lend in dollars because the dollar is the pre-eminent global reserve currency. The hegemony of the dollar-Treasury nexus in global finance remains unchallenged. As part of his election campaign in , Trump undertook an extraordinary vendetta against Janet Yellen, the Fed chair. But he was more restrained after he took office, and his appointment of Jerome Powell as her successor was arguably his most important concession to mainstream policy opinion.
When it began tightening interest rates in he pushed back aggressively.
How many Americans have died in U.S. wars?
As a man who knows a thing or two about debts, he prefers borrowing costs to be low. His bullying scandalised polite opinion. But rather than undermining the dollar as a global currency, his interventions were music to the ears of hard-pressed borrowers in emerging markets. The same applies to the giant fiscal stimulus that the Republicans launched with their tax cuts: despite rumblings of a trade war, it has kept the American demand for imports — a key element of its global leadership — at record levels.
The world economic order that America oversees was not built through consistent discipline on the part of Washington. Discipline is for crisis cases on the periphery, and dispensing it is the job of agencies like the IMF and the World Bank. Both have been through phases of weakness; in a world in which private funding is cheap and abundant even for some of the poorest countries in the world, the World Bank is struggling to define its role. So far the Trump administration has shown no interest in sabotaging Christine Lagarde.
Over the latest bailout for Argentina, the Americans were notably co-operative. A key issue will be the rollover of the crisis-era emergency funding; from the point of view of international economic governance that may prove to be the most clear-cut test yet of the stance of the Trump presidency. A stark illustration of the asymmetrical structure of American world order came in recent months in the use of the dollar-based system of invoicing for international trade to threaten sanctions against those tempted to do business with Iran.