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Defense without America as a reliable partner

The policy and tweet statements from the new administration are causing allies around the world to begin to prepare for defense without the U.S. support, coordination and technology sharing afforded by at least the last 13 administrations going all the way back to FDR. 

On the face of it, this seems to be in the U.S. taxpayers’ interest because, no doubt, it could reduce our investment in foreign countries’ defense preparation. 

Of course, there will be exceptions to this new-era policy; already the total number of Israel’s F-35 aircraft will increase to 50 planes. Israel will pay $5.57 billion for the first 33 planes, and this money will come from the security assistance it receives from the U.S. taxpayer.

Anyway, what is troubling are the three legs of our foreign defense programs: support, coordination and technology sharing. If we break those ties with foreign allies, we stand to lose, big time. Huge.

Seoul successfully launched a test of a new anti-ballistic missile defense system called Chunggung PIP, and immediately budgeted for its full implementation.  A more capable system called LSAM was also immediately rubber-stamped, “in light of reduced U.S. commitment to South Korea’s defense needs.” 

U.S. forces in the region have U.S.-made and -based missiles, THAAD, in place. But the South Korean systems may no longer rely on those U.S. defenders. Seems a good thing for U.S. taxpayers, right? 

Well, financially, perhaps. But geopolitically? It weakens our relations with South Korea and thereby sends a warning to other Asian countries that perhaps the U.S. is not as reliable a partner as before. And that unreliability will spill over into discussions like Okinawa (“Get out” is the cry for our base there) and certainly the Philippines’ ties with the U.S., which are already weakening.

So, when you visibly weaken support for an ally, the weakening runs both ways.

Coordination with our allies is all about presenting a unified front. The leverage the U.S. has had, let’s face it, with many foreign allies across the globe has been based on the support we give and the protections we offer. Coordination of that effort, as with NATO, becomes engrained in the temperament between allied nations. Damage the support, tarnish the coordination and trade, and diplomatic ties begin to fray.

And then we come to the long-term damage that weakened technology sharing will present. Science is not technologically protectable. If we do not, for example, share our systems for protection with countries like South Korea, invariably we will force them to invent, discover, and innovate on their own. They will do so. Why? Because they must have proper defense at any cost. 

If anyone in this administration thinks that American technology is unattainable by the brains in South Korea in short order, they are wrong. I simply can point to Chunggung. It’s as good, if not better, than our Patriot missile system. And in India it’s the Desi Missile Shield and the Akash Missile System. And China, Pakistan, Iran, the EU and even Britain all have systems under development, many of them suddenly ramped up after November last year. That’s no coincidence.

Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico.