An Autarky Thought Experiment

 

In response to my post about refugee bonds, the Great Ghost of Gödel left this comment obiter dicta:

Not without trepidation or regret have I come around to the Fortress America position, but here I am. Bring all of our troops stationed overseas home. Defend our borders without mercy. If the rest of the world is hell bent for leather on destroying itself, whether rapidly with open war or slowly with insane economics and/or immigration policy, so what? We’re perfectly capable of being self-sufficient as a nation, and it never was a good idea to be the world’s police. …

In short: we need to quit acting like we need the rest of the world at all, let alone that we need the rest of the world’s governments to like us. We’re supposed to be different from everyone else. So let’s actually be different, keep attracting people because we’re better, and make no excuses for being better — and being loners.

What about trade, I asked? How would we ensure freedom of navigation without the US Navy? He proposed that if people want to trade with world beyond our territorial waters, they can hire their own navy:

The Navy is appropriate within our territorial waters, and of course there is extensive maritime law with respect to what that means.

Beyond that, I think a private security/defense model, presumably attached to some kind of insurance system, is appropriate. This is, of course, also historically precedented, by the security and defense approaches taken by the British East India Company, et al. I think it’s reasonable to imagine similar arrangements without the connection to colonization. It might look something like this. …

Keep in mind I’m suggesting this as a contingency upon international trade being “not worth it,” as measured by actuaries insuring international shipping, who in turn are paying security forces to protect them. In other words, if the fixed costs of security and insurance leave international trade profitable, great! If not, I’d call that a pretty good definition of “the world has gone to hell,” wouldn’t you?

So let’s take this idea seriously. Let’s imagine what would happen if tomorrow we brought all of our troops stationed overseas home. We bring back the subs and the aircraft carriers, and if anyone complains about the pirates, we tell them to go out and rent themselves some sepoys and find someone to insure their own aircraft carriers. Freedom of navigation’s their problem.

As of tomorrow, every one of these men and women shutters the bases, closes up shop, and sails back to CONUS:

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 11.06.04Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 11.06.28Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 11.06.46Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 11.07.08Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 11.07.22Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 11.07.35Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 11.07.53Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 11.08.19Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 11.08.31

They bring their gear back with them, of course. Especially the nukes and the missile interceptors. We’re not leaving that stuff in someone else’s hands.

What do you think would happen? What would the headlines look like in a month’s time, in your view? What about a year?

Would it be in our interests, overall?

Source: DoD Personnel, Workforce Reports & Publications, Active Duty Military Personnel by Service by Region/Country Total DoD – June 30, 2015 (DMDC Data)

Published in Foreign Policy, General, Military
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  1. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Joseph Eagar:

    Valiuth:

    Joseph Stanko:

    Why? Why is that inevitable?

    From a pure great powers realpolitik perspective, I can see why for instance Russia would be upset with our “meddling” in Ukraine or admitting the Baltic states or Georgia into NATO: that is their sphere of influence, their backyard. It’s the same reason JFK drew a line in the sand over missiles in Cuba.

    Why couldn’t we strike a quiet bargain that says: Russian, you can boss around Eastern Europe, we won’t interfere. China, what you do in Taiwan is none of our business. Just don’t meddle in the Americas and we’ll all get along fine.

    I say it is inevitable because that is what I see when looking back at history. There were grand bargains prior to WWI too. Prior to German unification, prior to the Napoleonic War. History is replete with grand world sharing bargains that culminate in a war between powers.

    The current US. alliance system was actually created to address the failings of prior “balance of power” arrangements. Balance-of-power thinking dominated global politics since (if memory serves), the Peace of Westphalia through World War II. Each balance-of-power arrangement would collapse in a bloody war, and thanks to technological progress, these wars were getting exponentially more destructive. American policymakers after World War II wanted to break this cycle.

    Exactly! If we pull back we just reset to the 19th century model.

    • #91
  2. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    iWe:

    Bryan G. Stephens:We will always know where a nuke came from. The radioactive footprint will tell us.

    Even if they deny it?

    Imagine: Iran gives a nuke to Hizbullah, who pass it through numerous intermediaries before it is finally used.

    Would you be willing to incinerate millions of innocent people as a result? Because the Iranian people are, in fact, largely innocent, whatever their government does. And even the government may not have known how the nuke would end up being used.

    Yes. In fact, I would rather every single person in Iran die than one American civilian. How many Americans are you willing to see die to save the life of one Iranian?

    I’ll second your Yes, an attack of a nuclear nature on us demands a response. Ideally we will have solid proof of the culprit and commence with a brutal retributive war against them. Even if our evidence is scant, someone has to pay. So we spin the wheel of usual suspects and let fate decide. No one can think that such an attacks can go unpunished. Someone will pay and if you are our enemy you should expect the full weight of responsibility of all our anger in such a moment, and you should fear it.

    • #92
  3. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    iWe:

    Bryan G. Stephens: In fact, I would rather every single person in Iran die than one American civilian. How many Americans are you willing to see die to save the life of one Iranian?

    How would Obama decide?

    I answered your question. You need to answer mine before I answer any more from you.

    How man Americans are YOU, iWe willing to see die to save the life of one Iranian?

    If it is self defense, then there is no limit to how many I would kill to stop them from killing me or mine. But I know liberals do not think this way.

    • #93
  4. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    iWe:

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    iWe:

    Bryan G. Stephens: In fact, I would rather every single person in Iran die than one American civilian. How many Americans are you willing to see die to save the life of one Iranian?

    How would Obama decide?

    I answered your question. You need to answer mine before I answer any more from you.

    How man Americans are YOU, iWe willing to see die to save the life of one Iranian?

    If it is self defense, then there is no limit to how many I would kill to stop them from killing me or mine. But I know liberals do not think this way.

    [Deleted comment as was meant for a different respondent – MA]

    • #94
  5. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Manfred Arcane:

    iWe:

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    iWe:

    Bryan G. Stephens: In fact, I would rather every single person in Iran die than one American civilian. How many Americans are you willing to see die to save the life of one Iranian?

    How would Obama decide?

    I answered your question. You need to answer mine before I answer any more from you.

    How man Americans are YOU, iWe willing to see die to save the life of one Iranian?

    If it is self defense, then there is no limit to how many I would kill to stop them from killing me or mine. But I know liberals do not think this way.

    Oh, come on now. No one here believes you literally when you say this: “I would rather every single person in Iran die than one American civilian.”

    Wrong commenter. I was talking about self defense.

    • #95
  6. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Manfred Arcane:

    iWe:

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    iWe:

    Bryan G. Stephens: In fact, I would rather every single person in Iran die than one American civilian. How many Americans are you willing to see die to save the life of one Iranian?

    How would Obama decide?

    I answered your question. You need to answer mine before I answer any more from you.

    How man Americans are YOU, iWe willing to see die to save the life of one Iranian?

    If it is self defense, then there is no limit to how many I would kill to stop them from killing me or mine. But I know liberals do not think this way.

    Oh, come on now. No one here believes you literally when you say this: “I would rather every single person in Iran die than one American civilian.” We’re Christians, capable of Dresden bombing and Hiroshima if it proves necessary, but also inclined to redeem our foes as we did with the Marshal Plan.

    People should take me at my word. I am willing to kill as many of another tribe, so to speak, as it takes to save the lives of my tribe.

    Since you do not believe me, what ratio to you think I feel is correct? What one is correct for you? 1:1000?

    We should bomb their capacity to build nukes, and if that means using nukes first we should do it. If an Iran nuke goes off in the USA, we should incinerate Iran.

    • #96
  7. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    iWe:

    Manfred Arcane:

    iWe:

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    iWe:

    Bryan G. Stephens: In fact, I would rather every single person in Iran die than one American civilian. How many Americans are you willing to see die to save the life of one Iranian?

    How would Obama decide?

    I answered your question. You need to answer mine before I answer any more from you.

    How man Americans are YOU, iWe willing to see die to save the life of one Iranian?

    If it is self defense, then there is no limit to how many I would kill to stop them from killing me or mine. But I know liberals do not think this way.

    Oh, come on now. No one here believes you literally when you say this: “I would rather every single person in Iran die than one American civilian.”

    Wrong commenter. I was talking about self defense.

    whoops, my bad.  I apologize.

    • #97
  8. Joseph Eagar Member
    Joseph Eagar
    @JosephEagar

    Bryan G. Stephens:Since you do not believe me, what ratio to you think I feel is correct? What one is correct for you? 1:1000?

    We should bomb their capacity to build nukes, and if that means using nukes first we should do it. If an Iran nuke goes off in the USA, we should incinerate Iran.

    Iran is not going to nuke America.  It isn’t likely they would nuke anyone (the mere threat is all they need), but I imagine Saudi Arabia and Israel would top their list of targets, not us.

    • #98
  9. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Nuking Israel is nuking America. I don’t see a real difference.

    • #99
  10. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Zafar:Nuking Israel is nuking America.I don’t see a real difference.

    Hear!  Hear!

    • #100
  11. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Joseph Eagar:

    Bryan G. Stephens:Since you do not believe me, what ratio to you think I feel is correct? What one is correct for you? 1:1000?

    We should bomb their capacity to build nukes, and if that means using nukes first we should do it. If an Iran nuke goes off in the USA, we should incinerate Iran.

    Iran is not going to nuke America. It isn’t likely they would nuke anyone (the mere threat is all they need), but I imagine Saudi Arabia and Israel would top their list of targets, not us.

    Joseph,

    Well, the now reliable medium range missile only has a range of 1000 miles. That’s just perfect for Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey. Perfect for starting a full blown nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Of course, if you were old like me you would remember our own missile program. We were inventing ballistic missiles not just copying existing technology so it was more difficult than what the Iranians must do. However, in 1958 we were having trouble getting a redstone off the ground (medium range). By 1963 we were using the Atlas missile, a full ICBM. With all that money Iran is getting they surely can hire the talent and we’ll soon see a nice Iranian ICBM that can hit the continental United States. Why they’d probably write some nice Jihadist slogan on the side of the missile. Of course, we know they don’t really mean it when they scream death to Israel, death to America.

    Pleasant dreams.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #101
  12. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    Zafar:Nuking Israel is nuking America.I don’t see a real difference.

    Hear! Hear!

    Really we could not stand to let then nuke anyone, even an enemy like North Korea.

    • #102
  13. Joseph Eagar Member
    Joseph Eagar
    @JosephEagar

    Zafar:Nuking Israel is nuking America.I don’t see a real difference.

    If you think of it that way, attacking Europe (or even Japan) would  also be “attacking America.”

    • #103
  14. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Joseph Eagar:

    Zafar:Nuking Israel is nuking America.I don’t see a real difference.

    If you think of it that way, attacking Europe (or even Japan) would also be “attacking America.”

    That was the premise of the Cold War. NATO spells that out.

    • #104
  15. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Zafar:Nuking Israel is nuking America.I don’t see a real difference.

    I suspect that America and many Americans will see it differently.  If Israel was nuked under the Obama administration all the aggressor would have to put up with is an apology for all of American past actions that forced them into that position.

    This country will not go to war for Israel.  The best Israel could hope for is that our hawks can get them supplies.

    • #105
  16. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Fake John Galt:This country will not go to war for Israel. The best Israel could hope for is that our hawks can get them supplies.

    The realistic Israel hope is that the US will not shoot down Israeli planes heading for Iran.

    • #106
  17. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    iWe:

    Fake John Galt:This country will not go to war for Israel. The best Israel could hope for is that our hawks can get them supplies.

    The realistic Israel hope is that the US will not shoot down Israeli planes heading for Iran.

    I am pretty sure they are safe from that.  The cowardice of this administration would not allow such a provocative action.  That would require somebody to make a decision that they could be held accountable for.  Most likely they would deploy a hashtag and broadcast the Israeli planes locations on twitter.  Obama would go golf or fund raise or vacation so as to not be involved in any activities that could stick to him.

    • #107
  18. Man With the Axe Inactive
    Man With the Axe
    @ManWiththeAxe

    If Israel were nuked Obama would go on TV to say, “No one is more upset about this than me. I will not rest until we find out who did this. Now, let’s go play golf.”

    • #108
  19. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Valiuth:

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    Zafar:Nuking Israel is nuking America.I don’t see a real difference.

    Hear! Hear!

    Really we could not stand to let the[m] nuke anyone, even an enemy like North Korea.

    Exactly.  That is just too much power to allow anybody else to display – it would be too disruptive.

    • #109
  20. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Fake John Galt:This country will not go to war for Israel.

    99.99% of US actions in the Middle East (including today) tell me that it will.  There are many many real issues in the world, but America not defending Israel militarily is just not one of them.

    • #110
  21. Man With the Axe Inactive
    Man With the Axe
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Zafar:

    Fake John Galt:This country will not go to war for Israel.

    99.99% of US actions in the Middle East (including today) tell me that it will. There are many many real issues in the world, but America not defending Israel militarily is just not one of them.

    I think you overestimate Barack Obama’s ability to “do” anything in the time frame an Israeli conflict would require. He would wait until it was over to decide.

    • #111
  22. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    America already does things like pay for Iron Dome.  It’s not nothing.

    • #112
  23. Man With the Axe Inactive
    Man With the Axe
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Zafar:America already does things like pay for Iron Dome. It’s not nothing.

    True, but going to war is something different. If I were Israel I would not even count on Obama for a Nixon-style re-arming during the actual conflict. He’d want to blame both sides and encourage dialogue at the UN.

    • #113
  24. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Well I think the problem is that if Iran did launch one or several nukes against Israel there wouldn’t be much left for us to do to help Israel. It isn’t a nation large enough to absorb that kind of attack, and I would expect that shortly after the Israelis would counter attack. Basically in 24 hours there would be large radioactive craters all across Israel and Iran. Really we would be stuck with cleaning up.

    This is why the Israeli’s are so freaked out about the possibility of Iran or any similar regime getting such weapons, and who can blame them?

    As dithering and uninterested as Obama is in the Middle East I do not think even he could ignore such an attack or drag his feet. Now a conventional war is another thing, but I don’t see Iran trying to invade Israel. Though if they consolidate Iraq and Syria they will have a direct corridor to march their forces all the way to the Israeli border.

    • #114
  25. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    @zafar: if you think the U.S. will go to war, a real war for Israel or any country, while under this administration you are sadly mistaken. I doubt this administration would enter war if our mainland was attacked similar to 9/11. Though it is likely that in that situation things would move outside their control. You can only blame so much on YouTube videos after all.

    • #115
  26. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Fake John Galt: if you think the U.S. will go to war, a real war for Israel or any country, while under this administration you are sadly mistaken. I doubt this administration would enter war if our mainland was attacked similar to 9/11.

    See?  An attack on Israel would be treated by Obama exactly the same as an attack on the US.  Crickets.

    • #116
  27. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    I just do not get this “we would never do anything to protect ourselves, we do nothing to help Israel, we are doomed, oh woe oh woe” thing from some Americans.  I mean seriously?

    As The Economist once pointed out (somewhat appalling choice of words but they’re descriptive, I’ll give them that):

    The United States is a giant with a cold, not a pygmy with cancer.

    • #117
  28. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Right. That’s because you don’t accept the underlying causes that we see. So we disagree.

    • #118
  29. Man With the Axe Inactive
    Man With the Axe
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Zafar,

    You are confusing pre-2009 America with the Obama administration.

    • #119
  30. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Zafar:I just do not get this “we would never do anything to protect ourselves, we do nothing to help Israel, we are doomed, oh woe oh woe” thing from some Americans. I mean seriously?

    As The Economist once pointed out (somewhat appalling choice of words but they’re descriptive, I’ll give them that):

    The United States is a giant with a cold, not a pygmy with cancer.

    I think you are missing the point.  We are not saying that the US could not do anything.  Of course it could.  We are saying that under this administration’s leadership that the US will not do anything.  Nor are we saying we are doomed.  We are saying that anybody that relies on US protection does so at its own risk.  Chances are under this administration that protection will not come.   There are forces in our government that will try to honor our past protection agreements but I expect they will the thwarted by the Obama administration at every turn and the government will do the least possible to honor those agreements and commitments.

    • #120
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