Surviving Victory, an Update

A decade ago, founding members of Strategic Demands organized a “Surviving Victory” conference in Washington DC to address the 2006 security briefing: Strategic Demands of the 21st Century. Our intent was to bring new perspective to failing, counterproductive security policy. This week we look back — and look forward. The #CostsofWar are top of mind



It began w/ one, for which it was intended, then was expanded to two, then three then just kept on going, never intended under the original authorization but now approaching the use of military force in 20 countries, as described in this week’s Senate Foreign Relations Com’t —

Sen. Corker lists 19 countries the US is operating in under the auspices of the 2001 AUMF. Includes Niger, Cameroon, Uganda, S. Sudan, DRC and on and on…


A 21st Century Horizon of War — and Costs of War


Let us begin by visiting one of our conference’s speakers, Charles V. Peña, writing in this week’s American Conservative.

  • According to a recently released report by The Heritage Foundation, the condition of the U.S. military is “marginal.” The report claims that the U.S. military is “too small” and “too old.” Moreover, “the readiness that we have seen over the several years has been in dramatic decline, given the sorts of things we want the military to accomplish around the world.”
  • That sentiment was echoed by Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who believes we have “not been resourcing our military commensurate with what we ask our military to do.” Their assumption, that the U.S. military can and should inflict more force in order to keep international peace, is deeply flawed.

We agree that these sentiments are “deeply flawed”.

More than deeply flawed, these points of view in our judgment go directly against the larger security interest of the United States.

Let’s examine why.

  • The Heritage report ranks Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and terrorist groups in the Middle East and Afghanistan as “high” threats to U.S. vital interests. But “vital interests” is too broadly defined here. And vital interests are not the same thing as U.S. national security, which should be the metric for determining U.S. military requirements.

Key point. The definition of “vital interests”… Let that sink in. “Vital interests”. We agree with Chuck Peña that the nation’s vital interests are “not the same thing as U.S. national security”.

We would argue that other vital interests rise to national security threats as existential threats, costs that are opportunity costs, environmental costs, domestic costs and that these security threats go beyond the Pentagon budget.

The costs of war, continual war, war costs that are not debated are not being debated as they should be, as threats in and of themselves as the nation pursues “victory”.

The size and scope of the $600 billion evident budget does not add war appropriations and related black budget and deep state costs, or the deep and extended costs we begin to calculate here and nuclear issues we focus on here.



  • In that regard, Russia—with its nuclear weapons inherited from the former Soviet Union—is currently the only country that is a true existential threat. However, the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal acts as a strong deterrent—just as it did during the Cold War. Similarly, China can also be deterred. And the far weaker, poorer North Korea—which has recently demonstrated long-range intercontinental ballistic missile capability that could reach parts of the continental United States—can be deterred.


To be continued