The United States military has a huge overseas footprint—nearly 800 bases around the world. We're the only country that does this. Do you think that's necessary or wise?
Zbigniew Brzezinski: It might be useful for the next president to ask a few experienced, independent-minded people to take a broad look at the scale and thrust of our defense efforts, without prejudging what such a group might say. There's something troubling about a condition in which one country, which has roughly 5 percent of the world's population, spends more than 50 percent of the world's defense budgets. There's something weird about it. Maybe it's inherent in the role we have to play in the world—that we have to have a very, very large defense budget. But one just has to wonder whether that's really necessary. I have been struck by the pervasive frequency of highly patriotic, pompously patriotic-sounding ads for defense industries, usually accompanied by deferential salutations to our men and women who are heroically sacrificing their lives in our defense, but sponsored by the defense industry. We are the most defense-oriented or military-oriented country in the world today. Do we really need that for our security?
MJ: Regarding Iraq, we've built a number of what can only be called permanent bases...
ZB: Permanent bases can become impermanent.
MJ: Do you think that's the plan?
ZB: That's not the plan, but the fact that we build something doesn't mean that we have to sit in it forever. I think if the Democrats win we're not going to be sitting in permanent bases in Iraq in a scale and in a fashion that Bush is currently, maybe, designing. If he signs some agreement with Maliki, do you think the Democratic Congress is going to endorse it?
MJ: We'll see.
ZB: I think we know.
MJ: What do you think might happen if we were to start eliminating our military footprint?
ZB: I wouldn't eliminate our global footprint. There are a number of places in the world where it's in our interest to be present, and where we're welcome. The question is, do we need to be all over the world on the scale that we are now reaching, and do we need to spend as much as we're spending on defense? Especially if you look at some other aspects of American society—the decaying character of our infrastructure, the increasingly primitive railroad system that we have, the overburdened air services that we have, etcetera. And if we add to it the potential consequences of the misguided policy with Iran, then before too long we'll be thinking of the $4-a-gallon price as being a bargain. Because we'll be paying $10 per gallon.
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