It's funny the things that you remember. I can remember one time when I was a teenager watching an episode of the Montel Williams show. I don't remember the topic, but I do remember Montel criticizing the U.S. government for spending too much money on military defense and not enough on domestic needs. I remember thinking to myself, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard." In the world that I knew, the idea of slashing military spending was absolutely, totally, utterly UNTHINKABLE! I personally had never met anyone who thought that way, so I assumed that anyone who would suggest such a thing had to be either a) naive; b) stupid; c) a tree-hugger; or d) unAmerican.
That was then.
I don't know if it's because I changed or because America has changed (or both), but for years it seemed like the only ones who suggested slashing military spending were groups that few Americans could identify with: like hippies, pacifists, environmental and civil rights activists, and conspiracy theorists. Today, the idea that a significant portion of the nation's economic woes is due to wasteful Pentagon spending can be found both on the left and on the right ends of the political spectrum. It can also be found in the Pentagon.
Meet "Mr. Y."
Mr. Y is actually two people, both top-ranking members of Admiral Mike Mullen's team, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They are Captain Wayne Porter of the U.S. Navy and Colonel Mark Mykleby of the Marine Corps. It's likely that the essay had some official sanction, which means that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or perhaps even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had seen it and did not stop its publication.
So why did the authors call themselves Mr. Y? It's a play on a seminal essay from Foreign Affairs magazine more than five decades ago. The title was "The Sources of Soviet Conduct," and it was signed simply X. The author turned out to be the American diplomat George Kennan, and the article turned out to have perhaps the greatest influence on American foreign policy in the second half of the 20th century.
"Mr. Y" argues that rather than trying to dominate and control the world through force, America needs to lead through economic strength and credible influence. Rather than seeing the world through the lens of threats, we should see the world through the lens of opportunity. As the nations of the world become more interdependent in their economies, competition should be viewed not as a zero-sum game, but as a means for nations to mutually advance their interests.
"Mr. Y" goes on to argue that the real source of America's national power is in its youth, its economy, and its infrastructure, and that sadly, America has underinvested in these priorities. Perhaps the most provocative suggestion by "Mr. Y" is that the Cold War policy of containment, which relied on massive military build-ups and quasi-imperialistic interventions, is outdated. Rather than thinking about "national security", we should be thinking about "national prosperity and security." "Mr. Y" suggests that America should place its priorities on development, diplomacy, and defense -- in that order.
Despite the fact that Capitol Hill is embroiled in a controversy over whether the U.S. should either pay its bills or plunge the world into an economic depression, on July 8th, the House passed a staggering $649 billion defense spending bill. Although news like this can be discouraging, it's good to know that in the highest echelons of the Pentagon, there are some people saying enough is enough.
Aaron D. Taylor is the author of Alone with A Jihadist: A Biblical Response to Holy War. To learn more about Aaron's ministry, go to www.aarondtaylor.com. To follow Aaron on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com/aarondtaylor. Aaron can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.