How the Pentagon Became Walmart

I need about a paragraph response for every question written in bold.  4 short answers in total. 1. Is America fighting the last war / an unwinnable war? In her article, “How the Pentagon Became Walmart,” Rosa Brooks raises several critical questions about how the American military is being used today. I wanted to open a couple of those questions for debate. What should the role of the U.S. military be in the world in the 21st century? 1) We have been fighting in Afghanistan for almost 20 years, and in Iraq for nearly as long. What is the definition of success in these seemingly neverending conflicts? Do we even have a plan to win these wars? In more abstract conflicts, like the “War on Terror” I’m not even sure I understand what winning would mean. How do you defeat “terror”? Is the U.S. fighting unwinnable wars? Do we need a change in strategy? 2) Military leaders often worry about “fighting the last war.” America has no rivals when it comes to warfare on land, at sea, and in the air. But is this where the wars of the future will be fought? Many of America’s rivals are developing advanced cyberwarfare capabilities, in some cases outpacing the United States in this area. What are the biggest threats the United States will face in the decades to come? And is the nation, and its military, prepared to face those threats? 2. Is the president’s job too big? As more power has flowed to the presidency over time — leading some scholars to label the office today as “imperial” — more and more is expected of the president. Are these expectations unrealistic? Would you recommend redirecting responsibility for any of the president’s many jobs somewhere else in our governments or society? What, specifically, are some of the tasks that fall to the president now that you think could be better fulfilled by some other means? How could we lighten the load on the president? This is partly a practical question about how to execute the jobs of government efficiently. It’s also partly a philosophical question about how much power we want one person to have in this country. Historically, Americans have resisted centralization of power because of fears that it could lead to tyranny. But some people argue that the president needs more power to do his job effectively, and that the powers of the president should be something akin to those of an elected dictator. I would count current Attorney General Bill Barr among the legal thinkers who subscribe to something like this view (google the “unitary executive theory” for more information). This theory was articulated most notoriously, if not most eloquently, by Richard Nixon, who infamously stated, “when the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.” It is also worth reiterating that the growth of presidential power has been a long-term trend in America. It is a typical trait of most institutions that they defend their turf jealously, and rarely surrender power willingly. In recent decades, the Bush administration took advantage of 9/11 and the “War on Terror” to grab new powers for the executive branch. President Obama exercised his executive authority aggressively in his second term. President Trump has only accelerated this trend, seemingly testing the boundaries of his authority everywhere he can — see, for example, this statement he made about the coronavirus response, “the president of the United States calls the shots, [Governors] can’t do anything without the approval of the president of the United States.” Do you think the President of the USA needs more power, or less? How, specifically, would you expand or restrict executive authority? 3. Is America fighting the last war / an unwinnable war? In her article, “How the Pentagon Became Walmart,” Rosa Brooks raises several critical questions about how the American military is being used today. I wanted to open a couple of those questions for debate. What should the role of the U.S. military be in the world in the 21st century? 1) We have been fighting in Afghanistan for almost 20 years, and in Iraq for nearly as long. What is the definition of success in these seemingly neverending conflicts? Do we even have a plan to win these wars? In more abstract conflicts, like the “War on Terror” I’m not even sure I understand what winning would mean. How do you defeat “terror”? Is the U.S. fighting unwinnable wars? Do we need a change in strategy? 2) Military leaders often worry about “fighting the last war.” America has no rivals when it comes to warfare on land, at sea, and in the air. But is this where the wars of the future will be fought? Many of America’s rivals are developing advanced cyberwarfare capabilities, in some cases outpacing the United States in this area. What are the biggest threats the United States will face in the decades to come? And is the nation, and its military, prepared to face those threats? 4. Does your government represent you? The American system of government, we are told, is a “representative” democracy. Citizens rarely participate directly in governance, but instead elect leaders to act on our behalf. Last week we looked at how our elected representatives work in Congress. This week we want to think more about the relationships between elected officials and the people they represent. Is American government truly representative? How do elected officials attempt to represent their constituents? In what ways is our system unrepresentative, and how could it be made more representative?

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