Compared to what was anticipated a decade ago, the United States is facing a "near-worst case scenario" in the security threats posed by other major national powers.
That was part of the opening testimony today at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing: Global Security Challenges and Strategy.
The witnesses, Dr. Thomas Wright of The Brookings Institution and Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, (Ret.), National Security Advisor under President Trump, told committee members that there are numerous factors that have combined to put the nation is a position of relative risk. Gen. McMaster said those include "four traumas" that the nation has recently experienced: the coronavirus pandemic, the recession associated with the pandemic. social division and violence sparked by George Floyd’s murder and "vitriolic partisanship combined with lies, disinformation and conspiracy theories that culminated in the murderous assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021."
"Recovering from these traumas is essential to our national security, because the perception of division and weakness at home emboldens rivals, adversaries, and enemies abroad,” McMaster said.
Another concern, which the witnesses said could weaken the nation's defensive posture, is a lack of continuity in defense strategy. Sen. Jim Inhofe, (R) OK, the ranking member of the committee, said it's critical that the new administration maintain the course set during the Trump administration, and he asked Gen. McMaster what principles and priorities he feels should be retained from the 2018 National Defense Strategy.
"I think what the 2018 defense strategy did best," McMaster explained, "was acknowledge the threat from Russia and China as revisionist powers."
Sen. Inhofe has been making the same point for the last several years.
"There is this myth that floats around the United States that we are the only super-power out there," Inhofe said in an interview Tuesday, "and all the sudden we are seeing massive gains from both Russia and China."
Inhofe also worries that, instead of staying focused on what he believes are growing threats posed by China, Russia, and Iran, the Biden administration will shift funding away to unrelated items.
"For example, they talk about the climate change, global warming and all of this," said Sen. Inhofe, "and are proposing a lot of money to be spent [that] otherwise should be going into resources for our defense system."
At the hearing, Sen. Inhofe asked Gen. McMaster for his thoughts on blending these issues together. McMaster, who acknowledges climate change as a grave national security threat, said the nation can't afford what he calls a 'non-solution.'
"The Paris agreement is a non-solution," answered Gen. McMaster, "because even if we do everything that we can as a developed economy to reduce carbon emissions, China, India, and other emissions from the developing world in Africa, in particular, will ensure that those gains amount to nothing."
McMaster said the good news is that there is a solution to climate change, he just doesn’t think the Paris Climate Agreement is the right solution.