The Arsenal of Democracy No More 

August 13, 2021 Updated: August 16, 2021

Commentary

President Joe Biden’s handlers and supporters portray him as a new Franklin Delano Roosevelt. If he were, he would continue former President Donald Trump’s hardline stance against China and work to return our military supply chain to our nation’s shores.

The federal government needs to do what Roosevelt did during World War II and ramp up investment in critical infrastructure aspects, including mining, defense plants, and shipyards. If the storm clouds of war with China and Russia materialize, the United States lacks the capacity to churn out adequate transport ships, frigates, destroyers, and other warships to replace those that would inevitably be destroyed in the event of hostilities.

This administration’s infrastructure rhetoric could be more wisely spent on investing these trillions in reconstituting the nation’s industrial base.

Government investment in industry in the run-up to World War II provided the leverage that made it possible for the nation’s economy to crush Germany and Japan. One estimate notes that the U.S. output of manufactured goods increased 300 percent and the extraction of raw materials by 60 percent.

Roosevelt called America the “arsenal of democracy” and warned against individuals who abetted the nation’s enemies. America’s industrial might was the key to Allied victories in both World Wars and in the Cold War.

At the start of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, observers noted that American industrial might would eventually allow the United States to defeat the Soviets. Today, China is on the upswing and America is in decline. FDR denounced American businessmen, bankers, and politicians who helped the Axis powers, not unlike those who help China today.

“There are also American citizens, many of them in high places, who, unwittingly in most cases, are aiding and abetting the work of these agents. I do not charge these American citizens with being foreign agents. But I do charge them with doing exactly the kind of work that the dictators want done in the United States,” Roosevelt said.

“These people not only believe that we can save our own skins by shutting our eyes to the fate of other nations. Some of them go much further than that. They say that we can and should become the friends and even the partners of the Axis powers. Some of them even suggest that we should imitate the methods of the dictatorships. Americans never can and never will do that.”

Congress established (pdf) a National Defense Stockpile on the eve of World War II that remained in place until the end of the Cold War. It required the stockpiling of materials needed to hedge against global supply shortages and “cartel-like behavior” by foreign exporters. It evaporated following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It accounted for $10 billion at the end of the Cold War, and Congress decided to divest (pdf) its holdings in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 1993.

The U.S. defense establishment has sacrificed its ability to be self-reliant ever since, and for this reason, the Chinese already have won the next war without firing a shot.

China successfully seduced U.S. corporations into trading away the nation’s industrial base in exchange for fatter bottom lines. They’ve transferred trillions in wealth to China, whose gross domestic product (GDP) stood at $383 billion in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Today, China’s GDP stands at $14.7 trillion, which has enabled its massive military buildup.

As a result, the U.S. military relies almost exclusively on Chinese imports for its supply chain. The Washington-based Alliance for American Manufacturing first warned about the danger in 2013 during the Obama–Biden administration.

“The pace of decline in U.S. manufacturing abruptly accelerated since 2000. Between 2000 and 2009, the United States lost 31.2 percent of its manufacturing jobs, and in 2009, the manufacturing sector fell from 13.1 percent of total employment to 9.1 percent,” their report stated (pdf).

The U.S. abandonment of mining rare earths is of critical concern because they’re used in anything that has a screen or touchscreen in the U.S. military. Both the Trump and Biden administrations stated their desire to reclaim control over the nation’s supply of rare-earth metals. Trump signed an executive order in September 2020 that called for the restoration of domestic production of rare earths.

Roosevelt, like Trump, was a staunch nationalist who understood that American military power stemmed from its industrial might.

America’s corporate leaders have done exactly what Roosevelt warned against with China’s Communist Party, which Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on Aug. 4 was a severe national security threat.

“U.S. corporations are so desperate to have access to the Chinese market that they’ll lead costly boycotts in an American state that passes a law that they don’t like,” Rubio said. “American companies have actually fired Americans who live in America for saying or writing something that China doesn’t like.”

What has happened is akin to having had the United States cede its supply chain to Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan during the 1930s amid the inevitable threat of war with the two countries.

The House Armed Services Committee released a report by its Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force in July that reaffirmed the danger posed by reliance on China.

“The COVID-19 pandemic likewise taught the United States and our allies that adversaries, particularly China, are capable of weaponizing supply chain vulnerabilities to threaten our national security should they choose to,” the report stated (pdf). “The Task Force recommends a statutory requirement to identify supplies and materials for major end items that come from adversarial nations and implement a plan to reduce reliance on those nations.”

The U.S. government needs to return to Cold War priorities of training U.S.-born students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Domestic students are needed, instead of importing large numbers of students from hostile nations such as China, Pakistan, and Turkey to squelch brain drain and keep American technical advances at home and in service of U.S. national security.

U.S. universities shouldn’t help our enemies. More incentives are needed to encourage Americans to get into the trades.

Congress should also reconstitute the National Defense Stockpile, create a program to fund and manage the reconstitution of domestic suppliers of microelectronics and circuitry, and recycle rare earths to eliminate hostile sources of critical components.

If Biden wants to be a new FDR, he needs to ignore the environmentalists who control his party and make the reindustrialization and rebuilding of the arsenal of democracy a national security priority.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Rossomando
John Rossomando
John Rossomando is a senior analyst for defense policy at the Center for Security Policy and served as senior analyst for counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years.