the 90's, you have the USSR suddenly imploded, so what to do with NATO and the 800+ US bases overseas and the trillion-dollar defense budget?
In Europe the "enemy" was decided to be - Germany! Suddenly every newspaper and all the military brass started talking about "German threat". Former Chief of Staff of the US Army said that the unified Germany "would pose the major future threat to US security", William Odom, director of NSA, said that "only the linkage of Germany to US-led NATO can ensure peace in Europe, and whenever Germany acted on its own, it had pursued an expansionist policy." Washington Post published columns by Richard Cohen recounting Germany's NAZI past and concluded that "Germany, whether it likes it or not, remains on parole." (RENAISSANCE OF RACISM - Washington Post. Yes, this was really what was said about Germany in 1991! And now it's them throwing open the doors for the Syrian refugees that are annoying everybody!) And General Robert Oakes, commander of the US air force in Europe, said that Germany needs US troops to keep it from "misbehaving". It was a flood of "German threat" on every newspaper!
Germany got the message loud and clear. Why do you think there's this explosion of clusterf*ck with the Bundeswehr in the last decades? Suddenly their guns will bend when fired continuously, their naval airplanes can't fly over water, their helicopter has a software bug that will cause short circuit when flying, and they had to use broomsticks as guns on their tanks when going to NATO exercise? This all from a nation that makes a living exporting quality cars, airplanes, precision machines, and high-end weaponry? Because the only way they can pacify the US is to keep up a "fat Hans slouching a beer jug" image.
German army used broomsticks instead of guns during training
In the Pacific, at first Wolfowitz testified that Russia was not reducing its troops and thus still a "threat". When that didn't last long, China was the next one, so suddenly the US Navy got concerned about "China increasing her military budget by 30% over the last 3 years" - from about $5.5 billion to $7.5 billion! Well, Japan didn't quite buy it. Instead, they wanted the US out of Okinawa. Yukio Hatoyama
was elected as the new Prime Minister on a platform of "Close down Okinawa and start a Free Trade Zone with China and Korea" with 70% vote. Gone in 7 months, when the US told him he was out of his f*cking mind.
So China is the "threat" then. This "threat" just replaced Canada as the biggest trading partner of the US. China overtakes Canada as largest trade-partner of US While the US Congress wants a 12th super carrier for the US navy. US Hawks Want 12 Aircraft Carriers for US Navy
And if this is not crazy enough for you, back earlier Reagan tried to convince NATO that the Marxist insurgency in Central America was a security threat to the entire democratic West. The Europeans were like, "Which Marx? Oh, the German guy who did his greatest work in the Great Britain? Oh yeah, he's cool. We'll give those Marxists some money. What, you disagree? Did he kill 6 million Jews? No? Then we are cool. We've got bona fide revolutionaries, anarchists, nihilists, communists, etc., all native-born Europeans. We are cool with all of them."
Basically, all the governments in the world indulge in this "external threat" thing as a way to release domestic tensions, because domestic political tensions are extremely divisive, and people would just rather not deal with them. External threat also helps strengthen the centrifugal force around the nation. The US is not alone in needing a constant "external threat". China also needs the US to be the "big bad wolf" to keep the Chinese citizens united and work hard. Europe needs anti-Americanism to promote EU. Arab rulers need Israel. India needs Pakistan... It's just some useless politicking. It's up to each government to "ride the tiger" carefully and not get to the stage where it will cost real money and blood. Actually the US, EU, Russia, and China are all OK countries and can all get along.