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MORE US DEFENCE SPENDING May 29, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in US Politics.
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The level of defence spending is almost beyond belief. As a dollar value, measured in trillions, it is beyond comprehension.

Now that austerity looms, with California’s bankrupt (a separate story), involving the direct democracy) and education and social programs cut, defence spending remains the sacred cow – or should that be nightmare? Austerity programs, if Paul Krugman is to be believed are not economically credible, but rather the politics of violence against the undeserving scapegoats. Of course the effect of this policy prescription, much like the devastation of the housing foreclosures, are not limited to minorities, albeit the intended victims. Those who caught in the dynamics of victimhood who see themselves as the descendants of exception and privilege might take to reading their Bibles – I am told the Book of Job.

Defence is very much the psychology of violence and revenge. So as a policy prescription it fails to investigate cause and effect, action and reaction while it garnishes fear as the well spring of national policy. Murder is ennobled as a public good.The more technologically accomplished and geographically distant so as to effect one set of unpeople or another, the better. All of which seems grist for the mass media news cycle.

Tom Engelhardt at Tom Despatch has been on the case for some time. Back in February 2011, with the proposed Federal Budget cuts in mind he wrote:

Keep in mind that U.S. military spending equals that of the next 15 countries combined (most of them allies) and represents 47% of total global military spending. If Washington’s mindset were different, it wouldn’t be hard to find that $100 billion the Republican House freshmen are looking for in the Pentagon budget alone — quite aside from cuts in supplemental war-fighting funds — and still be the most heavily armed nation on the planet.

And here’s my question to you: Don’t you find it odd that cuts of this potential size are so obviously available and yet, with all the raging and groaning about deficits and budget-cutting, no one who matters seems to focus on such possibilities at all? To head down this path, Washington would need to make only the smallest of changes: it would have to begin thinking outside the war box for about a minute and 30 seconds.

Our leaders would have to conclude the obvious: that, in these last years, war hasn’t proven the best way to advance American interests. We would have to decide that real security does not involve fighting permanently in distant lands, pursuing a “war on terror” in 75 countries, or growing the Pentagon (and the weapons-makers that go with it) year after year.

Americans would have to begin to think anew. That’s all. The minute we did, our financial situation would look different and for all we know, something like not-war, if not peace, might begin to break out.

Forty years ago, Americans regularly spoke about a war 7,500 miles away in Vietnam as a “quagmire.” We were, as one protest song of that era went, “waist deep in the Big Muddy.” Today, Afghanistan, too, looks like a quagmire, but don’t be fooled. The real quagmire isn’t there; it’s right here in Washington D.C., that capital mythically built on a swamp.

I have a lot of trouble with “American interests”, or any national interests while global interests and global problems,including structural injustice, go unaddressed and without any strategic planning, such as that required for climate change and the increase in human population. It might be suggested that nations and national interest are irrelevant, although government in pursuit of the common good is not.

In the ominous financial year of 2008, Chalmers Johnson identified three causes of the debt crisis (via Tom Despatch):

First, in the current fiscal year (2008) we are spending insane amounts of money on “defense” projects that bear no relationship to the national security of the United States. Simultaneously, we are keeping the income tax burdens on the richest segments of the American population at strikingly low levels.

Second, we continue to believe that we can compensate for the accelerating erosion of our manufacturing base and our loss of jobs to foreign countries through massive military expenditures — so-called “military Keynesianism,” which I discuss in detail in my book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. By military Keynesianism, I mean the mistaken belief that public policies focused on frequent wars, huge expenditures on weapons and munitions, and large standing armies can indefinitely sustain a wealthy capitalist economy. The opposite is actually true.

Third, in our devotion to militarism (despite our limited resources), we are failing to invest in our social infrastructure and other requirements for the long-term health of our country. These are what economists call “opportunity costs,” things not done because we spent our money on something else. Our public education system has deteriorated alarmingly. We have failed to provide health care to all our citizens and neglected our responsibilities as the world’s number one polluter. Most important, we have lost our competitiveness as a manufacturer for civilian needs — an infinitely more efficient use of scarce resources than arms manufacturing.

So why is cutting US defence spending so difficult? What’s the problem? On the occasion of Memorial Day, Robert Reich writes:

With the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the cost of fighting wars is projected to drop – but the “base” defense budget (the annual cost of paying troops and buying planes, ships, and tanks – not including the costs of actually fighting wars) is scheduled to rise. The base budget is already about 25 percent higher than it was a decade ago, adjusted for inflation.

At a time when Medicare, Medicaid, and non-defense discretionary spending (including most programs for the poor, as well as infrastructure and basic R&D) are in serious jeopardy, Obama and the Democrats should be calling for even more defense cuts.

One big reason: It’s almost impossible to terminate large defense contracts. Defense contractors have cultivated sponsors on Capitol Hill and located their plants and facilities in politically important congressional districts. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and others have made spending on national defense into America’s biggest jobs program.

So we keep spending billions on Cold War weapons systems like nuclear attack submarines, aircraft carriers, and manned combat fighters that pump up the bottom lines of defense contractors but have nothing to do with 21st-century combat.

For example, the Pentagon says it wants to buy fewer F-35 joint strike fighter planes than had been planned – the single-engine fighter has been plagued by cost overruns and technical glitches – but the contractors and their friends on Capitol Hill promise a fight.

The absence of a budget deal on Capitol Hill is supposed to trigger an automatic across-the-board ten-year cut in the defense budget of nearly $500 billion, starting January.

But Republicans have vowed to restore the cuts. The House Republican budget cuts everything else — yet brings defense spending back up. Mitt Romney’s proposed budget does the same.

Yet even if the scheduled cuts occur, the Pentagon is still projected to spend over $2.7 trillion over the next ten years.

At the very least, hundreds of billions could be saved without jeopardizing the nation’s security by ending weapons systems designed for an age of conventional warfare. We should shrink the F-35 fleet of stealth fighters. Cut the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons, ballistic missile submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles. And take a cleaver to the Navy and Air Force budgets. (Most of the action is with the Army, Marines and Special Forces.)

Alyona Minkovski had her say one year ago – and nothing changed:

The gravy train has increased to point where the tracks and other infrastructure can sustain it no more. It will continue, because that is the way the US political game is played, but at some point will become evidently unsustainable, if that point is not long passed.

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