We have devoted a number of posts in this space to topics military. And why not? We are fighting wars in two far-away nations simultaneously, and have done so for nearly seven years.
That’s quite expensive, and it has been downright draining of our expensively trained manpower.
But, beyond the cost of prosecuting the “global war on terror,” we have been spending overwhelmingly on defense programs that, while lucrative to the home states of the military contractors and their congressional representatives, are impossible for a rational thinker to justify based on the nature of current and future threats.
Making this point most eloquently in an opinion piece in the LATimes was Robert Scheer, of truthdig.com.
America’s massive military budget is irrational, costly and dangerous. Why isn’t it a campaign issue?
By Robert Scheer |June 1, 2008
What should be the most important issue in this election is one that is rarely, if ever, addressed: Why is U.S. military spending at the highest point, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than at any time since the end of World War II? Why, without a sophisticated military opponent in sight, is the United States spending trillions of dollars on the development of high-tech weapons systems that lost their purpose with the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago?
You wouldn’t know it from the most-exhausting-ever presidential primary campaigns, but the 2009 defense budget commits the United States to spending more (again, in real dollars) to defeat a ragtag band of terrorists than it spent at the height of the Cold War fighting the Soviet superpower and what we alleged were its surrogates in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
The Pentagon’s budget for fiscal year 2008 set a post-World War II record at $625 billion, and that does not include more than $100 billion in other federal budget expenditures for homeland security, nuclear weapons and so-called black budget — or covert — operations.
And what are we spending all this money on? We are talking high-tech war toys designed to fight a Cold War enemy that no longer exists, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, with its estimated total price tag of $300 billion, and Virginia-class submarines at $2.5 billion each. Who cares that the terrorists lack submarines for the Navy to battle deep in the ocean, for which the Virginia-class submarine was designed?
Then there are the F-22 Raptor jet fighters that no longer fill a credible military purpose but will take $65 billion out of taxpayers’ pockets. The Raptor includes stealth technology and elaborate electronics designed to counter threatened leaps in Soviet war-fighting capability. In 2005, Lawrence J. Korb, an assistant secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration, wrote that the Raptor “is the most unnecessary weapon system being built by the Pentagon.”
Now, yr (justifiably) humble svt is as much a fan of military hardware as anyone; anyone, that is, whose posting is safely in the home front, and who isn’t a congressman with a Lockheed Martin facility in his district, or a senator of a state where atomic submarines are built.
[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]
So we can’t manage to arm our soldiers and Marines with the right weaponry and armor to win some kind of victory in the Middle East, although, this is no reflection at all on the women and men serving, bleeding and dying because that’s what they signed up to do.
So we can’t manage to run our military hospitals and rehabilitation centers with effectiveness.
So, we can’t manage to sweeten the benefits package we provide to our under-armed and under-armored patriots when they return, so as to provide them with the college educations that they thought they’d be entitled to after their years of personal and family sacrifice.
But we keep building those immensely expensive nuclear submarines and hugely costly manned fighters, designed, as most military plans are, to fight and win the last war. And that provide not one iota of protection against a bunch of trained fanatics
… armed primarily with weapons that could be purchased for a few dollars at Home Depot.
This is not to say that all military procurement programs are worthless. We continue to be intrigued with UAVs and UCAVs, the unmanned (combat) air vehicles that for a cost of an order of magnitude or two less than a single F35 have filled a valuable niche fighting today’s wars, and whose non-commissioned pilots operate their watchful and often lethal weapons from the safety of a hangar in Nevada, quite some distance from harm’s way.
The defense budget is only the most bloated of the catastrophic ways we are dissipating our wealth. Subsidies to already wealthy farmers are another example of the political pandering that grants financial relief where none is needed, and exacerbates high prices and limited supplies in already troubled world food markets (see The Economist, best on the planet, here).
Sheer’s point though is that this distorted spending, that serves none but those who profit from this distorted spending (Pentagon bureaucrats, Congress, military contractors [and, to be fair, their employees], and lobbyists), is not an issue in this endless election campaign. And he effectively quotes George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower, our two great generals who became presidents.
First was George Washington, warning in his farewell address that once a nation embarks on the path of imperial adventure, the irrationality of false patriotic appeals would trump reason. What better time to recall Washington’s historic caution to the nation “to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.”
In Eisenhower’s farewell address, he warned that “in the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
Meanwhile, our schools are struggling to educate; our transportation infrastructure is crumbling, our brightest immigrant scientists are finding greener pastures back from whence they fled.
Misplaced values, indeed.
It’s it for now. Thanks,