In the theater of the blind that was the debt debate, one of the areas up for cuts was the Defense budget. But if you were really paying attention, you would have noted said proposed cuts were less than what the Department of Defense offered before the debt debate began. With the roll back of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, cutbacks were inevitable. What Congress did was offer the DoD more money for their toys.
It is not surprising that in the new era of austerity, where the general public is exhorted to “eat your peas,” the DoD is still dining on filet mingon. Way back in the fifties, at the tail end, Eisenhower warned us about this. His speech is still quoted today, Eisenhower’s warning of the Military-Industrial complex, is even more relevant today than it was at the beginning of the 1960’s. It would be even more precent if Ike had stuck to the original formulation of The Military-Congressional-Industrial Complex. It is the tripartite nature of the beast, its triple-headed nature, that makes it so hard to slay.
From WWII to the Cold War and beyond, there is almost no Congressional district that does not have a military base or military supplier / manufacture. If you include the businesses that perform contract work for the National Security state, there might not be a single federal district that is not feeding at the military chow hall. In bringing home the bacon, almost every Congressman or Congresswoman is brining in pork supplied by the military. This is by design.
The penetration of the Military supply system into every Congressional district guarantees a built-in support system for almost any gold-plated weapon system that can be dreamed up. Nothing is rejected outright, and weapon systems that do eventually succumb to a well-earned death cost billions of dollars before they shuffle off their mortal coils. The whole business of weapons procurement has become deeply dysfunctional because there is absolutely no adult supervision of the process.
The Unites States spends an inordinate amount on National Defense. Its spending matches the rest of the world, with no end in sight. This makes no sense, if we were to cut defense spending to that of the top four nations below us, we would have a peace dividend of hundreds of billions of dollars. Is there any real need for 12 carrier groups when the only possible advisory, China, is attempting to spool up to one? Residents of Norfolk, Virginia, San Diego, California, and Bremerton, Washington may not like where this discussion is headed; but that is the point.
As goes the big grey things that float, so it goes for the rest of our military infrastructure. The size of our Air Force and Army is also over-large. The only branch of the military that is perhaps right-sized is the U.S. Marines. But even here, the grunts insist on flying the problematic V-22 Osprey, a poster-child for military procurement run amok. How the jarheads are supposed to land in a hot LZ with an airframe that routinely crashes under normal operating conditions is a bit of a mystery.
Another mystery is why Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children (USMC) might be in that hot LZ in the first place. As Libya proved beyond a shadow of doubt, the US gets involved in questionable military adventures because it can. Having a big, nasty, hammer around seems to make our leaders search out nails to flatten. The myth of the all-powerful, all-competent military has lead to a foreign policy that is way out of kilter. Not only does the US use its own military to attempt to “solve” problems abroad; it uses foreign military assets to “solve” issues in foreign lands. Thus, the billions of US dollars are poured into corrupt, failing nation-states like Egypt and Pakistan. What is worse is the surprise when this myopic policy blows up in our face, as it did in Iran and in other lands.
Except for the oddball politicians of the left and right, no one really questions the size and shape of our military. Why, with WWII sixty years, past, do we still have such a big footprint in Japan? Why the bases, just across the sea, in Korea? Why the over 100 bases in over 100 lands? And why are only Ron Paul and Ralf Nader the only people who seem to have questions about this? The Soviet Union is twenty years dead, and we still support a Cold War military; to what end?
The short answer is not pleasing; we are addicted to hegemony. Our nation is still doing victory laps from the Cold War; looking for the next big thing. We found that big thing in the Gulf War that Bush Sr. Lead, and that set us up for Junior’s attempt to finish dad’s job. Despite the disaster of Iraq, the nation is still looking for its next victory fix. How else to explain Barack Obama’s blundering into Libya? A person as naturally conservative, and cautious, as Obama is should had never charged into Libya. But the “do something” interventionist mind set of the chattering class, combined with the “can do” attitude of the military, lead Obama to career into the forth war of choice in eleven years. Thus, Obama now must keep watch on the boiling cauldrons of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Pakistan lest he burn down the kitchen.
While Obama’s fecklessness in Libya is gob-smacking in its incompetence, it is his Pakistan Policy that really illustrates how the Web Of War distorts our policies. Obama is gayly shredding the national integrity of Pakistan. He is treating Pakistani sovereignty like a door mat. The snatch, shoot, and dump of OBL was insult to the government and people of Pakistan. What is worse, it was only the most dramatic example of our disregard for the nation of Pakistan. More mundane violations occur almost daily. Our drones blow up bad guys and bystanders in Pakistan with depressing regularity. We get away with this because we can bribe the military in Pakistan, and because we have the equipment.
The Web Of War created the Predator Drone. The Web Of War helped to create the mind-set that allows Obama, and others, to use the Predator without much thought of the long term consequences. The Web Of War creates the “collateral damage” that infuriates the restive citizens of Pakistan, further destabilizing an unsteady regime. I shudder to think of what the eventual payback for our illegitimate behavior in Pakistan will be. Will a loose Pakistani nuke “accidentally” end up vaporizing a U.S city? The controls on Pakistani nukes are slip sod even in the best of cases; what if rouge elements of the ISI looked the other way if Pakistani Islamists attempt to pay back the great Satan? That may be one too many ifs, but the terror visited on Pakistanis will be payed back in terror on US soil.
While nuclear terrorism is the most unlikely of outcomes, our nation is already being damaged by the Web Of War. In both domestic and foreign affairs our nation is being badly warped by the considerations of hegemony. Our ever expanding police actions are an acid eating away at the base of democracy. A republic cannot survive a state of perpetual war. Such a state of unending war certainly killed off the ancient Roman Republic. Unfortunately there are more than a few special interests that would have no problem with the death of the U.S. Democratic Republic.
Democracy weakens while authoritarianism grows apace. We are hocking our safety net and our public space to continue to support the addiction of hegemony. Our infrastructure is falling apart while we spend inordinate amounts of money on gilded weapons system designed to fight the vaguest of enemies. Meanwhile, asymmetrical warriors continue cause our military constant embarrassment. Meanwhile, our real economy rots from within. Meanwhile, the US continues a very real, and very painful relative decline in power. We are lost in the Web Of War, it is past time to cut it down to size.