The Hidden Assumptions in Gate's Military Budget

 

In his final address to the nation, Military-Industrial Complex Speech, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961, Eisenhower pointed to the power of the military industrial complex which even then was playing an increasingly dominant role in defining American politics. (emphasis mine).

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. 

The present discussion over Gate's proposed military budget shows how far we have come since then in accepting the existence of the military industrial complex as a given in any national debate. The discussion centers on the question of implementation of the policy and the implications of any cuts for the economy. The dirty little secret hidden in the national attic is the unspoken reality that it is military spending that sustains the real economy.

The NY Times analysis sets the stage for the discussion Gates’s Cuts to an Array of Weapons Bring a Fight .

Members of Congress and advocates for the armed services pushed back on Tuesday against Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’s plans to pare billions of dollars from a variety of Pentagon weapons systems, but others said that the cuts were prudent and that fights over them would be limited to several leading programs.

Military analysts said the biggest lobbying campaigns would be focused on Mr. Gates’s proposed cutbacks in the F-22, the advanced stealth fighter that critics call a relic of the cold war, as well as his trimming of the Army’s $160 billion modernization project, called the Future Combat Systems.

Members of Congress from Georgia and Oklahoma, where the jet and the Army project mean jobs, promised a fight. The arguments, which were frequently directed by Republicans against one of their own — Mr. Gates, one of two Republicans in President Obama’s cabinet — were cast in terms of national security and moral responsibility.

 After WWII a national consensus was created to keep military production in high gear in order to prevent the economy from again sinking into depression. Rather than face down the Conservative opposition to the New Deal, liberals and the trade unions accepted the compromise and the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned against was created. With it came the permanent war economy and a re-definition of the US national mission as an imperialist power.

President Obama has yet to challenge this vision although he has criticized its implementation (most notably in his opposition to the war in Iraq.)  He seems to be supporting a modernized army that will take on the tasks of 21st century warfare and not be mired in 20th century tactics.

The new army that Sec'y Gates' proposals (presumably with the President's approval) forshadow sounds strangely like something out of Star Wars. James Vlahos discusses what the new robotic army war games, might look like in Popular Science. The Future of the Military -- Perhaps www.popsci.com/military-aviation-amp-space/article/2009-04/future-military

Wall-E went to Iraq.

The small robot rolled out of the desert scrub into a village, paused between two houses, and then approached the closer one. His square head swiveled around, unblinking camera eyes surveying the structure. The sound of shuffling boots filled the air as six U.S. Army soldiers rushed in behind him, assault rifles drawn. Reaching the building he'd scoped, they took cover inside. The robot, meanwhile, whirred on tank treads to investigate the second house. The building had no door, and he rolled inside easily. The soldiers followed. Bang, bang! Gunfire erupted, and moments later the Americans emerged unscathed. The two insurgents inside the house weren't as lucky

One of the elements that the Gates proposal appears to assume is that the Bush/Cheney policy of reliance on special forces is going to be extend rather than cut back or eliminated entirely (what I believe should be done). Despite the President's stated commitment to end torture of prisoners, he does not seem to be unravelling the secret government apparatus which condoned torture along with many other operations in violation of international law:

What is not being debated is whether or not the United States should continue to pursue special forces operation that include sending assassination squads to foreign countries (see: Seymour Hersh: Secret U.S. Forces Carried Out Assassinations in 'a Lot of' Countries, Including in Latin America for background ) but this is not the case. Gates budget calls for more money for special force operations and new smaller ships to be built that can be used as back up for these operations. Spencer Ackerman has a good summary of this in the Washington Independant:

…Gates will pour $11 billion into increasing the number of troops in the Army and Marines while halting manpower reductions in the Air Force and the Navy. $2 billion will go towards increasing the number of drones and manned surveillance planes in the skies above Afghanistan and Iraq. Special forces troops will grow by five percent, or 2,800 commandos.

America will still build new ships and fighter jets. But they’ll be less expensive, and come in greater numbers. Production of the Joint Strike Fighter will ramp up to 30 planes next year, from 14 in 2009. Three Littoral Combat Ships — reconfigurable vessels, built for shoreline combat — will be purchased, under Gates’ plan. $900 million will go to proven anti-missile projects.

As should be obvious, my contention is that the unholy post-WWII compromise between progressives and conservatives must be ended. The mission of the United States should not be that of World Policeman or Number One Super Power. Our purported aims to defend the "Free World" have always been a sham and a shame. It was not the particular programs (some better, some worse; some successful, some not) of Roosevelt's New Deal that were in crucial  but his vision for mankind embodied in the Four Freedoms. The US economy must be rebuilt as an engine for peaceful global development. That is the unfinished business of the New Deal foreshadowed by Roosevelt's vision of the future.

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world. 

The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor -- anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called "new order" of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

To that new order we oppose the greater conception -- the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.

Since the beginning of our American history we have been engaged in change, in a perpetual, peaceful revolution, a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly, adjusting itself to changing conditions without the concentration camp or the quicklime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.

This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women, and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights and keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.

 

 

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The military industrial complex, and particularly the use of contract mercenaries, is developing a twisted logic of its own that promotes war in the name of security, self-defense, national interest, or whatever else will sell.  In the interview I heard yesterday with Secretary Gates on his proposed military budget,  the third question was how can we cut military spending when that means a loss of jobs?  Gates' response was that the new technologies that will be on order will actually create more jobs than will be lost.   Pork barrel defense spending is nothing new -- but when we are spending to build ICBMs and B-52 bombers the chances are relatively low that we will actually be using them.  Now we are spending to create mobile, on the ground forces to fight "insurgencies", "terrorists", "brushfire wars."  These forces and weapons are much more likely to be used. 

The Israeli army recent attack on Gaza is a good example.  Israel has become a leader in drone technology -- capable now of producing drones little larger than insect size.  Survivor testimony in Gaza is replete with instances of women and children targeted by drone launched missiles.  Israeli soldiers themselves have been quoted in the press  saying that any person on a roof top was designated as a legitimate target for snipers and drones.  Gaza appears to have been a proving ground for the use of drone technology.

The U.S. has, according to the LA Times (3/22/09), been using contractors to control drones in attacks inside Pakistan. 

A prize will be offered to the first reader who finds a defense contractor lobbying for negotiations rather than military response.   As more and more of U.S. military activity falls into the hands of contractors, the war lobby grows. 

I have read somewhere that a next generation of robots will have more freedom in determining their targets. I'm waiting for one to come in through my window one of these days.

carol

Who may be implicit in referencing "military-industrial complex".  But that leaves unmentioned, the unconscious allowance of one of the most critical elements of the complex that undermines democratic rule, in these United States.

For it's by way of lobbyists that a short-circuit effects the reality that we are encouraged to continue believing that we're a democracy --hey, we just cast the most important vote in half a century, right?-- but it's the owners of the lobbied interests who actually run our government.

 

 

 

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"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." - Thomas Jefferson

Politico ran a story this morning about what they called the "first" war games to involve hedge fund managers and bankers and stuff at the Johns Hopkins Physics Lab in Maryland in the middle of March. They were gaming out various economic and financial scenarios premissed on a kind of 5-power view of the world US, Russia,China, East Asia and all others. Interestingly, China tended to come out on top in this kind of game because the US and Russia spent so much time taking on each other.

Yeah, someone will mention the "reset" button. But look at the mix of countries/regions. Remember the story of Van Riper and the Gulf War? There are a number of versions, here's one from the UK Guardian. Van Riper was also featured in Malcolm Gladwell's best seller "blink". On page 107-108 of the paper back edition there's a story about Van Riper going to Wall Street,playing war games with the traders, and then collecting up a bunch and taking them to the military facilities on Governor's island to play war games on the military's computers. Anyway, what Van Riper did was something that wasn't supposed to happen.

Willem Buiter published a speculative type of thought piece this morning about the Fed's credit swaps. It may be that there's stuff going on among "all others" which could make a mockery out of another round of great power gamesmanship as it has so often before, because as Van Riper showed there are always alternatives to playing the same old great power game.

The key to a "new moral order" is to infuse tons of money into education, rev up our powerful entertainment industry to promote the machismo of intellectual enlightenment over the stupidity of violence, and to treat people who expose our young people to violence in the same way that we treat sexual predators. We are much too tolerant of violence in this society. While we treat a person who would expose our young people to pornography with horrific disgust, we treat exposing them to murder and mayhem as a matter freedom of expression. There’s something wrong with that very, very shortsighted in that mindset.

Eric L. Wattree
wattree.blogspot.com

Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everybody who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

 Here's some additional stuff to look at:

Click the image for the official site:

John Cusack's "War, Inc."

Some additional insights -- Cusack on his interview with Naomi Klein, Blackwater, and stuff:

HuffPost Exclusive: My Interview with Naomi Klein

Calling Things What They Are: More From My Conversation with Naomi Klein

More items:

And a quote:

"War is a racket." -- Smedley Butler

We need more people to understand that a strong military and a strong national infrastructure can be far more than simply an empire-creating machine. We've already seen how that crap falls apart -- and the past 30+ years haven't really shown us making any headway on the issue. Too many people are in positions to benefit from it.

But let's not overlook the people who are victims of the present hegemonist imperial policies that are wreaking global as well as domestic havoc.

carol

Reading Klein one rarely got the sense that there actually IS a crisis going on, rather that everything is grist for the disaster mill that is what she chooses to call "capitalism".

Debt?

Interest extorted by usurious methods out of the hides of those who can't pay?

It all seems like interlocking corporate directors and so on.

Taleb has a great example for this stuff in his Black Swan.

Here's an ice-cube on a wooden table, you know it is going to melt, predict the spread of the water. That is more or less doable.

Now do the reverse, here's a puddle of water, reconstruct the ice cube.

What the historian is doing is trying to reconstruct the ice cube and project the future from it. Can't be done. Try reading Taleb, it is enjoyable and valuable for people who were interested in pricing tail.

Ignorant Army Chief of Chaplains Proclaims Day of Fasting for First Day of Passover

Maj. Gen. Douglas Carver, the Army's Chief of Chaplains, has managed to piss off quite a few Jewish soldiers, as well as many other Jewish Americans. In a grand display of his disregard and ignorance of faiths other than his own, Carver, a Southern Baptist, issued a proclamation declaring April 8 a day of prayer and fasting for the U.S. Army. The problem with declaring this day of FASTING, besides the fact that Carver has no authority to issue such a proclamation? Carver chose April 8, the first day of Passover, the observance of which includes a whole lot of EATING!

carol