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.