Guns or Butter: Neocons Want More Weapons less Government Services
It is one of the great ironies that the United States, which is not actually threatened by any foreign power, maintains a ruinously expensive and globally destructive national security policy that is based on fear. It can be argued that Washington was at least briefly a force for stability and good governance in the aftermath of the Second World War when much of Europe and Asia were in ruins, but America’s interference in the internal politics of other nations has, most particularly in the past twenty years, borne bitter fruit. The argument being made that the U.S. national security mandates “forward defense” by maintaining a string of overseas bases and outdated alliances has been proven wrong again and again as allies have proven feckless and countries that would otherwise be friendly have chafed and then rebelled under America’s imposed leadership role.
President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned in 1961 about the developing military-industrial-complex (MIC), which he had originally dubbed the military-industrial-congressional complex before accepting that he would need legislative help if he were to reverse the seemingly inexorable spending on weapons and expansion of overseas military bases. In the event, Ike’s warning went unheeded and, more recently, the expected “peace dividend” that might have developed from the end of the Cold War in 1991 was wasted when the Clinton Administration recklessly enabled the looting of the former Soviet Union’s natural resources while also expanding the no longer needed NATO alliance up to the Russian border.
Many politicians and industrialists who directly benefit from the spending on the military are largely to blame for propagating the myth that the United States is vulnerable to enemy attack. One only has to recall the panic when Moscow launched a satellite into orbit in 1957 and then there was the essentially fraudulent “Soviet Estimate” by the intelligence community which persisted in overrating Russian military capabilities and the strength of the Soviet Union’s economy. Having a powerful enemy was a sine qua non for those who wished to profit from “defense” spending.
The situation currently is somewhat different than that which prevailed during most of the post-World War 2 era. To be sure, the spending on weapons has continued at a ruinous level but the enemy has changed. Russia is back as a major threat due to the seemingly endless investigations into the 2016 election that have been dubbed “Russiagate,” but it has been joined by China, which is being seen at the major “over the horizon” enemy. And there is also the ubiquitous non-state player “Islamic terrorism” as well as Iran for good measure to keep the money flowing.
It would not be completely fatuous to suggest that the list of all of America’s presumed enemies is at least somewhat contrived. And it is also important to note that the identification of enemies for most Americans depends on the mainstream media, which is now closely linked to corporate and government interests so as to be incapable of independent inquiry or investigation. The impact of a tame media is significant: during the Vietnam War the press was highly critical and hammered the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration. Since then, reporters are embedded and the stories they are allowed to write, are generally puff pieces because to report the truth would make them lose their access.
A recent article that appeared in The Washington Post perfectly illustrates how the newspaper is selling a product that fearmongers to sustain more military spending. It is entitled Wake up. America’s military isn’t invincible, written by regular columnist Robert J. Samuelson.
The article begins with “The most uncovered story in Washington these days is the loss of U.S. military power — a lesson particularly important in light of recent events: the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis; President Trump’s rash decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria; North Korea’s announcement that it will keep nuclear weapons after all; and alleged massive computer hacking by Chinese nationals.”
Now, right off the bat, Samuelson’s argument can be challenged. “Loss of U.S. military power” if it can be quantified at all has nothing to do with Mattis or Syria, nor with North Korea or China. Or even with Donald Trump, who has increased the armed services budget, though one should presume that the president is the ultimate target of the article given that it has appeared in the Post.
Samuelson makes his case by citing defense modernization programs in China and Russia and “advances” in Iran and North Korea that undercut U.S. military capabilities. He refers to a recent report of the congressional National Defense Strategy Commission (NDSC), which identifies specific areas in which Russia and China have upgraded their capabilities and quotes “If the United States had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in a war over Taiwan . . . Americans could face a decisive military defeat.” The report concludes that “America has reached the point of a full-blown national security crisis.”
The possible armed conflicts cited by Samuelson are, of course, carefully chosen to produce a desired result. Confronting Russia or China in their home waters thousands of miles away from the U.S. gives all the advantage to the defense, which will be able to operate on interior lines and maximize available land, sea, and air forces. And the NDSC report itself is suspect, designed to promote a certain point of view. Its authors are top heavy with retired senior military officers and defense industry “experts” who have a personal interest in more spending on weapons.
Samuelson also cites fellow Post columnist Max Boot, writing that he had “done a great favor by publicizing the report.” He quotes Boot: “Air superiority, which the United States has taken for granted since World War II, is no longer assured. And, without control of the skies, U.S. ships and soldiers would be [highly] vulnerable.” Boot, sometimes referred to as the Man Who Has Never Been Right About Anything is, of course, a neocon mouthpiece who is in favor of war all the time and nearly everywhere, particularly if Israel is involved. He characteristically, like Samuelson, fancies himself as an expert on national security even though he has never served in the armed forces. His “air superiority” mantra is ridiculous as it would seem to suggest that the U.S. should be able to “control the skies” everywhere simultaneously, which is impossible. And he ignores the fact that the United States uniquely has 19 aircraft carriers which can project air power to anywhere in the world.
Samuelson goes on to condemn what he calls “unwise cuts in defense spending” and cites a 12% decline in spending on the military between 2010 and 2015 as well as a decline in the “defense” share of the GDP from 1960 until 2017. Both figures come from the NDSC report. He does not, however, mention that the current defense budget is larger than the military spending of the next eight countries combined, to include both China and Russia.
Samuelson, doing a great impersonation of ex-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, blames the lack of money for the Pentagon on “the American welfare state — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and the like.” He advocates cutting “welfare” to buy more and better weapons. He then goes on to liken the current situation to that existing before World War 2, when Adolph Hitler’s Germany rearmed while England and France did nothing. The analogy is not exactly correct as, when war broke out, France alone fielded an army greater than Germany’s, but it always reassuring to have Hitler cited yet again in a neocon op-ed.
Samuelson concludes with the obligatory slap at Trump: “We need to keep our commitments — Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from Syria devalues our word. And we need to repair our alliances,” but one might well opine that there is something seriously wrong with that kind of thinking, where guns always take precedence over butter. Government exists to benefit the citizens that together make up the state, not to meddle in the affairs of other nations and peoples worldwide.
The selling of America the All-Powerful is a bit of a con job promoted by neocons like Samuelson and Boot but we do not need to send tens of thousands of young Americans overseas to give “value to our word.” We do not need to enter into pointless wars in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. We do need an America that is at peace with itself and which is willing to be strong and brave enough to realize that real security will come when the United States is no longer the world’s designated bully. Let’s consider a New Year’s wish to see a 2019 where the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen finally come home and where scribblers like Samuelson and Boot find themselves unemployed.
By Philip Giraldi, Ph.D.,
Source: American Herald Tribune