FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Defense Cuts Hysteria

Over the last five years, we’ve spent money on the military – in real, inflation adjusted dollars – at a higher rate than at any other time since World War II. That includes the late 1960s, when the United States simultaneously faced a competitor with 10,000 nuclear weapons and sent a half million troops to Vietnam. The Pentagon is spending recklessly at a time of fiscal crisis when America’s debt has been downgraded for the first time since formal credit ratings began in 1917.

Yet the Washington Post has joined the hucksters of the military-industrial complex in forecasting imminent doom if one cent is cut from Pentagon budgets. Supposedly, the Defense Department has already cut $465 billion from its budget, and further cuts would be ruinous. But those $465 billion in cuts are fake, mostly paper “savings” pocketed by the president from adjustments to unrealistic past projections of the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and from other baseline manipulations.

Despite what Secretaries Gates and Panetta have claimed, the DOD budget has been, next to the Bush tax cuts, the single greatest contributor to the drastic swing from surplus to deficit since 2001. Including debt service costs, the wars have cost about $1.7 trillion. Additionally, the Pentagon has spent about $1 trillion above inflation on its non-war budget. Adding debt service makes that about $1.3 trillion, for a grand total of roughly $3 trillion added to the debt, courtesy of DOD.

As for the military’s doom-saying, such rhetoric has been standard procedure for service chiefs testifying to Congress for at least the past three decades that I served as a congressional staff member. Deliberate threat inflation, such as the hyperbolic overestimation of Soviet military capabilities in the 1980s, was the genesis of serious intelligence failures and billions wasted on weapons designed for imaginary threats.

China-as-military-threat is now in vogue at the Pentagon and in Congress. There is a threat, but it comes not from the rust-bucket aircraft carrier China bought from Russia. China now owns about one trillion dollars in U.S. Treasury securities – 36 per cent of all foreign holdings. According to the IMF, China is poised to pass the U.S. in gross domestic product by 2016. That is the real threat we face, not death rays and stealth air fleets. If you want to gaze upon the threat China poses, not because of any inherent evil on its part, but because of our own tax policy, spending priorities, “free” trade ideology, and general indifference of our elites, go to Youngstown, or Toledo, or some other post-industrial wasteland.

The U.S. spends about as much on its military as all other countries in the world combined. It could shave a trillion off a projected $6.1 trillion in spending over the next decade and still be miles ahead of the next power or any conceivable combination of powers.

But what about another 9/11, ask the Cassandras? In 2001, the U.S. already spent as much on its military as everyone else in the world, but that was irrelevant to preventing 9/11. That disaster was an intelligence failure: a failure of our intelligence agencies to some degree, but even more a failure of the cognitive intelligence and good judgment of our elected so-called leaders.

The Post cites figures from biased DOD-funded sources (think tanks, trade associations, contractors) claiming that a million jobs would be lost. But national defense is not supposed to be a jobs program, and in any case, if creating publicly-funded employment were the objective, a dollar spent on infrastructure would produce more jobs than a dollar spent on the military.

The United States is now a bloated military empire on the cusp of economic decline. Historically, the danger in such cases is that when the fiscal stability of the empire begins to weaken, the governing elites double down on the very policies of military profligacy that caused the fiscal crisis in the first place.

History is littered with powers that followed this ruinous path: the Spanish Empire, the Dutch Republic, the British Empire, and the Soviet Union. Chest-pounding rhetoric to the contrary, our military policies of the last decade have left us less prosperous, less secure, and less free. A course correction is desperately needed, regardless of what entrenched Beltway elites like the editorial board of The Washington Post think.

MIKE LOFGREN retired in June 2011 after 28 years as a Congressional staffer. He served 16 years as a professional staff member on the Republican staff of the House and Senate Budget Committees.

Exclusively in the New Print Issue of CounterPunch

THE SLOW DEATH OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH – Nancy Scheper-Hughes on Clerical Sex Abuse and the Vatican. PLUS Fred Gardner on Obama’s Policy on Marijuana and the Reform Leaders’ Misleading Spin.  SUBSCRIBE NOW

Order your subscription today and get
CounterPunch by email for only $35 per year.

More articles by:

December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail