Trump’s New Era of Militarism and Mendacity

There is no better introduction to the militarism and callousness of the Trump era than the budget proposal for 2018.  Much has been written about the miserly cuts to Meals on Wheels, housing aid, and other community assistance, but it’s just as important to examine the unjustified and unnecessary increases in defense spending.  The Trump budget is clearly designed to enable another cycle of militarized national security policy and, in the words of Steve Bannon, to “deconstruct the administrative state.”

In April 1953, soon after the death of Joseph Stalin, President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his “cross of Iron” speech, warning against “destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without.”  Eisenhower wanted to avoid the enormous domestic price that would accompany unwarranted military spending.  And military spending, he emphasized, meant “spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”  This is exactly what Trump is calling for in a federal budget that takes direct aim at scientific and medical research, the endowments for the arts and humanities, and the block grants for food and housing support.  Even the Department of Energy’s tiny program to help insulate the houses of the poor would be eliminated.

Meanwhile, the over-financed military will received an increase of $54 billion, which is equal to the former budget of the Department of State as well as the entire defense budget of Russia.  Defense spending and procurement should be linked to actual threats to the United States, which faces no existential threat.  If this were done, Trump’s administration would have to take into account that the United States is the only whitleblowerciacountry in the world with a global military presence that can project air and naval power to every far corner.  The Russian navy is an operational backwater, and the Chinese navy is a regional one, not global.  There is no air force to rival the U.S. Air Force, and no other country has huge military bases the world over or even access to countless ports and anchorages.  As a result, no other country has used lethal military power so often and so far from its borders in pursuit of dubious security interests.

The sad reality is that every aspect of the Pentagon’s budget, including research and development, procurement, operations and maintenance, and infrastructure, could be scrutinized for additional savings.  The excessive spending on the Air Force is the most wasteful of all military expenditures.  The Air Force is obsessed with fighter superiority in an era without a threat.  The Air Force has not been threatened by air power since the end of the Second World War, and the U.S. Air Force holds an advantage over any combination of air powers.  There was no adversary for the F-22, the world’s most effective and lethal air-to-air combat aircraft, but the program was killed in 2011 to make way for the more costly and contentious F-35, the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program.  Even Senator John McCain (R-AZ) referred to the program as a “train wreck.”

As with the Air Force and its dominance of the skies, the Navy has had total dominance at sea since the end of the Second World War.  Even the chief of naval operations concedes that the United States enjoys a “degree of overmatch [with any potential adversary] that is extraordinary.”  The Navy has its own air force, its own army, and its own strategic weapons, and it is equal in size to all the navies of the world combined.  The Navy has a subordinate organization, the Coast Guard, which represents the world’s seventh-largest fleet.  Second to the F-35 nightmare is the worst-case costs for the next generation of aircraft carriers, which Donald Trump inadvertently highlighted when he toured the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy’s most expensive warship at $14 billion.  China’s success with inexpensive anti-ship missiles questions the strategic suitability of U.S. aircraft carriers.

The very existence of the Marine Corps, which has more planes, ships, armored vehicles, and personnel than the entire British military, is questionable.  The Marines have not conducted an amphibious landing in 65 years, and there is no other nation in the world that has such a Corps in terms of numbers and capabilities.  The Marines’ V-22 Osprey, a futuristic vertical takeoff and landing hybrid aircraft is neither reliable nor safe, and even President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney tried to kill the program 25 years ago.  The Marine version of the F-35, with an expensive and unwieldy vertical take-off and landing program, should be canceled.

The budget proposal does not address how the Pentagon would spend its latest windfall, but surely there will be unneeded increases for our huge nuclear force, which could be significantly reduced.  Other nuclear powers such as Britain, France, China, and even Israel, India, and Pakistan, believe that 200-300 nuclear weapons are sufficient for deterrence.  Several years ago two U.S. Air Force officers wrote an authoritative essay that pointed specifically to 331 nuclear weapons as providing an assured deterrence capability.  But Russia and the United States have thousands of warheads; Russian President Vladimir wants to cut the inventory, but Donald Trump wants to keep building.  Trump had to interrupt a phone call with Putin last month in order to learn about the New START Treaty that the Kremlin would like to use as a stepping stone to a round of deeper cuts in the U.S. and Russian arsenals.  Trump was uninterested.

President Eisenhower was spot-on in describing the social costs of defense spending and in warning that “humanity was hanging from a cross of iron.”  In view of the counterproductive use of U.S. military power over the past two decades in North Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia, cutting the defense budget would be a realistic way to begin to reduce the operational tempo of the U.S. military, control the deficit, and reorder U.S. priorities.  The United States is in an arms race with itself; it must be stopped.

More articles by:

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. His latest book is A Whistleblower at the CIA. (City Lights Publishers, 2017).  Goodman is the national security columnist for counterpunch.org.

March 22, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Italy, Germany and the EU’s Future
David Rosen
The Further Adventures of the President and the Porn Star
Gary Leupp
Trump, the Crown Prince and the Whole Ugly Big Picture
The Hudson Report
Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons and Debt in Antiquity
Steve Martinot
The Properties of Property
Binoy Kampmark
Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Surveillance Capitalism
Jeff Berg
Russian to Judgment
Gregory Barrett
POSSESSED! Europe’s American Demon Must Be Exorcised
Robby Sherwin
What Do We Do About Facebook?
Sam Husseini
Trump Spokesperson Commemorates Invading Iraq by Claiming U.S. Doesn’t Dictate to Other Countries; State Dept. Defends Invasion
Rob Okun
Students: Time is Ripe to Add Gender to Gun Debate
Michael Barker
Tory Profiteering in Russia and Putin’s Debt of Gratitude
March 21, 2018
Paul Street
Time is Running Out: Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy from the American Oligarchy?
Mel Goodman
The Great Myth of the So-Called “Adults in the Room”
Chris Floyd
Stumbling Blocks: Tim Kaine and the Bipartisan Abettors of Atrocity
Eric Draitser
The Political Repression of the Radical Left in Crimea
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan Threatens Wider War Against the Kurds
John Steppling
It is Us
Thomas Knapp
Death Penalty for Drug Dealers? Be Careful What You Wish for, President Trump
Manuel García, Jr.
Why I Am a Leftist (Vietnam War)
Isaac Christiansen
A Left Critique of Russiagate
Howard Gregory
The Unemployment Rate is an Inadequate Reporter of U.S. Economic Health
Ramzy Baroud
Who Wants to Kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?
Roy Morrison
Trouble Ahead: The Trump Administration at Home and Abroad
Roger Hayden
Too Many Dead Grizzlies
George Wuerthner
The Lessons of the Battle to Save the Ancient Forests of French Pete
Binoy Kampmark
Fictional Free Trade and Permanent Protectionism: Donald Trump’s Economic Orthodoxy
Rivera Sun
Think Outside the Protest Box
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
John Pilger
Skripal Case: a Carefully-Constructed Drama?
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us