The 2021 Defense Budget is making its way through Congress. The annual drama of this event has always been of particular interest to residents of the north Pacific Coast, as the US Navy’s nursery lies only twelve miles off our coast. This is where many of the weapons purchased by Congress take their first baby steps of testing and training before deployment. As a requirement for approval of the Navy’s Environmental Impact Statement regarding these exercises, the Navy must consult us every few years. This opportunity to confront Navy personnel has provided an opportunity to become acquainted with the environmental effects of these weapons, and, just as importantly, the menace their ever-increasing lethality constitutes for life on earth.
I watched some of the Armed Services Committee hearings on the budget. Generals and other military representatives were visibly pleased with their new product. As Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, observed, “The character of war is changing frequency”.
The messy, scrappy, unsatisfying, asymmetrical wars in the devastated Middle East have lost the interest of our warriors, as two worthier adversaries, China and Russia, have been conjured up, and now grip their attention. Although our budget comprises over 40% of the world’s military spending, and China and Russia spend respectively one-sixth and one-tenth of ours, the Pentagon refers to them generously as “near-peers”.
China and Russia are not eager for these roles. We have had to torment them, like reluctant bulls in a bullfight. We sail our warships within twelve miles of their shores, conducting vast military exercises in the South China Sea, the Black Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Japan Sea.
Thousands of US troops marched across Europe this spring to perform military exercises along Russia’s borders. Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyers, with aerial escort, performed maneuvers this May, close to the Russian coast in the Barents Sea, to enforce “freedom of navigation”.
We slander these two nations in our media, and impose sanctions, challenging them to respond. Trump’s assertion that “we live in a hostile world of evolving threats” neglects to mention that we ourselves provoke those threats.
But the National Defense Strategy demands “full-spectrum dominance”. This requires absolute control, e.g. military superiority on land, at sea, in the air and in outer space. Therefore, in anticipation of a “high-end” war with these “near-peers”, an exciting upgrade of our arsenals will be required.
In preparation for seizing this dominance, in spite of entreaties from the UN, allies, and Russia and China themselves, we have withdrawn from multiple treaties: the Iran Nuclear Deal(2018), the UN Human Rights Council (2018) the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty(INF 2019), and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (2020).
We will break the Open Skies Treaty in six months and are planning to allow the START treaty to expire in 2021.
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 has been broken, in spirit at least, by the creation of the Space Force. VP Pence refused to say whether or not we will deploy nukes in space, which would be an explicit violation.
According to the President, “if you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time.. it is not enough to have American presence in space, we must have dominance in space, …the ultimate high ground.”
Treaties stand in the way of freedom of action.
We are bent on an ambitious and aggressive upgrade of existing weapons systems, and will purchase tantalizing new technology: hypersonic weapons capable of speeds of 15,000 mph , awe-inspiring artificial intelligence, autonomous systems and platforms, 5G, nuclear upgrades including “low yield” nuclear weapons, dramatic advances in cyberspace, and microelectronics which operate more swiftly by many orders of magnitude. For outer space, we have developed, in President Trump’s words at the unveiling of the Space Flag ceremony, “some of the most incredible weapons anyone has ever seen”.
Defense Secretary Mike Esper is especially enthusiastic about unmanned surface and subsurface vessels, some mounted with guns, some with cross-domain capacity for air, land, sea and undersea activities. Exercises employing unmanned killer robot surface combatants, swarms of which the Navy is eager to deploy, will likely take place off our coasts.
Both the House and the Senate Armed Services Committees were largely passive, even obsequious, during the hearings. There was small if any mention of the climate catastrophe ravaging the planet, and to which the US military contributes more greenhouse gas than all but 35 other entire nations. I heard no mention of the nation’s other desperate needs, or cuts required to fund the Pentagon requests: the Pentagon representatives declined to discuss policy, as it is the prerogative of the Defense Secretary.
The principal objection made by Adam Smith, Chair of the House Committee, regarding the budget, was that Pres. Trump was taking $7.2 billion out of it to build his wall. However, consensus was cheerfully reached, and congratulations were exchanged between the parties on their comfortable bipartisanship.
The 2020 military budget passed with only four senators and forty-eight representatives voting against.It would not even take the AUMF, which allows the executive complete freedom to launch an attack without Congressional approval, away from our unpredictable President.
Come Ye Masters of War.
The manner in which we treat other nations contains many of the same elements as the racism and violence which the demonstrations on our streets are denouncing. The US military has its knee on the throat of the world. We must vanquish this shape-shifting, Orwellian spectre with which our overlords ensnare us, with their lies of “they hate our freedoms”. Defund the Pentagon!
It would save millions of lives.