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- Hardcover: 447 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (1976)
Magnificent., June 3, 2007
By M. Harris (New Zealand) - See all my reviews
`On the psychology of military incompetence' is officially on the list of books that Army personnel aren't allowed to read, but since I was given this was a retired general, reading it seemed like the thing to do. I'm pleased I did.
To be frank, non-military personnel might not admire its sheer brilliant powers of deductive observation. As soon as I had read it I started to panic as I saw the caricatures played out around me. I then started to spot them in myself, and began to panic harder. I suspect this book is designed to give oneself (if you happen to be in the military) a bit of a fright, and to encourage introspection.
Anyway, it's a brilliant book that's simply chock-full of theories, explanations and uncomfortable questions. I think the uncomfortable questions are the most valuable, but you have to read for yourself to discover if you think the same. And you should read it - it should be required reading for Officer Cadets right up to Generals, and civilians should read it as well - after all, you're the ones ultimately in charge of us gun-slinging types, yes?
A serious look at a deadly problem, March 19, 2007
By In the Middle of the Road (Connecticut)
For most people, including most of today's amateur theorists on the events of the day, war is something akin to moving toy soldiers around. What they know of military matters is all too akin to cheering for a sports team. They want someone with a can do spirit and the willingness to charge into stiff resistance. Take that hill no matter what the cost. Fight to the death. A lot of horse manure.
War is a deadly business and there is probably no war in which incompetence was not afoot, whether in losing or in winning. Mix incompetence and a failure to understand the technology of war and you have WWI. The reality is that incompetence is as pervasive in the military as it is in the corporate world. And if we must fight wars, we should have a reasonable expectation tht the people who direct that effort have some idea of waht they are about. Dixon is concerned primarily with generalship.
I first read this when it was first published in the UK at least a couple of decades ago. It filled an important gap in the range of serious reading on both the military and organization behavior. As another reader notes, this is just organization behavior mil101.Most corporations are still organizing along military lines and that cuts through titles like team leader and associate. It is hard business to make it work right and too many times in the military, there is a failure of competence.
The fields o fhte world are littled with the remains of those who died through bad generals. Dixon reflects some of his own military experience in the British Army, including WWII, before he entered the Psychology field. There is a British emphasis, but the approach is generally and applies broadly to any military. And the examples he cites are among those that are studied deeply for implications. He covers the field from the intellectual capability of generals to a chapter that for the sake of review rules must be labeled as Bull droppings.
How do we deal with incompetent leadership? That is one of the questions Dixon addresses. It probably should be extended to political leaders given their power over warmaking.
In our day, we are assaulted with people who accuse their opponents of micromanaging war in Iraq. A decade or two from now, it may be somewhere else. But what we began doing in Vietnam was executive branch micromanaging and that was greatly expanded during the Iraq fiasco to the point that many left senior ranks. We look closely at our generals, but can we afford to go to war without understanding the competence gap that we might have in political leadership..
Irreverent, superbly written, interdisciplinary, enlightenin, September 29, 1998
By A Customer
Dixon is a former artillery officer, Sandhurst graduate, and self-described authoritarian personality, who left the Army and became a clinical psychologist. He uses both sets of experiences to analyze why officers in armies throughout history--mostly British, but the principles are generally applicable--have fallen into a stereotypical pattern of incompetence specific to senior military leaders. Much of the reason, he believes, derives from personality development, but the book is refreshingly devoid of psychobabble and is written in an astonishingly clear style. A real eye-opener, after which military history will not be quite the same to the reader again.
William Podmore (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Peter Galbraith, the first US Ambassador to Croatia, has written a scorching indictment of the US/British war in Iraq. He describes "an Administration too arrogant to listen to experts, so at war with its own State Department as to ignore its professional guidance, and ignorant or indifferent to international law."
He writes of Bush, "It isn't that he failed to consider some possible adverse consequences of the war, but rather that he missed all of them. ... Insurgency, civil war, Iranian strategic triumph, the breakup of Iraq, an independent Kurdistan, military quagmire."
The unfortunate British and American troops are not doing any good there. The occupation is not succeeding. As Galbraith notes, "The Iraq War has failed to serve a single major U.S. foreign policy objective. It has not made the United States safer; it has not advanced the war on terror; it has not made Iraq a stable state; it has not spread democracy to the Middle East; and it has not enhanced U.S. access to oil. ... A war undertaken in part to undermine Iran's Islamic republic has given Tehran its greatest strategic gain in four centuries."
Galbraith concludes, "No purpose is served by a prolonged American presence anywhere in Arab Iraq." As Dick Cheney rightly warned in 1993, "Now you can say, well, you should have gone to Baghdad and gotten Saddam, I don't think so. I think if we had done that we would have been bogged down there for a very long period of time with the real possibility we might not have succeeded." The occupation's presence is worsening the Iraqi people's suffering: it is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
So what should we do? Galbraith suggests that Britain and the USA should stop pretending that they can create a unified and democratic Iraq. He urges them to withdraw their troops and hand over control of Kurdistan to the Kurds, of the Sunni governorates to the Sunnis and of the Shia governorates to the Shia.
By Marc E. Nicholson (Washington, D.C.) - See all my reviewsA dispassionate but devastating analysis of a very passionate issue,
July 23, 2006
Topical books on controversial issues tend to inspire polemical reviews on this site, so in the interest of transparency, I should tell you where this reviewer comes from: I am a retired US diplomat, a lifelong Republican (though of late a former Republican, thanks to the current Administration), and was a strong supporter initially of the Iraq War. Now, to the book.
Peter Galbraith's core text is only 224 pages long, but it is packed with material, eminently readable, and amounts to the most devastating critique yet of the Bush Administration's policies in Iraq. It gains that stature first because Galbraith is an excellent writer (not unlike his late father, the economist John Kenneth Galbraith), and also because he has spent most of his life in the national security arena as a long-time Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer, U.S. Ambassador to Croatia during the Balkan wars, and a professor at the National War College. He brings from those life experiences a temperament to match, so this is a clear-eyed, balanced, tightly analytical and dispassionate account--not the kind of hysterical screed produced by those who so detest George Bush that their temper gets the better of their objectivity and saps their credibility. And it is just such objectivity (coupled with Galbraith's longtime experience of the region and acquaintance with many key players in Iraq and in the Administration) which makes his book all the more effective as an indictment.
Galbraith reviews the twenty-year see-saw (and often cynical) history of U.S. relations with Saddam's regime, provides the best and most strategic critique of the rationale (including the intelligence rationale) for the war which I have read, and writes a detailed (and often first-hand) account of the occupation up to the last several months which highlights the gross incompetence and lack of advance planning which cost America whatever chance it might have had in the immediate aftermath of victory to reshape Iraq in a manner most congenial to us.
His basic conclusions are that Iraq was a British post-WWI Frankenstein creation cobbled together from three antipathetic Ottoman provinces, and that it always has been held together only by autocratic force and carried the seeds of its own dissolution. The US invasion and US mis-management of the occupation have now irreversibly catalyzed that process of civil war and state disintegration into the three major ethnic/confessional groups (Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis). Galbraith argues that we are best off accepting that inevitability, rather than perpetuating--and participating in--a civil war through attempts to impose a strong unitary state rather than giving each group its own "space" as permitted under the new Iraqi constitution which allows major regional autonomy (virtual independece) and a weak central government.
Honest that he is, Galbraith clearly acknowledges the biggest problem such a course and American withdrawal could entail: major ethnic cleansing and a period of sharpened civil war and bloodshed in Baghdad and several other areas of mixed composition if/when the various confessional groups have to flee and regroup to seek safety in uniform religious communities. He accepts that outcome as distasteful but implies that it is inevitable whatever we do, so there's no point in having American troops in the middle. He also sees as inevitable a heavily Iranian-influenced Shiite region in Iraq, and highlights that as one of the worst failures of strategic foresight on the part of the Bush Administration when it made the decision to dismantle Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime.
I'm less sure of the inevitability of a broader civil war than Galbraith --- thus less skeptical that some continued American presence could make a positive and ameliorative difference. Also, one cannot help but suspect that his advocacy of regional autonomy (virtual independence) for the major contending groups in Iraq is at least partially inspired by his 20-year association with the Kurds and his heartfelt support for Kurdish nationalism.
Nonetheless, this book is powerfully and fairly argued and is one of the very best accounts, and probably the best short bird's eye account, thus far to come out of the Iraq War and occupation.
January 1, 2013 | The Future of Freedom Foundation
The American Way of War: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men, and a Republic in Peril by Eugene Jarecki (New York: Free Press, 2008); 336 pages.
Many supporters of Barack Obama are disappointed that he has not reversed the war policies of his predecessor. He did his best to continue the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The Afghanistan war rages far beyond what was seen under George W. Bush. Obama has also proved militaristic in operations in Libya, Yemen, and Pakistan, and in the sanctions against Iran. The attacks on civil liberties and human rights continue on the same path that Bush forged.
Obama gave indications early on that that would be his trajectory. He always promised to expand the Afghanistan war. He never vowed to cut and run from Iraq any faster than was established policy by the time Bush signed the Status of Forces Agreement in late 2008. As a U.S. senator, he voted to legalize Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, foreshadowing his future sellouts as president on the civil-liberties front.
Yet the reason for the continuity of militarism transcends anything that can be found in Obama himself. The sad truth is that Bush’s two terms were never quite the aberration that they were widely characterized as being. His neoconservative advisors were particularly belligerent in some avenues of foreign-policy theory, but they never represented a hard break from American traditions going back several generations.
On the eve of the Iraq war, Bush partisans joyously pointed out that Bill Clinton too had waged war, just as unilaterally, in Serbia less than four years before. They insisted that most of Bush’s policies at home and abroad had plenty of precedent. They were right.
Throughout American history we see many precursors for U.S. warmaking. Ever since World War I, the United States has maintained an active role in global affairs, at the cost of many thousands of American lives and many domestic freedoms. Two decades earlier, the United States was internationally belligerent in the 1898 war with Spain. Long before that, American warmaking had plenty of opportunities to show itself in the century between the Constitution’s adoption and the dawn of the Progressive Era — an invasion of Canada, war with Mexico, and Abraham Lincoln’s war against the South drenched the nineteenth century in statism and blood.
Executive secrets and conspiracy in World War II
Yet much more recently than any of those antecedents to the modern war machine, a major shift took place. And that was World War II, the “Good War,” the last clear-cut and most widely celebrated military victory enjoyed by the United States, the one to which liberals unfavorably compare Bush’s adventures and conservatives invoke as precedents for their own preferred war policies. It was in World War II that the U.S. warfare state blossomed into its modern form.
How fitting, then, that it is the event that marks the chronological beginning of Eugene Jarecki’s narrative in his exciting and compelling book, The American Way of War: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men, and a Republic in Peril. He sets up the story appropriately:
At first glance, George W. Bush, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the wars each presided over might seem to have little in common. Roosevelt is widely seen as a national hero who oversaw a military, moral, and leadership triumph; Bush is the reverse on all counts. Yet there are parallels to how each president guided America into conflict and transformed the country’s foreign policy profile. Before there was “a new Pearl Harbor,” there was the original.
That is a refreshingly insightful point. And while the allied war effort and the war on terror are seen as very different animals, especially by liberals, Jarecki notes the important similarities. First, there is that question of Pearl Harbor. “If Roosevelt had a Richard Perle,” the author writes, “it would have to have been Commander Arthur McCollum.” McCollum, a top naval officer who favored U.S. entry into World War II, formulated a memo describing eight policies the Roosevelt administration could pursue that would encourage Japan to initiate war. Roosevelt’s officials “understood long before Pearl Harbor … that without such an attack, America could not be put on a war footing.” In addition to McCollum there was War Secretary Henry Stimson, who wrote in his diary on November 25, 1941, “[The] question was how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.” Jarecki does not go so far as to completely adopt the revisionist line on Roosevelt’s possible foreknowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack, but he draws thoughtful attention to the major works — in particular, Robert Stinnett’s Day of Deceit (2000).
The immediate effect of the Pearl Harbor attack was U.S. entry into World War II, which introduced “increasing militarism into the nation’s daily life.” That cultural shift was actively advanced by Washington, which colluded with Hollywood and others to disseminate pro-war propaganda. The military encouraged Frank Capra to produce his Why We Fight series of films, which “cast America’s role in World War II in terms of the larger global conflict between freedom and slavery, light and dark, good and evil.”
The war also transformed American government from its essentially republican nature. While noting that Roosevelt had already expanded and abused presidential power with such antics as his New Deal court-packing scheme, Jarecki finds even greater aggrandizement of executive authority during the war, particularly in Executive Order 9066, which “resulted in the internment of 120,000 people of Japanese descent, roughly 60 percent of whom were American-born citizens.” Perhaps even bolder was “the secrecy with which the now infamous Manhattan Project was implemented” — “nothing on FDR’s watch was more challenging to the separation of powers.”
Harry Truman took over America’s nuclear “arsenal of democracy” upon Roosevelt’s death, and won the distinction as the first and so far only political leader to launch nuclear weapons against civilians. The author cites numerous U.S. leaders who looked upon the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as unnecessary and immoral. He gives fair attention to various theories why Truman dropped the bombs if they were not necessary, and without giving a definitive answer he notes,
From a foreign policy perspective, the use of the bombs killed two birds with one stone — ending the war with Japan while firing the first shot in the Cold War against the Soviet Union…. [The] bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are an extreme case of the kind of self-perpetuating militarism feared by the framers.
So Truman ended World War II and began the Cold War with an apocalyptic bang. What’s more, he framed the beginnings of America’s conflict with the Soviet Union in ways that changed America. The domino theory that gained ground in his administration had lasting effects on U.S. diplomacy and anti-communist concerns at home. It became “the foundation of his argument for a new U.S. foreign policy” as the Truman doctrine was forged in response to the threat of communist influence in Turkey and Greece. The new policy represented
a sea change, the most significant expansion of American foreign policy since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. Monroe had broadened America’s military mandate from self-defense to the defense of all free peoples in the western hemisphere. The Truman Doctrine went further, interpreting a threat to free people anywhere as a threat to America.
The late 1940s also featured a major rearrangement of power relations within the U.S. defense establishment. Authority shifted from the State Department to new authority centers in the Defense Department, the CIA, the National Security Council, and the newly created independent Air Force. Some of the changes were put in place by a Republican Congress determined to “reverse elements of FDR’s executive tilt.” Yet “while the State Department was surely weakened … — perhaps excessively — it would be hard to argue, sixty years later, that the effort to rein in the power of the executive has succeeded.”
Another failure of the Republicans to stem the imperialist tide came in the Eisenhower administration. While “departing from the traditional Republican isolationism” in his 1952 campaign, Eisenhower still represented a less-activist war policy than the two hyperinterventionist Democratic presidencies he followed. He feared that “in a determined effort to outproduce the Soviet Union, the United States had begun to spend a disproportionate amount on defense in comparison with other areas of its national life.” He was “repulsed by profligate spending on defense.” His withdrawal from Korea and introduction of the New Look policy showed a measure of restraint.” But it was also on Eisenhower’s watch that “the United States entered the era of covert activity,” with coups in Guatemala and Iran and a general expansion of CIA influence under its director, Allen Dulles.
Yet for most of the Cold War the CIA proved very limited in its supposed main activity, gathering intelligence:
It failed to predict the Soviet detonation of the atom bomb in 1949, the 1950 invasion of South Korea, popular uprisings in Eastern Europe during the 1950s, the placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962, the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the 1979 Iranian revolution and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, [and] the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union.
The so-called “bomber gap” and “missile gap” and other Cold War frauds are also discussed in The American Way of War, and there is a bit of discussion of Vietnam and other hot conflicts, although they are not the focus. All in all, Jarecki very nicely explores the new principal role of covert war in U.S. policy along with the general solidification of the permanent warfare state and military-industrial complex during the Cold War and its immediate “peacetime” aftermath, preparing the reader for the next major era of U.S. militarism.
A war of terror at home and abroad
It will always be important to understand the specific ways the Bush administration stretched executive power and built up the warfare state in the years following 9/11. Yet his national security policies followed the logic of previous excursions and institutional orientations.
While the neocons were champions of the somewhat novel foreign-policy philosophy behind Iraqi regime change, the operation represented militarily something more in line with establishment designs. Even the military tactics of the Bush years demonstrate both the continuity with and retreat from the past. Shock and Awe, the opening bombing campaign in Iraq in 2003, signaled the beginning of
a fulfillment of Eisenhower’s fears of runaway American militarism. Yet, to its planners, the opening strike seemed a natural extension of America’s expanding foreign policy role since World War II and of the technological advances made possible by the American way of war…. Despite the defense secretary’s apparent collaboration … there is no evidence from Rumsfeld’s history that he was inclined toward the kind of Pax Americana the neocons advocate. To him, [Shock and Awe] more narrowly represented the fulfillment of a technological military ideal, one that had emerged over the decades of his military-industrial career.
To the extent the Iraq war has symbolized a break from previous traditions, it has often been establishment voices condemning its betrayal of the limits of U.S. power. “Ultimately, the Iraq War’s descent from a technocrat’s fantasy of transformational war into a quagmire … has vindicated those who opposed Rumsfeld’s approach in the first place: General Shineki, General Schwarzkopf … General Franks.” The Iraq War’s hubristic goals coupled with poor planning and execution “undermined the very strategic precepts [the war] was meant to demonstrate.”
Other elements of Bush’s war on terror are defined by their building on older U.S. practices while deviating in important ways from past experience. The very doctrine of preemptive war was not completely new, except in the overtness of it all, which “departed from [American] traditions so brazenly [and] makes yesterday’s aberration today’s standard operating procedure.” This tendency was further seen in the administration’s flouting of “vital checks on its conduct of office” in handling intelligence running up to the Iraq war, and in its gross attacks on the separation of powers and civil liberties, in each case building on past precedents to break new ground in presidential prerogative.
Bush’s NSA wiretapping program was “a far-reaching attack” on both congressional and judicial authority with only a few parallels in the past, and although “past administrations have asserted [executive privilege] from time to time, the Bush administration has done so with unprecedented vigor.” Bush’s “firing of eight U.S. attorneys” in 2006 “represented both a politically motivated purge [and] a preemptive attack on the judicial system” — and although the administration’s “scorn for certain judges is not an altogether new phenomenon,” wrote former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’ Connor, “the breadth and intensity of rage currently being leveled at the judiciary may be unmatched in American history.”
On detention policy, although Bush is “not the first American president to [use an enemy-combatant doctrine], and although he was empowered by the precedents of Lincoln and Roosevelt, no administration has ever asserted more unilateral discretion over and to what extent the country will abide by the constitutional requirement to uphold the writ of habeas corpus.” In the whole discussion of a “balance” between liberty and executive-pursued security, the Bush administration leaned toward the latter, as is discussed in Jarecki’s fine treatment of the legal philosophy put forth by high Justice Department official John Yoo.
The Bush stance on national security — largely adopted by the Obama administration — raises two points that do not contradict one another but require nuance and balance to be understood in concert. First are the many ways the Bush years were not a retreat from past U.S. experience, the many ways that expansions of presidential power, deception, imperial muscle flexing, and a permanently influential defense establishment were entrenched American traditions for three generations before the planes hit the World Trade Center.
The second point is the key ways in which the Bush years built and expanded on past precedents and broke new ground. Although Bush was not the first imperial president, he was an important one in the history of the U.S. warfare state’s development. Jarecki tells this story very well, in exciting prose and with something of a fair mind given to both revisionist and official versions of U.S. diplomatic history. The American Way of War is a solid addition to the critical literature about U.S. wars and foreign policy since the 1940s.
November 22, 2011 | naked capitalism
Patrick L. Pellett:
I am also a former military serviceman and would like to offer a counter point to your assertion that any military coordinated action not to attack protesters would have to happen on a command level.Individual soldiers printing their own pamphlets and especially African American soldiers resisting in Vietnam forced the end of that conflict as command structures were breaking down.The entire military in Vietnam was on the verge of collapse.Its not a history many know about but it is true and was one of the main engines to end the war.
I have faith in my brothers and sisters in the military and once they understand their power as individuals things will change very quickly.This is how the Berlin Wall fell,soldiers deciding to stay connected to their humanity and not kill their fellow citizens.
I will close with the sermon of Bishop Romero the day before he was killed while giving mass.
“Brothers, you came from our own people. You are killing your own brothers. Any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God, which says, ‘Thou shalt not kill’. No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is high time you obeyed your consciences rather than sinful orders. The church cannot remain silent before such an abomination. …In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cry rises to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you: stop the repression”
The day following this speech, Archbishop Romero was murdered. — Archbishop Oscar Romero
First, he was only “calling” for a refusal to actively participate in violent repression.
Second, as you appear to be saying that we are already past the point of no return, i.e., in a state of de facto fascism wherein the military will “follow orders” no matter how wrong, then is it not every single individual’s first duty to refuse or otherwise oppose? Do we really want some version of a Hitler, because that’s where this is headed.
“Do we really want some version of a Hitler, because that’s where this is headed.” -
It’s already not too much different, instead of one individual, we have a few hundred working together and keeping each other in check. What we see on MSM is just theater.
I believe this is naive as well, although I cherish a hope that it is not. Our military has been indoctrinated since Vietnam in some very corrosive beliefs: the myths of American exceptionalism and that America is engaged in spreading and defending democracy around the world. The cult of technology and weaponry is a siren call for many. They have been trained to kill and been sent to wars where war deforms and traumatizes them. When they come home their needs for treatment and a job were and are largely unmet, even before the crisis. Some time back I read a piece by a writer who remarked that war fills some fighters with revulsion and a desire to never fight a war again, others with an increased lust for war such that they remain warriors or come home shattered and unable to function. I seem to remember he stated that it breaks down into thirds. He offered no research citations, however. I suspect a certain number will resist, the majority will not. Just as in the police, the military fulfills a personal psychological need, and often now not a healthy one. The military is a place where the cult of masculinity is very strong, as it is in the police forces of the country. Also, the military is a focus of the religious right who have taken over the chaplaincy with few dissenters and who have melded a ferocious nationalism with a deformed Christianity and therefore fundamentalism has made considerable inroads into the military. It is a place where sexual exploitation is routinely practiced and condoned, both among and between members and through administrative arrangements for the availability of prostitution in the surrounding communities around the world. Inasmuch as males are the plurality of members, they suffer the most sexual abuse, overwhelmingly from other males. Their abuse and the rampant abuse of female members is swept under the rug by fellow recruits, officers, and the military hierarchy, regardless of the periodical studies done by the Pentagon aimed at changing the culture. Sexual exploitation is a given in war. Some undoubtedly will change their allegiance but the example of the brutal assault by our president and military on Bradley Manning and others surely frightens many into acquiescence, however strongly they detest the oligarchy. However, there is a scenario that may bring more over time out from under the influence of the military and that is the inevitable failure of our military endeavors over time throughout the world. We have already failed in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places but are not facing it. Our leaders are pouring more and more money into the military and the national security state and the war on drugs and the war on terrorism. In time that will lead to break down at home and abroad. Because that also means a more authoritarian, punitive, repressive state, even then will they stay to put food in their mouths and a place to sleep at night and protection from death or incarceration, or will it lead to a realization of the evil they are doing at the behest of our leaders and a revolt against them? We shall see. Now and in future, we do and will need more than “good Germans.”
Shorter: The Army is a reflection of the country.
Standing armies are relatively recent in our history. In any event, militarism has infected the body politic since the birth of the National Security State after WWII (see Chalmers Johnson)and we are off the charts, so to speak. Yes, our social controls are quite effective, and there has been little or no need to impose overwhelming, military force domestically (let’s assume that legal constraints such as posse commitatus really aren’t constraints to State power (after all, POTUS can murder an American at his pleasure).
However, a perfect storm is upon us: environmental collapse, peak oil, and a global financial system drowned by debt. Desperate times, they will say. Hence, the writers justified concern about being asked to shoot Americans. It’s a real prospect. And that is tragic.
There are cycles of action and reaction between the 99%, what used to be called the masses, and the powers that be with increasing force: police, militarized police, National Guard, and regular military. What is interesting here is that our elites are already using militarized police against even non-violent protests. Each escalation of force brings short term gains to the authorities but undermines their overall legitimacy, that is while they win the battles they set themselves on a track to lose the war. The forces the elites use to repress begin to question whether making war against their fellow citizens is what they signed up for and critically whether they are on the right side. There will always be some who will stick by the status quo no matter what but many will not.
Cracks appear usually between low and mid-level service people on the one side and the top echelons which have been chosen for loyalty to the elites. The great fear in such organizations is a loss of cohesion. When there are defections and cohesion begins to break down, many higher level officers will militate for preserving their organization even at the expense of abandoning the current elites. That’s generally the history of these things. Other ideas are welcome.
I agree with the sentiment of the letter, but the Posse Comitatus Act ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posse_Comitatus_Act ) puts serious limits on the ability of any government officials to use Federal troops to “execute the law” in the US.
It isn’t to say someone won’t try (they have as recently as 2009). However, they will get slapped down hard by the courts after the fact. There are a few exceptions, such as open insurrection or the use of a nuclear/radiological weapon, but for the most part any government official including the President is prohibited from using troops against the people of the United States.
So as long as protests remain peaceful, legally they can’t employ US armed forces for much more than traffic control.
While it’s hard to imagine the need for a military deployment given how large and heavily militarized police forces are, that difficulty (imagining) evaporates once the enormity of the stakes become clear over the next few years. This is not “only” a financial crisis. This is the end of an historical epoch driven by the enormous superiority of Western technical/organizational power both economic and military. But as Gil Gamesh and a couple others alluded to, this crisis is fundamentally about having hit LIMITS. We grew billions of people from oil, and savaged the environment in the process. Now both sides of this mindless, consumptive stupidity are about to severely chomp our asses.
The US elite has determined that instead of acknowledging reality, it will beggar the rest of the world to maintain its own position. It it only a matter of time before Bernanke goes for broke trying to print another asset bubble. He will partially succeed, though most people now hurting will go on hurting. But when this final effort fails, and badly, that’s when we’re looking at major domestic conflict to go with on-going, and worsening, global conflict.
Which brings us back to how the military fits. I for one can readily see something akin to global civil war, or at least widespread, serious global civil strife. In the States, it could so, so easily take on a form that resonates with the Civil War. Just look at where the bases largely are. I can also easily imagine the military itself splitting.
To “pooh-pooh” such scenarios through some sort of belief in US “specialness” is well and truly blinkered.
I commmend this young man, am sure there are many more like him, and wish them all well in the rather dismal future that is to come.
The people I know who hate the crooked occupational government the most are combat veterans.
For some it takes a couple of tours but eventually everyone can see that the government is a tool of the 1% and they use people and then leave them stranded when they can’t be used any more.
Now the banking cabal is conspiring to steal veteran, widow and orphan pensions.
It is unlikely that any American armed forces will be involved in a domestic conflict. The idea is to keep them overseas, either on bases or in imperial wars, such as the upcoming one with Iran.
What I think is far more likely to take place is the involvement of one or both of these:
1. Involvement of private American mercenary corporations such as Blackwater, who would have no trouble shooting unarmed civilians.
2. Involvement of foreign forces, as was the case with the Saudi armed forces in Bahrain, earlier this year.
Recent United States military triumphs in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and against suspected international terrorists anywhere on the planet have evoked hallelujahs by politicians, the media, and the American people. Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and Anwar al-Awlaki are dead. Libya is no longer tyrannized by Gaddafi. Iraq has been emancipated from Saddam's villainies. Afghans are not oppressed by Taliban. And Pakistan and Yemen have not been overrun by international terrorists or Islamic extremists.
But to borrow from King Pyrrhus of Epirus after defeating the Romans in the Battle of Asculum, these so-called victories threaten the ruination of the United States. They established precedents, practices, and principles that vandalized the Constitution, crippled the rule of law, subverted individual liberty, generated new enemies, and drained trillions from the national treasury. If there are better ways to destroy the handiwork of the Founding Fathers, they do not readily come to mind.
President Obama commenced war against Libya to save civilian lives. But Congress did not authorize the war as required by Article I, section 8, clause 11 of the Constitution. And Congress did not appropriate funds for the war as required by Article I, section 9, clause 7. Obama embraced the counter-constitutional principle without congressional challenge that the President is empowered to initiate war against any nation, organization, or person on the planet to advance whatever he unilaterally ordains is a national interest. The President also flouted the War Powers Resolution of 1973 by failing to receive congressional authority to continue the Libyan war longer than 60 days with the Orwellian excuse that dropping bombs and firing missiles are not "hostilities"-- unless the United States is the target.
Obama's Libyan adventure has been wrongly portrayed as a gain for human rights or democracy abroad. To be sure, Gaddafi was a tyrannical wretch, but he was not the responsibility of the United States. His successors could be worse, and the United States is now saddled with moral responsibility for their accession to power.
Generally speaking, Libyan allegiances are to tribe, ethnicity, religion, or oil riches. Due process, elections, the rule of law, a separation of religion from government, non-discrimination, and checks and balances are alien to their intellectual and cultural universes. Accordingly, revolutionaries detain thousands of Libyans without accusation or trial. Torture is routine. Black Africans have been imprisoned or killed solely because of race. And Gadaffi's execution in custody provoked no emphatic condemnation from the transitional Libyan government.
Political power in Libya grows out of the barrel of a gun. Libya's new Constitution contemplates Sharia as the guidepost for all laws, as announced by the departed head of the National Transitional Council. Convicted but freed Lockerbie bomber Ali al-Megrahi has not been delivered into United States custody. Finally, the Libyan war was fought without even a pretense of advancing American safety, freedom, or prosperity.
President Bush invaded Iraq in 2003 pursuant to an unconstitutional delegation of congressional authority to commence war. The reason for the invasion remains opaque. Many of the principals involved remain clueless as to what motivated Bush's decision. The intelligence products of the C.I.A. were manipulated or misrepresented by the Bush administration to manufacture public and congressional support for attacking Saddam Hussein. Abu Ghraib and Blackwater severely tarnished the American escutcheon. More American soldiers have died in Iraq than civilians were killed in the 9/11 abominations. The United States has expended $1 trillion on the Iraq war, excluding the costly medical care that will be required to treat injured or traumatized American soldiers.
The Iraq war unwittingly harmed professed United States national security interests. Iran became the regional hegemon, and accelerated its nuclear arms program. Iraq's oil production plunged. The United States alienated Turkey by cosseting Iraqi Kurds in the north, providing refuge for the PKK. Iraq is now hostile towards Israel and friendly towards the Palestinian Authority and Syria.
Even with the depraved Saddam as a benchmark, human rights and democratic practices have only marginally improved under Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The judiciary is neither independent nor impartial. Iraq is a government of men, not of laws. Corruption is ubiquitous. Torture is commonplace. The nation is fractured between Shiite, Sunni, and Kurds, with the Shiite exerting political domination. There is no agreement on the division of oil revenues between the central and regional governments or the fate of oil-rich Kirkuk. The Iraqi Constitution makes Islam the official state religion and a fundamental source of legislation. No law may contradict its universal tenants.
The United States war in Afghanistan and against international terrorism gave birth to torture with impunity; indefinite detentions of alleged enemy combatants (including American citizens) at Guantanamo Bay without accusation or trial; military commissions denuded of the trappings of due process to prosecute alleged war crimes; illegal interceptions of the phone conversations or emails of Americans without judicial warrants in criminal violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; and, presidential assassinations of an American citizen and his 16-year-old apolitical son based on secret evidence and secret law. The war against international terrorism also established the precedent of perpetual war and a planet-wide battlefield where military force is always legitimate.
The United States has expended more than $1 trillion on the Afghan war at a rate of $350 million per day. Approximately 2,000 American soldiers have died there. Predator drones have created enemies by killing innocent civilians through imprecise or erroneous targeting. The Afghan Constitution makes Islam the state religion, and stipulates that no law may contradict the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam. The Afghan government is corrupt, illegitimate, ineffectual, weak, and popularly execrated. Opium production flourishes. Loyalties are to tribes, ethnic groups, or religion--not to the nation. Women remain third-class citizens. Human rights like free speech, free press, and freedom of religion are honored more in the breach than in the observance.
The Afghan war is objectless. The United States can easily defend its sovereignty from any attack emanating from Afghanistan with soldiers deployed at home. An anticipatory self-defense perimeter thousands of miles away is preposterous and prohibitively expensive.
Politicians are chronically myopic and generally ill-educated. Whenever they claim victory, skepticism is justified. The United States crowed about evicting the Soviet Union from Afghanistan through underwriting the mujahedeen, including Osama bin Laden, the Haqqani network, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, with money and stinger missiles. And then came 9/11, perpetrated by our erstwhile anti-Soviet friends--turning a previous victory into ashes.
October 7, 2011 | The Providence Journal
The war on terror continues; so does the cost and the chronicling.
“You can’t make informed decisions without this information,” said Catherine Lutz of Brown University.
Lutz is co-director of the Eisenhower Project at Brown’s Watson Institute for International Studies. The organization’s “Costs of War” study has been reported worldwide with its website receiving 50,000 hits from 169 countries since its June release. Visit costsofwar.org.
Hits rose in August during federal debt negotiations, Lutz said; and in September during the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Now we’ve reached another notable prompt.
Friday is the 10th anniversary of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. Thursday, “Costs of War” was presented in Washington to a congressional panel on the war in Afghanistan.
The report’s cost calculations aren’t finished because the war isn’t finished.
“We’re still following the numbers,” Lutz said.
The numbers, Lutz said, are “stunning”: 225,000 killed, and up to $4 trillion spent, factoring in future medical care for disabled veterans.
The 22 report researchers, will offer another report next fall, Lutz said, offering bigger costs for the United States, and for its allies, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, Lutz said, the follow-up will chronicle the profits of war.
In 2008, Lutz said, the Pentagon paid military contractor Lockheed Martin $30 billion.
“Lockheed received nearly more money from the government than the EPA, the Department of Labor and the Department of Transportation combined,” Lutz said.
Bruce Fein is a Senior Policy Advisor to the Ron Paul 2012 Presidential Campaign, Author, 'American Empire: Before the Fall'
Earlier this year, Remember Building 7 commissioned a Siena poll that found 3 out of 4 New Yorkers had never seen footage of Building 7. If you would like to see a majority of New Yorkers witness footage of Building 7, Please Donate Now. This campaign has the power to put Building 7’s collapse in front of 10 million New Yorkers and create a groundswell of demand for a new investigation, but only with your support.
September 11, 2011 marks the 10th anniversary of the events in New York and Washington that have played a dramatic role in modern history. These events have provided a pretext for a War on Terror that has replaced the Cold War as a global conflict framework within which military invasions and occupations have taken place, as well as violations of international law and human rights and a widespread assault on the civil rights crucial to democracies. Global military spending, which began a rapid downswing after the end of the Cold War, has, with the help of the official account of the 9/11 attacks, risen to Cold War levels and continues to rise. The focus on military solutions to complex human problems has sidetracked humanity at the very moment when international cooperation is most required to address genuine challenges that humanity faces.
In the meantime, the credibility of the official reports on the 9/11 attacks (by the 9/11 Commission, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other government or government-appointed agencies) has been questioned by millions of citizens in the United States and abroad, including victim family members, expert witnesses and international legal experts.
The International Center for 9/11 Studies has therefore decided to sponsor four days of International Hearings in the city of Toronto, Canada on the 10th anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001. During these Hearings, which will be broadcasted via the Internet, various expert witnesses will present the best available evidence into the case, discovered in the ten years since the 9/11 events occurred.
Objectives of the Hearings:
(1) To present evidence that the U.S. government’s official investigation into the events of September 11, 2001, as pursued by various government and government-appointed agencies, is seriously flawed and has failed to describe and account for the 9/11 events.
(2) To single out the most weighty evidence of the inadequacy of the U.S. government’s investigation; to organize and classify that evidence; to preserve that evidence; to make that evidence widely known to the public and to governmental, non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations.
(3) To submit a record and a summary of the Hearings, together with signed Statutory Declarations by witnesses, to relevant governments, groups and international agencies with the request that a full and impartial investigation be launched into the events of September 11, 2001, which have been used to initiate military invasions and to restrict the rights of citizens.
(4) To engage the attention of the public, the international community and the media through witness testimony as well as through media events broadcasted via the Internet during the four day event.
September 01, 2011 | Democrats.com
Sigmund Freud once mentioned the defense offered by a man who was accused by his neighbor of having returned a kettle in a damaged condition. In the first place, he had returned the kettle undamaged; in the second place it already had holes in it when he borrowed it; and in the third place, he had never borrowed it at all.
That man's name?
On "Morning Joe" on MSNBC on Thursday, the former Vice President claimed that the intelligence used to invade Iraq had been sound and accurate; the faulty intelligence was all Bill Clinton's fault; the invasion didn't do any damage but rather it was the Iraqis who damaged Iraq; and any invasion causes horrific things to happen, that just comes with the territory.
This incoherence was interspersed with gossip about Cheney's marriage and his friends and his whole lovable social self. That lie may have overshadowed the more serious ones. When in the hell did Cheney become respectable, much less lovable? But that's a distraction. Cheney's crimes have long been catalogued.
Joe Scarborough began his Cheney interview by asking, not why did you commit so many crimes and abuses, but how did you, dear Dick, suffer from having the image of Darth Vader imposed on you? Cheney replies that he had fun wearing a Darth Vader mask. But listen carefully for the Freudian slip: he says he wore it in the President's office, not the VICE President's office.
Cheney claims he didn't transform into Darth Vader, and of course he didn't. Cheney was an immoral power-mad neocon for decades who consistently favored presidential prerogatives and aggressive militarism. But Cheney claims that what changed was that a terrorist act became an act of war rather than a crime. Did it do that all on its own?
Cheney slips in his usual baseless defense of torture and related abuses as having served some useful purpose. Scarborough does not follow up on that claim. Instead, he asks about Colin Powell's comments on Cheney's book. Nice and gossipy. But Lawrence Wilkerson's more serious comments on the same topic, including his expression of willingness to testify against Cheney in court, go unmentioned.
Cheney then claims the Iraq lies were well-intended mistakes and basically accurate at the same time. Content with this, Scarborough focuses in on DC social scene changes over the decades. That's journalism!
Mike Barnicle, a SERIOUS journalist, then asks Cheney if he regrets the death of a U.S. soldier in a humvee that was operating in Iraq without proper armor. This is a question along the lines of "Why did the military waste $60 billion in Iraq?" These talking heads are not 60 seconds from the topic of the lies that launched an illegal and immoral war that killed hundreds of thousands of people, almost none of them Americans, and Barnicle wants to know why the humvees weren't better armored. Wednesday's news of U.S. troops having murdered Iraqi children gets no mention. This is breakfast table reporting for goodness sake! And yet, even with the softball question about the humvee armor, Cheney makes excuses and points out that things like that just happen in wars.
Well, exactly. But why do the wars happen?
Finally Scarborough asks Cheney why the U.S. military invaded Iraq, and Cheney says it was the right thing to do. He paints it as defensive. We attacked an unarmed impoverished nation halfway around the globe IN DEFENSE. Cheney even regurgitates a long-debunked claim about Mohamed Atta meeting with Iraqi officials. Next, Mika Brzezinski asks Cheney about the war lies, and Cheney blames Clinton. Now, I'm no fan of Clinton, and he told plenty of his own lies and engaged in plenty of power abuses tied to wars and military actions, but the fixing of the facts around the policy on Iraq was a major operation created after Clinton was gone. On this, Scarborough and Brzezinski had no follow up questions.
Instead, Barnicle helpfully turned to the topic of moving troops early out of Afghanistan and into preparation for war in Iraq. Cheney dishonestly suggested that no troops were moved to Iraq until a year and a half later. Then Cheney claims the Iraqis are the ones who did all the damage in Iraq. And on that note, Scarborough insists on chattering about Cheney's marriage, while Brzezinski insists on hearing about Cheney's sedated dreams of Italian villas.
Cheney admitted in this interview that his vice presidential role was unique. But that's not actually an argument for buying his book. It's an argument for amending our Constitution to include a ban on vice presidents exercising executive, as opposed to legislative, power.
The trouble is that there's little point in amending our laws until we start enforcing them. Dick Cheney is a human advertisement for the absence of the rule of law in the United States. Wilkerson thinks Cheney is bluffing because he is scared of being prosecuted. I think Cheney knows that could only happen abroad. He is safe here because the Justice Department answers to Obama, and Obama is protecting Cheney because Obama is continuing similar crimes and abuses.
If Obama were to allow Attorney General Eric Holder to enforce our laws against Dick Cheney, Obama might very well save his own electoral prospects. But he would put himself at risk of future prosecution. The question of whether we will have the rule of law becomes the question of whether Obama wants to trade four years of power for decades in prison. That's not how it is supposed to work.
Asia Times Online
... ... ...
Here is how Senator Bernie Sanders (of Vermont) put it:
"The first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered eye-popping new details about how the US provided a whopping $16 trillion in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks and businesses during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression."
This explains why the federal debt has increased from $9.2 trillion in 2007 to $14.2 trillion in 2011, an increase of nearly 55%.
It is now common knowledge that a major contributor to the rising debt and deficit is the escalating spending on war and militarism, nearly doubled over the past decade (from $295 billion in 2000 to the current $560 billion). While the official Pentagon budget for the 2011 fiscal year is $560 billion, the real figure is nearly twice as much as the official figure.
The reason for this understatement is that the official Department of Defense budget excludes not only the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also a number of other major cost items. These disguised cost items include: budgets for the Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security, nuclear weapons, veterans' programs, most military retiree payments, interest payments on money borrowed to fund military programs in past years, and more.
Once these misplaced or disguised expenditures are added to the official Pentagon budget, total "security"/military-related budget items would amount to slightly more than $1.1 trillion, which absorbs about one-third of the entire 2011 federal budget of $3.4 trillion.
Another major contributor to the rising debt and deficit has been the huge tax breaks granted giant corporations and the very affluent layers of the society. For example, according to Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), known for its accurate reports on taxation, the combined amount of taxes paid by the following 12 corporations for the 2008-2010 period was zero - no, it was less than zero! Collectively, they got $2.5 billion in refunds.
The 12 corporations were: Exxon Mobile, Wells Fargo, DuPont, American Electric Power, Boeing, FedEx, IBM, General Electric, Honeywell International, United Technologies, Verizon Communications, and Yahoo. CTJ reports that "from 2008 through 2010, these 12 companies reported $171 billion in pretax US profits. But as a group, their federal income taxes were negative: –$2.5 billion." (It must be pointed out that although the total federal income taxes for the group of 12 as a whole was negative, four out of 12 paid some federal tax, but the little tax that those four paid was more than offset by the other seven companies' not having paid any.)
This is an indication of how major US corporations pay - or avoid paying - their tax liabilities. The extremely rich and powerful interest groups have (since the late 1970s and early 1980s) deliberately used a combination of raising military spending and lowering their tax obligations in order to redistribute the national resources from the bottom up. As this combination leads to increases in debt and deficit, it then forces cuts on non-military public spending.
This represents a cynically clever strategy on the part of the ruling plutocracy that benefits from war, militarism, debt and deficit: instead of financing their wars and military adventures by paying taxes proportionate to their income, they give themselves tax breaks, finance their wars of choice through borrowing, and then turn around and lend money (unpaid taxes) to the government and earn interest. The wealthy have thus successfully converted their tax obligations to credit claims, that is, lending instead of paying taxes, which is in essence a disguised form of robbery.
It is obvious from this brief analysis that Washington's political dogs howling at the non-military public spending as the source of the escalating national debt and deficit are barking up the wrong tree. As long as the out-of-control spending on war and militarism is not contained, the multi-trillion dollar corporate welfare handouts (in the form of tax giveaways and costly rescue/bailout packages) are not curtailed, and the skyrocketing costs of health care are not restrained, the national debt and deficit are bound to continue their upward trend.
It is also obvious that the American people are lied to when they are told that all the wrangling that is going on in Washington over the debt ceiling is to reduce national debt. In reality, the national debt will continue to rise even if the corporate government takes a few trillion dollars out of it by further reducing the non-military public spending, that is, by further reducing the people's standard of living.
Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. He is the author of The Political Economy of US Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007) and Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser's Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989).
Asia Times Online
By now, it seems as if everybody and his brother has joined the debt-ceiling imbroglio in Washington, perhaps the strangest homespun drama of our time. It's as if Washington's leading political players, aided and abetted by the media's love of the horse race, had eaten LSD-laced brownies, then gone on stage before an audience of millions to enact a psychotic spectacle of American decline.
And yet, among the dramatis personae we've been watching, there are clearly missing actors. They happen to be out of town, part of a traveling roadshow. When it comes to their production, however, there has, of late, been little publicity, few reviewers, and only the most modest media attention. Moreover, unlike the scenery-chewing divas in Washington, these actors have simply
been going about their business as if nothing out of the ordinary were happening.
On July 25, for instance, while House Speaker John Boehner raced around the Capitol desperately pressing Republican House members for votes on a debt-ceiling bill that Harry Reid was calling dead-on-arrival in the Senate, America's new ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, took his oath of office in distant Kabul. According to the New York Times, he then gave a short speech "warning" that Western powers needed to "proceed carefully" and emphasized that when it came to the war, there would "be no rush for the exits".
If, in Washington, people were rushing for those exits, no chance of that in Kabul almost a decade into America's second Afghan War. There, the air strikes, night raids, assassinations, roadside bombs, and soldier and civilian deaths, we are assured, will continue to 2014 and beyond. In a war in which every gallon of gas used by a fuel-guzzling US military costs $400 to $800 to import, time is no object and - despite the panic in Washington over debt payments - neither evidently is cost.
In Iraq, meanwhile, in year eight of America's armed involvement, US officials are still wangling to keep significant numbers of American troops stationed there beyond an agreed end-of-2011 withdrawal date. And the State Department is preparing to hire a small army of 5,000-odd armed mercenaries (with their own mini-air force) to keep the American "mission" in that country humming along to the tune of billions of dollars.
In Libya, the American/North Atlantic Treaty Organization war effort, once imagined as a brief spasm of shock-'n'-awe firepower that would oust autocrat Muammar Gaddafi in a nanosecond, is now in its fifth month with neither an end nor a serious reassessment in sight, and no mention of costs there either.
In Yemen and Somalia, the drones, Central Intelligence Agency and military are being sent in, and special operations forces built up, while in the region a new base is being constructed and older ones expanded in the never-ending war against al-Qaeda, its affiliates, wannabes, and any other nasties around. (At the same time, the Barack Obama administration is leaking information that the original al-Qaeda teeters at the edge of defeat, even as it intensifies the CIA's drone war in the Pakistani tribal borderlands.) And further expansion of the war on terror - watch out, al-Qaeda in North Africa! - seems to be a given.
Meanwhile back in Washington not, mind you, the Washington of the debt-ceiling crisis, but the war capital on the banks of the Potomac - national security spending still seems to be on an upward trajectory. At $526 billion (without the costs of the Afghan and Iraq wars added in), the 2011 Pentagon budget is, as Lawrence Korb, former assistant secretary of defense under president Ronald Reagan, has written, "in real or inflation adjusted dollars… higher than at any time since World War II, including the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the height of the Reagan buildup." The 2012 Pentagon budget is presently slated to go even higher.
Senator John McCain recently raised the question of Pentagon spending in tight times with General Martin Dempsey, the newly nominated chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He asked about a plan proposed by Obama to cut $400 billion in Pentagon funds over 12 years, as well as proposals kicking around congress for cutting up to $800 billion over the same period.
General Dempsey replied, "I haven't been asked to look at that number. But I have looked and we are looking at $400 billion. Based on the difficulty of achieving the $400 billion cut, I believe achieving $800 billion would be extraordinarily difficult and very high risk."
In little of the reporting on this was it apparent that Obama's $400 billion in Pentagon "cuts" are not cuts at all - not unless you consider an obese person, who continues eating at the same level but reduces his dreams of ever grander future repasts, to be on a diet. The "cuts" in the White House proposal, that is, will only be from projected future Pentagon growth rates.
Nor were the "savings" of up to one trillion dollars over a decade being projected by Senator Harry Reid as part of his deficit-reduction plan cuts either, not in the usual sense anyway. They are expected savings based largely on the prospective winding down of America's wars and, like so much funny money, could evaporate with the morning dew. (In his last minute deal with Boehner, Obama's Pentagon "savings" have, in fact, been reduced to a provisional $350 billion over 10 years.)
So here's a question at a moment when financial mania has Washington by the throat: How would you define the state of mind of our war-makers, who are carrying on as if trillion-dollar wars were an American birthright, as if the only sensible role for the United States was to eternally police the planet, and as if garrisoning US troops, corporate mercenaries, and special operations forces in scores and scores of countries was the essence of life as it should be lived on this planet?
When I was kid, I used to be fascinated by a series of ads filled with visual absurdities, in which, for instance, five-legged cows floated through clouds. Each ad's tagline went something like: What's wrong with this picture?
So imagine two worlds, both centered in Washington. In one, they're heading for the exits, America's credit rating is in danger of being downgraded, jobs are disappearing, infrastructure is eroding, homeownership levels are falling rapidly, foreclosures are sky-high, times are bad, and even the president admits that the political system designated to make things better is "dysfunctional"; in the other, the exits are there, but there's no rush to use them, not with those global ramparts to be guarded, those wars to be fought, and a massive national security complex - larger than anything ever imagined when the US still faced a nuclear-armed superpower enemy - to feed and cultivate.
Now tell me: What's wrong with this picture?
Two worlds, two productions, one over-the-top and raising fears of bankruptcy, the other steady as she goes - and (so it seems) never the twain shall meet. And yet look again and those two worlds will fuse before your eyes, those two Washingtons will meld into a single capital city. Then it will be clearer that the actors at center stage and those traveling in the provinces are putting on linked parts of a single performance. The financial problems of one will turn out to be inextricably linked to the other; the lack of an effective stimulus package in the first connected to the endless series of stimulus packages - all that failed "nation-building" in the imperium - in the second.
Like some Roman god, it turns out that schizophrenic Washington has two faces, each reflecting a different aspect of American decline.
- In one, everybody can spot the madness.
- In the other, it's less evident, even though untold American treasure - literally trillions of dollars communities here desperately need - has been poured into a series of wars, conflicts, and war preparations without a victory, or even a significant success on the horizon.
(Greeted as if World War II had been won, the killing of Osama bin Laden should have been a reminder of the success of the "war on terror" for a man with few "troops" and relatively modest amounts of money who somehow managed to land Washington in a financial and military quagmire.)
One American world, one Washington, is devouring the other. Think of this as the half-hidden psychodrama of this American moment.
Put another way, for months Americans have been focused on raising that debt ceiling, as onscreen countdown clocks ticked away to disaster. In the process, few have asked the obvious question: Isn't it time to lower America's war ceiling?
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of the Cold War and beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. He also edited The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), an alternative history of the mad Bush years. His latest book is The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's (Haymarket Books),
22 Jul 2011 | Telegraph
But as we have surveyed the Murdoch scandal of the past fortnight, few could deny that it has revealed how an international company has bullied and bought its way to control of party leaderships, police forces and regulatory processes. David Cameron, escaping skilfully from the tight corner into which he had got himself, admitted as much. Mr Murdoch himself, like a tired old Godfather, told the House of Commons media committee on Tuesday that he was so often courted by prime ministers that he wished they would leave him alone.
... ... ...
The Left was right that the power of Rupert Murdoch had become an anti-social force. The Right (in which, for these purposes, one must include the New Labour of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown) was too slow to see this, partly because it confused populism and democracy. One of Mr Murdoch’s biggest arguments for getting what he wanted in the expansion of his multi-media empire was the backing of “our readers”. But the News of the World and the Sun went out of the way in recent years to give their readers far too little information to form political judgments. His papers were tools for his power, not for that of his readers. When they learnt at last the methods by which the News of the World operated, they withdrew their support.
It has surprised me to read fellow defenders of the free press saying how sad they are that the News of the World closed. In its stupidity, narrowness and cruelty, and in its methods, the paper was a disgrace to the free press. No one should ever have banned it, of course, but nor should anyone mourn its passing. It is rather as if supporters of parliamentary democracy were to lament the collapse of the BNP. It was a great day for newspapers when, 25 years ago, Mr Murdoch beat the print unions at Wapping, but much of what he chose to print on those presses has been a great disappointment to those of us who believe in free markets because they emancipate people. The Right has done itself harm by covering up for so much brutality.The credit crunch has exposed a similar process of how emancipation can be hijacked. The greater freedom to borrow which began in the 1980s was good for most people. A society in which credit is very restricted is one in which new people cannot rise. How many small businesses could start or first homes be bought without a loan? But when loans become the means by which millions finance mere consumption, that is different.
And when the banks that look after our money take it away, lose it and then, because of government guarantee, are not punished themselves, something much worse happens. It turns out – as the Left always claims – that a system purporting to advance the many has been perverted in order to enrich the few. The global banking system is an adventure playground for the participants, complete with spongy, health-and-safety approved flooring so that they bounce when they fall off. The role of the rest of us is simply to pay.
Jeff Sachs wonders why military spending isn't a large part of the budget talks:Obama could have cut hundreds of billions of dollars in spending that has been wasted on America's disastrous wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen, but here too it's been all bait and switch. Obama is either afraid to stand up to the Pentagon or is part of the same neoconservative outlook as his predecessor. The real cause hardly matters since the outcome is the same: America is more militarily engaged under Obama than even under Bush. Amazing but true. ... The American people ... have said repeatedly that they want a budget that sharply cuts the military, ends the wars, raises taxes on the rich, protects the poor and the middle class, and invests in America's future
I've been wondering the same thing. Military spending has hardly been mentioned in the budget debate.
January 30, 2011
National Defense Consumption Expenditures and Gross Investment, 1992-2010
(Billions of dollars)
1992 ( 376.8) 1993 ( 363.0) Clinton 1994 ( 353.8)
1995 ( 348.8) 1996 ( 354.8) 1997 ( 349.8) 1998 ( 346.1) 1999 ( 361.1)
2000 ( 371.0) 2001 ( 393.0) Bush 2002 ( 437.7) 2003 ( 497.9) 2004 ( 550.8)
2005 ( 589.0) 2006 ( 624.9) 2007 ( 662.3) 2008 ( 737.3) 2009 ( 771.6) Obama
2010 ( 817.7)
[Where we are in terms of basic military spending.]
The Costs of War Since 2001- Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan
Budgeted and Long Term Economic Costs
We calculate that the U.S. federal government has already spent between $2.3 and 2.6 trillion in constant 2011 dollars. This number is greater than the trillion dollars that the President and others say the U.S. has already spent on war since 2001. Our estimate is larger because we include more than the direct Pentagon appropriation for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the larger global war on terror; wars always cost more than what the Pentagon spends for the duration of the combat operation.
But the wars will certainly cost more than has already been spent. Including the amounts that the U.S. is obligated to spend for veterans, and the likely costs of future fighting as well as the social costs that the veterans and their families will pay, we calculate that the wars will cost between $3.7 and 4.4 trillion dollars.
In March of this year, the Congressional Research Service report by Amy Belasco on the costs of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other operations related to the war on terror estimated that the Pentagon allocations for war through the current fiscal year were already $1,208 billion in current dollars. The CRS report also added to war-related spending by the Veterans Administration and the State Department/USAID, and concluded that the wars cumulated costs through FY2011 were $1,283.3 billion dollars. In 2008, Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes published The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict, totaling many of the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to that point and projecting the costs into future decades.
We found that the CRS report of appropriations and estimate of the budgeted costs of the war, which was extremely thorough, nonetheless did not include some important and ultimately expensive costs of the war. When we total the costs of what the U.S. has spent — the budgeted costs of the war (Congressional war appropriations) and our incurred obligations for Veterans medical and disability — the total is more than the CRS reports and already exceed the Stiglitz and Bilmes estimate of $3 trillion for present and future costs of the wars.
These Totals Do Not Include: Medicare costs for injured veterans after age 65; Expenses for veterans paid for by state and local government budgets; Promised $5.3 billion reconstruction aid for Afghanistan; Additional macroeconomic consequences of war spending including infrastructure and jobs The largest single component of costs to date is Pentagon war spending. Since 2001, in addition to the $1,313 billion in 2011 constant dollars (using the Pentagon's own deflators) spent for the wars, $5,238.7 billion in constant dollars was appropriated for ostensibly non-war DOD expenses (also known as the “base” DOD budget) up to the end of 2011....
Catherine Lutz is Thomas J. Watson, Jr. Family Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at the Watson Institute for International Studies and Chair, Department of Anthropology at Brown University.
I don't think that I would have hacked into Milly Dowler's phone, but people with stressful careers and huge mortgages can be driven to the maddest of choices. I left with my principles intact.
The phone hacking affair is a "three-headed monster", according to the Labour MP Chris Bryant. According to PoliticsHome, this is what he told BBC News.
There was the original criminality at the News of the World - the phone hacking. There was the attempt to hush it up by News International and there was the failure of the Metropolitan police to investigate, probably because the Murdoch empire had all its tentacles creeping into every nook and cranny of the Metropolitan police ... I think it is that combination that makes it into one of the biggest scandals that we've known in British political history for the last 75 years.
...This is what Sheridan said about what he would be asking.
I like to know what kind of relationship [Murdoch has] had with senior politicians, what influence does he think he has had ... What it won't be today, as some of the leading commentators were suggesting that it will be, [is] some sort of witch-hunt of the MPs against the press. That is certainly not what it's about, we will be asking in a polite way, robust questions.
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) A nation reaps what t sows, August 27, 2004
By - See all my reviews (TOP 500 REVIEWER) (REAL NAME)
C. Johnson wrote a dark and very revealing book. He shows forcefully that the US became a militarist empire, which eroded the democratic underpinnings of the constitutional empire and transfered power tot the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies. His thesis is profusely illustrated: US military and intelligence interventions worldwide, the enormous defense budget and hundreds of US bases all over the planet. This imperialistic behaviour has also an economic veil (neo-liberalism), which the author castigates as 'rich countries kicking the ladder to keep poor nations from catching up' via the WTO and the IMF. But this brutal behaviour brings with it inhuman sorrows.
- First, a state of perpetual war leading to more terrorism. For the author, the war on terrorism is only a cover-up for imperialist expansion. Further, in order to maintain its empire, the US pays off client regimes, uses state terrorism, forces 'regime changes' via coups, assassinations, economic destabilizations and invasions, with millions of civilian casualties. As an example, his analysis of the Iraq war is brilliant. Its ultimate goal is imperialistic: the creation of permanent military bases in this country in order to dominate the Middle East.
- Secondly, a loss of democracy and constitutional rights. The 'echelon' system dwarfs George Orwell's Big Brother. After September 11, the US acts as if it is no longer bound by international laws.
- Thirdly, information becomes disinformation, mere propaganda and glorification of war and power. Orwell's newspeak 'war is peace' became a reality with the notion of 'preventive war'. In the Iraq war, the US troops allegedly bombed deliberately the offices of international journalists (the trial is still going on) showing clearly that it is not interested in free speech (objective reporting).
- Fourth, perhaps ultimately bankruptcy by financing an overstretched unproductive army and colossal military investments. The author quotes judiciously Robert Higgs who characterizes this military-industrial complex as 'a vast cesspool of mismanagement, waste and criminal conduct.' On top of the tremendous margins on military contracts, he quotes the deputy inspector general saying 'that adjustments of 4,4 trillion dollars in the Pentagon books were needed, and that 1,1 trillion dollars were simply gone.' Mind-boggling. The author also torpedoes the fable that the US caused the collapse of the Soviet Union and that it won the Cold War. Ultimately the author is very pessimistic about the state of the Union and believes that the actual situation is irreversible!
This is a brutal but necessary book. A must read for all those interested in the future of mankind.
Amazon.com Customer Reviews The Sorrows of Empire Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
Herbert L Calhoun "paulocal" (Falls Church, VA USA)A Wake up call to a Sleeping Militaristic Giant, January 25, 2011 By - See all my reviews (TOP 500 REVIEWER) (REAL NAME)
This author tells us that as a result of what in retrospect seems like mindless unbridled capitalist greed, the U.S. has "backed" itself into becoming an imperialist empire. With slogans of "democratic" ideology and "freedom" as its shield, the U.S. has turned itself into little more than a brittle wrinkled image of the ideals it has proclaimed and profess. American slogans have become a thin pretext for unrestrained military and cultural expansion. Instead of "freedom" and "democracy," what we have advanced is a new kind of global racist cultural hegemony that the rest of the world has been unprepared for, and is becoming increasingly nervous about.
Within the U.S. itself, we remain in willful and painful denial about how our encroaching imperialism and unwanted cultural hegemony have impacted the rest of the world. As well, we remain in chronic denial about how, domestically, they have also transformed our county's ideals into a bastardized form of "racist cowboy narrow-mindedness" best depicted in the egregious behavior the author carefully chronicles about what goes on on our military bases around the world, where American "creature comforts" take precedence over the needs of the nations we pretend to be protecting.
Even in our own collective parochial mind, we have gone from "making the world safe for democracy," to "fighting the evil empire," to "winning and ending the Cold War," to a rash of unnecessary interventions from Panama, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Colombia, Serbia, Vietnam, to Afghanistan and Grenada. And yet, after a century of "international gunsling," only after 911 have we been forced finally to look ourselves in the mirror. And it seems that no one other than those on the radical right, who watch the "Fox News channel," like what they see.
In the aftermath of 911, we are finally beginning to understand who we really are as a nation: We are a global cultural and military hegemon, period. Cultural and military dominance and hegemony is what we do. Sadly, it is all we know. We have invented a name for it; it is called "U.S. exceptionalism." Yet, as this author argues, exceptional or not, and sixteen trillion dollars on military hardware later, we are "less free" and "infinitely more insecure" today than we have ever been in our nation's history?
As a nation, we have fought in more wars than any other nation in the history of the world. And yet, even on the "UN index of Peace," a measure of how unstable the nations of the world are, in 2010, the U.S. ranked not first or second, but 85th (between Macedonia and Angola). But there are yet other reasons why even without the UN index, there are no reasons for us as citizens of a proud nation to be sanguine. There is something palpable going on here that we can feel in our bones. Something is not right about America? Even though, arguably, we won the Cold War, our warlike footing did not change one iota for the better, but instead got measurably worse.
For instance, internally, America has become infinitely more of a police state. In every county of the country, we now have representatives of "homeland security," from "rent-a-cops," to PIs, to DEA agents, to CIA, DIA and other intelligence stringers, to border guards, INS agents and IRS investigators. Even our banks and municipal office buildings all now have metal detectors. And did anyone forget that among the indices within the UN Peace Index are things like the number of individuals a nation holds in its prisons and jails, the number of political assassinations, the number of guns within the culture, the number of murders and the overall amount of crime and violence within the society?
On these sub-indices, guess which nation rules the roost for the Western World? The U.S. of course. These indices alone, give a whole new meaning to the term "U.S. exceptionalism." The U.S., the world's only self-proclaimed democracy, truly sits alone atop the heap with the dubious distinction of having more major political assassinations, more of its citizens in prison, more homicides and gun violence than the rest of the Western World combined. Yet, we continue to see ourselves as an elevated form of "law and order democracy?" Is it unreasonable to ask: What kind of nationalistic kool-aid are we all drinking that we refuse to see our own glaring flaws?
To ourselves we are at worse an "informal hegemon." And although we may seem like the proverbial cultural bull in a china shop, we are actually opening markets, guaranteeing mutual security, underwriting world stability, promoting democracy and instituting a just humanitarian world order, right? Yes, to ourselves, we continue to be "all things good." But the rest of the world is tiring of all this self-promoted goodness.
Our most recent act on the international scene has been to wage a war on terror, which effectively means that we are now fighting a war against an idea, a concept, and against sixty countries and the religions that embraced Jihad. This new war requires a commitment of resources and energy for the rest of eternity.
Our current President called the Cheney/Bush act of going to war to fight Iraq "fighting a dumb war," but he then quickly committed nearly 100k troops to Afghanistan where, by liberal estimates, only a couple hundred al Qaeda remain. He did so in a military arena that has devoured armies since Alexander of Macedonia was defeated there in the 4th century. Now, just how smart of a war is the one he is fighting? Even worse, somehow, our democratic precepts allowed us to introduce in the last administration, the idea of pre-emptive war. It is an idea that all our scholars and military planners had argued against in our military academies, forever. Yet, our leaders, Cheney and Bush, with a straight face endorsed this cockamamie idea with a vengeance, and with it, using a package of measures called "the Patriot Act," rolled back most of the freedoms we claimed to cherish. As we looked on comatose, these two cowboys with a single wave of the hand, turned America globally into an international outlaw; and domestically into a nascent police state. That we allowed it to happen, means that the American people are still sleep-waking through the 21st century.
There will be a high price to pay for our continuing acquiescence to the criminality of our leaders. A sobering read. Five stars.
Watson said: "Can I ask the prime minister would he allow Lord Leveson [who will be leading the inquiry] access to the intelligence services as well? At the murkier ends of this scandal there are allegations that rogue elements in the intelligence services had very close dealings with executives at News International. We need to get to the bottom of that."
Murdoch Goes From Party Darling to Pariah in Watershed Moment By Thomas Penny and Robert Hutton - Jul 12, 2011 8:16 AM ET
July 11 | Bloomberg
Brad Adgate, director of research at Horizon Media Inc., talks about News Corp.'s bid to take full control of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc and the probe into alleged phone hacking at Rupert Murdoch's News International. News Corp.'s 7.8 billion-pound ($12.4 billion) bid for BSkyB faces a review by the top U.K. competition authority that will take at least six months as the probe widens. Adgate speaks with Mark Crumpton on Bloomberg Television's "Botttom Line." (Source: Bloomberg)
At the News International party last month, Rupert Murdoch got the reception he’s used to in London, with political figures of every stripe and from the prime minister down paying court at the Kensington Palace event.
When he returned to the city two days ago, the 80-year-old was jostled by camera crews and faced shouted questions. Asked if David Cameron was likely to speak to Murdoch during this week’s visit, an official in the prime minister’s office struggled to answer over laughter at the idea.
Allegations last week that News Corp. staff hacked into the phones of murdered schoolgirls and terror victims and paid police for stories prompted Murdoch to close the 168-year-old News of the World tabloid on which his U.K. media empire was founded. Politicians from all parties have called for his planned purchase of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc (BSY) to be scrapped and some question whether his company is fit to own a broadcasting license at all.
“The days of Rupert Murdoch as a man that people will fly halfway around the world to see, whose phone calls get taken, are over,” said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Sussex University and the author of “The Conservative Party From Thatcher to Cameron.” “All the party leaders have been distancing themselves.”
U.K. prime ministers have felt the need to curry favor with Murdoch since he was allowed by Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1981 to add the Times and Sunday Times to his stable of newspapers, which already included the Sun and the News of the World. He was the only newspaper owner invited to a lunch to celebrate Thatcher’s decade in power in 1989 and was more than once invited to spend Christmas with her family, according to John Campbell’s biography of Thatcher.
(For a related story on News Corp. (NWSA)’s market value slump, click here. To read a story on the BSkyB review, click here.)
Cameron’s predecessor, Gordon Brown, also courted Murdoch and is now the victim of the latest twist of the phone-hacking scandal. Brown today accused News Corp. newspapers of using criminals to get stories about him whilst he was in office and said he was reduced to tears when the Sun tabloid phoned him to say it was going to report his son Fraser’s diagnosis of cystic fibrosis.
“The level of criminality involved, which is going to be exposed, meant that there were links between that newspaper, and that group of newspapers, and well-known criminals in this country,” Brown said in an interview with BBC television broadcast today. “This is an issue and will become an issue about the abuse of political power as well as the abuse of civil liberties.”
News International said in a statement today it is satisfied that the Sun obtained the story from a legitimate source and pledged to look into the allegations made by Brown.
Despite his upset over the reporting, Brown still invited Murdoch to a dinner for historians during U.S. President George Bush’s last visit to the U.K. Brown’s wife, Sarah, had Murdoch’s wife, Wendi Deng, for a “sleepover party” at their Chequers official country residence, the Telegraph reported in 2008.
Also entertained by the Browns at Chequers was Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of the Sun and News of the World, now chief executive officer of News International, the publisher of Murdoch’s British papers. Cameron, whose house in his Oxfordshire electoral district is close to Brooks’s, has followed suit, attending a drinks party she held at Christmas.
Courted by Cameron
It was Tony Blair who did fly halfway around the world, visiting Australia when he became Labour Party leader in 1995, two years before he became Prime Minister. After the vilification Murdoch papers, especially the tabloid Sun, had poured on his predecessor as Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, the decision was controversial within his party.
“People would be horrified,” Blair wrote in his memoir “A Journey,” explaining the decision. “Not to go was to say carry on and do your worst, and we knew their worst was very bad indeed,” he wrote. “No, you sat down to sup; or not. So we did.”
Cameron has been assiduous in courting Murdoch, hiring former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his press adviser. Coulson took the fall for the original phone-hacking scandal, resigning in 2007 after one of his reporters was jailed for intercepting voicemails of members of the royal household.
At the time, he insisted it had been the work of a single rogue reporter and that he had known nothing. Even when News Corp. executives in 2009 said James Murdoch, Rupert’s son, had approved payments to other phone-hacking victims, both the company and Cameron stuck to the line that the activity hadn’t been widespread.
That line broke at the start of the year, when, under a weight of lawsuits, News International said illegal behavior had been more widespread. Shortly before that announcement, Coulson quit his post in Cameron’s office.
Since then, the government and News Corp. have followed diverging paths, culminating last week in Cameron insisting nothing had been proved against Coulson. James Murdoch had put out a statement the day before saying that, during Coulson’s time at the News of the World, “wrongdoers had turned a good newsroom bad,” and closing the paper. Coulson was arrested and questioned on July 8.
‘We Are Afraid’
While standing by Coulson, whom he said remains a friend and has yet to be charged or convicted, Cameron said he had been wrong to focus on “courting support” from the press, turning a “blind eye” to claims of wrongdoing.
Tom Watson, the Labour party lawmaker who has pursued the phone-hacking scandal for two years, on Sept. 9 offered his fellow lawmakers an assessment of why it was being ignored.
“In this House we are all, in our own way, scared of the Rebekah Brookses of this world,” he said. “The barons of the media, with their red-topped assassins, are the biggest beasts in the modern jungle. Prime Ministers quail before them, and that is how they like it. We are afraid.”
The balance from fear to outrage shifted July 4, when the Guardian newspaper reported that a News of the World employee intercepted messages left on the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
Cameron was in Afghanistan at the time. As they prepared for a press conference with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, one of Cameron’s staff spotted that the union flag behind the prime minister was flying the wrong way up -- historically a distress signal.
It was appropriate. Aides traveling with the prime minister said the story had stopped being something of interest only to media-watchers and opposition politicians, and would arouse public fury. What one aide described as their hands-off attitude to the BSkyB deal would not help them to deal with what was to come.
Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with News Corp. units in providing financial news and information.
To contact the reporters on this story: Thomas Penny in London at email@example.com; Robert Hutton in London at firstname.lastname@example.org
The latest revelations in the widening News International scandal are simply stunning. “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” is apparently as true now as it was in Shakespeare’s day. The idea that a news organization would have the audacity to target a
head of statea Cabinet member and later PM over a decade, as News International papers the Sun and the Sunday Times did with Gordon Brown, and not with the usual tools of invective and gossip, but via the theft of personal information, raises the scandal to a whole new level.
It’s bad enough to monitor cell phone calls. The state of cell phone security is a disgrace, as our Richard Smith points out. One of my clients (a media company!) refuses to discuss deals or corporate strategy on mobile phones for that very reason. Per the Guardian, the decade-long campaign against Brown included:
- Repeatedly obtaining data from his bank account
- Hacking into his accountants’ computer to get his tax fiilngs
- Fooling his attorneys into providing details from his legal records
- Purloining family medical records (which led to the publication of information about Brown’s ill infant son)
- Suborning a police officer to scrape national police computer records
Several issues bear noting:
There is no way to pretend this sort of lawbreaking and invasion of privacy was not News International policy. This took place at two separate papers, the Sun and the Sunday Times.
There is also no way to pretend that Rebekah Brooks’ fingerprints are not all over this. From the Guardian:
In October 2006, the then editor of the Sun, Rebekah Brooks, contacted the Browns to tell them that they had obtained details from the medical file of their four-month-old son, Fraser, which revealed his cystic fibrosis.
This appears to have been a clear breach of the Data Protection Act, which would allow such a disclosure only if it were in the public interest. Friends of the Browns say the call caused them immense distress, since they were only coming to terms with the diagnosis, which had not been confirmed. The Sun published the story.
It seems implausible that Rupert Murdoch, who is a noted micromanager and is famously devoted to Brooks, would not have been kept in the loop about the efforts to obtain information about Brown.
Scotland Yard charged News International with sabotaging its inquiry into police corruption via leaking critical information. Again from the Guardian:
The police say the information being leaked comes from documents handed over by NI executives and their legal team at meetings over the past few weeks. They said it was agreed to keep the information confidential “so that [the police] could pursue various lines of inquiry, identify those responsible without alerting them and secure best evidence”.
All parties at the meetings agreed the information on the table was to be kept out of the public eye until early August, when the police must hand over all relevant information to those pursuing hacking claims against NI. At that point, suspects will be able to see what evidence the police have and will be able to prepare their defence accordingly.
Update: the piece de resistance: right after Scotland Yard began its probe of the now defunct News of the World, the paper also hacked the phones of the senior police investigators on its case. It doesn’t get much more brazen than this. The tabloid leaked claims that one had inflated his reimbursable expenses and was having affairs and another inappropriately used frequent flier miles from work for personal travel. Back to the original post.
This call by Labor MP Tom Watson for James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks to be suspended from office and face the full force of the law based on the information available about News International’s conduct as last week is even more urgent now (hat tip Richard Smith):
As much as it is easy for Americans to pretend that these revelations about the sorry state of the press are due to the powerful role Murdoch has carved out for himself in England, as well as the scurrilousness of its tabloid press, these extracts from a George Monbiot comment suggest that the similarities are considerably greater than the differences:
s. Look at the remarkable admission by the rightwing columnist Janet Daley in this week’s Sunday Telegraph. “British political journalism is basically a club to which politicians and journalists both belong,” she wrote. “It is this familiarity, this intimacy, this set of shared assumptions … which is the real corruptor of political life. The self-limiting spectrum of what can and cannot be said … the self-reinforcing cowardice which takes for granted that certain vested interests are too powerful to be worth confronting. All of these things are constant dangers in the political life of any democracy.”
Most national journalists are embedded, immersed in the society, beliefs and culture of the people they are meant to hold to account. They are fascinated by power struggles among the elite but have little interest in the conflict between the elite and those they dominate. They celebrate those with agency and ignore those without….The papers cannot announce that their purpose is to ventriloquise the concerns of multimillionaires; they must present themselves as the voice of the people…
So the rightwing papers run endless exposures of benefit cheats, yet say scarcely a word about the corporate tax cheats. They savage the trade unions and excoriate the BBC. They lambast the regulations that restrain corporate power. They school us in the extrinsic values – the worship of power, money, image and fame – which advertisers love but which make this a shallower, more selfish country. Most of them deceive their readers about the causes of climate change. These are not the obsessions of working people. They are the obsessions thrust upon them by the multimillionaires who own these papers.
The corporate media is a gigantic astroturfing operation: a fake grassroots crusade serving elite interests. In this respect the media companies resemble the Tea Party movement, which claims to be a spontaneous rising of blue-collar Americans against the elite but was founded with the help of the billionaire Koch brothers and promoted by Murdoch’s Fox News.
Journalism’s primary purpose is to hold power to account. This purpose has been perfectly inverted. Columnists and bloggers are employed as the enforcers of corporate power, denouncing people who criticise its interests, stamping on new ideas, bullying the powerless.
Monbiot suggested a Hippocratic Oath for journalists and suggested some text. Unfortunately, having seen corporate mission statements and codes of conduct honed in endless drafting sessions and summarily ignored once completed, I don’t place much stock in this sort of exercise.
The fact that Aljazeera is making a mockery of what passes for Anglo-Saxon journalism is a perverse good sign; it establishes that there is a real, substantial audience for serious reporting. While the magnitude of the Murdoch shock may well have a lasting, salutary effect on the press in the UK, I’m not optimistic that any self examination or course correction will take place in America’s propaganda-infested media.
The White House and Republican leaders may be locked in a bruising battle over how to slash the long-term deficit, but defense cuts seem to be off the table. This week, House lawmakers are moving rapidly toward approving a $649 billion defense appropriation bill that would boost baseline Pentagon spending by 3.4 percent in 2012.Republicans and Democrats alike talk a good game when it comes to defense spending. But when push comes to shove, they have a hard time cutting the Department of Defense’s budget out of fear of appearing soft on national security. Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who last week won the presidential medal freedom, has used his bully pulpit to warn against sharp defense cuts, as has former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
While President Obama requested even more money in his proposed budget than what is now in the appropriations bill, he said during the current debt ceiling negotiations that he would like to see $400 billion in cuts over the next decade. However, that’s not in the cards this week.
In addition to a 1.6 percent pay increase for service personnel, the fine print of the bill includes dozens of projects favored by individual legislators whose districts benefit from Pentagon spending. The legislation passed the House Appropriations Committee in mid-June with near unanimous bi-partisan support.
Despite a planned troop drawdown in Afghanistan, the size of the military – 1.4 million men and women in uniform and an estimated 800,000 civilian personnel – will remain essentially unchanged next year, according to the legislation. There is also a major increase in defense spending on medical research, much of it earmarked for cancer cure investigations unrelated to health problems that are specific to the military.
“The Pentagon budget is still continuing to go up while every other agency of the federal government is going down,” said Laura Peterson, who follows the defense budget for Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington watchdog group. “National security exceptionalism is still at work.”
Next year’s proposed increase, funded entirely by the planned reduction in war spending in Afghanistan and Iraq, has drawn fire from the fringes of both political parties. In recent weeks, a handful of Tea Party-backed Republicans on the right have joined liberals in Congress, who traditionally back curbs on military spending, in opposing the bill.
Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Democrat from Florida, gave voice to liberal frustrations last month when the House voted to take up the appropriations legislation after the July 4th recess. “When Belle Glade, Florida, in the congressional district that I serve, comes looking for less than $1 million to fix their infrastructure and provide jobs for their local residents, the Republican majority has a whole long list of reasons of why we can’t afford it,” he said. “And yet today, I see $5 billion for two submarines, $2 billion for one destroyer, and $6 billion for 32 fighter jets.”
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium): An obsessive military agenda, January 23, 2010
As in his other books, F. William Engdahl exposes vital aspects of the world today and, in the first place, the battle for total control of our planet and the space around it.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, important segments of the US establishment panicked as their power base (national security and the Cold War) fell apart: how to justify the huge arms spending and a massive intelligence apparatus without a direct enemy? The solution for them was to replace the Cold War by a geopolitical agenda: Full Spectrum Dominance.
Crucial aspects of this agenda are control of the Eurasian Heartland, the encircling of Russia and control of China's lifelines (oil tanker traffic). With the help of their diabolical media machine, this agenda was sold to the public under the veil of colonial liberation, democracy and free markets, and partly realized by false flag operations. A major aspect of this agenda is also Nuclear Primacy (First Strike).
As V. Putin stated: `today almost uncontained hyper use of military force in international relations is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts.' Adds Russian general L. Ivashov: `terrorism is simply a new type of war in order to install a unipolar world, a pretext to establish the rule of a world elite.'
According to Z. Brzezinski, those who control Eurasia control Africa, the Middle East and global oil and gas flows (the economic artery system of the world). The Balkan, Kossovo and Afghanistan wars, as well as the installation of military bases in the `Stans' were (are) major pieces in an encircling network of Russia. The Yukos - Khodorkovsky affair was a battle for the control of Russian oil and gas (Yukos would have been partly sold to foreign private interests). The wars in Africa (Congo, Darfur) as well as the Myanmar issue (control of the coastline of the Strait of Malacca, good for 85 % of Chinese oil tanker traffic) are indirect confrontations with China and its vital economic interests.
Ultimately, F. William Engdahl poses the cardinal question: can the US survive this obsessive and costly military agenda?
This book is a must read for all those who want to understand the world we live in.
The MIC fleecing continues.
Wall St Journal Pg 4:
"For defense spending, the agreement limits proposed increases in spending, with the Pentagon getting $513 billion in fiscal 2011, up from $508 billion the prior year. But that is less than what both the GOP and President Barack Obama wanted."
No one is serious about anything in DC!!
That figure does not include the $130B or so for the wars, but does not alter the commitment of $1.6T for wasteful procurements.
Sure to bring anne in ilsm...I have not greased my mouse wheel yet for those column upon columns, you?
It is my impression that there is no number ($kaboodles) that carries any weight of authority (like calmo weighs 236 lbs) wrt Defense spending, because that would mean the terrorists have won.
And the MIC has won.
Ok, time to rezero the bathroom scales
I used to be in the business of figuring out how to operate and sustain those huge thingies GAO don't like how they are going.
Take the R&D and Procurement costs and multiply by 2 or 3 times over twenty years trying to get them thingies that don't pass tests to work in the hands of Snuffy Smith, GI.
The numbers are a bow wave or US could save now.
No difference in terms of marginal utility of the spending can't get much from turnips raised in defense land.
And GAO is being optimistic.
Then about 20 years after firing Mac Arthur Harry Truman admitted he did not only fire him for being a 'dumb SOB, that accounts for most generals.......'ILSM:
January 30, 2011
National Defense Consumption Expenditures and Gross Investment, 2000-2010
(Quarterly at annual rates, Billions of dollars) *
Qtr1 Qtr2 Qtr3 Qtr4
2000 ( 360.6) ( 376.9) ( 372.7) ( 374.0)
2001 ( 383.7) ( 389.7) ( 395.6) ( 402.8) Bush
2002 ( 420.3) ( 431.9) ( 440.4) ( 458.2)
2003 ( 466.4) ( 507.2) ( 503.1) ( 515.1)
2004 ( 535.9) ( 545.6) ( 565.4) ( 556.2)
2005 ( 578.5) ( 586.1) ( 606.1) ( 585.5)
2006 ( 615.5) ( 624.1) ( 623.3) ( 636.6)
2007 ( 636.7) ( 657.0) ( 674.7) ( 679.9)
2008 ( 702.1) ( 724.9) ( 762.1) ( 760.2)
2009 ( 743.9) ( 769.9) ( 787.3) ( 785.4) Obama
2010 ( 796.3) ( 813.0) ( 830.8) ( 830.6)
* Seasonally adjusted
What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn’t seem to stand for anything in particular?
-- Paul Krugman
[This bland, timid President we elected is busily waging war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Libya, militarily occupying Afghanistan and repeatedly trying to convince the Iraqi government that we should be allowed to continue to occupy Iraq. Oh, there are the bombings of and military operations in Yemen....]
What we spend in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in other places is drowning our own nation's economy. Nuclear power is also a drain and a liability. We do not have a creative energy policy. Currently, neighborhood renewable energy stations are being built and servicing large areas. This is the a solution. localized Green energy stations using what works in those small regions: solar, wind, geothermal, mixed with natural gas is a solution.
Dr. Stiglitz knows what he is talking about. Taxing those who have been getting rich as a result of the economic collapse. Like he says, these wealth creators have not created jobs, nor improved the economy. In spite of their wealth accumulations, they pay less tax than working people. It is all disgusting.
What we spend in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in other places is drowning our own nation's economy.
April 7, 2011
AMY GOODMAN: Joe Stiglitz...let’s end on the issue of war. You wrote with Linda Bilmes the book The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict. That’s not talking about Afghanistan, what, $2 billion a week, the longest ongoing conflict in U.S. history. What about the cost of this?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: It’s enormous. And since we wrote that book, we did—new numbers came in, and things are worse than we said. The disability rates are higher. The cost of caring for the disabled are higher. Almost one out of two people coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are disabled. This is an unfunded liability of—we calculate now to be almost a trillion dollars, over $900 billion. So, one of the big ways of reducing our deficit is a—is cut back some expenditures....
March 6, 2011 | naked capitalism
Hollywood is for entertainment and as such does often not reflect reality. You should be aware of that when you watch those movies. The problem is that the ‘real media’, i.e. those that should be more grounded in the real world are basically running the same storyline that Hollywood does. So it’s no surprise that people start taking fiction for reality. As Noam Chomsky showed in his Manufacturing Consent, this doesn’t happen by coincidence.
Charles Frith:Chris Hedges:
The Hollywood rot is more pernicious than just war movies. But I’ve no inclination to explain that because I think that Yves would be well placed to ignore economics given its impending doom and like this post blog the content that reflects what I call good judgement on how the string pullers pull strings.jake chase
“… You react as a child, which is to call for a saviour, a demagogue, someone who promises moral renewal …”. You vote for Obama.
Good choice, Yves! This is one of Bishara’s best, and ever so appropriate, here, now.7:42 am The love affair between Hollywood and the war machine began in 1942. These days, the moguls are selling anti-terrorism twenty-four seven. One wonders what they would use for material without it. Of course, television is for idiots and movies are for twelve year olds, so stop watching and read a good book if you can find one.DownSouth
You can get some perspective on all this from Thucydides.8:05 am For our geniuses-in-charge, enhanced truth-telling never plays a part in any proposed solution to this losing battle for the hearts and minds of the world’s denizens, and especially those of the United States. Instead, it’s full steam ahead in building a bigger and better propaganda machine.Max424
Of course when the truth is stacked against one, and to such a signigicant degree, what other option remains? Nevertheless, it seems like U.S. politicians place a great deal of faith in the power of propaganda—-in telling bigger and bigger, and increasingly more outrageous, lies. They seem to think there is no limit to their ability to hoodwink the people.
But the obstacles the professional liars must overcome are growing. As this article (link furnished by Michael H) opines:
[W]hat would the state-subsidized propagandists be able to boast about? Predator raids in Afghanistan? Guantanamo? Thirty million on part-time work or jobless in the Homeland? America is not the sell it once was, when the economic growth rate was headed up and capitalism seemed capable of delivering on its promises.8:55 am YS: “I must confess I enjoyed the action footage.”Sufferin' Succotash
Me too. I especially like when our gunships move in and spray the Mogadishu rooftops with their 30 mm cannons. With a rate of fire at 4 thousand rounds per minute, and tasked with dispatching two or three dozen evil-doers ineffectively firing their AK 47 pea shooters, the 30 mm Gatling is a lock to get em all.
And it does. That scene is the climax of the movie, in my opinion. The remaining hour is just an overlong denouement.
Was there a greater genius than Dr. R. J. Gatling? He takes his patented mechanical seed planter and transforms it into one the great weapon systems of all-time. So simple in the beginning the deadly machine could be hand cranked. And it is still simple. The modern 30 mm cannon shares the exact same attributes as the 19th century Gatling machine, it just not hand cranked anymore, has bigger rounds (much, much bigger) and higher rate of fire (much, much higher).
Former General Colonel Custer had an opportunity to take three Gatling’s with him when he went out — on his ill-fated adventure — to face the Lakota Sioux. He refused them. He thought they were, somehow, ignoble, and a tad unfair.
Bad decision Georgy.9:31 am Since when has the Dream Factory ever gotten its history right? From gross distortions of the Reconstruction era (Birth of a Nation) to exaggerating the importance of the 54th Massachusetts in the Civil War(Glory)Hollywood hasn’t been able to deal accurately with US history, let alone any other brand of history. Interestingly, British film-makers are just as bad, though their distortions of the historical record tend to be more subtle and understated. For a few decades starting in the late 1940s television news held out the tantalizing prospect of being a source of accurate contemporary history. But that prospect pretty much evaporated with the advent of cable news networks and the resulting race to the bottom of journalistic quality. The problem was that back in the day the major network news divisions were always money losers. Even a network chief like CBS’ Bill Paley–who believed in maintaining a strong news division for prestige purposes–had to sacrifice Ed Murrow and Don Hewitt’s “See It Now” on the altar of Higher Ratings. Minor correction for Max424: Custer didn’t take the Gatlings out of chivalry, but because he was afraid they would slow him down. In any case, it’s hard to see how they would have made any difference as far as Custer’s command was concerned, though Reno would have found them useful when he was defending his hilltops.
In order to understand what it is in human nature that makes war propaganda—-the appeals to violence, racism, nationalism, loot and plunder, etc.—-so beguiling, there’s probably not a better book than Peter Turchin’s War and Peace and War.
In order to understand the fall of the “war system,” and the concomitant rise of the alternatives—-people’s war and nonviolence—-there’s no better book than Jonathan Schell’s The Unconquerable World.
And in order to understand the nuts and bolts of the resurrection of the “war system” in the United States after the Viet Nam War, which should have been the death of it, there’s no better books than Andrew Bacevich’s The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War and its sequel, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.
According to Bacevich, the military profession was “at bay” following the Viet Nam war. However, militarism was unleashed again upon the American people by a confluence of forces:
1) The neoconservative movement (“Chapter Three: Left, Right, Left”) 2) Hollywood and Ronald Reagan (“Chapter Four: California Dreaming”) 3) Right-wing evangelical Christians (“Chapter Five: Onward”) 4) The military industry (“Chapter Six: War Club”) 5) Realpolitik (“Chapter Seven: Blood for Oil”) 6) The fact that the “American people have persuaded themselves that their best prospect for safety and salvation lies with the sword” (“Chapter Eight: Common Defense”)
We got used to the propaganda arm of the rich masquerading as network news. Al Jazeera is a news organization period. It has some biases but it is mostly a good new TV. Although it is an Arab network, it will interview Israeli politicians when appropriate. Could you imagine Al Qaida spokesperson appearing on ABC news?
Even our best papers have become, at least partially, arms of the ruling class. The best of them, the NY Times and in particular the WaPo, have long bouts of ruling class drunkenness.
The protests in Wisconsin have been a great manifestation of a major event with social, political and financial ramification that the TV networks have practically ignored and played a 3rd banana in the papers.
You would think that Hosni is our leader.
I just came upon The Pentagon Labyrinth Its a very readable, very informative collection of essays about national defense in the United States. The essays are written by ex-defense personnel (some of whom were very influential) and journalists who cover the military, and to top it off, its free!!!!
From the book's blurbage:The Pentagon Labyrinth aims to help both newcomers and seasoned observers learn how to grapple with the problems of national defense. Intended for readers who are frustrated with the superficial nature of the debate on national security, this handbook takes advantage of the insights of ten unique professionals, each with decades of experience in the armed services, the Pentagon bureaucracy, Congress, the intelligence community, military history, journalism and other disciplines. The short but provocative essays will help you to:
- -identify the decay—moral, mental and physical—in America’s defenses,
- -understand the various “tribes” that run bureaucratic life in the Pentagon,
- -appreciate what too many defense journalists are not doing, but should,
- -conduct first rate national security oversight instead of second rate theater,
- -separate careerists from ethical professionals in senior military and civilian ranks,
- -learn to critique strategies, distinguishing the useful from the agenda-driven,
- -recognize the pervasive influence of money in defense decision-making,
- -unravel the budget games the Pentagon and Congress love to play,
- -understand how to sort good weapons from bad—and avoid high cost failures, and reform the failed defense procurement system without changing a single law.
The handbook ends with lists of contacts, readings and Web sites carefully selected to facilitate further understanding of the above, and more.
This new publication from the Center for Defense Information (CDI) is being made available for download through our Web site at the following links below. Included are the full e-book, and all individual sections and essays in PDF format.
Its a quick read (vital for me right now!!), and frankly, there isn't much in here that's controversial though its clear several of the writers relish being gadflies. The book is chock full of facts, and it provides a lot of great food for thought about military issues.
Jan. 28, 2011 | Mother Jones
In defense circles, "cutting" the Pentagon budget has once again become a topic of conversation. Americans should not confuse that talk with reality. Any cuts exacted will at most reduce the rate of growth. The essential facts remain: U.S. military outlays today equal that of every other nation on the planet combined, a situation without precedent in modern history.
The Pentagon presently spends more in constant dollars than it did at any time during the Cold War – this despite the absence of anything remotely approximating what national security experts like to call a "peer competitor." Evil Empire? It exists only in the fevered imaginations of those who quiver at the prospect of China adding a rust-bucket Russian aircraft carrier to its fleet or who take seriously the ravings of radical Islamists promising from deep inside their caves to unite the Umma in a new caliphate.
What are Americans getting for their money? Sadly, not much. Despite extraordinary expenditures (not to mention exertions and sacrifices by US forces), the return on investment is, to be generous, unimpressive. The chief lesson to emerge from the battlefields of the post-9/11 era is this: the Pentagon possesses next to no ability to translate "military supremacy" into meaningful victory.
Washington knows how to start wars and how to prolong them, but is clueless when it comes to ending them. Iraq, the latest addition to the roster of America's forgotten wars, stands as exhibit A. Each bomb that blows up in Baghdad or some other Iraqi city, splattering blood all over the streets, testifies to the manifest absurdity of judging "the surge" as the epic feat of arms celebrated by the Petraeus lobby.
The problems are strategic as well as operational. Old Cold War-era expectations that projecting US power will enhance American clout and standing no longer apply, especially in the Islamic world. There, American military activities are instead fostering instability and inciting anti-Americanism. For Exhibit B, see the deepening morass that Washington refers to as AfPak or the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater of operations.
Add to that the mountain of evidence showing that Pentagon, Inc. is a miserably managed enterprise: hide-bound, bloated, slow-moving, and prone to wasting resources on a prodigious scale—nowhere more so than in weapons procurement and the outsourcing of previously military functions to "contractors." When it comes to national security, effectiveness (what works) should rightly take precedence over efficiency (at what cost?) as the overriding measure of merit. Yet beyond a certain level, inefficiency undermines effectiveness, with the Pentagon stubbornly and habitually exceeding that level. By comparison, Detroit's much-maligned Big Three offer models of well-run enterprises.
All of this takes place against the backdrop of mounting problems at home: stubbornly high unemployment, trillion-dollar federal deficits, massive and mounting debt, and domestic needs like education, infrastructure, and employment crying out for attention.
Yet the defense budget—a misnomer since for Pentagon, Inc. defense per se figures as an afterthought—remains a sacred cow. Why is that?
The answer lies first in understanding the defenses arrayed around that cow to ensure that it remains untouched and untouchable. Exemplifying what the military likes to call a "defense in depth," that protective shield consists of four distinct but mutually supporting layers.
Institutional Self-Interest: Victory in World War II produced not peace, but an atmosphere of permanent national security crisis. As never before in US history, threats to the nation's existence seemed omnipresent, an attitude first born in the late 1940s that still persists today. In Washington, fear – partly genuine, partly contrived – triggered a powerful response.
One result was the emergence of the national security state, an array of institutions that depended on (and therefore strove to perpetuate) this atmosphere of crisis to justify their existence, status, prerogatives, and budgetary claims. In addition, a permanent arms industry arose, which soon became a major source of jobs and corporate profits. Politicians of both parties were quick to identify the advantages of aligning with this "military-industrial complex," as President Eisenhower described it.
Allied with (and feeding off of) this vast apparatus that transformed tax dollars into appropriations, corporate profits, campaign contributions, and votes was an intellectual axis of sorts – government-supported laboratories, university research institutes, publications, think tanks, and lobbying firms (many staffed by former or would-be senior officials) – devoted to identifying (or conjuring up) ostensible national security challenges and alarms, always assumed to be serious and getting worse, and then devising responses to them.
The upshot: within Washington, the voices carrying weight in any national security "debate" all share a predisposition for sustaining very high levels of military spending for reasons having increasingly little to do with the well-being of the country.
Strategic Inertia: In a 1948 State Department document, diplomat George F. Kennan offered this observation: "We have about 50 percent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population." The challenge facing American policymakers, he continued, was "to devise a pattern of relationships that will permit us to maintain this disparity." Here we have a description of American purposes that is far more candid than all of the rhetoric about promoting freedom and democracy, seeking world peace, or exercising global leadership.
The end of World War II found the United States in a spectacularly privileged position. Not for nothing do Americans remember the immediate postwar era as a Golden Age of middle-class prosperity. Policymakers since Kennan's time have sought to preserve that globally privileged position. The effort has been a largely futile one.
By 1950 at the latest, those policymakers (with Kennan by then a notable dissenter) had concluded that the possession and deployment of military power held the key to preserving America's exalted status. The presence of US forces abroad and a demonstrated willingness to intervene, whether overtly or covertly, just about anywhere on the planet would promote stability, ensure US access to markets and resources, and generally serve to enhance the country's influence in the eyes of friend and foe alike – this was the idea, at least.
In postwar Europe and postwar Japan, this formula achieved considerable success. Elsewhere – notably in Korea, Vietnam, Latin America, and (especially after 1980) in the so-called Greater Middle East – it either produced mixed results or failed catastrophically. Certainly, the events of the post-9/11 era provide little reason to believe that this presence/power-projection paradigm will provide an antidote to the threat posed by violent anti-Western jihadism. If anything, adherence to it is exacerbating the problem by creating ever greater anti-American animus.
One might think that the manifest shortcomings of the presence/power-projection approach – trillions expended in Iraq for what? – might stimulate present-day Washington to pose some first-order questions about basic US national security strategy. A certain amount of introspection would seem to be called for. Could, for example, the effort to sustain what remains of America's privileged status benefit from another approach?
Yet there are few indications that our political leaders, the senior-most echelons of the officer corps, or those who shape opinion outside of government are capable of seriously entertaining any such debate. Whether through ignorance, arrogance, or a lack of imagination, the pre-existing strategic paradigm stubbornly persists; so, too, as if by default do the high levels of military spending that the strategy entails.
Cultural Dissonance: The rise of the Tea Party movement should disabuse any American of the thought that the cleavages produced by the "culture wars" have healed. The cultural upheaval touched off by the 1960s and centered on Vietnam remains unfinished business in this country.
Among other things, the sixties destroyed an American consensus, forged during World War II, about the meaning of patriotism. During the so-called Good War, love of country implied, even required, deference to the state, shown most clearly in the willingness of individuals to accept the government's authority to mandate military service. GI's, the vast majority of them draftees, were the embodiment of American patriotism, risking life and limb to defend the country.
The GI of World War II had been an American Everyman. Those soldiers both represented and reflected the values of the nation from which they came (a perception affirmed by the ironic fact that the military adhered to prevailing standards of racial segregation). It was "our army" because that army was "us."
With Vietnam, things became more complicated. The war's supporters argued that the World War II tradition still applied: patriotism required deference to the commands of the state. Opponents of the war, especially those facing the prospect of conscription, insisted otherwise. They revived the distinction, formulated a generation earlier by the radical journalist Randolph Bourne, that distinguished between the country and the state. Real patriots, the ones who most truly loved their country, were those who opposed state policies they regarded as misguided, illegal, or immoral.
In many respects, the soldiers who fought the Vietnam War found themselves caught uncomfortably in the center of this dispute. Was the soldier who died in Vietnam a martyr, a tragic figure, or a sap? Who deserved greater admiration: the soldier who fought bravely and uncomplainingly or the one who served and then turned against the war? Or was the war resister – the one who never served at all – the real hero?
War's end left these matters disconcertingly unresolved. President Richard Nixon's 1971 decision to kill the draft in favor of an All-Volunteer Force, predicated on the notion that the country might be better served with a military that was no longer "us," only complicated things further. So, too, did the trends in American politics where bona fide war heroes (George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John Kerry, and John McCain) routinely lost to opponents whose military credentials were non-existent or exceedingly slight (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama), yet who demonstrated once in office a remarkable propensity for expending American blood (none belonging to members of their own families) in places like Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It was all more than a little unseemly.
Patriotism, once a simple concept, had become both confusing and contentious. What obligations, if any, did patriotism impose? And if the answer was none – the option Americans seemed increasingly to prefer – then was patriotism itself still a viable proposition?
Wanting to answer that question in the affirmative – to distract attention from the fact that patriotism had become little more than an excuse for fireworks displays and taking the occasional day off from work – people and politicians alike found a way to do so by exalting those Americans actually choosing to serve in uniform. The thinking went this way: soldiers offer living proof that America is a place still worth dying for, that patriotism (at least in some quarters) remains alive and well; by common consent, therefore, soldiers are the nation's "best," committed to "something bigger than self" in a land otherwise increasingly absorbed in pursuing a material and narcissistic definition of self-fulfillment.
In effect, soldiers offer much-needed assurance that old-fashioned values still survive, even if confined to a small and unrepresentative segment of American society. Rather than Everyman, today's warrior has ascended to the status of icon, deemed morally superior to the nation for which he or she fights, the repository of virtues that prop up, however precariously, the nation's increasingly sketchy claim to singularity.
Politically, therefore, "supporting the troops" has become a categorical imperative across the political spectrum. In theory, such support might find expression in a determination to protect those troops from abuse, and so translate into wariness about committing soldiers to unnecessary or unnecessarily costly wars. In practice, however, "supporting the troops" has found expression in an insistence upon providing the Pentagon with open-ended drawing rights on the nation's treasury, thereby creating massive barriers to any proposal to affect more than symbolic reductions in military spending.
Misremembered History: The duopoly of American politics no longer allows for a principled anti-interventionist position. Both parties are war parties. They differ mainly in the rationale they devise to argue for interventionism. The Republicans tout liberty; the Democrats emphasize human rights. The results tend to be the same: a penchant for activism that sustains a never-ending demand for high levels of military outlays.
American politics once nourished a lively anti-interventionist tradition. Leading proponents included luminaries such as George Washington and John Quincy Adams. That tradition found its basis not in principled pacifism, a position that has never attracted widespread support in this country, but in pragmatic realism. What happened to that realist tradition? Simply put, World War II killed it – or at least discredited it. In the intense and divisive debate that occurred in 1939-1941, the anti-interventionists lost, their cause thereafter tarred with the label "isolationism."
The passage of time has transformed World War II from a massive tragedy into a morality tale, one that casts opponents of intervention as blackguards. Whether explicitly or implicitly, the debate over how the United States should respond to some ostensible threat – Iraq in 2003, Iran today – replays the debate finally ended by the events of December 7, 1941. To express skepticism about the necessity and prudence of using military power is to invite the charge of being an appeaser or an isolationist. Few politicians or individuals aspiring to power will risk the consequences of being tagged with that label.
In this sense, American politics remains stuck in the 1930s – always discovering a new Hitler, always privileging Churchillian rhetoric – even though the circumstances in which we live today bear scant resemblance to that earlier time. There was only one Hitler and he's long dead. As for Churchill, his achievements and legacy are far more mixed than his battalions of defenders are willing to acknowledge. And if any one figure deserves particular credit for demolishing Hitler's Reich and winning World War II, it's Josef Stalin, a dictator as vile and murderous as Hitler himself.
Until Americans accept these facts, until they come to a more nuanced view of World War II that takes fully into account the political and moral implications of the US alliance with the Soviet Union and the US campaign of obliteration bombing directed against Germany and Japan, the mythic version of "the Good War" will continue to provide glib justifications for continuing to dodge that perennial question: How much is enough?
Like concentric security barriers arrayed around the Pentagon, these four factors – institutional self-interest, strategic inertia, cultural dissonance, and misremembered history – insulate the military budget from serious scrutiny. For advocates of a militarized approach to policy, they provide invaluable assets, to be defended at all costs.Filesoof:Couldn't have said it better. One observation though. If you have a military service consisting of enlisted people, then one can speak of an "army of us". Now that the military are volunteers, that doesn't apply anymore. You're not fighting for your country, period. No, you're fighting for your country and for your paycheck. That makes a huge difference. I think that if the military of the US still consisted of enlisted people, there would be much less support for all the wars being waged, and for all the money being spent.
@Brandon: the article in my opinion exactly states why the US military spendings won't go down, mostly on the first page. The illusion of 'enemies everywhere' combined with the still persistent fact that US wealth is still way higher than anywhere else in the world, will prevent any president or congress from even attempting to lower the budget, especially with the entanglement of military driven companies.
The US military is so much more than just a force that we ship overseas to secure resources and spread the word of democracy. It's also one of our largest employment agencies, a major booster of public universities, a giant training academy, and a huge leg up for equipment contractors (who are some of the biggest businesses in the country). Everyone stateside benefits in some way, whether it's base dollars, manufacturing dollars, or just fewer kids in the streets. The only ones who lose are the poor bastards overseas. And we're usually pretty good at pretending that they aren't our problem.
The contributions you've listed (employment, booster of universities, training, etc) aren't military benefits at all; they're tax benefits. Our tax dollars pay for these things, byproducts of an enormous military-industrial complex. Instead of wasting hundreds of billions a year on military spending, through which some of that money trickles on to constructive purposes, those funds could directly be spent on education, public works projects, and job training.
As far as "the only ones who lose are the poor bastards overseas", tell that to grieving families as they lay to rest their loved ones lost in pointless wars. Tell that to young men with catastrophic brain injuries, young men maimed at 20 looking at another 50+ years without the use of their limbs.
GMO newsletter by Jeremy Grantham
----> Little Georgie’s Blog
I’m against all war. Every war ever fought has been the result of “false flag“ attacks. No nation in history has ever actually attacked another nation, except of course the U.S.A. Because I said so in my blog. (See this.) Also, war costs a lot of money, which would be better spent on stuff like “Cash-for-golf carts” programs and more frisbees for prison inmates.
I’m a “Truther”, and we “Truthers” have a monopoly on the truth. Because I said so. (See here.) And to prove it, I will use any flimsy crap -- printed or spoken in any venue by any dubious entity -- if it fits the pre-ordained template of my open mind. And if you disagree, it’s because you’re closed-minded or brainwashed or a CIA plant or in denial or something. (See this and that.)
Also, you should realize that I’m telling the truth because all of my sources are either “prominent”, or “legendary“, or “leading“, or “noted”, or “experts” in their respective fields. Because I always say so in my blog. (See here, there, and everywhere.)
The U.S.A., and especially Bush/Cheney, are evil. Corporations are evil too, because they‘re always making a mess of the environment and stuff. Intentionally. Because all they care about is making profits by screwing people. And because they hate people and the Earth. All other entities are OK; or, at least, less evil than corporations and George Bush and Dick Cheney, whose real name is “Dick Planet Raper Cheney The Master Of Torture.”
The financial world is full of crooks (duh) and the economy can’t recover until they are all in jail being savagely sodomized by a very large, heavily tattooed inmate named “Big Hector“. If I keep repeating this notion in my blog -- and if I hold my breath until my face turns red -- this fantasy will magically come to pass. Then I’ll be almost happy; but not quite, because I know at least one of them will get away scot-free without being sodomized by Big Hector. And because it’s unlikely that I would get any sodomy video footage to link to. (Not here.)
The “left/right paradigm” is obsolete. There is no more “left” or “right“. Because I said so. (See this and that and there.) So take that, you right-wing scum. However, my usual “sources” (like the Guardian, New York Times, Huffington Post, Daily Kos, FireDogLake, Salon, Der Spiegel, The Nation, Mother Jones, NPR, Bill Moyers, Noam Chomsky, Dennis Kucinich, Michael Moore, MSNBC, Keith Olbermann, The Libtard Gazette, The Hammer and Sickle Herald, and on and on and on…) are as yet oblivious to this new non-ideological reality. Probably because they haven’t read my blog, in which I said so. (See this and that and the other thing again.) Anyway, whatever I copy-and-paste from these unbiased, objective sources is absolute gospel, because they have no agenda except the truth, just like me.
Furthermore, I agree with my fellow liberals and lefties that there are no such things as liberals and lefties.
As you can see, my name is “George Washington“, not “George Soros”; even though all the sources where I camp out are media organs for Nazi collaborator George Soros. That’s just a coincidence you should disregard. Because I say so. (See here.) Therefore, I am not a KGB/FSB agent, even though I might as well be.
It is also just a coincidence that America-haters, Marxists, “Truthers”, “Birthers”, Holocaust deniers, Stalin apologists, anti-Semites, Christian haters, racists and other bigots, paranoid schizophrenics, illiterates, frauds, plagiarists, liars and drug dealers… are drawn to me like buzzards on a gut wagon. This has nothing to do with me. It’s not my fault that my fans are so high-class. They read my blog so they can learn from me, because I’m so much smarter and better informed than they are. If they didn’t have me, just think how wretched they would be! (See somewhere.)
Because I have the mind of a child, I can’t repeat myself often enough. Because I have the mind of a child, I can’t repeat myself often enough. Because I have the mind of a child, I can’t repeat myself often enough. Because I have the mind of a child, I can’t repeat myself often enough… (See this and that.)
Georgie One Note
While I do not entirely agree with your scathing judgment of GW, this is brilliant satire!
Historians may well look back on this period, say, from 1960 on, as the "Selfish Era" - a time when individualism and materialism steadily took precedence over social responsibility. (To be fair, in the period from 1960 to 1980, the deterioration was slow, and the social contract dating back to the mid-1930s was more or less intact.) Personal debt grew slowly at first but steadily accelerated, even though it can be easily demonstrated that consumers collectively are better off saving to buy and that the only beneficiary of a heavy debt society is the financial industry, whose growth throughout this period was massive, multiplying its share of a growing pie by a remarkable 2.2 times…
The financial industry, with its incestuous relationships with government agencies, runs a close second to the energy industry. In the last 10 years or so, their machine, led by the famously failed economic consultant Alan Greenspan – one of the few businessmen ever to be laughed out of business – seemed perhaps the most effective. It lacks, though, the multi-decadal attitude-changing propaganda of the oil industry. Still, in finance they had the "regulators", deregulating up a storm, to the enormous profit of their industry. Even with the biggest-ever financial fiasco, entirely brought on by the collective incompetence they produced "they" being the financial regulators and the financial industry leaders working together in some strange, would-be symbiotic relationship), reform is still difficult. Even with everyone hating them, the financial industry comes out smelling like a rose with less competition, profits higher than ever, and not just too big to fail, but bigger still.
Other industries, to be sure, are in there swinging: insurance and health care come to mind, but they seem like pikers in comparison. No, it's energy and finance in coequal first place, military-related companies an honorable third, and the rest of the field not even in contention. And now, adding the icing to the corporate cake, we have the Supreme Court. Formerly the jewel in the American Crown, they have managed to find five Justices capable of making Eisenhower's worst nightmare come true. They have put the seal of approval on corporate domination of politics, and done so in a way that can be kept secret. The swing-vote Senator can now be sand-bagged by a vicious advertising program on television, financed by unknown parties, and approved by no stockholders at all!
All in all it appears that Eisenhower’s worst fears have been realized and his remarkable and unique warnings given for naught. From now on, we should tread more carefully. Honoring President Eisenhower’s unique warnings, we should perhaps not take this 50-year slide lying down. Squawking loudly seems preferable.
The military problem is but one head of a two headed beast with the other head being the banking system. You can also find ample warnings about takeovers by the banks in the founding literature. In Eisenhower's day the banks were not a problem as bankers were still deposit takers under the Rossevelt era reforms and "investment banking" was disctinct from "commercial banking." Not so anymore. Now they are risk takers and the best and the brightest and all other forms of hogwash.
There aren't 100 million people in or associated with the military or defense contractors; 100 million is how many voters it will take to keep a ridiculously bloated military budget in place once enough people start going without daily needs (see Gasoline, Food, Medicine, Jobs)(see also Roman Empire). In the short run you may be right (see American Idol)(also see Campaign Contributions to House and Senate Members by Defense Contractors), but when the money to pay for the defense budget is substantially borrowed from China, in the long run, it's probably unsustainable (see Soviet Union). And why, really, do we need huge standing armies, bases, and equipment stockpiles when we we have submarines roaming the planet right now that pack enough gigatonnage to turn an aggressor nation into a parking lot (see Dirty Glass).
Maybe you come from some hillbilly state where the career choices are limited (see Farmer/Rancher, Military, Meth Cook), but the "vast majority" that you talk about does not exist.
Three Cheers for Ike AND Jeremy Grantham (see "Night of the Living Fed"). Where are the patriots in this country?
Things have evolved (or more properly devolved) since Eisenhower's time enough so that the MIC has agglomerated in Borg hive fashion control over the spheres of banking (PE), media (e.g. GE) and logistics and accordingly would probably be more accurately described now as McBIG
This is growth that is consistent with making the US military a primary weapons platform (along with China) for pre-meditated Globalist neofeudal consolidation.
Lew Rockwell would beg to differ with your assessment, GW, and I can't say as I blame him:
Eisenhower’s farewell speech was a long and nearly hysterical argument for the Cold War. He presented it as more than a military policy against Russia, but rather as a grand metaphysical struggle that should take over our minds and souls, as bizarre as that must sound to the current generation.
His words were Wilsonian, even messianic. The job of U.S. military policy is to “foster progress in human achievement” and enhance “dignity and integrity” the world over. That’s a rather expansive role for government by any standard. But he went further. An enemy stands in the way of achieving this dream, and this enemy is “global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method.” This great struggle “commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings.”
Because some crusty apparatchiks are imposing every manner of economic control over Russia and a few satellites, U.S. foreign policy must absorb the whole of our beings? So much for limited government.
His "Defense Highways" program alone is enough to condemn him for his devotion to military-industrialism, what with its destruction of the nation's national passenger rail system and the freeway free-for-all that would literally pave the way for WalMart and everything else that America's subsidized "love affair with the automobile" has wrought.
Talk about unintended consequences:
January 16, 2011
I've always found it rather haunting to watch old footage of my grandfather, Dwight Eisenhower, giving his televised farewell address to the nation on Jan. 17, 1961. The 50-year-old film all but crackles with age as the president makes his earnest, uncoached speech. I was 9 years old at the time, and it wasn't until years later that I understood the importance of his words or the lasting impact of his message.
Of course, the speech will forever be remembered for Eisenhower's concerns about a rising "military-industrial complex," which he described as "a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions" with the potential to acquire - whether sought or unsought - "unwarranted influence" in the halls of government.
The notion captured the imagination of scholars, politicians and veterans; the military-industrial complex has been studied, investigated and revisited countless times, including now, at its 50th anniversary. Looking back, it is easy to see the parallels to our era, especially how the complex has expanded since Sept. 11, 2001. In less than 10 years, our military and security expenditures have increased by 119 percent. Even after subtracting the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the budget has grown by 68 percent since 2001. In 2010, the United States is projected to spend at least $700 billion on its defense and security, the most, in real terms, that we've spent in any year since World War II.
However, at this time of increased concerns over our fiscal deficit and the national debt, Eisenhower's farewell words and legacy take on added significance.
Throughout his presidency, Eisenhower continually connected the country's security to its economic strength, underscoring that our fiscal health and our military might are equal pillars of our national defense. This meant that a responsible government would have to make hard choices. The question Eisenhower continued to pose about defense spending was clear and practical: How much is enough?
Early on, he realized that if the United States were to prevail in its existential standoff with the Soviet Union, we would have to prepare for a long game. Unlike our experience in World War II, which lasted less than four years, the Cold War would last many decades. Eisenhower understood that we were facing a marathon, not a sprint.
Moreover, the logic of nuclear deterrence made the conventional wars Ike had commanded in the 1940s obsolete. Now, there could be no margin for error; the Cold War brought with it different calculations, which were very costly by nature. These new realities meant that the United States would not only need to project power and resolve, but also had to ensure national solvency - no easy task for a country that had to modernize while assuming, for the first time, the mantle of global leadership.
The pressures Eisenhower faced during his presidency were enormous. Over the years, as the Soviet Union appeared to reach military parity with the United States, political forces in Washington cried out for greater defense spending and a more aggressive approach to Moscow. In response, the administration publicly asserted that there was no such thing as absolute security. "The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without," Eisenhower said. And he followed through, balancing the budget three times during his tenure, a record unmatched during the Cold War.
This theme was introduced at the start of Eisenhower's first term. On April 16, 1953, the new president spoke to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, just weeks after Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin's death. In this "Chance for Peace" speech - one as important as the farewell address but often overlooked by historians - he seized the moment to outline the cost of continued tensions with the U.S.S.R. In addition to the military dangers such a rivalry imposed, he said, the confrontation would exact an enormous domestic price on both societies:
"This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. . . . We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."
Contrary to many historians' suggestions, Ike's farewell speech was not an afterthought - it was the bookend to "Chance for Peace." As early as 1959, he began working with his brother Milton and his speechwriters to craft exactly what he would say as he left public life. The speech would become a solemn moment in a decidedly unsolemn time, offering sober warnings for a nation giddy with newfound prosperity, infatuated with youth and glamour, and aiming increasingly for the easy life.
"There is a reoccurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties," he warned in his final speech as president. ". . . But each proposal must be weighed in light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs . . . balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future."
While the farewell address may be remembered primarily for the passages about the military-industrial complex, Ike was rising above the issues of the day to appeal to his countrymen to put the nation and its future first. "We . . . must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow."
This Story 50 years later, we're still ignoring Ike's warning. As I see my grandfather's black-and-white image deliver these words, a simple thought lingers in my mind: This man was speaking for me, for us. We are those grandchildren. We are the great beneficiaries of his generation's prudence and sacrifice.
Until today, perhaps, we have taken American leadership, dominance and prosperity for granted. In those intervening years, we rarely asked if our policies were sustainable over the long haul. Indeed, it has only been since the catastrophic financial meltdown in 2008 that we've begun to think about the generational responsibilities we have for our grandchildren's prosperity and welfare.
Eisenhower's words, from the beginning of his presidency to the end, come back to us from the mists of another era. They remind us, sadly, that sometimes we must revisit our past to learn what we have always known.
Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of Dwight D. Eisenhower, is an energy and international affairs expert and chairman emeritus of the Eisenhower Institute.
As we look for ways to cut the budget, defense spending needs more scrutiny that it is getting:50 years later, we're still ignoring Ike's warning, by Susan Eisenhower, Commentary, Washington Post: I've always found it rather haunting to watch old footage of my grandfather, Dwight Eisenhower, giving his televised farewell address to the nation on Jan. 17, 1961. ...Of course, the speech will forever be remembered for Eisenhower's concerns about a rising "military-industrial complex," which he described as "a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions" with the potential to acquire - whether sought or unsought - "unwarranted influence" in the halls of government. ...Looking back, it is easy to see the parallels to our era, especially how the complex has expanded since Sept. 11, 2001. In less than 10 years, our military and security expenditures have increased by 119 percent. Even after subtracting the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the budget has grown by 68 percent since 2001. In 2010, the United States is projected to spend at least $700 billion on its defense and security, the most, in real terms, that we've spent in any year since World War II.However, at this time of increased concerns over our fiscal deficit and the national debt, Eisenhower's farewell words and legacy take on added significance.Throughout his presidency, Eisenhower continually connected the country's security to its economic strength, underscoring that our fiscal health and our military might are equal pillars of our national defense. This meant that a responsible government would have to make hard choices. The question Eisenhower continued to pose about defense spending was clear and practical: How much is enough? ...
William J McKibbin :
PS: More at:
There was an interesting discussion recently of what the true size of the defense budget is over at Firedoglake:
The problem is that military spending is spread out across several budget items, so it's full cost is the sum of several departments (at least Dept. of Defense, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, the CIA, and the portion of the interest on the debt due to past borrowing for defense spending). In total, it appears to be nearly $1T (and is, of course, by far the largest item in the discretionary budget).paine:
"The Speech Ike Didn't Give" (September 23, 1952) criticizing the "deceptive prosperity" generated by Leon Keyserling's NSC-68 Cold War "stimulus package".
http://ecologicalheadstand.blogspot.com/2011/01/speech-ike-didnt-give.html"How much is enough?" the last major office seeker to answer that question with any sincerity was george McGovern's in 1972 i don't recall the details but wiki suggests it asmounted to " an across-the-board, 37% reduction in defense spending over three years"Sandwichman:
the likes of that has never been part of the bi partisan game plan no candidate inside the fringe has suggested anything remotely like that bold plan for "public choice"
That's because, NSC-68 is the REAL constitution of the Unified National Security State of America (UNSSA).
sandy u got that right for surepaine:
its paul nitze and his nasty mentor dean acheson behind the bum's rush --nsc-68-- to brass hat driven industrial prosperityat:
mean while among much else that in the end proved anti job class the bi partisan MIC band wagon turned its back on american industry itself even as our civilian production platform fritter itself awayFred C. Dobbs :
Sure enough: Military Keynesianism is the bipartisan industrial policy of the US. GOP uses it as a spoils system; Dems use it to "look tuff" and do actual R&D. Where do you think these here internets came from?The M-I complex get rather well entrenched during the Eisenhower era, thanks very much, but at least Ike felt guilty about it on the way out.CraigDB :
In this sesquicentennial of the Civil War, the War to Preserve the Union, let's remember that that Federal government has as its principle reason for being the preservation of the United States of America, as was determined by that very first Republican, Abe Lincoln.
Maybe things'd be different if all those States-Rights Jeffersonian Democrats had had their way back in the day.
Old memes die hard. We've got a military-industrial complex because that's what is 'legitimate' for the US to put its money into. Who knew it was going to work out so well?Not really the MIC per se, it would be any public/private entity that gets that large a share of annual budget. It could easily be NASA, or NSF, or DOE, DHS, or Green xyz, or infrastructure companies or health/pharma, or banks. You name it, it is a feeding frenzy that is hard to wean off the taxpayer/china nipple.
Ironman :Let's not forget all of what Eisenhower warned against in his farewell address:cm:
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present
* and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.
Rather than paying attention to just part of the warning, perhaps we should pay attention to all of it.
Fortunately there is no similar concern about for profit private sector domination of research. Both in setting research agendas and compelling favorable research outcomes.
December 10, 2010
In Archive, New Light on Evolution of Eisenhower Speech * By SAM ROBERTS
The phrase that would emerge as the most enduring legacy of what became, arguably, the most famous farewell address since George Washington’s evolved over 20 months and was agreed to only a few days before it was delivered.
The words, in a speech by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, were transformed from a warning against a “war-based industrial complex” into a “vast military-industrial complex” and finally into a more vanilla “military-industrial complex,” which seemed controversial enough without the qualifier.
Documents released Friday by the National Archives shed new light on the genesis of the phrase in the televised address, which Eisenhower delivered on Jan. 17, 1961, three days before his successor’s inauguration.
In the final version, the president recalled that until recently the nation had no permanent arms industry, that “American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well,” but said that the country could no longer risk “emergency improvisation of national defense.” An adequate military establishment and arms industry were vital, he said, but their conjunction and “its total influence — economic, political, even spiritual” also had “grave implications.”
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex,” Eisenhower warned. “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”
In the version he read from that night, those words were underlined. Several were typed in capital letters.
The newly released letters, memos and speech drafts — 21 in all — were received by the National Archives from Grant Moos, whose father, Malcolm, was Eisenhower’s special assistant and chief speechwriter.
“It’s probably the most important farewell address of the modern era,” said Karl Weissenbach, director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kan. “And now we get to see its evolution, which started in May 1959 and didn’t end until it was delivered. We also learn the important role of Milton Eisenhower, who was instrumental in making sure that his brother’s thoughts would be correctly portrayed.”
The earliest White House memos suggesting a farewell address mentioned only an appeal for bipartisanship. But the president wrote his brother on May 25, 1959, of “the importance of getting our people to understand that local affairs have a definite relationship to foreign affairs.” A year later, another White House aide was urging the president’s speechwriter to read Washington’s farewell address, especially its warning of “overgrown military establishments.”
On Oct. 31, 1960, another speechwriter, Ralph E. Williams, warned of a “permanent war-based industry” run by former military officials.
An undated draft titled “commencement” called for “jealous precaution” (Milton Eisenhower later deleted “jealous”) by civilian authorities “to avoid measures which would enable any segment of this military-industrial complex to sharpen the focus of its own power at the expense of the sound balance which now prevails.”
The president’s staff later expressed surprise at the phrase’s durability.
“I am sure that had it been uttered by anyone except a president who had also been the Army’s five-star chief of staff, it would long since have been forgotten,” Williams recalled years later.
anne :Ironman:anne :
Let's not forget all of what Eisenhower warned against in his farewell address: *
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present
** and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.
[Do continue this argument when possible.]http://www.bea.gov/national/nipaweb/TableView.asp?SelectedTable=108&ViewSeries=NO&Java=no&Request3Place=N&3Place=N&FromView=YES&Freq=Year&FirstYear=2007&LastYear=2009&3Place=N&AllYearsChk=YES&Update=Update&JavaBox=no#Mid
January 30, 2010
National Defense Consumption Expenditures and Gross Investment, 2000-2009
(Billions of dollars)
2000 ( 371.0) 2001 ( 393.0) Bush 2002 ( 437.7) 2003 ( 497.9) 2004 ( 550.8)
2005 ( 589.0) 2006 ( 624.9) 2007 ( 662.3) 2008 ( 737.3) 2009 ( 771.6) Obama
Jan 04, 2011
Too big to fail?
That’s been the key question asked of Wall Street’s biggest banks since the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, which sent shock waves through the global financial system and led to the worst recession this country has seen since the Great Depression.
But, there is another firm far from the circles of Wall Street for which that same question should be asked, says William Hartung, author of the new book Prophets of War. The subtitle of his book says it all: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.
With $40 billion in annual revenue, Lockheed Martin is the single largest recipient of U.S. tax dollars. The company receives about $36 billion in government contracts per year. In 2008, $29 billion of that was for U.S. military contracts – a dollar figure 25% higher than its competitors Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman.
What does that mean for you, the U.S. taxpayer? According to Hartung, each taxpaying household contributes $260 to Lockheed’s coffers each year!
All evidence enough that the company is "too big to fail", as Hartung tells Aaron in the accompanying clip.
A prime example of Washington looking out for Lockheed happened just last year when debate ensued over whether to continue the company’s grossly expensive F-22 stealth fighter program, says Hartung, who has covered the defense industry for years and is also the director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation.
The Pentagon eventually did suspend funds terminating Lockheed’s development of the F-22 Raptor, which has been the most costly fighter plane ever. But, at the same time the U.S. Defense Department cut off funds for the F-22, it added an additional $4 billion to the Lockheed’s F-35 fighter plane program. The government “basically took with one hand and gave back [to Lockheed] with the other,” says Hartung of a company that is the only major contractor of fighter planes for the U.S. Airforce.
Warning from the past
Two weeks from now marks the 50th anniversary of President Eisenhower’s famous “military-industrial complex” speech cautioning against “undue influence” from large and politically powerful defense companies. According to Hartung, Lockheed Martin epitomizes the exact threat Eisenhower warned about.
By now you might be wondering where the defense contractor’s remaining $7 billion in government contract goes. “They have got their fingers everywhere now,” Hartung tells Aaron. As outlined in his book, Lockheed does way more than produce military aircraft and weaponry. From the U.S. Census Bureau to the U.S. Postal Service to the Internal Revenue Service, “pretty much name a government agency and they are involved,” he says.
Despite Lockheed sheer size, its stronghold on so many government agencies is evidence enough that the company is “too big to fail.” “If the government becomes so dependent on [Lockheed], for many different activities it will be hard to hold them accountable if they underperform or if there is some sort of whiff of scandal.”
Bigger may not be better, but it's working
Hartung’s scathing criticism of Lockheed Martin comes from his belief that “they have not done the job well, often enough,” pointing to decades of cost overruns, a corporate history littered with corruption scandals and the fact that the company was one of the first ever to receive a federal bailout back in the 1970s.
When it comes down to it, Lockheed’s dominance – even with what some might call a checkered past – has much to do with the company’s ability to influence those in power, says Hartung. In 2009, it spent nearly $15 million on campaign contributions and lobbying fees -- the second highest amount for defense contractors.
Another key factor that has helped the defense contractor secure the most U.S. military contracts is the company’s ability to exploit the revolving door between Washington, the industry and itself, says Hartung. Not only has this led to the company having strong influence over those who hold the U.S. government's purse stings, many who are former Lockheed employees or board members, it has allowed the company to influence foreign policy decisions like pressing for war with Iraq.
In the publicity notes for the book, Hartung claims “Lockheed Martin has also funded right-wing think tanks that have done everything from press for war with Iraq to lobby for the “Star Wars” missile defense program.” He tells Aaron that they are using these think tanks to make the points that are “embarrassing to make themselves.”
Hartung acknowledges that “we need companies like Lockheed Martin to defend the country,” but he says that a lot more can be done to regulate the industry by setting “stricter accountability rules.”
Tell us what you think!
90% of the partners at large govt consulting firms are retired from the pentagon armed services or previous high ranking govt officials. It is a felony if a govt civil servant accepts employment from private firms to help the private firm gain new business, but it obviously does not apply to the corruption at the top of the Washington in-crowd. This same behavior rewards politicians for accepting large campaign contributions from private firms for favors. Our govt is being bought by private firms, lobbyists in Washington, so that they continue to rob us. We need to change this law, big time. Unit this behavior is rewarded with jail time, nothing will change. Lets take back our democracy.
Lockheed Martin builds things no other company in the world can build. Each time they tee it up, it is to build something like the P-38, the SR-71, the F-117A or the F-22, all of which had no peers when first built. Light year leaps in technology cost money. Do you want the best aircraft, or not?
An amazing, and sobering, experience to read the comments on these boards.
The ignorant masses negatively opining about the successes of others. You drooling glass eyed rubes like your cell phones? Microwaves? Internet? The list goes on and on. These modern advances are made possible by our extensive defense R&D.
These industries are holding tech that will not be publically available for 20 years. They studied more than 99% you. They are infinitely more intelligent than 99% you. They support the economy at large with the dollars they receive. Do they make mistakes? Every single entity on the earth has acted in a manner that manifested less than peak efficiency, E.g. we all make mistakes. So if you have ever made a mistake, perhaps you should give others the grace you would appreciate in your own moments of regress.
When you all cry about any President being directly responsible for anything other than a Veto you show your ignorance of executive process (You animals vote sadly enough). When you slander companies, or their employees, you know nothing about you show your ignorance. Malice and ignorance, like cancer, are all too prevalent in the USA today. One can say our Republic has failed in the fact that people who actually have intelligence and drive are represented and maligned by those who do not.
Excuses are tantamount to weakness. The vast majority of you have infinite excuses as to your inability to accomplish much in your lives and not one reason why you can succeed. Those with success have earned it, in more cases than not. Do not make the mistake in thinking because one person cheated to get where they are all people did. This is a fallacy, an error in logic, you embrace to feel better about your own perceived failures.
It is easy to berate the players on the field from the stands. It is massively more difficult to get out there and play, win or lose. Most lack perspective and respect due to massive narcissism and egocentricity. Your miserable quiet whispers of lives are your rewards for sloth and venom.
You were lied to. The vast majority of you did not deserve the trophy and you were not special. You also most likely resented the ones who did and were. Your "feelings" blind you to the measurable realities of the world in which you live. While most of you hope for change some actually go out and create it.
Grow up America. Find joy in the success of others and look for solutions to problems, not someone to blame for them.
A Yahoo! User:
Reading Jekyl Island, and am pretty sure, Lockheed is a company named that got a bailed out in the seventies or eighties. The reason they have all the government contracts is so that they would be able to pay back the interest payments to the banks.
Defense companies are a cesspool of corruption who corrupt their suppliers as well. From my experience as an engineer in IC industry, the same chip which you can buy from for 1$ is bought from the same company for $10 meeting supposedly "higher" MIL specs for which the sales division of the company leaves no stone unturned to keep the procurement managers for the Defense companies "satisfied" through 5 course dinners etc.
The Military Industry Complex is a US Gov. charity catering to bullies in nexus with a corrupt and well greased Congress.
The least that companies like Lockheed Martin can do is stop war mongering like egging on George W. Bush to invade Iraq - when he was Governor of Texas. The enormous profits they are making through raining missiles in Iraq, Gaza etc. is blood money as tainted as the money made by IG Farben helping the Third Reich.
By law they must be stopped from funding right wing war mongering think tanks and funding the crazy war hawks.
Bryan Bender, reporter for the Boston Globe‘s Washington Bureau, discusses the very high percentage of retired high-ranking US military officers going to work for defense contractors; the Pentagon’s limited oversight on conflicts of interest that seems based on the assumption retired generals have an unshakable code of ethics; how private equity firms – specializing in defense industry investments – give compensation to rent-a-general firms for privileged information about Pentagon contracts; why Eisenhower should have gone with the military-industrial-Congressional complex version of his famous farewell address; and how retired Army Gen. Jack Keane – on behalf of AM General – helped overturn the Army’s decision to repair instead of replace Humvees.
MP3 here. (20:01)
Foreign Policy In Focus
The last 70 years of modern warfare have been filled with atrocities, from the first bomb that exploded the tranquility of Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941 to the advent of large-scale saturation bombing of civilian centers culminating in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, from the terror attacks of 9/11 to the ill-advised invasion of Iraq and subsequent quagmire. In his ambitious and comprehensive comparative study Cultures of War, historian John Dower exposes many striking similarities between the thoughts, actions, and attitudes of Imperial Japan, the United States, and radical Islamists.
Dower further identifies compelling parallels between World War II and the “War on Terror” that help to explain how the United States arrived at its current predicament. Notable in this regard are the eerily similar mistakes of both Imperial Japan and the United States. Both countries misrepresented and misused historical analogies, denied historical fact, and failed to understand and acknowledge links between the past and the present. Understanding and appreciating history’s impact, through an unvarnished and unbiased lens, Dower argues, may save mankind from making the same mistakes again and again.
Dower first explores the parallels between Pearl Harbor and 9/11. In 1941, as in 2001, the inability to anticipate imminent attack, despite numerous warning signs, represents a stunning and colossal failure of both intelligence and imagination. The audacity of both attacks, launched by supposedly inferior foes, shook the very foundations of America and shattered the illusion of security and sense of isolation from an otherwise turbulent world was shattered. This new reality gave rise to fear, outrage, and the overwhelming determination to exact a terrible retribution on those who had transgressed against America.
Both the Roosevelt and Bush administrations derived immediate benefits from the attacks. Having previously faced popular opposition to entering the European war, Roosevelt could use Pearl Harbor to unify the country on a war footing. Sixty years later, having been awarded the presidency by the Supreme Court and facing opposition to his domestic and foreign policy agenda, President Bush similarly used 9/11 to unify the country behind his administration and the international community behind the United States. Where Roosevelt succeeded in seizing his opportunity, Bush failed. The Bush doctrine of preemption and his administration’s tendency to consider the world in only black and white succeeded only in alienating the United States from the international community. Restrictions on civil liberties and the disaster that followed the invasion of Iraq destroyed American unity. Bush ended his tenure amid increasing social polarization.
Dower goes on to consider terror and mass destruction in modern warfare, particularly with regard to the initiation of targeting civilians. He reflects on how one reconciles a strategy of massive and indiscriminate destruction with the moral righteousness of one’s cause. To reconcile this moral dilemma, such acts must be rationalized, sanitized, or simply ignored. The case of World War II is particularly instructive as both Axis and Allied powers adopted strategies targeting civilians despite having condemned such practices. In the new era of “total war,” both sides rationalized the strategy as a way to defeat an insidious and fanatical enemy.
Furthermore, both sides took active steps to shield the public and even those in command from a horrible reality. “Urban industrial areas” was a popular euphemism as was “dehousing,” which sanitized the reality of incinerating men, women, and children. “If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals,” the architect of America’s aerial strategy, General Curtis LeMay, remarked to future Secretary of State Robert McNamara. “What makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?”
Finally, Dower ruminates on the shift of American military doctrine, following World War II, toward the use of rapid and overwhelming force. Mass destruction as an ideal form of warfare is perhaps the greatest legacy of World War II. The hope that wars can be conducted with surgical precision, with maximum force and the fear of a mushroom cloud on one’s own shores, illustrates the contradictory nature of modern warfare.
Dower delivers a scathing critique of the notion that the occupation of Iraq would resemble the occupation of Japan. Indeed, it seems that the similarities are few and generally superficial, while the differences numerous and profound. Hoping the success of the occupation of Japan could be repeated in Iraq speaks to what can only be considered a delusional projection of historical understanding onto current events.
Cultures of War offers an unbiased and matter-of-fact look into the evolution of the attitudes governing modern warfare and their often-contradictory nature. This necessarily will cause moments of discomfort, as the reader must move beyond sanitized accounts and confront the horrible reality of modern warfare. However, averting one’s eyes does a disservice to the victims, to history and indeed, to mankind itself.
Nicholas Kristof has a column in the NYT putting forward the heretical idea that the US should spend less on the military and more on diplomacy and education. The argument is obviously right as far as it goes, but it leaves one big question unasked. An obvious reason for the focus on military spending is that Americans have massive confidence in their military and much less in their education system, particularly the public school systems.
Yet judged by results, the opposite should surely be the case. Why is this so?
The US military has fought five large-scale wars in the past fifty years, resulting in a draw in Korea, a defeat in Vietnam, and three inconclusive outcomes in Iraq (twice) and Afghanistan. That’s a record that makes the worst inner-city public school look pretty good. At least the majority of students, even at the worst schools, end up more or less literate.
The US military does an excellent job in defeating anyone silly enough to put a conventional army in the field against it. But, as a result there aren’t many adversaries so silly (even Saddam didn’t expect war when he invaded Kuwait and did his best to avoid it in 2002-03). Potential opponents either try to acquire nukes or fight with IEDs and suicide bombers.
Kristof is right that even where the use of military power is successful in its own terms, it is unlikely to be cost-effective – his striking observation on this is that the cost of one US soldier in Afghanistan is the same as that of 20 schools. Similarly, Greg Mortensen observes that sending back 243 troops would be enough to finance the entire Afghan higher education system .
But the striking thing about military expenditure is that its failure rate is so high. More or less by definition, it’s impossible for both sides to win an armed conflict, but it’s certainly possible (and probably the par outcome) for both sides to lose. So, the US success rate since 1950 is probably about what would be expected. As I’ve mentioned previously, US experience of war (apart from the Civil War) before 1950 was by contrast exceptionally favorable – even the War of 1812 was claimed as a win
Moreover, in all sorts of respects the self-image of the US (as a land of opportunity and social mobility, a generous giver of foreign aid, a beacon of democracy in a generally undemocratic world and so on) seems in most respects to have been set in concrete by 1950. The failure to learn anything from a string of military failures and disappointments seems to fit with this.
I’m talking here mostly about the views of the American public, but these views are even more predominant among the policy elite and the Foreign Policy Community. I don’t think this is primarily because either the elite or the capitalist class they might be regarded as representing benefit from wars. It’s true that there is not much of a penalty for advocating disastrous wars, but as long as you steer clear of a handful of topics, there is not much of a penalty for anything in the US policy elite, once you are regarded as “serious”. And while some businesses obviously benefit from, and lobby for, war, there are plenty more who would prefer to make money trading with putative enemies like Iran and Iraq.
At least, the majority of Americans regard the Iraq and Afghan wars as mistakes where the costs have outweighed the benefits. If that (correct) judgement could be generalised into a recognition that military force rarely generates unequivocal victory, and is rarely worth the cost even when it does, arguments like those of Kristof might begin to prevail.
fn1. In fact, it would probably be more accurate to break the Korean War into two parts: a brief and victorious defensive war in 1950 in which the North’s invading army was thrown back across the border, and a counter-invasion of the North which resulted in a disastrous defeat, and three years of bloody struggle ending in the status quo ante. October 1950 marks the point when US military policy (at least as regards large-scale international conflicts) shifted from reluctant involvement in wars started by others to an increasing preference for pre-emptive military action.
fn2. I think this is an overestimate. Mortensen is estimating the cost of keeping a US soldier in the field at $1 million a year, but taking account of support costs and deferred costs, it’s probably closer to $5 million, which implies that withdrawing a single platoon would be enough.
Interestingly once you control for demography, the us school system appears to do very well indeed: http://super-economy.blogspot.com/2010/12/amazing-truth-about-pisa-scores-usa.html
I’ve yet Tobermory convinced but it certainly chimes with how seriously the us seems to take it’s
Americans have confidence in their military because building that confidence is one of the long term goals of the American military, and they’ve been very successful at it.
Here’s an Al Jazeera program that explains how the Pentagon works with Hollywod. It describes how the Pentagon trades access to equipment and personnel for the right to review scripts, ensuring that media portrayals of the military are positive.
We know the Pentagon does the same thing with reporters using the embedding process and providing officially retired officers to give interviews to journalists, and is able to ensure the majority of coverage is positive.
It is also true that the military industrial complex (in that rabid socialist D. W. Eisenhower’s phrase) is really profitable, and provides one of the last bulwarks of higher paying manufacturing jobs. I know folks who drive 3-4 hours commute a day to Lockheed Marietta.. The military has got great political support, is fetishized by a certain large number of folks, and is one of the only things done by the government approved of by ‘Conservatives/Libertarians’ (philosophically, as opposed to based on it’s results..)
You’re overestimating the success of the American armed services. Name 1 unequivocal victory in a major conflict that the USA fought as the sole or predominant combatant since the Spanish-American War. Only Gulf War 1 comes close (and we got that paid for by others). Americans have a particularly unfortunate triumphalist view of WWII in which the crucial roles of the Soviet Union, Britain, and the important roles of smaller states like Australia simply don’t exist.
Name 1 unequivocal victory in a major conflict that the USA fought as the sole or predominant combatant since the Spanish-American War.
The 1941-45 war against Japan, which by an accident of history we refer to as if it were part of the 1939-45 war against Germany.
I don’t know if the premise of this post is correct. From my own recollections, people seem to prefer cutting military spending over cutting spending on education or conversely, increasing spending on education. (Googles) . . . hmmmm, here’s something from earlier in the year with a halfway decent graphic, a poll showing that cutting defense spending is more popular than cutting education or Social Security. Eyeballing suggests the split is approximately 23/13.
As in so many other propositions that have come up recently, when someone says that “Americans believe X”, you’ve got to ask “Which Americans?” The answer to that one seems to be when fully parsed, “The Americans who count.”
Questioning the cost-effectiveness of the military is Unamerican, Unpatriotic, and probably Against the Bible. How dare you? Oh he’s a foreigner.
I have heard once the phrase: “the dollar float in a see of oil”, and that is true, and it is the reason US can be printing money like hell without sink its own economy; as M. Friedman said “our debts are in dollars, not in yens, pounds or marks…and we have the printer”
The dollar as global currency is based alone in the multiple security agreements between the US and Saudi Arabia dating from Roosvelt presidency in the WWII, due to the paranoid of the royal saudi family. The military power is the base for that agreements and as consequence, the reason for the unique situation of the US economy
Relevant to the previous and quite diverting, if not exactly definitive:
Rob Newman’s History of Oil
Bertie Russell was not particularly notable as a social and political thinker, but he was onto something when he observed that US society substitutes quite rigid social control for its absent formal and substantive legal control of the population. No doubt some yarn can be spun about settler communities and the Wild West or something, I dunno.
I think it can be expressed even more simply: you can take the ape out of the savannah, but you can’t take the savannah out of the ape. (Most of) our species is obsessed with that kind of status-seeking bullshit—so many that they literally diagnose failure to pay “sufficient” attention to social status as a mental disorder—and if it isn’t expressed through official channels it will come out through unofficial ones. Democracy is a great idea, for a species slightly saner than ours and more concerned with truth than trendiness. Otherwise we just keep screwing it up.
(Of course there’s a more hopeful school of thought that we can make ourselves smarter and stop following every strongman whose plan of action amounts to “rah, rah, ingroup!”, which is a pleasant-sounding ideal, but if it worked in practice, why would we have this thread? In practice, even the supposedly pro-reason side of the political spectrum psychologically needs an authority figure to rally behind and define their cause with a false impression of unity, and usually the first thing they do to create the impression of unity is find an outgroup to denounce.)
Tim Wilkinson @ #20: If you’re correct that Saddam Hussein was deliberately misled about American intentions with respect to Kuwait, one might have expected that April Glaspie’s subsequent diplomatic career would have been more brilliant than it was. (Or perhaps she was simply a sacrificed rook, of course.)
The actual cost of the U.S. military is 1.35 trillion dollars per year. Naturally the Pentagon denies this. That comes to around 12% of the actual current U.S. GDP, which runs around 11 trillion (not 14 trillion as claimed).
Do the simple arithmetic: 725 billion 2011 Pentagon outlay 50 billion Department of Homeland Security 50 billion Blackwater (Xe) which has been revealed as a CIA front 70 billion VA 73 billion annual military retirement 50 billion Pentagon “black” projects 22 billion classified air force space program 50 billion NRO (military satellites) 50 billion NSA 50 billion CIA (they now field assassination teams worldwide & run drones)
That’s 1.25 trillion. Add in miscellaneous minor expenses like DOE, which is esentially entirely devoted to military R&D, etc., and you get 1.35 trillion.
Incidentally, the U.S. GDP is currently claimed as 14 trillion, which is another obvious lie. Notice that prior to the global financial meltdown in 2007 U.S. GDP was claimedas 14 trillion and therefore we must conclude U.S. GDP hasn’t dropped in the last 3 years. This is obviously implausible. We know for a fact that some 9 trillion of wealth evaporated in subprime home mortgages and house prices haven’t bottomed yet. Assume by the time house prices do bottom out the total comes to 12 trillion worth of wealth lost. We also know that the commercial real estate market has lost as much value as the housing market, and the commercial real estate market is roughly twice the value of the personal housing market. That makes 36 trillion of value total lost. Now do the basic math and with current interest rates you find that bank profit on a typical mortgage runs about 12% per annum. Common sense therefore tells us that the banking sector must have lost 12% per annumof 36 trillion, which comes to slightly more than 4 trillion. Round down to 4 trillion and subtract from 14 trillion and you get a current actual GDP for America of approximately 10 trillion.
1.35 trillion per annum out of 10 trillion actual U.S. GDP comes to 13.5% of GDP pissed away on U.S. military expenditures per annum. That’s a near-Soviet level of expenditure. And it’s going up at 8% per annum with a core PCE deflator of zero (as of lsat month), so that’s a real, not nominal, rate of increase. That gives a doubling time of 8.5 years.
For comparison, U.S. total health care expenditures come to 22 trillion per annum. Those are rising at 4% to 6% per annum (it varies from one year to the next).
The obvious conclusion is that current U.S. military expenditures are unsustainable.
Incidentally, these numbers remain conservative. I have sources which cite 1.45 trillion as the actual total U.S. military budget per annum. But I prefer to underestimate to be on the safe side.Moreover, in all sorts of respects the self-image of the US (as a land of opportunity and social mobility, a generous giver of foreign aid, a beacon of democracy in a generally undemocratic world and so on) seems in most respects to have been set in concrete by 1950. The failure to learn anything from a string of military failures and disappointments seems to fit with this. I’m talking here mostly about the views of the American public, but these views are even more predominant among the policy elite and the Foreign Policy Community.
There is no real mystery why the US military still retains high prestige amongst US political leaders. It is still trading on the political capital accumulated through its victory in the Cold War. And it has not suffered a USS Missouri or Saigon Embassy moment in the Global War on Terror.
Most of the US foreign policy community and pundits have spent most of their professional lives from, say mid-eighties through mid-noughties, savouring the fruits of US military dominance. Its really only in the past five years or so that things have gone sour. That is apparently too little time for the anti-militarist message to sink in.
The main thing that Pr Q is missing here in US history from 1950-90 is the prestige the US military achieved through its ultimate prevalence over the USSR’s military in both the Space Race and Arms Race, culminating in victory in the Cold War. That is what sticks in most policy makers minds.
Sure the US government suffered a massive set-back in Vietnam. But the extraordinary success the USAF achieved in winning the first Iraq war at trifling cost seems to have more or less balanced that ledger.
Now after its expensive misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan the US military is “back in the red” so to speak. But the set-backs and disappointments of the GWOT have not been reinforced by a humiliating surrender or rout, as occurred in Vietnam. Just as the economic set-back of the GFC was not reinforced by nationalisation and bankers doing the perp walk.
To really learn a lesson one needs to hit rock bottom and be humiliated by one’s enemies. It hasn’t happened to the US - yet. Meanwhile US leaders enjoy the kudos of talking loudly and carrying a big stick. With the PRC picking up the tab for the time being.
Of course one day, and that day may not come for some time, there will be a day of reckoning. The US will get into a confrontation with the PRC where its lawyers, guns and money will not count for much and it will be forced into a humiliating back-down. That will be the day that the calls for retrenching bases and beating swords into public schools are heeded.
One big problem with the US political economy is that it is so big and money-oriented that most of its major social institutions have tentacles that stretch from the private to the public sector. Which makes them pretty difficult to reform given the lobbying dollars they can throw at politicians desperate to buy media time.
The financial-industrial complex can pretty much write its own laws. It includes the FRB and GSEs who control trillions of dollars in resource flow. Just look at Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac they spent $200 million on lobbying over the noughties.
For sure other public-private organizations, like the medical-industrial complex spend comparable sums. That why heath care is so hard to reform.
So its no wonder that the military-industrial complex is proving difficult to reform. And don’t forget that the South loves the military, bases, guns & wars you name it. So politicians of both sides go out of their way to appease Southern militarists.
Things only change when catastrophe hits. It hasn’t hit yet, or not hard enough. Give it time.
Several flaws with your numbers. I’ll tackle here the $4 trillion decrease in GDP idea: – average mortgage rates were never remotely close to 12% (in the relevant timeframe) – not all mortgage interest is net bank profit – they face funding costs – no reason why mortgage payments have to decrease by the full amount of the decrease in the underlying – what about the losses suffered by foreign investors?
GDP really is still $14 trillion. The average American has not suffered a 30% decrease in income.
Regarding military expenditures: have you been careful to avoid double-counting throughout? Are you confident your categories do not overlap?
Dr. Hilarius:My purely anecdotal belief is that great deal of the “Support Our Troops” enthusiasm and for the military in general is a backlash against criticism of the military in the Vietnam era. Post-Korea/pre-Vietnam the military was often an object of ridicule in popular American culture: Sgt. Bilko and Beetle Bailey come to mind immediately. Veterans were not identical with the military.anon/portly
Along comes Vietnam. The reality is unimportant; many Americans believe that the US could have won (whatever that means) Vietnam if the military’s hands hadn’t been tied by politicians and the national will sapped by protesters. The largely apocryphal stories of soldiers being spit on and attacked by protesters fed this backlash. Both political parties equated criticism of foreign policy as an attack upon the troops.( The lack of a draft helps as well. It’s easier to support the military when you aren’t compelled to serve.)
Strong support for the military reflects insecurity about the limitations of military power.“An obvious reason for the focus on military spending is that Americans have massive confidence in their military and much less in their education system, particularly the public school systems.
Yet judged by results, the opposite should surely be the case. Why is this so?”
This neglected question actually has a simple answer. Everyone (virtually everyone) in America spends 13 years in the public school system. Plus (virtually) every parent has kids in the system. Relatively few Americans have direct experience with the military, and even if they do, it’s as employees, not as consumers of the end product.
PHB:Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
I think that Vietnam actually have the reverse effect on the elites.
Rather than conclude that military power was of limited utility, Bush, Cheney and fellow chickenhawks were set on erasing the memory of the defeat.
That is the reason they could not tollerate the fact that Saddam survived the end of the first Iraq war, it sent the wrong message as far as they were concerned. So they were looking to start a new war from the moment Bush took office.
It is now very clear that the current rate of military spending is increasing, not decreasing the risk of war. As long as the US appears to be so strong compared to possible adversaries there will always be some group of idiots looking to use the military power.
During the buildup to the Iraq war, the US was being told two claims that should have been realized as utterly incompatible. The first being that the US is weak, so weak that it risks imminent destruction if it does not start a new war. The second being the exact opposite, that the US is so strong that success is guaranteed.
The US needs to reduce its military spending to less than a quarter of its current rate. There is absolutely no national security justification for the current level of spending.Interesting post, but it overlooks the “strategic” accomplishments of US military interventions. As Noam Chomsky points out, although technically we lost in Vietnam, we succeeded in totally destroying the economic infrastructure of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. All are countries that would have been powerful economic and military allies of Communist China if we hadn’t intervened. The main “strategic” accomplishments in Iraq: effectively voiding Sadam Hussein’s contracts with Europe and China to develop Iraqi oil fields – and even more importantly to market oil from these fields in euros rather than dollars.
Afghanistan is somewhat more complicated, but we are a clearly shifting the battlefield from Afghanistan to Pakistan – which many Pakistani analysts feel is the real target. Unfortunately neither Obama nor the mainstream media are telling the truth about the real reasons for this war, either – namely fierce US competition with their main economic rival (China) over Middle East oil and gas resources.
And about the Pentagon fostering the secession of energy and mineral rich Balochistan from Pakistan to become a US client state – just like energy and mineral rich Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and the other former Soviet republics.
And about CIA support for the Baloch separatist movement and their efforts to disrupt operations at the Chinese-built port (to create an energy transit route for Iranian oil and natural gas direct to China )in Gwadar, Pakistan. Including the fact that the CIA is training young Baloch separatists in bomb-making and other terrorist activities. I blog about this at http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2010/11/28/afghanistan-and-the-road-runner/
Shouldn’t the real test of the military failure machine be whether its existence brings concrete benefits to the US?
Does the military prevent foreign invasion?
Given the difficulty that the US has in its military adventures, I think we are forced to conclude that the idea of the USSR being poised to invade the US or Western Europe was always a ridiculous, self-serving fantasy.
Does the military machine enhance US influence?
It seems to be counter-productive. The US managed to dominate the Americas in the 60s through the mid 80s, but any marginal benefit that the US might have gained in that period is more than offset by the justified suspicion towards the US of the democratic successors to the pentagon installed dictators.
Does the military machine reduce the chance of war?
Of course not. The exact opposite is true. Bush II would never have invaded Iraq had he thought that there was a possibility of defeat. The militarists want a machine for war, they have absolutely no interest in peace. They can’t even be bothered to finish the war they started in Iraq or the war in Afghanistan before they start another war in Iran. They are bloodthirsty fools and the only way to mitigate the damage is to minimize the military capability.
What size of military machine does the US require?
The US should reduce the size of the military budget until fools like John Bolton are no longer clamoring for another war believing that the US cannot possibly lose.
Reducing the military budget by 5% of the current expenditure per year would be a good start. There is really no reason that the US needs to spend even half of what it currently spends on the military.
Even with Putin slowly turning the country back into a police state, Russia would have to roll through the ex-USSR satellites and Eastern Europe before he got to the cold war era borders. Why would Russia even try when they know that the Soviet occupation failed?
Given the difficulty that the US has in its military adventures, I think we are forced to conclude that the idea of the USSR being poised to invade the US or Western Europe was always a ridiculous, self-serving fantasy.
Hold on—that only proves that the USSR couldn’t have invaded Western Europe to its net benefit. I’m perfectly willing to stipulate that, but what about the USSR invading Western Europe because of the delusions of its own warmonger faction? The US, after all, demonstrates that militaristic nations are perfectly willing to launch invasions that are objectively stupid and doomed to devolve into bloody quagmires.
It’s possible, at least, that the degree to which the US military enables and emboldens the US’s warmaking faction (increasing the risk of wars started by the US) is offset, or even more than offset, by the degree to which it deters the warmaking factions of other countries (decreasing the risk of wars started by those countries—note that Saddam Hussein, for example, only started a war based on his belief that the US would not interfere). IOW, that the US military failure machine crowds out other nations’ military failure machines, to the net benefit of the world.
I think that on balance that is probably not true, but IMO the question deserves factual examination and not just dismissiveness.
Jack Strocchi :LFC:
PHB @ #123 said:
Given the difficulty that the US has in its military adventures, I think we are forced to conclude that the idea of the USSR being poised to invade the US or Western Europe was always a ridiculous, self-serving fantasy.
By that logic we must also be “forced to conclude that the idea of the USSR poised to invade” Eastern Europe ‘’was a always a ridiculous self-serving fantasy”. Oh, wait a minute…
The fact that some countries have experienced “difficulty…in military adventures” has not stopped other countries, still less the USSR, from having a go from time to time.
In military affairs one judges capabilities first. The fact is that the Red Army started as a party militia in 1917 and within 40 years had defeated the Tsarist Army, the Wermacht, was in control of pretty much all Northern Eurasia, developed nuclear weapons and put a man into orbit. I am impressed and NATO planners would be derelict in their duty if they did not have the same impression.
And by the mid-seventies, sure, the USSR’s ideological generator had run out of steam. But they still packed a pretty impressive military punch. So just to be on the safe side, it made sense to stick with the containment strategy.The First and Second Gulf Wars were very interesting episodes. In both cases the United States provoked a war with a very weak state in order to intimidate the world.Henri Vieuxtemps
The first and second Gulf Wars were actually quite different. The US did not “provoke” the first one in any recognizable sense of “provoke”, regardless of what the US ambassador at the time said or did not say to Saddam Hussein. The first Gulf War was a genuine coalitional effort with widespread international support and legitimacy. The second (the invasion of Iraq in 2003) was not. (The US undoubtedly did some stupid things in between the two Gulf Wars, such as leaving US troops stationed in Saudi Arabia. But that’s a different issue.)@127 The first Gulf War was a genuine coalitional effort with widespread international support and legitimacy.LFC:
Well, a big problem with this assessment is that the effort wasn’t consistent with the way other similar situations are treated. Selective application of principle can’t be legitimate.the effort wasn’t consistent with the way other similar situations are treated
There haven’t been that many similar situations in recent years. Operation Desert Storm was launched under UN authorization (SC Res 678 of 29 November 1990). There are lots of questions one could raise about how the war was conducted (scale of civilian casualties and suffering, ‘the highway of death,’ etc.), but the decision to initiate the first Gulf War, as distinct from how the war was conducted, seems to have been “as near to a legitimate and lawful [one] as any war of the twentieth century” (R. Jackson, The Global Covenant, p.216).
mclaren:Stubydoo incorrectly claimed:
Several flaws with your numbers. I’ll tackle here the $4 trillion decrease in GDP idea: – average mortgage rates were never remotely close to 12% (in the relevant timeframe) – not all mortgage interest is net bank profit – they face funding costs – no reason why mortgage payments have to decrease by the full amount of the decrease in the underlying – what about the losses suffered by foreign investors?
GDP really is still $14 trillion. The average American has not suffered a 30% decrease in income.
Stubydoo gets it so badly wrong it’s hard to know where to start on correcting him. First, a catastrophic decrease in income to the banking sector does not translate to the average American suffering a 30% decrease in income. What happens when the American banking sector loses 4 trillion per year of income is that the U.S. banking system becomes insolvent since their net cash inflows can’t cover their outflows. That’s where we are today. All American banks are effectively insolvent today and most of them are “zombie banks” of the kind common in Japan after their financial meltdown in the late 80s/early 90s. This is why American banks keep going belly up even though the U.S. taxpayer has shoveled trillions into bailing them out. The income stream from all those non-performing home mortgage loans and commercial real estate loans is simply no longer there. It’s gone, and it’s gone forever. Neither home prices nor commercial real estate values are coming back to their bubble values in your lifetime or mine.
So obviously Stubydoo is spouting nonsense when he talks about the average American’s income dropping by 30%. What has happened is that the U.S. banking sector has seen its income drop catastrophically. The banking sector makes up 30% of the U.S. economy, so you might think it isn’t that serious. But finance accounts for up to 70% of the profit of many American corporations—GE’s predatory loan finance operations used to account for 70% of GE’s total profit. That profit has now gone away. So it’s a double whammy: corporations like GE which had maintained profit by turning into loan shark operations are now seeing their bottom lines hit badly.
But once again, this is corporate income getting hit, not the income of the average American. Corporations have compensated by moving more of their operations overseas.
The 12% figure comes only partly from the direct income from home mortgage loans. Banks make points on a mortgage (a fee they charge the homeowner for originating the loan) and even more importantly, banks turn around the sell the mortgage as part of a tranch of CDOs. Banks make much more than just the standard 5.5% or 6%; they make another percent or two on point, then they make another couple of percent by slicing the mortgages up, repackaging them, and selling them as securitized financial instruments.
Add it all up, and you get 6% + 1.5% +2.5% or thereabouts, which comes to 10% to 12% profit on the mortgage all told, depending on how many “points” the bank gets and depending on how many crappy junk-grade mortgages it could slice up and repackage and sell for a huge premium. Reselling those mortgages was tremendously profitable. 2.5% on reselling a garbage mortgage repackaged as a AAA-rated CDO is almost certainly far too low.
So Stubydoo is wrong across the board. Everything he said is just flat-out false. The banks made tremendous profits on mortgages until the whole game collapsed, and banks really have seen their income stream collapse catastrophically, to at least the tune of 4 trillion per year, since the financial meltdown.
And last but not least, common sense tells us that when 36 trillion dollars in assets blows up and goes away, the income from those assets must also have vanished. That’s just basic. The claim that U.S. GDP hasn’t dropped from the 14 trillion dollar figure bandied about in 2007 doesn’t even pass the straight-face test. U.S. GDP must have dropped between 2006 and 2010, but according to the bogus official numbers, it hasn’t. That’s so absurd we know immediately something is wrong with those official numbers, thus the need to do a little arithmetic.
The author shows how these military contractors exploit war, destroy democracy, and steal from the taxpayers through their corporate corruption. A must read.
From the first page it is obvious that Mr. Hartung is determined to show that Lockheed is a conspirator with the government for the purpose of extracting huge sums of money from the taxpayer.
Little or no mention of the really great technological advances; or of the many really great airplanes that Lockheed has , and continues to build. A very biased, negative book.
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Last modified: March, 12, 2019