The Pentagon Budget: Aim High!

HMS_Dreadnought
Those old Dreadnought battleships were expensive.  Let’s build more!

W.J. Astore

As a candidate, Donald Trump occasionally tossed a few rhetorical grenades in the Pentagon’s general direction.  He said America’s wars wasted trillions of dollars.  He said he was smarter than the generals on ISIS (“Believe me!”).  He said the F-35 jet fighter cost way too much, along with a planned replacement for Air Force One.  He said he’d be much tougher on companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and other major defense contractors.

Instead of toughness, Trump as president has proven to be the Pentagon’s lackey.  Recently, he opined the Pentagon’s budget was out of control (“crazy”), and he suggested a 5% cut in fiscal year (FY) 2020.  That trial balloon was shot down quickly as Trump directed Secretary of Defense Mattis to submit a record-setting $750 billion budget for FY 2020.  This is roughly $50 billion more than the FY 2018 budget for “defense.”

Trump’s big boost in spending put me to mind of a famous quip by Winston Churchill in the days of “Dreadnought” battleships.  Prior to World War I, Britain was squabbling over how many of these very expensive battleships needed to be built to deter Germany and to keep command of the seas.  Churchill’s famous quip:

“The Admiralty had demanded six ships; the economists offered four; and we finally compromised on eight.”

In this case, the Pentagon had postured they needed roughly $733 billion in FY 2020, Trump had suggested $700 billion, and they compromised on $750 billion.

Once again, Trump proves his mastery of “the art of the deal.”  Not.

19 thoughts on “The Pentagon Budget: Aim High!

  1. A technical question. What are those diagonal bars that appear all along the side of the dreadnought in the picture above. I found an interesting article telling about how the dreadnoughts were virtually useless even in their prime, and the picture heading the article shows those same diagonal bars along the side…it may be the same ship. Here’s the article: https://www.wired.com/2014/08/the-wwi-battleships-that-saved-and-doomed-the-british-empire/

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    1. The amazing internet. I found the answer. Those are booms to deploy anti-torpedo nets. Here’s a picture of them deployed on another ship…

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      1. Heh, the makeshift innovations people come up with. I wonder why exactly they abandoned the idea, aside from (I bet) being a real pain for the crew to maintain. Pretty sure ships didn’t use that in WW2, at least not outside of port.

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  2. “Once again, Trump proves his mastery of “the art of the deal.” Not.”

    Not only that, but our President apparently thinks that as Commander-in-Brief, he can order the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from their illegal (as usual) occupation of Syria while simultaneously taking credit for the destruction of ISIS that the Syrian Arab Army, the Russian Aerospace forces, along with Iranian and Hezbollah militias have actually accomplished.

    While brazen chutzpah (sorry for the redundancy) on Trump’s part, this could save lives and a good deal of U.S. taxpayer money. So, good for President Trump if he can pull this off. But as Patrick Lawrence of Consortium News cautions: Don’t Hold Your Breath on US Troop Withdrawal from Syria:

    “It would be nice to think the president has final say on foreign policy, given the U.S. constitution. But the misleading troop withdrawal announcement, followed by Trump’s boastful tweet, suggests the exact opposite.”

    And Jimmy Dore chips in with some spot-on youtube commentary: Trump Orders US Withdrawal From Syria In 30 Days. Responding to a hysterical tweet by Mia Farrow who claimed that “military experts” did not agree with President Trump’s announced policy which she claimed would put Americans in danger. He tweeted back: “You mean the same military experts who lied us into Iraq and Libya and currently have us bombing 8 different countries? Trump has so completely ruined liberals’ brains that they now publicly cheer on war and confrontations with nuclear powers. [hashtag: The Resistance]”

    There you have the pathetic and useless “Democrats,” attacking Trump and the Republicans from the right while moaning that dispirited anti-war and working-class Americans don’t vote for them because “the Russians” or Senator Bernie Sanders or Dr. Jill Stein robbed Mrs Bubba Bill Clinton of her entitled throne.

    I sincerely hope that President Trump sticks to his guns on this one and gets U.S. military forces out of not just Syria, but Afghanistan and Iraq, too. If that meets with the approval of the Syrian, Russian, or Iranian governments, then so what? It meets with my approval, too. And if the Sordid Arabians and Zionist squatters occupying Palestine don’t like what I want for my country, then they can go pound sand. I so look forward to President Trump summarily firing anyone and everyone who tries to delay or otherwise sabotage this reasonable and long-overdue policy.

    As we used to say back in Southeast Asia during another of these pointless and useless military quagmires decades ago: “We lost the day we started and we win the day we stop.” Just stop the ruinous insanity, OK? Just Stop. And Win by doing so. President Trump does like to boast of “winning” all the time. He should actually do some of that now. After all, the Syrian Arab Army, the Russian Aerospace Forces, along with the Iranian and Hezbollah militias have made it absurdly easy for him to profit politically from their hard won victory over ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria.

    Now we shall see who commands whom.

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    1. If it were up to the Pentagon, we’d still be fighting the Vietnam War.

      I applaud Trump for pulling US troops out of Syria. It’s the right decision. Next, let’s pull troops out of Afghanistan. If Trump does so, maybe next year, he’s got an excellent shot at being reelected in 2020. Especially against right-leaning Democrats like Hillary, Joe Biden, and similar Chickenhawk clones.

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      1. At least per BBC, commanders on the ground were unaware of any pullout plans prior to the announcement.

        Something to note about Trump announcements – like the big parade, they often end up getting walked back or otherwise altered. He tweets for headlines (note how the media all re-post his BS verbatim? Colluding hacks…) but then weeks or months later we’ll all find out that no, actually, the pullout was cosmetic. Specops types are still on the ground, just like in Nigeria, Somalia, Djibouti, on and on and on.

        D.C., the Pentagon, Wall Street – all hydra-heads of the same underlying pernicious organism: the American State.

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  3. Michael Murry @ 2:24 AM. Good comments. Like many of President Agent Oranges communiques they end being nothing more than hot air balloons: Mexico will pay for the Wall, better health care plan once ACA is destroyed, etc.

    CNN and MSDNC who hardly if at all mentioned Syria for years have quickly pivoted with a new script. Since a withdrawal from Syria is President Agent Orange’s idea the pundits and “experts” were quickly handed a script warning of the dire consequences of a premature withdrawal. (Sound almost sexual)

    The CNN and MSDNC suits, pantsuits and skirts sitting their collective butts far from any battlefield danger introduce all the twisted thinking they can muster. President Agent Orange is allowing Putin to win, he is gifting Iran with a victory, Assad will now step up attacks against some puppet insurgency.

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  4. Michael Murry @ 2.24 PM

    I love Jimmy Dore and his show. He is funny and very much against the mainstream on every issue, and helped me a lot to understand a lot of issues in US politics. But on his video about the Syria troop withdrawal, where he disagrees with MIT intellectual Chomsky, he exposed himself as the “dumb-ass nightclub comedian” that he often calls himself.

    Withdrawing 2,000 US troops from Syria, which currently act as a deterrent against Turkey, will certainly cause a genocide due to Turkish forces invading the Kurdish held territories. While I agree with you that non-interventionism is to be applauded (allowing for money to be invested domestically), it has to require some more thought than is the case now. Abandoning the people that fought alongside with you will only exacerbate the image of the US as unstable and unreliable.

    See this Guardian article
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/25/turkey-forces-cross-kurdish-held-syria-foreign-minister

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    1. DAAN @ 12:14 PM, December 25, 2018

      I couldn’t disagree with you more about the particular Jimmy Dore show that you reference. I thought Jimmy and his panel (Ron Placone and Steph Zamorano) did a reasonable and quite effective refutation of Noam Chomsky’s views as concern the Kurds and Turkey (among numerous other shifting geopolitical interests) in Syria. Mr Chomsky’s opinion, I felt, went a little light on the actual history of U.S. military adventurism in Syria, (1) illegal because unauthorized by either the U.S. Constitution or U.N. Charter and (2) expressly voted down by the U.S. Congress earlier during the Obama Administration: a political rejection that followed closely on the equally emphatic voting down of British “boots on the ground” by the UK Parliament. So it escapes me (a) where these U.S. and other “boots” came from, (b) who put them there, (c) when they began miraculously appearing, and (d) why they must remain where they never belonged or had any legitimate business in the first place.

      Of course, the official rationales for yet another illegal and bungled U.S. military boondoggle echo those we heard ad nauseum in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan — or IraqNamistan — so that we jaded Crimestoppers have every reason to suspect other, unstated objectives principally at the behest of two U.S.-supported parasite vassals: the Sordid Arabian Monarchy and Zionist Occupation of Palestine, neither of which abominations have the slightest interest in whatever the American people may want their own government to do: like stay out of foreign fights that do not concern them and only bankrupt their own society and economy.

      I’d like to write more about this, but for the present, I think that Noam Chomsky should read Noam Chomsky, particularly Failed States: the Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy (2006) so as to avoid getting his intellectual ass handed to him by a “dumb-ass nightclub comedian” who has the native common sense to read the writing on the wall:

      The famed American exceptionalism merits some skepticism [emphasis added]; the image of righteous exceptionalism appears close to universal. Also close to universal is the responsibility of the educated classes to endorse with due solemnity the sincerity of the high-minded principles proclaimed by leaders, on the basis of no evidence apart from their declarations, though it is often conceded that their actions systematically refute their noble visions. We then face the puzzling paradox, which is miraculously resolved in the United States by proclaiming a sudden “change of course” — an event that takes place every few years, effacing inappropriate history as we march on to a glorious future. One of the constant themes is the dedication to bring justice and freedom to a suffering world, recently resurrected as the driving passion for “democracy promotion.”

      There are always recalcitrants who raise objections about official pronouncements. Some even go so far as Adam Smith, who had little use for England’s posture of noble intent. Smith held that the “principal architects” of global policy, “our merchants and manufacturers,” have sought to ensure that their own interests have “been most peculiarly attended to,” however “grievous” their impact on others, particularly the victims of their “savage injustice” in India and elsewhere, but even the domestic population. Smith therefore falls into the category of “conspiracy theorists,” people who attend to the historical and documentary record, and to domestic structures of power and the interests served by state planners [emphasis added]. They do not reflexively admire professions of benign intent [emphasis added], such as the dedication to promote democracy, justice, and freedom. Their pernicious influence must by stemmed — in more violent states, by force; in more free societies by other means.

      In my opinion, Noam Chomsky’s opinion in this case amounts to little more than a tired and discredited profession of benign intent. As for The Guardian and its hysterical Russophobia and Trump Derangement Syndrome, I won’t even bother to comment.

      If time permits, later, I’d like to debunk the standard-issue presumptions typically advanced whenever the U.S. military has gotten its proverbial tit caught in the wringer of its own design, lurching from one Bungle in the Jungle to another Debacle in the Desert, while wiser heads council strategic and tactical retreat and ego-invested die-hards insist on (other people and nations) going down with the sinking U.S. ship, so to speak, so as not to cast aspersions on the drunken American captain who thought that the iceberg dead ahead looked like a giant ice cream cone.

      Again, though, Noam Chomsky should go back and read some of his better books. Here he sounds more like Bill Kristal (of The National Substandard) and Max Butt (or Boot) who never seem to get anything right. I’ll take Jimmy Dore any day.

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      1. @Michael Murry

        In his livestream yesterday Dore came back to his argument of why the US should withdraw. He mentioned that Assad could protect the Kurds (which is actually happening, e.g. in the city of Manbij) and in his video of Tucker Carlson yesterday he provided a solid reasoning that either way the US will align with an enemy of theirs: either align with Russia/Assad/Iran when fighting ISIS, or align with ISIS trying to overthrow Assad. Withdrawing would weaken both these foes as they would fight each other. In the Guardian article I mentioned it also mentions that France also apparently has forces in northern Syria acting as a deterrent against Turkey. This would mean withdrawing might actually make sense, I agree. It was just in Dore’s video where he disagrees with Chomsky, he failed to mention any of these arguments, it gave me the impression it was simple-minded and not thought through.

        In addition to Israel and Saudi-Arabia wanting the US to stay, the US elite also wants to stay to maintain a presence in that region so as to control the Middle Eastern oil reserves (beginning with the Eisenhower Doctrine?). Staying there does benefit a segment of the top 10% of the American people, the only ones who have any democratic input according to Gilens & Page (2014), as they profit from the MIC. But the lower 90% is indeed not benefiting from staying there, and their safety is not in danger as long as ISIS is kept in check by Russian airstrikes.

        Suggesting that Chomsky should read his own book makes me laugh =) Interesting how Adam Smith opposed British exceptionalism and colonial dominance. But calling Adam Smith a conspiracy theorist is true to an extent, insofar as he argues for the invisible hand and free-market capitalism. But of course, Adam Smith has been taken out of context by right-wingers, as he for instance argued for morality in the economic sphere (unlike the contemporary economic free-for-all).

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        1. Thank you for your comments, DAAN. I appreciate the time you took to offer them. I have more to add in regard to the points you made on December 25, 2018 at 12:14 PM although I would like to fold them into another article that I have in the works dealing with the Global Corporate Oligarchy calling the shots in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, the U.S., U.K., NATO, etc., etc. Until I can get around to completing that, however, consider another simple — but not at all simplistic — youtube rebuttal to the hysterical warmongering ass-hats like Senator Lindsey Graham bellowing at President Trump for more, more, more always more U.S. military occupations of yet more countries that have done nothing to harm the United States. See: Did Trump Lie About Pulling Troops From Syria?, by The Young Turks (December 31, 2018)

          I’ll get back to you later with more.

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          1. @ Michael Murry

            Thank you for your comments too! This blog is great and enlightening, how a veteran is critical towards the mighty military and the excessive MIC is very interesting to me. Also, somewhere to post your thoughts! On Youtube I don’t post any comments anymore because it is pointless and there are too many idiots, but this place is like heaven.

            When you hear Graham utter the words “the president is thinking long and hard” you already know he is full of sh*t.

            I was thinking, when we perceive of the MIC as wealth redistribution upwards, do you share my cynical thoughts that withdrawing American troops for the sake of having more money to spend domestically ignores the fact that warfare is more like a symptom of a two-tiered society than a cause? The 1% would, in the case of a 50% cut to military spending like Stein proposes, probably spend all those left-over trillions on another tax cut for billionaires who want to purchase another island in Greece (as they are bored of the ones they currently own) or on the “Space Force” to fight aliens, as practice for taking care of the illegal aliens from Central America! So what I am saying is that while military withdrawal is a good thing, it wont resolve the disastrous economic disparities.

            Cuts in military spending would also likely not even materialize as long as there are so much profits in them. This would mean there has to be a non-interventionist government in DC to make military withdrawal actually happen. Trump withdrawing a couple of thousands troops was probably due to a request from Erdogan in exchange for not releasing the Khashoggi tapes. It has nothing to do with a campaign promise, as all his other campaign promises turned out to be complete bogus, like one trillion U$D into infrastructure, Medicare for everybody and Making America Great. In fact, Trump has no ideology and listens to CEO’s for advice, so externalities are maximized (be it nature, people getting bombed, people being denied healthcare, people getting shot with an AR-15 or people getting polarized over an embassy relocation). Like the Young Turks video mentions, Obama withdrew thousands of troops too (from Iraq), but this does not reflect a larger ideology and policy trend towards non-interventionism or withdrawal

            The latter paragraph has given me no joy to write (writing the paragraph before that makes me feel like Lee Camp from TruthDig). Like Dore says, you dont have an ideology just by opposing Trump. Everybody opposes him at this point, including the majority of MSM. Exposing and opposing the underlying societal and economic mechanics is much more fun. Just like exposing the so called “Left” like Dore says.

            By the way, maybe we (or Mr Astore) could share some more Chomsky quotes/excerpts in the future, as they are so original and enlightening and often debunk the mainstream philosophies.

            I wish you all a happy new year!

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          2. Many thanks. Keep the conversation going. Feel free to share. That’s what this site is about. Dare I quote Yoda that “You must unlearn what you have learned”? Put differently, we’re so propagandized that we must somehow free our minds. And we can’t do it alone.

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  5. The best argument for why the U.S. should withdraw from Syria that I have found so far:

    https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/12/21/good-riddance-to-americas-syria-policy/

    The parts that stand out for me (not sure if I am allowed to repost entire sentences due to copyright concerns, but the article is freely accessible and as such I assume I am)

    -Instead of being a major strategic asset, Syria is more likely to turn into a costly quagmire for the supposed victors.
    -The NYT headline (“A Strategy of Retreat”) is misleading, as the removal of a small U.S. force is hardly a Dunkirk-style evacuation or akin to Napoleon’s withdrawal from Moscow. Nor does it signify the U.S. presence in the Middle East. After all, the U.S. still has over 40,000 personnel in or around the region, and it still provides generous military aid and vast amounts of weaponry to its regional clients.
    -By doubling down on America’s “special relationships” with Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia Trump is encouraging each of these governments to misbehave in various ways
    -The actual risk [ISIS] posed to the country was negligible. To be specific, attacks directed or inspired by the Islamic State have killed 64 Americans (out of a population of roughly 325 million) and roughly 350 Europeans (out of a population of more than 500 million).
    -The U.S. should identify its core strategic interests. When it comes to the Middle East, its main strategic interest is helping ensure that Middle East oil and gas continues to flow to world markets (The U.S. gets very little energy from the region these days, but a sudden cutoff would damage the world economy and thus harm America as well)

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