Cutting the Pentagon Budget in Half Would Finally Force the Generals to Think
(Also at TomDispatch.com)
My name is Bill Astore and I’m a card-carrying member of the military-industrial complex (MIC).
Sure, I hung up my military uniform for the last time in 2005. Since 2007, I’ve been writing articles for TomDispatch focused largely on critiquing that same MIC and America’s permanent war economy. I’ve written against this country’s wasteful and unwise wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, its costly and disastrous weapons systems, and its undemocratic embrace of warriors and militarism. Nevertheless, I remain a lieutenant colonel, if a retired one. I still have my military ID card, if only to get on bases, and I still tend to say “we” when I talk about my fellow soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen (and our “guardians,” too, now that we have a Space Force).
So, when I talk to organizations that are antiwar, that seek to downsize, dismantle, or otherwise weaken the MIC, I’m upfront about my military biases even as I add my own voice to their critiques. Of course, you don’t have to be antiwar to be highly suspicious of the U.S. military. Senior leaders in “my” military have lied so often, whether in the Vietnam War era of the last century or in this one about “progress” in Iraq and Afghanistan, that you’d have to be asleep at the wheel or ignorant not to have suspected the official story.
Yet I also urge antiwar forces to see more than mendacity or malice in “our” military. It was retired general and then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, after all, who first warned Americans of the profound dangers of the military-industrial complex in his 1961 farewell address. Not enough Americans heeded Ike’s warning then and, judging by our near-constant state of warfare since that time, not to speak of our ever-ballooning “defense” budgets, very few have heeded his warning to this day. How to explain that?
Well, give the MIC credit. Its tenacity has been amazing. You might compare it to an invasive weed, a parasitic cowbird (an image I’ve used before), or even a metastasizing cancer. As a weed, it’s choking democracy; as a cowbird, it’s gobbling up most of the “food” (at least half of the federal discretionary budget) with no end in sight; as a cancer, it continues to spread, weakening our individual freedoms and liberty.
Call it what you will. The question is: How do we stop it? I’ve offered suggestions in the past; so, too, have writers for TomDispatch like retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich and retired Army Major Danny Sjursen, as well as William Hartung, Julia Gledhill, and Alfred McCoy among others. Despite our critiques, the MIC grows ever stronger. If Ike’s warning wasn’t eye-opening enough, enhanced by an even more powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam,” by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1967, what could I and my fellow TomDispatch writers possibly say or do to make a difference?
Maybe nothing, but that won’t stop me from trying. Since I am the MIC, so to speak, maybe I can look within for a few lessons that came to me the hard way (in the sense that I had to live them). So, what have l learned of value?
War Racketeers Enjoy Their Racket
In the 1930s, Smedley Butler, a Marine general twice decorated with the Medal of Honor, wrote a book entitled War Is a Racket. He knew better than most since, as he confessed in that volume, when he wore a military uniform, he served as “a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.” And the corporate-driven racket he helped enable almost a century ago by busting heads from the Caribbean to China was small-scale indeed compared to today’s thoroughly global one.
There’s an obvious lesson to be drawn from its striking endurance, never-ending enlargement, and distinct engorgement in our moment (even after all those lost wars it fought): the system will not reform itself. It will always demand and take more — more money, more authority, more power. It will never be geared for peace. By its nature, it’s authoritarian and distinctly less than honorable, replacing patriotism with service loyalty and victory with triumphant budgetary authority. And it always favors the darkest of scenarios, including at present a new cold war with China and Russia, because that’s the best and most expedient way for it to thrive.
Within the military-industrial complex, there are no incentives to do the right thing. Those few who have a conscience and speak out honorably are punished, including truth-tellers in the enlisted ranks like Chelsea Manning and Daniel Hale. Even being an officer doesn’t make you immune. For his temerity in resisting the Vietnam War, David M. Shoup, a retired Marine Corps general and Medal of Honor recipient, was typically dismissed by his peers as unbalanced and of questionable sanity.
For all the talk of “mavericks,” whether in Top Gun or elsewhere, we — there’s that “we” again (I can’t help myself!) — in the military are a hotbed of go-along-to-get-along conformity.
Recently, I was talking with a senior enlisted colleague about why so few top-ranking officers are willing to speak truth to the powerless (that’s you and me) even after they retire. He mentioned credibility. To question the system, to criticize it, to air dirty laundry in public is to risk losing credibility within the club and so to be rejected as a malcontent, disloyal, even “unbalanced.” Then, of course, that infamous revolving door between the military and giant weapons makers like Boeing and Raytheon simply won’t spin for you. Seven-figure compensation packages, like the one current Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin gained from Raytheon after his retirement as an Army general, won’t be an option. And in America, who doesn’t want to cash in while gaining more power within the system?
Quite simply, it pays so much better to mouth untruths, or at least distinctly less-than-full-truths, in service to the powerful. And with that in mind, here, at least as I see it, are a few full truths about my old service, the Air Force, that I guarantee you I won’t be applauded for mentioning. How about this as a start: that the production of F-35s — an overpriced “Ferrari” of a fighter jet that’s both too complex and remarkably successful as an underperformer — should be canceled (savings: as much as $1 trillion over time); that the much-touted new B-21 nuclear bomber isn’t needed (savings: at least $200 billion) and neither is the new Sentinel Intercontinental Ballistic Missile(savings: another $200 billion and possibly the entire Earth from doomsday); that the KC-46 tanker is seriously flawed and should be canceled (savings: another $50 billion).
Now, tote it up. By canceling the F-35, the B-21, the Sentinel, and the KC-46, I singlehandedly saved the American taxpayer roughly $1.5 trillion without hurting America’s national defense in the least. But I’ve also just lost all credibility (assuming I had any left) with my old service.
Look, what matters to the military-industrial complex isn’t either the truth or saving your taxpayer dollars but keeping those weapons programs going and the money flowing. What matters, above all, is keeping America’s economy on a permanent wartime footing both by buying endless new (and old) weapons systems for the military and selling them globally in a bizarrely Orwellian pursuit of peace through war.
How are Americans, Ike’s “alert and knowledgeable citizenry,” supposed to end a racket like this? We certainly should know one thing by now: the MIC will never check itself and Congress, already part of it thanks to impressive campaign donations and the like by major weapons makers, won’t corral it either. Indeed, last year, Congress shoveled $45 billion more than the Biden administration requested (more even than the Pentagon asked for) to that complex, all ostensibly in your name. Who cares that it hasn’t won a war of the faintest significance since 1945. Even “victory” in the Cold War (after the Soviet Union imploded in 1991) was thrown away. And now the complex warns us of an onrushing “new cold war” to be waged, naturally, at tremendous cost to you, the American taxpayer.
As citizens, we must be informed, willing, and able to act. And that’s precisely why the complex seeks to deny you knowledge, precisely why it seeks to isolate you from its actions in this world. So, it’s up to you — to us! — to remain alert and involved. Most of all, each of us must struggle to keep our identity and autonomy as a citizen, a rank higher than that of any general or admiral, for, as we all need to be reminded, those wearing uniforms are supposed to serve you, not vice-versa.
I know you hear otherwise. You’ve been told repeatedly in these years that it’s your job to “support our troops.” Yet, in truth, those troops should only exist to support and defend you, and of course the Constitution, the compact that binds us all together as a nation.
When misguided citizens genuflect before those troops (and then ignore everything that’s done in their name), I’m reminded yet again of Ike’s sage warning that only Americans can truly hurt this country. Military service may be necessary, but it’s not necessarily ennobling. America’s founders were profoundly skeptical of large militaries, of entangling alliances with foreign powers, and of permanent wars and threats of the same. So should we all be.
Citizens United Is the Answer
No, not that “Citizens United,” not the case in which the Supreme Court decided corporations had the same free speech rights as you and me, allowing them to coopt the legislative process by drowning us out with massive amounts of “speech,” aka dark-money-driven propaganda. We need citizens united against America’s war machine.
Understanding how that machine works — not just its waste and corruption, but also its positive attributes — is the best way to wrestle it down, to make it submit to the people’s will. Yet activists are sometimes ignorant of the most basic facts about “their” military. So what? Does the difference between a sergeant major and a major, or a chief petty officer and the chief of naval operations matter? The answer is: yes.
An antimilitary approach anchored in ignorance won’t resonate with the American people. An antiwar message anchored in knowledge could, however. It’s important, that is, to hit the proverbial nail on the head. Look, for example, at the traction Donald Trump gained in the presidential race of 2015-2016 when he did something few other politicians then dared do: dismiss the Iraq War as wasteful and stupid. His election win in 2016 was not primarily about racism, nor the result of a nefarious Russian plot. Trump won, at least in part because, despite his ignorance on so many other things, he spoke a fundamental truth — that America’s wars of this century were horrendous blunders.
Trump, of course, was anything but antimilitary. He dreamed of military parades in Washington, D.C. But I (grudgingly) give him credit for boasting that he knew more than his generals and by that I mean many more Americans need to challenge those in authority, especially those in uniform.
Yet challenging them is just a start. The only real way to wrestle the military-industrial complex to the ground is to cut its funding in half, whether gradually over years or in one fell swoop. Yes, indeed, it’s the understatement of the century to note how much easier that’s said than done. It’s not like any of us could wave a military swagger stick like a magic wand and make half the Pentagon budget disappear. But consider this: If I could do so, that military budget would still be roughly $430 billion, easily more than China’s and Russia’s combined, and more than seven times what this country spends on the State Department. As usual, you get what you pay for, which for America has meant more weapons and disastrous wars.
Join me in imagining the (almost) inconceivable — a Pentagon budget cut in half. Yes, generals and admirals would scream and Congress would squeal. But it would truly matter because, as a retired Army major general once told me, major budget cuts would force the Pentagon to think — for once. With any luck, a few sane and patriotic officers would emerge to place the defense of America first, meaning that hubristic imperial designs and forever wars would truly be reined in because there’d simply be no more money for them.
Currently, Americans are giving the Pentagon all it wants — plus some. And how’s that been working out for the rest of us? Isn’t it finally time for us to exercise real oversight, as Ike challenged us to do in 1961? Isn’t it time to force the Pentagon to pass an audit each year — it’s failed the last five! — or else cut its budget even more deeply? Isn’t it time to hold Congress truly responsible for enabling ever more war by voting out military sycophants? Isn’t it time to recognize, as America’s founders did, that sustaining a vast military establishment constitutes the slow and certain death of democracy?
Just remember one thing: the military-industrial complex won’t reform itself. It just might have no choice, however, but to respond to our demands, if we as citizens remain alert, knowledgeable, determined, and united. And if it should refuse to, if the MIC can’t be tamed, whether because of its strength or our weakness, you will know beyond doubt that this country has truly lost its way.
38 thoughts on “Can the Military-Industrial Complex Be Tamed?”
While I agree with everything you wrote, I do not share any optimism that things will change regarding the military budget. This country is too enamored with the people in uniform to ever think about cutting the budget no matter how outrageous it is. And yes, there is a big difference between the folks who actually serve and the fancy crap we spend billions on, but that doesn’t seem to matter. No doubt we will see some commercialized patriotism at the Superbowl in a couple weeks to wow and fill us with a love of country. Or something.
Even lefty sites that used to decry the ever expanding military budget, bases spanning the globe, and endless wars are so sucked into the Russian invasion of Ukraine that it’s almost like reading a right-wing site during the run up to the Iraq invasion. Anyone not onboard hates freedom. Suddenly the sky is the limit for more war, more weapons, and more money down the hole. And even if this one ended tomorrow, we always have China…
It is strange though how the public seems to have forgotten the War on Terror for the most part. Even the 9-11 memorials are getting half-hearted. Iraq? Never hear it mentioned. Afghanistan? Maybe some fodder there for Republicans to attack Biden on still. Gitmo? CIA renditions? Torture? Never happened it would seem.
We move on to the next enemy, the next fear, the next scary thing that we need protected from with newer and fancier ships, subs, jets, missiles, drones, and so on without a second to think about why this new group, country, people are an enemy or what the hell happened to the last ones. Yesterday it was Islamic fundamentalists, today it’s the Russians, tomorrow it will be the Chinese. Or some other country. Iran keeps trying to stay relevant, while North Korea is the ex-girlfriend who won’t stop texting.
I think, and this is totally just my tiny opinion based on zero real research, that most folks just don’t have the bandwidth or desire to really dig into this. Getting past the propaganda, once you jump down this rabbit hole you find yourself reading about atrocities, assassinations, governments overthrown, corruption, and just an endless stream of death and destruction that is the end product of the MIC. And once you get there you might just find yourself questioning your commitment and patriotism to a nation that claims to be the defender of freedom, but that in fact is quite the opposite to many people both here and around the globe. And that just might make you see your, mine, our complicity in it all. Because even when we scream and rage against the machine we still benefit from it every day in a million little ways no matter who hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise.
I read a joke recently that went something like ‘Russia is about to find out why Americans can’t afford universal healthcare.’ I think the rest of the world is fully aware of that.
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How true. Yet as a friend of mine once said, We must strive to endure.
Or, as Edna St Vincent Millay concluded her poem Dirge Without Music:
“I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.”
Or, as the old Indian Chief said to The Outlaw Josey Wales (in words learned from dealings with forked-tongue American governments):
“Endeavor to persevere . . .”
Very well said, Just Another Vet. Particularly as regards the direct complicity of WE, The American People, in all this.
It is said that “What goes around comes around.”
And when We, The American People get what is coming to us as a result of our government’s military, diplomatic, political, and economic actions around the Planet just since the end of World War II [or even just 9/11], it is going to be ugly.
The Decline and Fall of The American Empire ~ and with it, the American Experiment ~ is well under way.
The bottom-line, bullet-hits-the-bone question is: What can be done to salvage that Experiment as the Empire goes into its death throes.
What come around goes around, or blow-back. Either works. Every empire eventually falls, it’s just the nature of things. I think the question we face here in the US is how do we handle that reality without stumbling into a big shooting war and/or a chaotic state fueled by economic decline and internal conflict. If we don’t come to terms with our unsustainable military budget and reduced role as world police/bully on our own terms, well, then we probably will the hard way.
The end of the age of European Empires was bloody to say the least. And almost gave us equally brutal Nazi and Japanese empires. The world dodged a bullet with the collapse of the USSR. So now it’s our turn. And that is not a bad thing no matter how much the American Exceptionalism crowd squawks. It’s a big world full of lots of people, and they all deserve agency over their lives. Maybe it is finally time for all people to have a real conversation about what comes next. No more empires, no more conquer and colonize. We are more connected than ever before on this globe, perhaps we should act like it.
Not that I have a lot of hope for that. But if ‘we must strive to endure’, then we do need to be frank and honest with ourselves and everyone else. Of course all this may be moot if nature has anything to say about it. But that is another topic for another time.
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“The drama’s done. Why then does any one step forth? Because one did survive the wreck.” Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Fifty-one years ago, at the end of January 1972, I escaped from fourteen months at “Sea Float / Solid Anchor.” Most of me returned “home” but some of me never did and still hides out in the basement of my subconsciousness from where, as over the past few days, it demands that I do something with my memories of . . .
(after the style of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”)
In Mekong Delta’s heat and sweat,
where Asshole of the Universe
and Bottom of the Barrel met,
about as close as one could get
to uselessness or worse,
a base “advanced” and “tactical”
for warfare quite impractical,
built on a riverbank near some canals
existed to enforce some clever schemes,
dressed up in military rationales,
for thwarting peasant independence dreams.
This place, a Sordid Chancre (not envisioned)
was staffed by surplus sailors (elsewhere, ballast)
who’d done no crime but still felt there imprisoned,
and though with food and beer they were provisioned
sheer boredom left them feeling numb and calloused.
Short-timer’s calendars marked each day’s passing;
sporadic incidents – “V.C.” harassing —
some movement in the countryside at night;
some mortar rounds exploding. Sirens! Light!
Then body bags and wounded flown away
for treatment somewhere on some other day.
“Vietnamize” the war, Dick Nixon told us.
A word that meant “get out” is what he sold us.
But not too fast or we might look defeated
So take your time in hauling ass, he said
which meant that more of us would wind up dead.
And then, in time, we’d see it all repeated.
Those fishermen and farmers had some nerve
to think they’d rule themselves and not just serve.
So we went. Then some returned.
Re-election time drew near
Villages and rice-fields burned
Nixon won. What’s left to fear?
Our military got to play its role
assisting Saigon with the loot they stole
Hammers looking for a nail:
The Pentagon since World War Two.
Hammer salesmen, their careers
left the Budget in arrears.
Nothing they could ever do
should induce one to suspend
as the Truth they choose to bend.
Hence, the need to scream: “Stop! Thief!”
Folks at home should moan, “Take Care!”
“Look at what a mess we’ve made!”
The glassy eyes, the vacant stare;
the deer caught in the headlight’s glare;
the gale force winds of pure hot air:
a solipsistic serenade.
So heed no pundits who’ve opined
For they on bullshit gruel have dined
and drunk the urine of Crusade.
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2023
There. I feel a little better. At least until . . .
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At least until … the next Crusade.
Taiwan? Ukraine? Iran? North Korea? Why not all at the same time?
Just awesome, Michael, one of the best you have shared so far! And so appropriate for this World TODAY.
I am really moved by your writing. Keep wanting to respond with something more, but with each re-read I just feel a deeper sense of pain. Beautiful and so very sad…
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magnificent, JAV! as brilliant and eloquent an exordium as astore’s exegesis. i’m forwarding these incisive, cutting diamonds to everyone on my email hit list.
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Another excellent piece, Lieutenant Colonel Astore; another candidate for inclusion in the book: THE BEST OF BRAVING VIEWS. Lots and lots to chew on there [especially all the past articles]; and a number of questions raised.
The first one, Bill, being: Have You, Colonel Bacevich, Major Sjursen, or any of the Veterans contributing to their book PATHS OF DISSENT: SOLDIERS SPEAK OUT AGAINST AMERICA’S MISGUIDED WARS given any thought to joining Scott Ritter and Mathew Hoh as Speakers at the RAGE AGAINST THE WAR MACHINE ANTI-WAR RALLY in Washington, DC scheduled for February 19th? [ https://rageagainstwar.com/#Speakers ]
As noted earlier, there is no indication whatsoever that Veterans For Peace ~ which calls itself the pre-eminent Veterans organization among American Peace and Anti-War groups ~ is in any way involved in what could be the first major pro-Peace/anti-War action in this country since 15 February 2003, and the one-weekend-long effort and subsequent failure to stop our search for Saddam’s “WMDs” and the “liberation” of the Iraqi people from happening.
If America’s 21st century MICC and National Security State is EVER going to be effectively questioned, challenged, and confronted, and then combatted, defeated, and CHANGED to its proper function of Defense and Security, it will be Veterans who will lead that effort.
And for that to happen, what is needed is not more Veterans For Peace, who have accomplished very, very little by way of preventing and failing that, of ending any of America’s Wars since its founding in 1985.
What is needed are more VETERANS AGAINST WAR, people who are prepared to wage a WAR AGAINST WAR. And not just by talking and writing about it on the internet or social media.
If Matt Hoh is there, I am there, at least in spirit. Matt and I are both in EMN and we’re in touch frequently.
Matt speaks with great authority as a Marine combat vet, a State Dept. vet, and a man who knows how Congress and the MIC work together in ways that go beyond corrupt.
Roger. What is EMN?
Eisenhower Media Network. http://eisenhowermedianetwork.org
Ahh. Thanks. Willhave to check it out.
Great Minds think alike, eh Bill? The Future of Freedom Foundation’s Founder and President Jacob Hornberger began today’s post WHY NOT DEFUND THE MILITARY? as follows:
“Amidst all the talk about defunding the police, notice something important: No one talks about defunding the military. That’s because the military establishment is too powerful and has come to be accepted as a permanent feature in American life. Except for libertarians, everyone treats the military as their god.
“But defunding the military, whose taxpayer-funded largess is now around $800 billion per year, is precisely what we need to do. This is especially true given the out-of-control spending, debt, and monetary debauchery that is threatening to take our country down from within, not to mention the fact that the military establishment is now doing everything it can to embroil the United States in a nuclear war with Russia, China, or both.
“According to a September 7, 2022, article at Omni Financial, the United States has around 450-500 military bases here in the United States. All 50 states have at least one base. Several have dozens of bases. California has 123, Texas 59, Florida 56, Hawaii 49, and Alaska 47.
“What purpose does this empire of domestic military bases serve?
“Answer: It serves no purpose whatsoever. These bases all exist for their own sake — that is, simply to serve as a place for military personnel to live and work, as they spend that $800 billion in annual taxpayer-funded largess.
“Think about it. In the 19th century, it made sense to have military bases to protect communities from attacks by Native Americans. But today, there is no threat of attack on any communities by Native Americans. That threat disappeared a long time ago.
“Again, I ask: What purpose do all these military bases serve? Answer: No purpose whatsoever.
“What about the threat of a foreign invasion of the United States? Couldn’t it be said that those 450-500 bases protect Americans in the event of foreign invasion of the United States?
“But there is no threat of a foreign invasion of the United States. None!”
After explaining why there is no threat of invasion, Mr Hornberger concludes as follows:
“Remember what Martin Luther King said about the U.S. national-security state — that it is the ‘greatest purveyor of violence in the world.’
“How is all that deadly and destructive foreign interventionism [since the end of World War II] in the interests of the American people? All it does is inflict death, suffering, and destruction that engenders anger and hatred, which then manifests itself in retaliatory terrorism, which is then used to justify the existence of that vast empire of domestic and foreign military bases.
“Let’s not forget something else that’s of critical importance: the destruction of our liberty here at home at the hands of the national-security establishment. Examples: The USA PATRIOT Act, mass secret surveillance, the super-secret rubber-stamp FISA court, indefinite detention, military tribunals, denial of due process, and state-sponsored assassinations and torture of American citizens.
“Our nation was founded as a limited-government republic. That’s the governmental system that the Constitution called into existence. That was our governmental system for more than 100 years. It was characterized by a basic, relatively small army. The last thing our ancestors wanted was a gigantic military establishment with a gigantic empire of domestic and military bases that America has today. They fiercely opposed standing armies.
“THE CONVERSION OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO A NATIONAL-SECURITY STATE WAS THE WORST MISTAKE OUR NATION HAS EVER MADE. NOT ONLY IS IT A MAJOR FACTOR IN THE OUT-OF-CONTROL FEDERAL SPENDING, DEBT, AND MONETARY DEBAUCHERY THAT IS THREATENING OUR NATION WITH BANKRUPTCY, IT ALSO IS NOW THREATENING OUR NATION WITH LIFE-DESTROYING NUCLEAR WAR.
“WE NEED TO REPEAL AND DISMANTLE THE NATIONAL SECURITY ESTABLISHMENT AND RESTORE A LIMITED-GOVERNMENT REPUBLIC WITH A RELATIVELY SMALL MILITARY FORCE. WE NEED TO DO IT NOW. OUR LIBERTY, PEACE, PROSPERITY, HARMONY, AND POSSIBLY EVEN OUR SURVIVAL DEPEND ON IT.”
Full article at https://www.fff.org/2023/01/31/why-not-defund-the-military/ [EMPHASIS added.]
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“Defund the military” — Of course, people are scared of “defund.”
So, why not listen to Ike and reform the military? Corral the complex. Cut its bloated budget. Make it a lean mean military machine for defense; emphasis on “lean” and “defense”?
That rhetoric has a better chance of winning an audience.
we need millions more, both in escrow and full-front assaults, of assets like wja, JAV, and jg moebus… divulgating their research, past military expertise, and fluency to the american electorate. however, the methods and stratagems for doing so seem buried in the slime of thoughts not yet articulated, beating against a fluid darkness we cannot recognize. transforming thoughts into action is the quiddity we seem unable to grasp hold of.
A 2 hour + analysis and questions with Scott Ritter on The Duran. I listen to his analysis/speculations because I believe he has the informed basis to make them.
Reblogged this on Calculus of Decay .
It isn’t just that we’re giving the pentagon every thing they want, there are politicians across the country and across the political spectrum making sure their jurisdiction gets a piece of the defense budget pie. I remember the round of base closures several years ago when senators and congressmen of both parties were traveling the country rallying the citizens of the affected areas to rise up to oppose the closures. If we could cut the budget, tell the military leadership ” here’s all you get, defend us” then somehow make sure they retire to their farm, a beach condo, or teach somewhere, but never have anything to do with the defense industry. Dream on, right.
That article JG Moebus shared upstream does a good job of spelling it out. Give every state a hit off that budget pipe and they are hooked for life.
The second question raised by Your piece, Bill ~ after Veterans Who Write participation in the February 19 RAGE AGAINST THE WAR MACHINE ANTI-WAR RALLY ~ is: What is to be done about, with, and for all the people and their families in the MICC who would lose their jobs if the National Security State budget was cut in half?
And the third question is: How would the money saved by cutting the NSS budget be used? For other government projects? To pay down the National Debt? To give tax cuts for people besides the “Rich”?
To your second question – put everyone to work fixing our crumbling infrastructure. People love shiny and new, but not enough thought or effort is given to repairs and replacements. There is plenty of work to go around. To many engineers and scientists are paid to make the world a more dangerous place, too many techs and line workers building weapons of war. Which leads to your third question – yes to all three. Fund and fix our schools, repair our roads and bridges, build a real social safety net – there is an endless list of projects that would actually help people more than never ending military spending. Every dollar spent on weapons is lost in the pockets of the rich and the waste of gadgets that have no use outside of killing humans.
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Just Another Vet: See my comment just posted on Bracing Views Substack that begins:
Bill: To my question: “What is to be done about, with, and for all the people and their families in the MICC who would lose their jobs if the National Security State budget was cut in half?”, You answered: “Plans exist, Jeff, to convert our ‘wartime’ economy to a peacetime one. So, for example, the factories that make F-35s and B-21s could conceivably make wind turbines and solar panels… .”
Do “Plans” actually exist?
Can You refer me to any that spell out in detail exactly how America’s Imperialist Warfare State “wartime” economy can, could, and would be converted to a functioning “peacetime” or even “green” economy?
What I am interested in is whether anybody has presented a roadmap for how that conversion is going to take place. How long will it take people who build F-35s and B-21s for a living to learn how to make wind turbines and solar panels? And who is going to pay them while they are learning all that? And how long will it take to dismantle the fighter/bomber construction and assembly plants, machines, and tools, and change them over to wind turbine/solar panels factories? And who is going to pay for all that? Current stockholders of the MICC corporations?
For a more specific example: If the money saved by cutting the MICC/NSS budget is to be used as an investment in infrastructure, how many of those folks working for the Top 5 Defense contractors [just listed] would be able to move into “infrastructure work” right now without some form of transitional training? And how long would it take to get them transitioned?
And are You including the Workers, Supervisors, and Managers in the MICC corporations among “the rich” into whose pockets “every dollar spent on weapons is lost”? Or are You just talking about the Executives, Board Members, and Shareholders?
Yes, Jeff, plans exist. But I can’t recall the organization that put them together.
I can do more research if you wish.
Jeff: you might try the National Priorities Project at https://www.nationalpriorities.org
I know plans exist. The problem is the lack of will to implement them.
i will, Bill; Thanks.
I’ve provided links to Elijah J. Magnier’s analysis of events in the past, but most of them were only introductions. Only paid subscribers got to read the whole article with a few exceptions Elijah though too important to hide behind a paywall.
This is another one that can be read in full, but only for those on the email mailing list.
‘Is Putin falling into the Ukrainian Biden trap like Carter dug for Brezhnev in Afghanistan?’
The US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, General Mark Milley, has said that “it will be difficult for the Ukrainians to defeat Russian forces this year”, indicating that the war will continue for many years according to (US President Joe) Biden’s doctrine. There will be no end to the war as long as Ukraine is prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice in defence of US hegemony in the world. But the West, having found itself at war with Russia, has realised that Russia won’t give up the Ukrainian-occupied territories soon. Will it be to the West’s advantage to wage a long war? It is to the US’s advantage to see Russia involved in Ukraine as long as possible. But, will the US succeed in creating another Afghanistan for Moscow, drowning it in the Ukrainian quagmire to dismantle Russia – as it helped dismantle the Soviet Union – and rob it of its natural resources? Will Russian President Vladimir Putin fall into a trap similar to that set for Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev in Afghanistan in 1979?
According to the official version of history, the CIA’s support for the mujahideen began in 1980, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan on 24 December 1979. But the reality, as confirmed by US President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski in an interview with Le Nouvel Observateur (1998), is quite the opposite. The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, mentioned in his memoirs that American intelligence had begun to support the mujahideen in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet intervention.
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In fact, on 3 July 1979, according to Brzezinski, President Carter “signed the first directive for covert assistance to opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. On the same day, I wrote a memo to the President explaining that, in my view, this aid would be a prelude to Soviet military intervention. It said: This covert operation is an excellent idea. It has had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap. We gave the Soviet Union its war in Vietnam.
The Afghan resistance was massive and spontaneous, but the Afghans were not alone. President Jimmy Carter quickly mobilised a strategic alliance to fight the Soviets. Within two weeks, Pakistani leader Zia-ul-Haq had persuaded his intelligence services to support the mujahideen by offering them sanctuary, bases and training in Pakistan. The United States and Saudi Arabia – the head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Turki al-Faisal, followed by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, confirmed that the kingdom had spent $2.7 billion – jointly funded the Afghans. Washington sent its allies, British intelligence officers from the SIS to Afghanistan to provide the mujahideen with selected weapons and training.
For almost ten years, Moscow had to fight a war that led to the dissolution of the Soviet empire and the end of the Cold War. America felt that supporting the mujahideen and the extremist Taliban was less harmful than the collapse of the Soviet empire. The Afghan people have paid a high price for the war. At least one million Afghans have been killed, five million have become refugees in Pakistan and Iran, and millions more have been displaced within their own country. In Washington’s eyes, however, the consequences were irrelevant: America had got what it wanted.
The Soviets did not send enough soldiers to defeat the insurgents and could not recruit enough Afghans to fight alongside them. The Soviet defeat in Afghanistan was instrumental in the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and, subsequently, the USSR, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has called ‘the greatest geopolitical disaster of the century’. The United States brought most of these Eastern European ex-Warsaw Pact countries – now more hostile to Moscow than any other country – into NATO. Despite verbal promises by Washington’s foreign ministers James Baker and Warren Christopher to President Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin not to expand NATO, the North Atlantic organisation boomed from twelve to thirty countries a few decades later.
How are the events of 1979 similar or different to those in Ukraine today?
Before Russia’s war on Ukraine, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright argued that Russia’s occupation of Ukrainian territory, perhaps including Kyiv, would lead to an insurgency similar to the one the Soviet Union faced in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The Biden regime aims to turn back the wheel of history and, if possible, to see the Afghanistan scenario repeated in Ukraine.
Russia mobilised tens of thousands of troops in March 2021 to dissuade the US from preparing Ukraine for the war Washington has been preparing and training the Ukrainian army for years. The war preparations took place before the Putin-Biden summit in June 2021 at Villa La Grange in Switzerland, when Ukraine was on the agenda. Biden stuck to his guns and ignored Putin’s concerns.
The Kremlin did not understand that Washington wanted to see the Russian army in Ukraine, especially in Kyiv, face resistance similar to that in Kabul in the 1980s. In fact, the signing of the Minsk agreement was intended to deceive Russia and buy enough time for Ukraine to fight and offer the war that the US wanted.
Russia did not realise it was trapped until several months after the initial attack and, unlike in Afghanistan, decided to reduce the targeted area. As in Afghanistan, the Russian army did not send enough troops to Ukraine in the first weeks of the war, stationing its tanks at the capital gates before changing the objectives to limit the war to the occupation of four districts inhabited by pro-Russian Ukrainians.
The Russian army will operate in a more friendly environment, where the Ukrainian forces of Lugansk and Donetsk are incubating to become the rulers of their independent regions after the war. Russia mobilised and sent additional troops to avoid the mistakes of Afghanistan, using Wagner’s professional forces to confront the Ukrainian army trained in Western combat strategy and directed from the Western command and control base at Ramstein, Germany.
However, the waves of call-ups of reservists in Ukraine resulted in the presence of new, untrained forces in the ranks of the Ukrainian army, weakening it after the heavy losses suffered by the elite and spearhead forces in the battles of the first months of the war. This is regardless of the human losses Russia has also suffered. However, Russia’s natural resources, mobilisation power and the supply of its military industry give the Kremlin the upper hand over Kyiv, which depends on Western aid.
The US regime found support and obedience in many European nations, which believed the war would end in favour of the West within a few months. However, the period was prolonged, and Europe began to suffer from the sanctions it had imposed on Russia, so dissatisfaction with the results of the war was expressed in the European streets through manifestations due to inflation and high prices. The consequences of the war in Ukraine did not go according to the US plan or expectations.
The Russian army has occupied most of the areas that fall under the declared objectives, leaving the cities of Bakhmut, Kramatosk and Sloveniask in the Donbas region under control. This means that the Russian army will not be exhausted by guerrilla warfare, as the theatre of operations is not hostile, and no uprising is expected. The confrontation has become between two classic armies and opposing lines of defence. Russia will have to move south, towards Zaporizhia and Kherson, to complete its southern operation and protect Crimea. The US will try to revive the battle with a spring offensive if Russia does not finish controlling the declared objectives and establish solid lines of defence to protect its new borders, which it will not abandon.
That is why Putin is unlikely to fall into the Ukrainian trap set by Biden, as Carter did with Brezhnev to great effect in Afghanistan. As in Afghanistan, both Biden and Carter got their proxy war with Moscow. Carter had the support of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, while Biden had the support of Western Europe. But they failed to cripple Russia’s economy, remove Putin or overthrow the Moscow regime. Instead, Washington has created a precedent where its world hegemony is being challenged, the dollar is being defied, and a new Russia-China axis (and others) is forming to create a multipolar world. The day Russia defeats NATO in Ukraine, the fall will be resounding. The flames of a fireball do not discriminate between its launcher and its target.
‘The Other America. Or the Three Missed Chances to Avoid World War III’
It feels like today’s world is spinning quickly out of control.
Fear of nuclear confrontation between Russia and NATO has increased to a fever pitch and something worse than anything seen even amidst the dark years of the Cold War has awoken.
A strange form of insanity has swept across the collective west as the US Congress infuses billions of dollars of more lethal aid to a regime in Kiev which a smiling Senator Lindsey Graham has said Kiev “will fight Russia to the last Ukrainian”.
This is the same American Congress which unabashedly fuels Nazi-infested military units in Ukraine, and ISIS-affiliated groups in Syria and Iraq who additionally chose to declare Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism” with the senate voting unanimously to this effect on July 27, and the House of Representatives following close behind with a resolution that has vast bipartisan support of both parties.
Meanwhile in Brussels, and across the Five Eyes, pressure mounts to ban Russia’s president from the G20, while a glorification of Nazi “heroes” accelerates across the many nations of the former Soviet Union including Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania etc… all of whom having been absorbed into NATO during the past two decades.
Talk of nuclear Armageddon has become commonplace, and it appears that no effort to heal the divide between east and west is considered by any of the neo-liberal politicians occupying positions of authority
What is going on? Has the world gone insane?……………………………………………
I always read Pepe Escobar but this is the 1st time seeing what he looks like in this interview with Finian Cunningham.
They talk about all the US/NATO plans to weaken Russia that have FAILED so far, and the danger for the World as Empire slips from the US grasp. All Empires in human history overextended themselves and eventually collapses.
The US operates within the Delusion they are Exceptional and that couldn’t happen to them, but it is, and the US Neocons are in a panic mode with no plan B.
Pepe expands on what the Pope said last year, without mentioning the Pope, just as these words of the Pope identify the US,
“This is a world war. Let us not forget that. There are already several hands involved in the war. It is global.
I think a war is fought when an empire starts to weaken, and when there are weapons to use, to sell and to test.”
He says, “all of us, in whatever role, have the duty to be beacons of peace” and “no one is entitled to look the other way” We must “not to get accustomed” to this piecemeal third world war, which, he says “is becoming a full-fledged third world war under our eyes”.
No sooner had I finished Sordid Chancre (my homage to Coleridge’s 54-line visionary fragment of an opium-induced dream) shortly after midnight than the title of one of my favorite sci-fi movies surfaced along with an associated stream of couplets demanding that I write them down before I could get to sleep. I had wanted to write something about a confiscatory windfall war-profits tax on those who make billions off the misery of others, but sometime this morning the following happened instead:
War Drek: the Wrath of Can’t
We tried to play at war again and failed,
as usual, despite the ones who railed
against the evil foreign leader, Him
who swept them all aside as at his whim
We tried again to play at war and blundered,
as usual, despite the ones who thundered
accusing skeptics of implied “collusion”
revealing only their own mad confusion
We tried to play at war once more but stumbled
while those who led us babbled, drooled, and mumbled
The crooks make off with all that they can grab
from everyone but those they cannot stab
We try to bully proxies into killing.
So called, the “Coalition of the Willing”
does all the dying while we flog the proles
to pay up or we’ll tax their very souls
Our Pentagon talks tough about the fight
that it has lost to everyone in sight
except for Panama, perhaps Grenada,
for which, in Spanish, no one says “de nada.”
Yet as we flail about in fear and panic
the world can see our desperation manic
and so invents alternatives to dollars
which frees them from our bankers’ loan-shark collars
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2023
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preternatural, your talent for meaningful poesy and penetrating insights, MM. your poem resonates w/ john le carré’s 1990 novel, THE SECRET PILGRIM, about the MICC and its rapacious ‘in’security state. i quote from an early passage:
“it’s the illusion of reality they impart, of guns as the earthy truth of life and death. i’ve seen enough of the street side of life to know that more men are in love w/ war than ever have the chance to fight one, and that more guns are bought to satisfy this love than are bought for pardonable purposes….the care and cultivation of a so-called ‘friendly arab state’ [is done] to curry favour, suborn and flatter their princelings, to wheedle favourable concessions in order to satisfy our oil addictions, and along the way, sell enough weaponry to keep their satanic mills turning day and night…[ these are the causes] of the deaths of our own natures, resulting from the manipulation of our fellows and their natural feelings.”
And the fourth, final, and biggest question about all this is: How is America’s Warfare State economy [and many of its other systemic, existential threat problems] going to be changed without changing America’s system of government and governance?
The ultimate, root cause and source of America’s crisis today is that it has a system of government and governance in which various and sundry Vested Special Interests use the legal power, the bureaucratic administrative authority, and particularly, the spending capability of the federal government, to accomplish whatever it is that those VSIs want to accomplish for their clients/cohorts/constituents/themselves. Regardless of what the Citizens of this Nation may want or need.
That is nothing new; the Federalists worked very hard to make that happen back when this system was being put together back in Philadelphia in the late 1780s, and it has succeeded for their successors ~ America’s Ruling Political Class ~ ever since.
“And the fourth, final, and biggest question about all this is: How is America’s Warfare State economy [and many of its other systemic, existential threat problems] going to be changed without changing America’s system of government and governance?”
That is indeed the million dollar question. I am quite wary of those who call for revolution, as that path often leads to a new and often more bloody form of madness. And I have lost my youthful belief in storming the gates with rhetoric. What are we left with? Slow decay of the empire it would seem, with a cup of hope for what comes out the other side.
“slow decay of empire”, w/ certitude, JAV. however, “hope’ for the human animal, even a cup of it, is quixotic “tilting at windmills”. perhaps our species will evolve into one less hateful, less destructive, less demonic. such a hope might be a chimera [unrealizable dream] as well, but we won’t be around to appreciate or applaud it.