A year after former Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld resigned, someone dumped at the Washington Post’s door an avalanche of his “snowflakes”:
his term for the multiple memos he circulated within the Pentagon during his tenure. One flake in particular rises to the
top of this heap. In April 2006, Rumsfeld advised staffers to respond to the growing calls from retired generals for his resignation
in this way: “Talk about Somalia, the Philippines, etc. Make the American people realize they are surrounded in the
world by violent extremists.”
Goosing fear with menacing—and
vague—portraits of global terrorist threats has worked remarkably well to buttress the Bush administration’s militarized
foreign policy, especially since 9/11. This policy, as enshrined in the current National Security Strategy and articulated
by National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, is based on the “ability to act militarily anytime, anywhere to defend
our global interests.”
Though fear remains a powerful force
in American politics, large majorities of Americans are no longer buying what the administration is selling. They are no longer
equating the presence of violence-minded groups in Somalia and the Philippines with the idea of an America “surrounded
in the world by violent extremists.” According to a Pew Research Center study, one-third of Americans believed in 2006
that military force can reduce the risk of terrorism, down from half in 2002.
The budget to finance the administration’s
military aspiration is larger than any previous budget since the end of World War II. The newest Pentagon request, including
war spending, tops $650 billion—twice what it was, measured in 2007 dollars, in 1960[i].
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union
was willing to try to match our military spending. Now, no country even thinks of trying. “Half a trillion dollars is
more than enough,” says Richard Betts, an adjunct senior fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign
Relations. Yet neither Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Barack Obama (D-Ill.) nor
Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) is challenging the need for such a massive global U.S. military presence—or the budget to pay
for it. McCain wants to add 150,000 troops to the overall force, Obama calls for 92,000 more troops and Clinton wants to,
as she says, “expand” the military.
The upcoming election is our best
chance in years to demand a new foreign policy, one that puts the terrorist threat in proportion and engages the world differently.
Under this policy, the military would assume its rightful role as a tool of last resort.
The necessary shifts
As terrorism has replaced the Cold
War as the new focus of our foreign policy attention, the United States has neglected four equally urgent security challenges:
climate change, nuclear weapons, regional conflicts and growing global inequality. None of these requires a military cure.
A foreign policy that refocuses its attention on these challenges would involve major shifts in our foreign policy budget.
A $213 billion cut in military spending
is possible almost immediately, according to a preliminary analysis at our organization, the Institute for Policy Studies.
This would include ending the expensive Iraq occupation, closing many U.S. overseas military bases, eliminating weapons systems
that are redundant and economically inefficient, and cutting military assistance to other countries. First, we must end the
immoral and counterproductive Iraq War. A small fraction of the $99 billion that the United States is likely to spend on the
war in 2008 could be used to bring the U.S. troops home.
A larger amount would be needed to
help those troops transition into civilian life, similar to the post-World War II GI Bill. To that end, troops brought home
from Iraq—as well as from other bases overseas—could be retrained to help create a clean energy and energy-efficient
infrastructure in the United States to stave off the disastrous effects of climate change. This kind of investment could generate
millions of new jobs retrofitting U.S. buildings and constructing solar, wind and other clean energy infrastructures.
Second, we must cut the sprawling
network of U.S. bases around the world, many of which are relics of the Cold War. Today, nearly 700,000 military and civilian
personnel are stationed overseas or afloat. Closing just a third of the more than 1,000 overseas facilities would save taxpayers
$45.9 billion—but it’s an issue that none of the U.S. presidential candidates dares touch. Most of these facilities are located in three countries: Germany (302 bases), Japan (111) and South Korea
(106). These nations should top the list if, and when, the United States starts the rollback. But we also need to stop the
new U.S. Africa Command and close U.S. bases in the Caspian Sea region, where our interests are tied to our fossil-fuel energy
past rather than our clean energy future. What’s more, shutting down bases would remove targets of anti-Americanism
overseas. Like our allies, who remain secure without a network of bases around
the world, the United States should put more foreign policy priority on engaging with other countries culturally, diplomatically
Third, at least 11 areas of unnecessary
weapons spending could be cut from the budget without decreasing U.S. security—saving another $43.9 billion. These include
the F/A-22 “Raptor” fighter jet, which was originally designed to counter a Soviet aircraft that was never built;
the Ballistic Missile Defense, a system that doesn’t work for a threat that doesn’t exist; and the C-130J transport
plane, a costly item that has 168 documented deficiencies that could pose illness, severe injury or death.
Fourth, and finally, we can cut several
smaller budget areas that include military assistance to countries that frequently enable human rights abusers, fuel conflicts
and strengthen the military of countries at the expense of civil society.
More than $1 billion, for example,
goes toward the so-called “drug war” in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru—roughly 70 percent of which funds military
approaches that have increased violence and killings, yet done nothing to decrease the drug trade.
The United States currently spends
nine times more money on its military forces than on all other security tools, including diplomacy, nuclear nonproliferation,
peacekeeping, foreign aid and homeland security put together. And no candidate talking about “change” should
be taken seriously unless she or he is serious about doing something about this fact.
The American people know this over-militarized
approach has not made them or the rest of the world safer. In an October 2006 Angus Reid poll, 65 percent said the country
has been “too quick to get American military forces involved” in conflicts. Instead, the public supports more
“preventive” measures. According to a November 2007 World Public Opinion poll, for example, 78 percent of Americans
“believe that all countries should eliminate their nuclear weapons” through a well-established international verification
Our diplomatic mission requires more
resources, particularly to address shortfalls in staffing and to upgrade antiquated information and communications systems.
And even after 9/11, the Bush administration continues to shortchange the very programs that experts believe are needed to
protect against terrorist threats—such as increased funding for our first responders and public health system. Such
improvements would help us deal with other hazards and emergencies, as well.
Major deficiencies in our rail, transit
security procedures and cargo screening also exist, according to the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, the successor organization
to the 9/11 Commission. In each case, the main obstacle has been a lack of money.
Writing a new book
In 1989, when the Berlin Wall came
down and the world celebrated the end of the Cold War, a number of military experts and U.S. generals suggested that the United
States could slash its defense budget without jeopardizing the country’s security.
“I’ve been maintaining
for some time now,” former CIA Director William
Colby said in 1993, “that our defense budget could safely and modestly be cut to one-half what it was in the later days
of the Cold War.” At the time, the military budget stood at $300 billion.
Fifteen years later, the Cold War
is long over and the U.S. military budget has more than doubled—and that’s without taking inflation into account.
Voters—Republicans and Democrats
alike—have been telling pollsters they want not a modest course correction, not a turned page, but a whole new book.
With a new president as the author, let’s hope the book rewrites our country’s wildly unbalanced security policies.
MORE ON BUDGET
The military budget accounts for more than
half of the U.S. federal discretionary spending. In 2004 the U.S. spent 47% of the world’s
total military spending of $910 billion according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
are largely funded through supplementary spending bills outside the Federal Budget, so they are not included in the military
budget figures. In addition, there is black
budget (kept secret) military spending also not listed. These include expenses related to military research, Area 51 (an experimental weapons testing facility
in Lincoln County, Nevada).
It is estimated at $32 billion, up from an estimated $14 billion in 1998. Excluded
are: spending on the nuclear arsenal and the global war on terror, and spending
by the CIA, Coast Guard, & Veterans Affair department. (Information
found in Wikipedia, correlated by JK). Also excluded is the interest on the federal
debt of which military spending has contributed the largest portion—estimated at $390 billion or 80% by the War Resistor’s
[i] There is every reason to believe that the
real amount is at least $100 billion above the official $650 billion government figure.
First our government current government views numbers as a way effect opinion, with the current administration setting
new standards. One example is their expansion of manufacturing jobs by including
those who work in the fast food industry filliping burgers. They spending over
$1 billion per year to buy media time to influence contents. Budgets figures
should include all related expenditures, such as research with a military application, pensions, etc. In 1998 the government released a figure of $27,000 per year for warehousing inmates. I calculated it to be S$45,000 by dividing the BOP’s budget by
the number of inmates.