Sunday, January 22, 2017

Seventeen Solutions – reduce the military

Continuing my overview of Ralph Nader's book, The Seventeen Solutions. Click here to get the rest of the series. I’m aware that I left off this series just over two months ago. Since it is part of how we deal with the nasty guy I need to finish it off. I won’t promise I’ll do it quickly.

11. Reduce Our Bloated Military Budget

In 2012, the year this book was written, the federal budget allocated $806 billion for the military. That paid for general military readiness as well as wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It did not cover the military parts of the National Security Agency or the CIA. It also didn’t cover disability payments to veterans. Overall the military gets 56% of the federal discretionary spending (which excludes Medicare and Medicaid).

We start with President Dwight Eisenhower, not with his famous railing against the military industrial complex in his farewell address, but with a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors on April 16, 1953 at a time Sen. McCarthy was whipping up anti-communist frenzy (which meant Eisenhower was ignored).
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, and the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities… 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.

Congress is able to maintain this bloated military spending in a particular way. Because the military budget is so large the military is the nation’s largest jobs program both directly through the military and through its many contractors. And Congress has made sure some of those jobs are in every one of the 435 House districts. Talk of cutting military spending means cutting jobs – and every single House member is going to hear about it. That has effectively defeated any cuts.

Nader says that in the 1950s the concentration of effort in the military meant consumer products of the time were shoddy. And that gave the Japanese and Germans the opening to dominate our auto markets for a couple decades.

Our emphasis on military spending of course means we turn to the military for solutions, rather than looking for “preventive, diplomatic, and assistance missions.” Andrew Bacevich, professor and retired Army Colonel, wrote:
Americans in our own time have fallen prey to militarism, manifesting itself in a romanticized view of soldiers, a tendency to see military power as the truest measure of national greatness, and outsized expectations regarding the efficacy of force. To a degree without precedent in United States history, Americans have come to define the nation’s strength and well-being in terms of military preparedness, military action, and the fostering of (or nostalgia for) military ideals.

We may not want to conquer territory, but we do want to occupy and control it. That only works when there is an absence of dissent by those occupied and controlled. To get that absence out troops engage in brutality.

Some (like the nasty guy) will say that we need all that military power and more to keep us safe. Nader compares the lopsided capabilities of the US military to that of the Taliban. Which makes me think that the solution to the longest war in US history isn’t the military.

Another problem is the Department of Defense budget is, according to the Government Accountability Office, un-auditable and has been for years.
An un-audtiable budget is, by definition, a budget no one can control for waste, redundancy, corruption, cost overruns, complex billing frauds, or poor quality control.

Two things leap out about this one report of Pentagon expenditure, exposed by a GAO that produces reams of reports about waste across the spectrum of the military budget. One is that no matter how many investigations the GAO does, the results fall on deaf ears among both the Pentagon leaders and their patron – Congress. The other is that almost no one ever gets fired or otherwise punished for such irresponsibility or dereliction of duty.
Which means Congress wants a DoD budget that can’t be audited. Want your hand in the gov’t pocket? Do it through the military. Congress is inviting your sticky fingers. And they’ve covered our eyes.

The DoD and its corporate masters love high-tech solutions. An example is the infamous F-22 plane that the military doesn’t need, yet has suppliers in every Congressional district. The thing is dangerous to pilots and the unit cost has soared to $410 million. Back in 1980 Pentagon analyst Chuck Spinney reported:
Our strategy of pursuing ever-increasing technical complexity and sophistication has made high-technology solutions and combat readiness mutually exclusive.
To which Nader adds:
He did not mention the corollary – that the real beneficiaries of such complexity are not the American people but the weapons manufacturers, which are only too happy to rise to each profitable new challenge.
As I write this the nasty guy has called for both bombing the heck out of ISIS and a massive increase and modernization of the military. Which makes the average citizen wonder what can be done to stop all this reckless spending for something that will make humanity’s situation worse.

Thousands of people – citizens, retired officials from the military, diplomatic, and national security service, taxpayer groups, labor leaders, scientists, technologists, current and former politicians – including mayors, humanitarian assistance leaders, business people for sensible priorities, religious leaders, professors, war veterans, peace advocates, philanthropists, neighborhood organizers, documentary filmmakers, and specialists in foreign culture – have spoken out against the ravenous military. And they’ve gotten little media coverage. What they haven’t done, says Nader, is to make their case as a unified whole.

Nader proposes a series of workshops to create this unified whole. These are:

* Itemize the lists of proposed Pentagon reforms that haven’t happened to put some spine in the GAO report.

* Make a list of projects to cut, going weapon-by-weapon and service-by-service. This is to force justification of each according to its military usefulness, not according to the jobs it creates.

* Study and report on the big picture of the overall security budget and the balance between military forces, homeland security, and prevention through nonmilitary international engagement.

* Seek new ways for America to become a humanitarian superpower, to help alleviate the conditions of poverty, destitution, and hopelessness. Humanitarian efforts cost much less than military deployment. The military already knows how to do rescues during natural catastrophes. This could harness the idealism of American youth.

* Figure out how to mobilize the rest of us to call for reform.

* Use veterans, including the high-ranking ones, to state their opposition to any use of the military, to remind us of the human cost of war, and to advocate for proper veteran services.

* Use mayors to list the ways to use the money redirected from the military. This could fund our infrastructure needs and various jobs programs – the jobs the current system protects.

All of these workshops sound like fine ideas. Nader says there are philanthropists ready to step in and fund the effort. Let’s go for it!

But I have a question for Nader. Actually, a complaint. Yes, Nader has written this helpful book. But if the voices are out there and the money is available and the big thing we need is a unity of voice, why hasn’t Nader used his influence to make it happen?

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