If Not, Why Do They Spend So Much of the Nation’s Vital Wealth on National Defense?
What possible motivation can the American defense establishment have for squandering their country’s very life’s blood in order to upgrade annually their already formidable military capabilities? Is it due to their fascination with deadly new toys or to their need to impress their adversaries and allies? There may be some of that, but it is likely that there’s another factor that doesn’t get mentioned: fear. Nobody is as aware of US brutality in world affairs across the last century and beyond as are the American leaders themselves. They have hurt so many people in so many countries, and so gratuitously, that they are entitled to fear the logical reprisals. Their offenses range from eavesdropping on German chancellor, Angela Merkel’s phone calls–a grave and stupid breach of confidence with an important ally–to mass murder and regime change which they either carried out or sponsored in Latin America, Greece, Vietnam, Afghanistan Iraq, to name just a few. Now they need go to extreme lengths to ward off the world’s revenge.
These extreme lengths inevitably include sophisticated weaponry that comes at astronomical costs paid for by US taxpayers (and their unborn generations), not by the members of America’s high-rolling military-industrial-congressional elite. Far from paying for the expensive war materiel, they extract massive profits. There is a parallel to this faith in high-tech weaponry in Germany’s illusory resort to exotic weapons, wunderwaffen, in a last-ditch effort to elude defeat in World War II. Their V2 rockets were first launched against England in late September, 1944. Over the next few months, nearly 1,400 struck London. Some 2,700 Londoners were killed but the V2s did not alter the outcome of the war.
Fritz X – This guided anti-ship glide torpedo (above) was one of Hitler’s most secret bombs. Not only was it the first precision-guided bomb to ever be deployed in combat, but on 9 September 1943 it also became the first such bomb to sink a ship – the Italian battleship Roma. Again, it arrived too late to deter the victory of the Allies. (Source: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk)
Goliath – This remote-controlled mine carrier had caterpillar tracks and resembled a mini tank. It was designed to carry up to 100 kilograms of high explosives and was first deployed in early 1942. Though it looked like a radio-controlled toy, it was capable of everything from destroying tanks to demolishing buildings and bridges.
The Horten Ho 229 “flying wing” bomber (above) was considered “Hitler’s secret weapon.” It was designed to carry 2,000 pounds of armaments while flying at 49,000 feet at speeds of more than 600 mph. In the end, none of these wunderwaffen made any significant difference in the outcome of the war. (Source: https://www.historyhit.com/secret-weapons-of-the-nazis/)
What Is the Cost of “National Defense” in Real Terms?
The cost of America’s defense spending evaluated by the usual yardsticks hits middle and lower-class citizens hard. They lack most of the services and protections provided by other first-world countries. The data that follow come from reliable international sources, many of them from the United States. Let’s start with overall health. According to the 2019 edition of the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, Spain is the healthiest country in the world, followed by Iceland, Japan, and Switzerland. The US is number 35 in the ranking. Life expectancy is also indicative of overall wellbeing. According to Worldography.info, who average the age for both sexes, the United States clocks in at number 46, with 78.11 years of life expectancy, just below Cuba and 44 other countries. At the top is Hong Kong with 89.29 years.
How does the US do in literacy? Andorra, Greenland, North Korea, and Uzbekistan enjoy 100% literacy rates as of 2015-16, according to the German site, citypopulation.de. One wonders if the Americans will ever catch up with Uzbekistan in literacy. The Washington Post (Mar. 8, 2016) says under the headline Most literate nation in the world? Not the US, that the US has advanced from 11th to seventh place. That is a remarkably positive result for a country whose president refuses to read and is incapable of speaking or writing a proper sentence.
What about infant mortality? According to CIA.gov, the US ranks 36th (estimated data 2017) with 5.7 deaths per 1000 live births. These numbers are significantly bettered by countries such as Hungary (4.90), Poland (4.40), Portugal (4.30), Slovenia (3.90), Spain (3.30) along with a couple of dozen more. Neither do the American results for electoral integrity fare very well in the world. “U.S. Elections Ran Last Among All Western Democracies,” reads the January 7, 2017, headline on the ElectoralIintegrityProject.com site (an electoral monitoring project run by Harvard and Sydney Universities). The only ones, among western democracies, who held freer and fairer elections than the United States were everyone else.
See more on this subject on my June 1, 2020 post.
Luckily the Americans Can Count on Their Allies
Despite their interwoven networks of supposed allies, the Americans are increasingly alone. Leaders of countries around the world have eyes to see and are understandably reluctant to throw in their lot with an increasingly erratic United States. The allies they do retain are largely products of expert promising, bribing and arm twisting. American John Perkins has written a few books on the subject, the most revealing of which was the first one, published in 2004, Confessions of an Economic Hitman. In it Perkins, the whistleblower, describes his work as an American agent charged with changing the minds of foreign decision makers. His toolkit consisted of a rising scale of ideological arguments, bribes and threats. If none of those worked he passed the problem to his higher-ups.
Old arguments –anti-communism, the domino theory, 9/11 reprisals–are wearing thin for the populations of other countries, many of them American targets. They have felt the brunt of US realpolitik and that makes them less susceptible to propaganda. As time goes by more and more people around the world are capable of googling “US military bases map.” That alone offers a revealing picture of American imperial intentions. As for the citizens of the unfortunate countries the US has humiliated, alienated, smothered with economic sanctions, or simply obliterated, American foreign-policy makers are hoping they have forgotten. They haven’t. Nor have their friends. We need look no further than Chinese trade deals with Venezuela and Iran. China doesn’t need foreign bases to exercise their power. Simple economic clout is enough for now. As for the future, they’re working on it.
Underlying all of these questions is an important issue. Can Uncle Sam be trusted? The American’s Kurdish allies who, attacked in northern Syria by Islamic State forces in 2013, heroically went on to turn the tables on ISIL, virtually eliminating them as a fighting force, at a cost more than 800 Kurdish dead. This neutralizing of ISIL was recognized as a valuable contribution to the American cause in the Middle East. Nevertheless, when the time came to throw Turkish president Erdogan a bone, President Trump dropped them like a nicked golfball, leaving them at the mercy of the largest army in NATO. In an article in October 15, 2019, The Atlantic entitled Trump Betrayed the Kurds. Who’s Next? The author, Peter Wehner, points out:
<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Now that the Brexit is consummated (thanks in large part to American big-data technology provided by <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-40423629">Cambridge Analytica</a>) the Brits are on their own, they are going to experience American solidarity–known in popular American and British mythology as "The Special Relationship." We shall see.Now that the Brexit is consummated (thanks in large part to American big-data technology provided by Cambridge Analytica) the Brits are on their own, they are going to experience American solidarity–known in popular American and British mythology as “The Special Relationship.” We shall see.
Kurdish forces played a central role in aiding the United States in fighting the Islamic State. But in a phone call a week ago Sunday, Trump gave the green light to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to invade northern Syria—and, in the process, to engage in what even one of Trump’s most loyal supporters, Senator Lindsey Graham, describes as the “ethnic cleansing” of the Kurds.The Atlantic, Oct. 15, 2019
While the American Emperor looks and acts more like a sinister carnival barker, and is wearing fewer and fewer clothes each day, people around the world are asking themselves what he will be up to next. Has he set the world up for the Endgame? What are the implications of his curious US-Saudi-Israeli-Moroccan axis in the Middle East and the Magreb? What is the role of the President’s son-in-law, who seems to have a hand in the deal as his father-in-law’s “peace envoy?”
Where do the American Evangelical, Pentecostal and Fundamentalist Christians fit into the puzzle? Most of the members of these Christian sects support Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud regime in Israel, many with personal visits and cash donations. Allegedly their objective is to see Israel enter into a war with the Muslims, thus precipitating the Apocalypse which, according to holy scripture, will launch the born-again true believers straight into heaven. The rest of humanity, including their good friends, the Israelis, according to this lugubrious narrative, will be left behind, supposedly to burn in hell with the rest of us.
The Trump foreign policy has been based on insults and broken promises, boutades, tariffs and economic sanctions, and naval blocades, these latter considered an act of war under international law. Mike Pompeo, Trump’s thuggish, rapture-struck Secretary of State, more of an enforcer than a diplomat, was the ideal pick for the job from President Trump’s point of view. But the outside world percieves Pompeo as a warning beacon, illuminating unpleasant things to come.
This article from The Nation, “What America Really Spends on Making War,” should be required reading for every American taxpayer. It explains in exquisite detail the difference between what the Defense Department says it spends on making war, and what the US government really spends on war, in all of its intricate aspects. Authors William D. Hartung and Mandy Smithberger take a didactic approach, explaining how the Trump administration asked Congress in 2019 for $750 billion for the Pentagton and related defense activities. But that sum is only part of the actual cost of all proposed national defense-related spending, according to Hartung and Smithberger. They maintain:
In its latest budget request, the Trump administration is asking for a near-record $750 billion for the Pentagon and related defense activities—an astonishing figure by any measure. If passed by Congress, it will be one of the largest military budgets in American history, topping peak levels reached during the Korean and Vietnam wars. That three-quarters of a trillion dollars represents only part of the actual annual cost of our national-security state.
There are at least 10 separate pots of money dedicated to fighting wars, preparing for yet more wars, and dealing with the consequences of wars already fought. So the next time a president, a general, a secretary of defense, or a hawkish member of Congress insists that the US military is woefully underfunded, think twice. A careful look at US defense expenditures offers a healthy corrective to such wildly inaccurate claims.The Nation
According to these authors’ itemized estimate, the total sum of American “defense” spending is closer to more than $1.25 trillion, almost double the Pentagon’s base budget. Meanwhile, there has been an important change in the United States, a new President. Over the course of the next four years we’ll see how important that change will have been. An excellent barometer of the fear level in the American power elite over that period will be the amount the defense-budget increases each year.
A Reminder: Budget Isn’t Everything
The Americans think money wins wars, and they’re right, but only partially. They seem to forget their enemies whose victories were achieved with little money but lots of courage, conviction and sacrifice. Look at Vietnam, and Afghanistan, and Iraq–yes, Iraq, where the Americans are still casting about for a way out. There were still about 5,000 US troops in Iraq, as of Sept. 9, 2020. Will the Americans ever learn not to underestimate their adversaries? They should have learned that lesson from the Lakota, the Northern Cheyenne, and the Arapaho tribes at the Little Big Horn River in June of 1876 .