"Isn't it odd that after a terrorist attack that relied on $2 box-cutters, we are redoubling our pursuit of fantastical weaponry?"
On February 4, largely evading the media radar like a B-2 (Billion) stealth bomber, the Bush administration proposed to Congress a 2009 Defense budget of $515.4 billion. If approved, this amount, adjusting for inflation, will be the highest defense appropriation since World War II.
This is just the tab for "standard operations." Non-standard operations like the business in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere cost extra, as do defense related activities in departments like Homeland Security, State, Transportation, Energy, Justice and so forth. We can't calculate an exact figure for the total security tab. Doctor Robert Higgs , Senior Fellow in Political Economy at The Independent Institute, said in 2004 that "a well-founded rule of thumb is to take the Pentagon's (always well publicized) basic budget total and double it."
What will we get security wise for some indeterminate amount over $1 trillion? According to William Lind, defense analyst and co-author of The Case for Military Reform, "Most of what we're buying is a military museum."
Bringing Home the Bacon
The military we had on 9/11/2001 was the best-trained, best-equipped force in the world. Yet, it did not defend us against the attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon. Some time in 2006, U.S. defense spending exceeded that of the rest of the world combined. Today, the best-funded military in history is failing to achieve its country's goals overseas. Though we have battled toe-to-toe with al Qaeda for over six years, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell says the organization "remains the pre-eminent terrorist threat against the United States" and it is "improving the last key aspect of its ability to attack the U.S.: the identification, training, and positioning of operatives for an attack in the homeland."
And all this time you thought we were fighting them over there so we wouldn't have to fight them over here.
Despite bankroll warfare's demonstrated failure, Pavlov's Dogs of War insist we can solve our security woes by throwing more money at them. Neoconservative luminary Frank Gaffney says we need to maintain defense spending at four percent of America's gross domestic product (GDP). Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Mike Mullen agree. By what specific criteria did they arrive at the four percent figure?
Gates, according to his press secretary Geoff Morrell, believes four percent "to be a reasonable price to stay free and protect our interests around the world.” Mullen says of the four percent benchmark, “It’s really important."
That the defense budget should be tied to the GDP has been a neoconservative clarion call for decades. I first heard it while attending the U.S. Naval War College in the 90s, but never once while at the War College did I hear or read of a single war's outcome that was determined by what percentage of their GDPs the belligerents spent on their militaries. If percentage of GDP expended on defense were an accurate predictor of failure or success in armed conflict, 27 other countries could presently kick our keyster in a straight up conventional war, including such military powerhouses as Armenia, Swaziland and Barundi.
The reason war hawks typically give for the need to increase military spending is that our Iraq experience shows we need a bigger Army and Marine Corps. But the Iraq experience really shows that we don't need to fight any more wars like the one we're fighting in Iraq, and wars like the one in Iraq are the only reason we would need a bigger Army and Marine Corps.
Frank Gaffney, on the other hand, believes in security through high tech, high dollar solutions.
Clutching Forks and Knives
Gaffney's name appears on 1997 Statement of Principles of the infamous Project for the New American Century that says "we need to increase defense spending significantly." His name also appears on the PNAC's September 20, 2001 letter to George W. Bush that encouraged the president to remove Saddam Hussein from power by force "even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack."
These days, Gaffney is president of the Center for Security Policy which he founded in 1988 and a columnist for the slightly right of Generalissimo Francisco Franco Washington Times.
In a December 2007 Times piece, Gaffney asserted that if we don't continue to feed the Pentagon's insatiable appetite, we'll "leave the armed forces fighting today's wars with yesterday's weapons." Following this line of logic, Gaffney urged additional funding for the F-22 Raptor, which by a gentlemanly margin is the most expensive air-to-air fighter ever built and a weapon platform as vital to today's global security environment as the blunderbuss.
No, Gaffney's not concerned that the Red Sultan and his Flying Carpet Air Shieks will wrest control of the skies from us. He's worried because "countries like Russia and China are demonstrating a determination to field militaries comparable to and capable of inflicting great harm on the best of our armed forces."
Sure, Frank. By and large, what's left of Russia's mighty Cold War arsenal is either leaking radioactivity in the silo, rusting on the flight line, sinking at the pier or burning in Chechnya. The Russians already got their hats handed to them in one arms race with the U.S. They aren't inclined to take up another one.
What's more, China isn't likely to launch a campaign to challenge our military industrial air superiority complex. The vast majority of China's fighter jets are Jian-7s and -8s, aircraft patterned after the Mig-17 Fishbed which the Soviets introduced in 1956.
You may not be shocked to learn that the boards of directors and advisers of Gaffney's Center for Security Policy are typically populated with executive officers of Lockheed Martin, the primary contractor for the F-22 project. The CSP boards also include executives from defense companies involved with the Star Wars missile defense system that doesn't work, a system that Gaffney also aggressively advocates.
Don't jump to the conclusion that we have a conflict of interests going on here. Gaffney and his cronies, all loyal patriots, are merely concerned for our country's security.
And the F-22 Raptor and Star Wars will be, after all, America's first, last and only line of defense when the Borg invade.
Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books, ISBN: 9781601640192) will be available April 1, 2008.
"…a witty, wacky, wildly outrageous novel that skewers just about anything you’d care to name, from military budgets to political machinations to America’s success as the self-appointed guardian of the world…a remarkably accomplished book, striking just the right balance between ridicule and insight."