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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Military Sacred Cows: A Matter of Contrived Camulflage

"The most significant threat to our national security is our debt."
Micheal Mullen, Jount Chiefs of Staff Chairman, August, 2010.

The defense budget in 2010--$664 billion (not counting the Iraq and Afghanistan wars)--equalled that of the rest of the world combined.  One dollar of every five spent by the U.S. Government was for defense. The amount spent represents 80% growth since 2000. Why?  One reason: the big weapon systems oriented to fighting other empires (e.g., Russia and China). For example, $600 million for the littoral combat ship and $13 billion for amphibious landing vehicles (whose purpose has even been questioned by Sec. of Defense William Gates).  It would seem that the military contractors--the military industrial complex, moreover--are firmly entrenched and in control. That is to say, the defense spending is indicative of the influence of big business over government in the United States.  That this influence goes unhampered may tell us something about the leanings of our societal norms.

The House Republicans' "Pledge to America" formulated in 2010 promises to exempt the military from any cost-cutting that might be entailed in reducing deficit spending. Even so, Sen. Tom Coburn wrote, "Taking defense spending off the table is indefensible. We need to protect our nation, not the Pentagon's sacred cows."  This statement is significant because it gets at the problem of the debt and the influence of big business in government.  That is to say, it kills two birds with one stone.  Indeed, these two birds may well be the achilles heel of the United States as a viable entity or going concern.  The fatal flaw may well be within, rather than from an external threat.  This is the meaning of Micheal Mullen's statement above. To be sure, Republicans believe that defense is government's core function. Along with regulating interstate commerce, this is particularly true of the federal government.  It is less true, I would argue, of the state governments.  So the plank can be viewed as primarily federalist rather than in terms of limited government itself.  The probably-unfixable $14 tillion US Government debt and the consolidation of public governance in the U.S. into the federal government at the expense of federalism (and the checks therein) are related; both are indications of a basic inbalance that is unsustainable. In the face of this state of affairs, it is telling that the question in late 2010 was who should continue to get a tax.

Source: Michael Crowley, "The Sacred Cows," Time, December 13, 2010, pp. 55-58.