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Patriots, Military Spending and a Dirty Word
    See if you can identify which leader spoke which quotation:
a) Adolf Hitler  b) Barack Obama  c) Mitt Romney d) Al Gore
1. “Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.”
2. “America’s leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.
3. “Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution....  A huge increase in newer elements of our defense... may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel. But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs.”
4. “We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations. This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry [has] grave implications....  We must guard against the ...unwarranted influence [of] the military-industrial complex.... [We] must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate.... Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative....  We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full... that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by respect and love.”
    Okay, ‘twas a trick question: the answer is, none of the above. All those words come from the 1961 farewell speech of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a conservative Republican who fought valiantly as a general in WWII.1 His farewell speech warned us to be wary of the “military-industrial complex,” to balance our need for strength with our concern for future generations. As the current debate unfolds about how large and how expensive a military America needs, remember that any response which calls Obama a “liberal dove” or a “peacenik” is a lie. Many “doves” detest Obama’s drone-led bombing campaigns.
    Likewise, remember that anyone who receives, or has the potential to receive, large monies from the defense industry, may have a biased perspective. But if a military man and patriot like General Eisenhower can speak truth and give caution, we can hope other patriots will also resist a knee-jerk reaction. Indeed, many military men agree that more military spending is not synonymous with more safety. Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush, has said publicly that we spend too much on defense. Overall, the U.S. spends over $1 trillion annually on defense-related purposes.2 How much is a trillion? Spend a million dollars a day for 2,700 years, and you’ve not spent a trillion. It’s more than all the other nations of the world spend on military—added together! It’s five times the amount we spend on all forms of welfare for the non-working poor.3 And even our welfare budget is bloated with too much fraud and waste (though computerization is making it harder to be a welfare cheat). But the amount of corruption, waste and duplication in military expenditures dwarfs everything else in the Federal budget. With defense being the largest category in the budget, how can anyone only focus on a tiny bit of waste in discretionary spending while ignoring military? Do we truly count the cost—in lives and in dollars—of even “small wars”? We could have purchased the entire country of Afghanistan more cheaply than we waged war in it! We spend more just on F-35 jets than the entire GDP of Australia.4 The $400 military hammer was a myth, but gross corruption and waste is not.5 Here’s an example: our military is the world’s largest single consumer of fuel and energy—and a huge polluter—yet little effort has been made to make things more efficient. The he U.S. military spent over $20 billion annually on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan. Annually! That’s bigger than NASA’s entire budget. Of course we want our troops as comfortable as possible. But the widespread use of inefficient diesel-powered generators running air conditioning for uninsulated tents is absurd. A simple $20 reflective solar blanket thrown over the tents would have, alone, drastically reduced the cost, and thus saved lives by requiring fewer risky fuel convoys.6 (NPR reports that over a thousand soliders have been killed while transporting fuel for camps.) Cheap, low-tech efficiencies could have easily saved lives, money and pollution. Maybe, just maybe, if we lowered the military budget, there might be more incentive to seek efficiency. We need a smarter military, not a bigger one.
    On the bigger issues of spending and revenues, and the balance between social programs and defense, remember that compromise is not a dirty word. Lincoln and Eisenhower (Republicans both) embraced compromise. And they would agree: one of the dirtiest words is war. Of course we must be prepared to wage war successfully. But can we not all see the foolishness of having 30,000 more nuclear weapons than we could ever need? We had over 32,000 nuclear warheads/bomb at the peak of the Cold War.7 A “mere” 2,000 would destroy every major city and military base in Russia and China. Why did we build another 30,000 at a cost of trillions? The only reasonable explanation: the defense industry pushed for it. Mitt Romney’s pandering proposal to increase an already-bloated military budget did not die with his electoral defeat; some House Republicans are still playing politics—mostly ones whose campaign coffers are filled with donations from defense contractors.    
   It must stop. Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, must both face the fact: we have not only far outspent revenues, we have over-borrowed to the point of imminent danger. Government spending, bureaucratic fat and political corruption must be cut across the board, and taxes must be increased on the wealthiest (who have reaped a bonanza during the last 30 years as Middle Class wages froze). Any politician who says differently is just that: a politician, not a patriot. Hear a last word from Eisenhower’s speech of 50 years ago: “As we peer into society’s future, we—you and I, and our government—must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”
Check out Dr. Moore’s recent book: Class Crucifixion: Money, Power, Religion and the Death of the Middle Class, $14.99,  at and at and on Kindle at
1 Public Papers of the Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960-1961, p. 1035- 1040
2  The Trillion-Dollar Defense Budget, by Robert Higgs, at His calculations were written in 2007; the numbers are higher today. The trillion dollars annually includes more than Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and Pentagon, veterans benefits/pensions, and also Homeland Security, the FBI, the CIA, black ops budgets, hidden R &D costs, plus debt payments owed on previous wars.
4 The Atlantic magazine, quoted in The Week magazine, August 19, 2011, p. 19

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Comment Preferences

  •  LW Moore (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Great post.

  •  Some ways to reduce military spending! (0+ / 0-)

    We could start off reducing our military by reducing our carrier battle groups. We currently have 11 (thought the Enterprise is due to be comissioned). Not only are these battle groups expensive to maintain, they also include a number of other ships that could be used for sea control if they weren't needed to protect the carriers. Place five of our carriers in ready reserve, and use the other five as needed. Besides saving money, if we don't have so many carriers, perhaps we wouldn't be so eager to poke our nose into trouble spots and play "world policemen."

    Get rid of civilian contractors who are doing what used to be military functions. We have civilians feeding our soldiers. In World War II, during the Battle of the Bulge when things got really hairy, cooks were given rifles and sent to the front lines. If you figure that a contractor makes at least a 30% profit from each employee, we could make significant savings by doing away with this middleman. And these cooks, laundrymen, and commissarymen have skills that are easily adapted to civilian life.

    Stop rewarding contractors who don't meet the terms of their contracts. Overruns are commonplace. If a contractor overruns his contracted price, fine him and forbid him from bidding on future contracts for, say, a two-year period. Once they realize there are real-world consequences for not performing, perhaps some honesty will be injected into the bidding process.

    Stop our admirals/generals from taking cushy jobs with defense contractors/lobbyists once they leave the service. Too often this prompts them to advocate for defense systems in the knowledge they will be rewarded upon retirement by a highly-placed position with some contractor.

    Cut back on our overseas bases. We have more bases overseas (over 800) that we did at the end of World War II. For one thing, our allies should accept more responsibility for their own defense. And just like our carrier battle groups, this world-wide presence encourages us to undertake military actions that are not direclty related to our national security.

    As we reduce our military budget, use some of the savings to increase green energy/renewable energy sources here in the US. This will reduce our reliance on volatile Middle East oil and enhance our national security.

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