“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 not clothed.”
Dwight Eisenhower, speaking to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953
In my opinion, American defence spending is bloated beyond belief, beyond anything necessary to fulfil either a defensive or offensive role in the world, and this is the result of an active and ongoing conspiracy between corrupt politicians (perhaps I should say, a corrupted political system) and the military-industrial complex.
Remember, American defence spending is greater than ALL of the next ten biggest defence budgets in the world, and that includes Russia and China.
And who pays for this? American taxpayers.
See, I cannot understand, for the life of me, why Americans – and especially those who detest taxes and Government waste of public money – do not rise up and demand that their defence budget is radically trimmed.
I cannot understand, for example, why Tea Party activists – almost universally anti excessive taxation – do not target defence spending first.
Just why is defence spending protected from cuts that are clearly necessary?
Why does the right wing demand defence spending be exempted from cuts?
Is it somehow a measurement or reflection of some deeply ingrained macho-psyche bullsh*t?
Is it merely that the political forces are so deep in their trenches that they cannot move from ossified positions?
Is it simply that defence is a dog-whistle topic for the GOP base, and it’s better to try and make cuts to needed social security spending, despite the harm it causes, than to seek to educate their own supporters?
In which case, shame on them. And shame on the Democrats for letting them get away with it.
Yes, I understand that decisions about what items to cut are always complex … I have heard persuasive arguments from friends in the US Navy that they believe expenditure on capital ships has fallen to dangerously low levels. But I am talking here of the overall budget. Someone needs to get to it with a serious knife and cut deep, hard and long. It’s time.
There is another good reason for America to get it’s defence spending under control. Without excess (and excessive) forces, they will be less inclined to engage in military adventures overseas that are both morally and legally dubious. Iraq – and the 500,000 subsequent dead – would never have happened. And Afghanistan, in the absence of Iraq, would have been a two year event, and a much more likely success, rather than the morass it has become.
So – it’s over to you, American taxpayers. We are all relying on you. Are you really happy with the way things are going?
Yes, before someone upbraids me, I know US military spending IS tipped to fall. From $638 billion this year to $538 billion by 2020.
But it’s not enough. And anyway, if pressure is not kept on, who says if that goal will be met?
Do I think it is beyond the wit and wisdom of Washington insiders to dream up another false-flag reason to suddenly ramp up spending again?
No. Sadly, I do not. Do you?
Oh, and Ike? He was a Republican. The type of moderate, thoughtful Republican that doesn’t seem to exist any more, more’s the pity. He was hawkish against communism, expanded America’s nuclear arsenal, but also launched the Interstate Highway System; the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which led to the internet, among many invaluable outputs; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), driving peaceful discovery in space; the establishment of strong science education via the National Defense Education Act; and encouraging peaceful use of nuclear power via amendments to the Atomic Energy Act.
In social policy, he sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, for the first time since Reconstruction to enforce federal court orders to desegregate public schools. He also signed civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960 to protect the right to vote. He implemented desegregation of the armed forces in two years and made five appointments to the Supreme Court. He was no captive of extremists – he actively and adroitly condemned the excesses of McCarthyism without upsetting his own right wing – in marked contrast to the current leadership of the GOP, he articulated his position as a moderate, progressive Republican: “I have just one purpose … and that is to build up a strong progressive Republican Party in this country. If the right wing wants a fight, they are going to get it … before I end up, either this Republican Party will reflect progressivism or I won’t be with them anymore.”
He was a talented politician. He prevented the GOP from collapsing into extreme-right irrelevance, and became, in doing so, wildly popular with both Democrats, independents and Republicans.
In summary, Eisenhower’s two terms were peaceful and productive ones for the most part and saw considerable economic prosperity except for a sharp recession in 1958–59.
So why was Eisenhower so chary of military spending?
Perhaps it was because, unlike most politicians today, he had actually witnessed the effects of that spending at first hand.
Not just the theft from those who needed the money spent on them, but also the carnage that war let loose really entails.
He walked the beaches after D Day.
He had ordered into battle legions that he knew would suffer 50%, 60%, 75% casualties.
He spoke with those men, face to face, hours before they left for France, knowing that most were just hours from dismemberment, disablement, or a grisly death.
For him, every bullet fired, on both sides, was a disaster. But that understanding did not prevent him being one of the greatest military commanders in history.
And it didn’t stop him being a Republican.