Tag Archives: Military spending

How Awesome Is “Awesome”? By Andrew Bacevich

The military loses wars. Nobody is held to account. The military’s budget keeps increasing. Nothing ever changes. From Andrew Bacevich at tomdispatch.com:

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch” is an old American adage. Venerable, time-tested, and seemingly true, though here’s an exception: retired general, disgraced former CIA chief, and leaker of classified information, David Petraeus.

For years, I’ve presented the retired general with an opportunity for that rarest of opportunities, a noon nosh out for nothing. More than five years ago, I offered to take “King David” to lunch at New York City’s tony Four Seasons. That posh restaurant — a Manhattan mainstay for 60 years — is now long gone, but my appetite for that meal remains. Earlier this month, I renewed my offer to take him to lunch. An intermediary replied: “Hi, Nick — Appreciate your interest, but he respectfully declines.”

Petraeus is in a rare position. Leakers of government secrets often end up eating their lunch in a prison mess hall. After former CIA agent John Kiriakou pleaded guilty to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by disclosing the name of a covert CIA officer to a freelance reporter, he was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. After Stephen Kim, a former State Department official, merely discussed a classified report about North Korea with a Fox News reporter and pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act, he was handed a 13-month prison sentence.

Petraeus, on the other hand, leaked hundreds of secret documents to his then-lover, yet pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor and served no jail time, allowing him, as the New York Times put it, “to focus on his lucrative post-government career.” More specifically, he became a partner at New York private equity firm Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Co. L.P. (KKR), where he also serves as the chairman of the KKR Global Institute. There, he’s overseen “the institute’s thought leadership platform focused on geopolitical and macro-economic trends, as well as environmental, social, and governance issues.” He also serves on the board of directors of Optiv (“a market-leading provider of end-to-end cyber security solutions”) and of OneStream (“which supports a cloud-based platform that helps companies close their books accurately and do planning, budgeting, forecasting, and analysis”), while acting as “a venture investor in some 20 startups.” And when he’s not engaged in “thought leadership” or venture investing, Petraeus takes time out to pontificate on national security issues, like praising the U.S. armed forces, while pressing for the endless military occupation of, and lamenting the end of, the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

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When Your Government Ends A War But Increases The Military Budget, You’re Being Scammed, by Caitlin Johnstone

When was the last time the military’s budget was reduced? From Caitlin Johnstone at caitlinjohnstone.com:

The US Senate has passed its National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) military spending bill for the fiscal year of 2022, setting the budget at an astronomical $778 billion by a vote of 89 to 10. The bill has already been passed by the House, now requiring only the president’s signature. An amendment to cease facilitating Saudi Arabia’s atrocities in Yemen was stripped from the bill.

“The most controversial parts of the 2,100-page military spending bill were negotiated behind closed doors and passed the House mere hours after it was made public, meaning members of Congress couldn’t possibly have read the whole thing before casting their votes,” reads a Politico article on the bill’s passage by Lindsay Koshgarian, William Barber II and Liz Theoharis.

The US military had a budget of $14 billion for its scaled-down Afghanistan operations in the fiscal year of 2021, down from $17 billion in 2020. If the US military budget behaved normally, you’d expect it to come down by at least $14 billion in 2022 following the withdrawal of US troops and official end of the war in Afghanistan. Instead, this new $778 billion total budget is a five percent increase from the previous year.

“Months after US President Joe Biden’s administration pulled the last American troops out of Afghanistan as part of his promise to end the country’s ‘forever wars’, the United States Congress approved a $777.7bn defence budget, a five percent increase from last year,” Al Jazeera reports.

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Addicted to Military Keynesianism: Why Can’t Even Our Most Progressive Politicians Break with the Military Industrial Complex? by Joan Roelofs

The military has a lot of money to spread around, and it spreads that loot all over the country. From Joan Roelofs at covertactionmagazine.com:

New Hampshire, like many other states, is deeply penetrated by military culture, funding, and institutions. Yet its presence is hardly visible to many people. This is amazing, as the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about was a mere fragment of its scope today.

An interactive map of the New Hampshire military-industrial-educational-recreational complex is available here: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1DW10hd6cE7XmFuNIrycFLEShv7f0RtE-&usp=sharing

Military contractor campaign donations, propaganda, and patriotism account for much of the support for our endless wars and preparation for them, costly in economic, environmental, and human ways. In addition, a multitude of interests sustains the military and its budget, and encourages silence about its wars of aggression and other activities.

The antiwar movement must contend with the many ordinary citizens who may have no desire to kill people, destroy the environment, or overthrow governments. They are trying to earn a living, fund their charitable organizations and schools, or save their communities from economic devastation. At present, without a national budget devoted to human needs, they see no other choice but to slip under the wings of the lush military budget.

The military contracts for almost everything. Along with other government enterprises, such as prisons and highways, this further ensures their survival while contributing to booming regional economies where unemployment levels are low.

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Who Stole the People’s Money? by Philip Giraldi

The stuff that goes in Washington, sub rosa and out of sight, is nowhere near as disturbing as the crimes that are transacted right out in the open. From Philip Giraldi at unz.com:

You might well ask why the world’s most expensive army can’t fight

Too many American politicians at all levels of government have come to believe that your money is their money. Federal, state and local tax rates are set annually and often arbitrarily based on the issues that elected officials and tax managers consider to be important. Input from the public is basically unwelcome except at election time but, even then, the breakdown of dollars and cents that will be coming out of one’s pocket is rarely under discussion.

It is past time to consider what the pie in the sky being proposed by the Democrats, since they are currently in power, will actually cost the American taxpayer. Bear in mind, that Democratic Party proposals that are now being floated are directed at certain constituencies that the party is seeking to weld into an unbeatable coalition that will defy all Republican attempts to recover either Congress or the Presidency. Similar activity is taking place at the state and local level. There is no consideration of the fact that government, at least theoretically, is intended to benefit all of the citizenry, not a select portion thereof that will henceforth be required to deliver the vote loyally. Politicians who manipulate the system with that in mind should be sent to jail, but alas, in the US system no one is ever punished, even if they start a war under false premises as did former President George W Bush and his apparatchiks.

Under the Democrats, the entire process whereby the spoils derived from being power are distributed is being driven by social engineering, i.e. race and gender. One of President Joe Biden’s first moves upon taking office was to propose special payments and other incentives for black farmers, who, his administration argued, had been disadvantaged because they had been systematically denied loans for many years. It should seem outrageous that federal tax dollars were to be used to support only one racial group, but not a single Democrat appeared to be disturbed. Fortunately, a federal court ruled favorably in a case brought by a white farmer claiming that racially directed government assistance is unconstitutional as it violates the “equal protection under the law” principle. The Democrats are, however, continuing to push for their program of tying blacks firmly into their coalition, even if it means creating a system that is manifestly and even transparently unfair.

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America Still Loves the Warfare State, by José Niño

A lot of the dollars the military spends could be put to better uses, like paying off debt or returned to taxpayers. From José Niño at mises.org:

he Biden administration’s announcement in mid-April to withdraw American troops looks like a positive first step in the right direction in ending America’s longest military conflict to date. Undoubtedly, questions remain about the sincerity of such a withdrawal, and whether there will still be a residual military presence left over under the cloak of “counterterrorism” or some type of arrangement with private defense contractors to maintain order in the graveyard of empires.

Looking back, it was rather amusing all the stops the corporate press pulled out to derail former president Donald Trump’s previous attempts to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The Russian bounty program took the cake as the most significant news story used to thwart Trump’s sensible withdrawal proposal in Afghanistan. On that occasion, the media started spreading stories about Russian military intelligence paying militants connected to the Taliban bounties for killing Americans and allied armed forces in the Afghan conflict. In its predictable salvo against the Trump administration, the corporate press made a major stink about this program throughout the 2020 elections, adding another chapter to the ridiculous anti-Russia saga.

Farcically enough, once Biden was safely installed in office, the US intelligence community began to walk back allegations regarding the bounty program by noting that there was not sufficient evidence from US military intelligence to corroborate its existence. Whether or not Biden’s withdrawal was motivated by politics is up for speculation.

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The F-35 and Other Legacies of Failure, by Dan Grazier

Don’t hold your breath, but there’s a possibility that the F-35 boondoggle will be stopped before it soaks taxpayers for additional hundreds of billions of dollars. From Dan Frazier at pogo.org:

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen; Illustration: Leslie Garvey / POGO)

For 20 years, the Pentagon’s program to develop the F-35 aircraft appeared invincible, even as the project hit repeated delays and went well over budget. And then, just within the span of a few weeks, official support for the F-35 has seemingly evaporated. It could not come soon enough.

At the end of the Trump administration, the acting secretary of defense called it a “piece of…” The Air Force chief admitted the F-35 would never be able to live up to its original purpose. And now, the chair of the House Armed Services Committee said we should stop throwing money down the F-35 “rathole.”

This all comes as the program is rightfully on a list of programs facing a Pentagon review that could result in recommended cuts to the total number of aircraft to be purchased. It signals a tectonic shift in support for a program that previously received near universal official support from the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.

This shift is due to the sudden realization in Washington, despite years of warnings, that the F-35 is too challenging and costly to maintain.

And if there are to be major changes to the F-35 program, now is the time to do it. Otherwise, if the program does manage to squeak through operational testing, Congress could then authorize a bulk purchase of F-35s, something the program office and the manufacturer have wanted for years. But even if the plane is technically deemed operational, such a move would saddle the services with hundreds of flawed, high-maintenance aircraft, which will depress readiness rates, further strain the already harrowed maintenance crews, and require years of costly retrofits.

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Joe Biden waves the white flag on the Pentagon budget, by Mark Perry

The Biden defense budget gives the military even more than it wanted. From Mark Perry at responsiblestatecraft.org:

It appears that the U.S. military has dodged a bullet. Defense officials reported last week that rather than cut the Pentagon budget, the Biden White House will “flatline” military expenditures, postponing a reset of defense spending priorities.

A senior Pentagon official confirms the report, first headlined in Breaking Defense, telling me that the Biden defense budget (due for release on May 3), will come in at just over $696 billion (total national security outlays, including those to the Department of Energy, could total more than $735 billion), a figure comparable to the base funding provided to the Pentagon in 2021. Put simply, the new Biden administration will keep in place the lavish spending on defense that was a hallmark of the Trump years — a decision likely to spur howls of protest from Biden’s progressive supporters.

The report that Biden’s new defense budget will look a lot like the old defense budget brought sighs of relief to defense hawks who’d spent the last two years prepping for deep cuts in military outlays, reflecting the economic cratering that has accompanied the global pandemic as well as growing unease over the “Trump bump,” which saw defense expenditures rise by $100 billion over three years. “With slim Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and resistance among moderate Democrats to cutting defense significantly, a major reduction in the budget is unlikely,” a Center for Strategic and International Studies paper recently noted.

The senior Pentagon official who spoke with Responsible Statecraft agrees. “If you had asked me just six months ago I would have said that we’re going to have cuts, and maybe even big cuts, in defense spending,” the official said. “But no more. This is all politics. Biden doesn’t want to endanger his domestic agenda, which means he’s not going to pick a fight over defense dollars.”

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Orange Man Gone, by David Stockman

Trump’s heart may have been in the right place but his policies often weren’t. From David Stockman at davidstockmanscontracorner.com via lewrockwell.com:

The everlasting irony of Donald J. Trump’s presidency is this: He had all the right enemies, but virtually without exception made all the wrong decisions during his hapless four-year sojourn in the Oval Office.

The list of his enemies is enough to make any right-thinking supporter of peace, prosperity and liberty proud. That starts with the TV networks and print organs of the mainstream stenographers club, who peddle the state’s propaganda and call it news. This most especially includes the masters of mendacity at CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.

It also includes the bipartisan national security mafia, the climate change howlers, the race card hondlers, the Russophobes, the Neocon War Brigades, the NATO/IMF/UN acolytes, the Washington nomenclatura, the careerist racketeers of Capitol Hill, the beltway shills of the Lincoln Project, the Silicon Valley thought police and the celebrity scolds of entertainment and media, among others.

With so many worthy enemies it is amazing that the he managed to do so little good and so very much wrong. But there is really no mystery to it when you cut to the essence of Donald J. Trump, the POTUS Poseur.

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Congress Again Proves that the Business of Washington is War, by Ron Paul

The defense industry and the War Party always win. From Ron Paul at ronpaulinstitute.org:

Libertarian educator Tom Woods famously quipped that “no matter who you vote for you end up with John McCain.” Unfortunately Woods was proven right for about the thousandth time this past week, as Washington again showed us that it is all about war.

First, we learned that if Joe Biden ends up in the White House next month he intends to put a deep state member of the military-industrial complex in charge of the Pentagon. General Lloyd Austin will be only the second Defense Secretary in decades to require a special Senate waiver to serve in that position. Gen. James Mattis under President Trump also needed a waiver, as he had been out of the military less than the required seven years before becoming Defense Secretary.

But the revolving door between active military service and civilian leadership of the Pentagon is perhaps less troubling than the revolving door between the military-industrial complex and leadership of the Defense Department.

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Let Them Eat Weapons: Trump’s Bizarre Arms Race, by Lawrence Wittner

The US government’s enemies won’t have to lift a finger against it. They can just wait for it to go bankrupt. From Lawrence Wittner at antiwar.com:

In late May of this year, President Donald Trump’s special envoy for arms control bragged before a Washington think tank that the U.S. government was prepared to outspend Russia and China to win a new nuclear arms race. “The president has made clear that we have a tried and true practice here,” he remarked. “We know how to win these races and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion.”

This comment was not out of line for a Trump administration official. Indeed, back in December 2016, shortly after his election, Trump himself proclaimedthat the United States would “greatly strengthen and expand” the US government’s nuclear weapons program, adding provocatively: “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.” In a fresh challenge to Russia and China, delivered in October 2018, Trump again extolled his decision to win the nuclear arms race, explaining: “We have more money than anybody else, by far.”

And, in fact, the Trump administration has followed through on its promise to pour American tax dollars into the arms race through a vast expansion of the US military budget. In 2019 alone (the last year for which worldwide spending figures are available), federal spending on the US military soared to $732 billion. (Other military analysts, who included military-related spending, put the figure at $1.25 trillion.) As a result, the United States, with about 4 percent of the world’s population, accounted for 38 percent of world military spending. Although it’s certainly true that other nations engaged in military buildups as well, China accounted for only 14 percent of global military spending that year, while Russia accounted for only 3 percent. Indeed, the United States spent more on its military than the next 10 countries combined.

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