Military Lunacy: How About A Bit
Of Common Sense?
by Russel Mokhiber and Robert
www.zmag.net, March 10, 2006
In a crazy place, even the most modest
steps toward sanity can seem radical.
Thus, in Washington, the Common Sense
Budget Act, introduced this week by Representative Lynn Woolsey
of California, seems like a far-reaching move.
In fact, it might be better titled the
"How About Just a Bit of Common Sense Act."
The legislation would divert $60 billion
from the Pentagon budget, and allocate it to social investment,
renewable energy and humanitarian aid. Fifteen other members of
the Progressive Caucus, of which Woolsey is co-chair, are co-sponsoring
Sixty billion dollars obviously goes a
long way when it comes to people's needs, and the legislation
promises to do a lot. Among the programs that would benefit:
* $10 billion annually would go to provide
health care coverage for millions of uninsured children.
* $10 billion a year would be spent on
* $10 billion would be invested annually
in renewable energy.
* $13 billion would be spent every year
on humanitarian foreign aid.
Yes, $60 billion is a tremendous amount
But not for the Department of Defense.
The Pentagon is seeking $463 billion for the next fiscal year.
That figure excludes the amount Rumsfeld and friends will request
to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and anywhere else they
might start fights). For war-fighting, the administration is expected
to seek an additional $115 billion in 2006. So we're approaching
$600 billion a year in defense/war spending.
The proposed cuts for the Pentagon follows
recommendations from Reagan Assistant Defense Secretary Lawrence
J. Korb. In a report issued in conjunction with the introduction
of the Common Sense Budget Act, Korb writes that, "without
diminishing America's ability to fight extremists, America can
save $60 billion mostly by eliminating Cold War-era weapons systems
designed to thwart the former Soviet Union -- weapons and programs
that are not useful in defending our country from extremists or
the other threats we now face." Most of the proposed savings
come from reducing the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, cutting
most spending for the missile defense program, and scaling back
or eliminating support for weapons designed to fight perceived
threats from the Soviet Union.
In other words, these are no-brainer cost
savings. They aim to stop spending on Cold War weaponry, but don't
threaten the prevailing war-fighting ideology at the Pentagon.
The proposed cuts would upset particular defense contractors and
agencies, to be sure, but they don't pose a fundamental challenge
to the Pentagon's vice grip over the federal budget and inside-the-beltway
politics and culture.
By way of perspective, consider this:
global military expenditures soared past the $1 trillion mark
in 2004, according to data compiled by the Stockholm International
Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and published in the Institute's
2005 Yearbook. In inflation-adjusted terms, military spending
is now rivaling the record total achieved during the peak of Cold
War expenditures in 1988-1989, according to SIPRI.
Since 1998, government military spending
has jumped almost 6 percent annually in real terms. "The
major determinant of the world trend in military expenditure is
the change in the USA, which makes up 47 percent of the world
total," according to SIPRI's 2005 Yearbook.
By 2007, U.S. spending is expected to
constitute more than half the total global military expenditure.
There are roughly 300 million people living
in the United States. There are about 6.5 billion people on the
planet, meaning the U.S. population is about 4.6 percent of the
One half the world's military spending.
Under 5 percent of the world's population.
_Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington,
D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter, <http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com>.
Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational
Monitor, <http://www.multinationalmonitor.org>. Mokhiber
and Weissman are co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators
and the Destruction of Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage