Sunday, August 24, 2008

The new Spartans: Dealing with the results of a militarized America

  • (Photos are of me returning from Iraq -- and the first thing I noticed after arriving in SFO was the Starbucks and how LARGE Americans have become while I was gone. Also, I now actually have roses in bloom at my new apartment after my daughter Ashley took care of them for me while I was gone. Wow!)

Here I am -- once again stating the obvious. I keep going over this same PowerPoint presentation again and again and again -- but nobody seems to be getting it.

"America can't afford any more war."

So what has got my knickers in a twist this time? Well. Recently, the Taliban (yes, that Taliban) attacked an American military base in Afghanistan and apparently kept our guys under siege from 4:00 am in the morning through most of the rest of the day. Nine US soldiers were killed.

"But, Jane," you might say, "war is like that. And the Taliban were repulsed eventually. So what's the big deal?"

The big deal is that the Taliban are still trying! Don't these guys ever give up? Apparently not. So the US military has just sent a whole bunch of Marines and stuff off to Afghanistan and is currently training whole battalions of them here at home to follow those later. And in addition, during The Surge we sent a whole [boat] load of soldiers and Marines off to Iraq to augment the ones who were already there. That's enough money and troops to keep America's military over-stretched and bogged down for years and years to come.

But our vast military commitments don't just end there. Now we've also got that whole mess in Georgia, where our troops and financial resources are currently engaged up to their eyebrows in bringing in "humanitarian" relief -- causing Russia to get totally pissed off at us because Washington is flaunting military posturing within miles of its borders and Putin is threatening to start up the Cold War again -- which gives Washington an excuse for committing to the added expense of money and troops necessary to build a huge anti-missile defense system in Poland.

Plus we have to be prepared for other long-range financial and troop commitments as well. China is currently battling us in a surrogate situation in Darfur. And we have all those troops in South Korea just in case North Korea decides to get uppity. And our military is currently spending many billions of dollars to equip and train soldiers to be ready for attacks here at home. And then we have Israel, America's mini-me, who is always threatening to bomb the heck out of Lebanon, Syria and Iran -- so multiple billions of our tax dollars have to go toward propping up that ally, so it can afford to maintain its current "bantam rooster" cock-of-the-walk posture in the Middle East, a posture that would deflate like a balloon if US taxpayers ever stopped supporting its strut.

And then there's South America, which is now in total revolution against multiple generations of American economic domination -- except for Columbia, a country where Washington spends billions each year bailing them out. And then there's....

You do the math.

Our soldiers are supposed to be holding down the fort here in America, fighting insurgents in Iraq, dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan AND also be taking on Russia, China, South America and Iran? Yep. That's the plan. And not only that but we American taxpayers are supposed to pay for all this too. And we ARE paying for it -- at the expense of healthcare and education and infrastructure repair. Which causes Jim Grant of the Wall Street Journal to ask why Americans continue to put up with this unbalanced and unstable situation. "Why no outrage?" he asks.

Paul B. Farrell at MarketWatch has the answer to that one. "America's economy is a war economy. Not a 'manufacturing' economy. Not an 'agricultural' economy. Nor a 'service' economy. Not even a 'consumer' economy. Seriously, I looked into your eyes, America, saw deep into your soul. So let's get honest and officially call it 'America's Outrageous War Economy.' Admit it: we secretly love our war economy. And that's the answer to Jim Grant's thought-provoking question last month in the Wall Street Journal -- 'Why No Outrage?' There really is only one answer: Deep inside we love war..... Why else are Americans so eager and willing to surrender 54% of their tax dollars to a war machine, which consumes 47% of the world's total military budgets?"

The current economy, culture and philosophy of America today, following a pattern once set by the ancient Greek state of Sparta, now appears to completely revolve around "war" -- and Americans seem to like it that way too.

But at the rate that things are going with regard to America's current love affair with war, this passionate relationship is both unstable and doomed. It cannot last forever. And we are going to be in big trouble really soon if we just continue to sit back, go along for the ride, and watch America's economic and physical resources continue to melt away right before our very eyes -- like some military-industrial complex Wicked Witch of the West.

At this rate, I'm thinking that if John McCain wins the presidency in November, he's better be ready to go back into uniform -- because America is going to need every soldier it can get! And Obama? "Barak, you'd better start packing for Boot Camp." Every man-jack in this country is gonna have to strap one on and lock and load at the rate things are going now.

"But Jane," argued a journalist friend of mine, "you've got it all wrong. The corporations that control the decision-making process in Washington make their money by selling weapons and provisioning wars. They just want to make money off the military. They don't want to actually go out and conquer countries and stuff. That would force them to deal with the HUMAN factor. I think they would prefer it if we just gave them money to spend on manufacturing missile systems that don't work, dreaming up Star Wars-type fantasy projects and creating fabulous new sci-fi secret weapons that no one will use -- and letting the messy stuff slide."

But the journalist also brought up another interesting point. "Right now, nearly the entire US military is either in Afghanistan and Iraq or going to or coming from those two mouse-sized countries. And, according to some, nearly the entire military machine is stretched as tight as a rubber band ready to snap. And we are going to need a lot more rubber if the powers-that-be plan to keep stretching the machine. We will need to either re-start the draft -- or to leave Afghanistan and Iraq."

I agree.

For these reasons alone (not to mention that war is also morally wrong), whoever is running the show in Washington needs to chill out regarding the wars that they have already started and also to stop starting new wars -- wars that will involve using US troops. Can't we just GIVE our money to weapons manufacturers, packing it up in neat little bundles and sending it off to the military-industrial complex straight from the mint? Cut out the middle man? Because if we don't, America is gonna end up becoming the new Sparta -- brave warriors to a man, but with no backup plan for anything else.

PS: Paul B. Farrell's article continues to list examples of our "War Economy" situation and, judging from what he says, it looks like we are ALREADY giving weapons manufacturers tons of money -- directly from our treasury to them:

"America's war economy has no idea where its money goes. Read Portfolio magazine's special report, "The Pentagon's $1 Trillion Problem.' The Pentagon's 2007 budget of $440 billion included $16 billion to operate and upgrade its financial system. Unfortunately 'the defense department has spent billions to fix its antiquated financial systems [but] still has no idea where its money goes. And it gets worse: Back 'in 2000, Defense's inspector general told Congress that his auditors stopped counting after finding $2.3 trillion in unsupported entries.' Yikes, our war machine has no records for $2.3 trillion!"