Tuesday, April 13, 2004

G.I. Greens

I've always wondered why one of the nicknames for an American soldier is "doughboy." Looking at recent military budgets, I'm beginning to understand why. Its not that the average soldier is rolling around in cash however but rather that US military spending as a percentage of GDP is more akin to that of North Korea than a democratic nation.

I can hear the knees jerking now: But we're at war! Don't you know that we are fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan, Iraq, and globably against terrorism?

I'll agree that parts of the US security services are stretched in different ways than in the past. Bear this in mind, however;back in the nineties, the readiness standard for the US military was that it had to be able to fight two wars (Iraq & North Korea for example) at the same time. Going back a decade, the military was able to stand eyeball to eyeball with the Soviet Union and still put out bush fires in Grenada and Panama. Even further in the past, the military was engaged in the glaring contest with the commies and a shooting war in Vietnam. And while the military budget has always been a significant chunk of change, it was nowhere near the bloated drain on public services it is now.

We were promised a "government of CEOs" by the Bush campaign in 2000, but I think most who bought that premise expected a bunch of Chainsaw Al Dunlaps, not Ken Lays. For all their supposed business acumen, the Bush administration are running the government more like a kleptocratic privatized former state industry in Tajikistan than the mythical lean, mean American corporation. Their military spending is a case in point.

Terrorists fly planes into buildings; the Bushies push ahead with missile defense (which might become accidentally precient if we keep pissing off the rest of the world at the current rate). Feyhadeen with AK-47's shoot at convoys; the Bushies insist on super-stealthy B-2 bombers, designed to penetrate sophisticated Soviet air defenses. Human beings kill themselves and those around them by driving Nissan pick ups full of fertilizer into buildings; the Bushies urge "mini-nukes."

Call me an idiot savant, but it seems that our enemies are fighting one kind of war against us while we prepare to tackle some kind of uber-Bond villain.

The great tragedy of all of this is that faced with a new warfare paradigm we are throwing good money after bad on weapons systems and equipment designed to fight a cold war that ended in 1991. Thinking smarter, or even just thinking, could see a lessening of the onerous defense budget burden AND simultaneously fighting the terrorist threat more effectively. Why invest in yet another multi-billion dollar carrier battle group when our enemy's navy consists of skiffs packed with semtex? Skiffs that have proven deadly when matched against one of our most spohisticated destroyers?

Here's the deal; we need less heavy armor, fewer heavy bombers, fewer ships, and way fewer nuclear weapons and more special forces, more peacemaking and -keeping training, more Coastguard patrols of our vunerable terminals and harbors, more police work, and more spending on human intelligence. Prevention and surgical interventions are not as "sexy" as a full on Ride of the Valkeries blaring smart bombing invasion but they are much more effective.

Currently, the conventional military approach favored by the Bushies is like an elephant trying to stamp on a mouse. I much prefer our odds of success if we change the match up to a cat fighting a mouse.

Then again, these changes would have a detrimental impact on the bottom line of defense contractors; you don't think that this is having an effect on our "government by CEOs" do you?

email me: wisdomweasel@hotmail.com

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