Guns, Butter, and Obama
Over the next several months there will be a battle for hearts and minds, but not in
But coming to grips with the issue, as one military analyst noted, is likely to resemble the worst of World War I trench warfare. "It will be like the British Army at the
Up Against the Industry
For starters, there are 185,000 corporations behind those metaphorical machine guns, and a few are formidable indeed: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Alliant Techsystems, United Technologies, Textron, Teledyne, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, and Texas Instruments, just to name a few.
The World Policy Institute found that dozens of high Bush administration officials were former arms company executives, consultants, or shareholders, and that this network of influence reaches deep into Congress. The combination of lobbying and PAC money that pours into election coffers every two years gives the arms industry enormous influence over the actions of the executive and legislative branches.
The reason is simple: the money at stake is staggering, although nailing down exactly what this country spends on the military is extremely difficult. "Figures on defense spending are notoriously unreliable," defense expert Chalmers Johnson points out. "All numbers released by the Pentagon should be regarded as suspect."
While the "official" 2009
Even these figures are misleading, since it does not project future costs. According to Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, when the economic and social costs of the Iraq War are finally added up - including decades of treatment for veterans disabled by traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder - the final bill could reach $5 trillion.
Cuts in the Offing?
Given the current economic crisis, even the defense establishment recognizes that some cuts are inevitable. A recent study by a Pentagon advisory group, the Defense Business Board, says that current defense spending is "not sustainable" and recommends scaling back or eliminating some big-ticket weapon systems.
Canceling Lockheed Martin's F-22 stealth fighter and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Virginia Class submarine, the V-22 Osprey, the Zumwalt Class destroyer, and Boeing and Raytheon's missile defense system, combined with some judicious reductions in other budget items, would save $55 billion annually, according to FPIF's Unified Security Budget.
The problem with
While Obama has pledged to stress diplomacy over warfare, he has also promised to "maintain the most powerful military on the planet" and to increase the armed forces by some 90,000 soldiers. According to the Congressional Budget Office, that will cost at least $50 billion over five years.
The most disturbing initiative, however, is a recent push to "reshape" the armed forces. A recent Defense Department directive elevates "IW" (irregular warfare) to a level "as strategically important as traditional warfare," arguing that for the "foreseeable future, winning the Long War against violent extremists will the central objective of
This concept is no different than the "hearts and minds" counterinsurgency strategy that failed so disastrously in
But the key to understanding why the
Writing almost a century ago, T.E. Lawrence laid out what he called the algebra of occupation: "Rebellion must have an unassailable base...it must have a sophisticated alien enemy, in the form of a disciplined army of occupation too small to dominate the whole area. It must have a friendly population...sympathetic to the point of not betraying rebel movements to the enemy. Granted mobility, security...time and doctrine...victory will rest with the insurgents, for the algebraical [sic] factors are in the end decisive."
History is replete with examples of
The occupation of
Won't adding 90,000 troops trained in counterinsurgency warfare create pressure to use those troops in places like the
In an article in the most recent Foreign Affairs, Defense Secretary Robert Gates lays out his roadmap for a new
Gates' strategy embodies the possibility of both hope and disaster. If the United States chooses to keep the military on its current footing - including adding more troops and focusing on the use of "direct military force" - then future wars and occupations will almost certainly torpedo Obama's plans to deliver a more equal and humane society.
If, however, diplomacy and negotiations takes the place of F-16s and Special Forces, then there is yet hope that the world can take a step back and look for alternatives that avoid