Military Industrial Complex In Action

Friday, May 19, 2006

Originally published: Monday, February 06, 2006

Multimillion dollar cold war style weaponry; absolutely. Body armor and working equipment for our troops; not so much.

Ralph Peters's recent column in the New York Post (or here) lays bare the anatomy of the very "military industrial complex" that a tough old soldier known as Ike warned us about many years ago. Writes Peters:

Our ground forces are being driven hard, with many soldiers and Marines already on their third assignments to Iraq or Afghanistan. Overwhelmingly, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps do the bleeding and dying. And even as we're able to gradually reduce our troop levels in Iraq, the need for robust land forces to cope with other looming crises is indisputable.

Yet, instead of beefing up the forces that do the actual fighting, the Pentagon self-justification process known as the "Quadrennial Defense Review," or QDR, is about to call for increasing the buy of the F/A-22, a pointless air-to-air fighter with a $280-million-per-copy price tag, while acquiring high-tech destroyers designed to defeat a vanished Soviet navy.

In the famous speech in which then President Eisenhower coined the phrase "military industrial complex," he said:

Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties.

Case in point:

The excuse offered by Pentagon political appointees is that we must hedge our bets regarding a future conflict with China. But our military is already two generations ahead of its Chinese counterpart — and the Chinese don't want to fight us.

Eisenhower warned that hi-tech invention would outpace basic pragmatism:

Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity....

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientifictechnological elite.

From the Peters op-ed:

Don't expect it to make sense. Just follow the money.

In support of this massive scam, the Air Force-dominated Joint Forces Command is pushing an outdated concept that only works on PowerPoint slides. It's called Effects-Based Operations, or EBO. Originally hatched to attack Soviet-style air defenses, EBO's now being hawked as the answer to all our battlefield needs (Zarqawi's radar installations better look out, to say nothing of Osama's aircraft carriers).

What Ike saw in his crystal ball was the evolution of a dog-waving tail, in which our tax dollars funded a ballooning defense budget at the expense of the nation's infrastructure.

As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

But I don't think even the prescient retired General, writing "As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war," could have envisioned that it would be not only our national economy that would be ill-served by our ballooning military expansion, but the men and women who serve in that military.

Despite the utter failure of the high-tech, from-the-skies model of war during Operation Iraqi Freedom, OSD remains ideologically committed to fantasies of remote-control combat. According to the pretzel logic employed by Pentagon civilians (and in the Air Force), if we reduce the capabilities of our ground forces, we'll have no choice but to rely on technology - thus justifying the technology purchases.

In an age when ground-force missions will only continue to increase, and after suffering chronic troop shortages in Iraq, OSD recommends cutting Army and Marine combat units. Faced with the urgent need to replenish Marine and Army equipment destroyed or worn out in Iraq, we're buying high-tech toys that have no missions.

Your tax dollars are being squandered while our troops are being betrayed.

It isn't about combat effectiveness. It's about contractor profits.

Concludes Peters:

If the Democrats want a legitimate security issue to fight for in mid-term elections, the Rumsfeld Pentagon's giving them a gift. The only winners from the latest QDR are our enemies and our most powerful defense contractors - and it's getting hard to tell the difference between them.

Oh yeah. That'll happen. Given such a clear opening, I'm sure Congressional Dems will take on the muscular military spending of this increasingly reckless Republican Administration. Here's the deal. If the Democratic Party crafts a clear policy against the military industrial complex and insane expenditures like this one, I'll even consider rejoining the party.