The Imperial Glory print is a comment upon the U.S. military industrial complex.
In 1961, as President Eisenhower was leaving office, he delivered a farewell speech in which he warned that “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” Judging by the fabrications and misconstructions that sucked us into the Iraq War, and the virtual blank check we’ve handed to defense contractors, I’d say as a nation we’ve done a generally horrible job of keeping the military-industrial complex in check.
Personally I feel that wars, especially under the circumstances in which we’ve engaged in them, create far more problems than they resolve (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Cold War come to mind). But even if you feel that a strong military is vital to protecting our allies and our interests abroad, you may be alarmed by the Pentagon’s extravagance. In 2011, the U.S. government is projected to spend $680 billion on defense — nearly as much as the rest of the world’s militaries combined. Within the federal budget, we spend more on defense than on all other Cabinet departments (Education, Energy, Agriculture, Environmental Protection, Justice, etc.) combined. Our navy has more firepower than the next 20 largest navies in the world combined. And yet every time defense budget cuts are on the table, lobbyists for the Aerospace Industries Association (whose members include the 5 largest U.S. defense contractors) cry out that we’re hurting the economy, empowering evil nations like Iran and North Korea and imperiling the rest of the world.
Defense contractors are actually a big part of the military spending problem, often charging 2 to 3 times more than it would cost the military to generate the same services in-house. Private contracts have grown to the point where, as of 2007, there were more contractor personnel on the ground in Iraq than soldiers. Contractors are subject to little oversight, as we saw with the Blackwater killings, Halliburton’s $8 billion waste scam and plenty of other defense contract scandals. (A good although slightly outdated database of articles on this topic can be found here.
Last week, the progressive think tank Center for American Progress posted a pair of articles, one on how to save $400 billion on defense spending over the next 4 years and another that puts our current defense budget into historical perspective. The cuts they propose are incredibly simple and will hopefully be included in the upcoming long-term budget deal, but I believe we could go much further. Even if we cut $150 billion a year we would still be spending as much on our military as we did at the height of Reagan’s Cold War build-up. We could cut $250 to $300 billion a year and be back at the spending levels of the Clinton years.
The money we save would go a long way toward reducing our national debt, or it could be put toward rebuilding our crumbling transportation, energy and education systems. We can re-fund federal college loans so that teenagers don’t see the GI Bill as their only ticket to a degree. We ought to put them on a path to college that doesn’t run through Afghanistan. War is not the answer, but there is an answer to war. Call your representatives in congress and tell them no more blank checks for our military.
Thanks for caring.-Shepard