By Andrew Heaslet, guest Author, Coordinator, Peace Economy Project
“I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of nuclear annihilation… I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Address, Dec.10 1964
Out of Iraq and Afghanistan
A 16 Month Plan for Iraq is 16 Months Too Long
Reuters reported last December, “Obama said a new security pact between Iraq and the United States already put the United States on a “glide path” to pulling out of Iraq. He also noted that a “residual” U.S. force may need to remain in Iraq longer than combat troops.”
16 months does not fulfill our demand for “Troops Out Now,” and we will not be satisfied until every American serviceman and woman is back on US soil. “Residual” forces existing in Iraq is unacceptable. John McCain mused about being in Iraq for 50 to 100 years – if the American people wanted that, he, not Obama, would have been elected president.
End, Don’t Escalate the Occupation of Afghanistan.
There is No “Good War”
For all of his flaws, former president Bill Clinton has sagely said, “you cannot kill, occupy or imprison all your actual or potential adversaries… You have to try to build a world with more friends and fewer terrorists.”
The spouse of the current secretary of state’s words should be heeded, especially considering Foreign Policy in Focus’s Conn Hallinan words: “As the United States steps up its air war, civilian casualties have climbed steadily over the past two years. Nearly 700 were killed in the first three months of 2008, a major increase over last year. In a recent incident, 47 members of a wedding party were killed in Helmand Province. In a society where clan, tribe, and blood feuds are a part of daily life, that single act sowed a generation of enmity.”
Hallinan continues, “According to U.S. counter insurgency doctrine… Afghanistan would require at least 400,000 troops to even have a chance of “winning” the war. Adding another 10,000 [or 30,000] U.S. troops will have virtually no effect.”
Furthermore, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, “Britain‘s most senior military commander in [Afghanistan]” has said “We’re not going to win this war,” and, according to the Telegraph.co.uk, “said the goal should be to find a non-violent resolution.”
Finally, the FY 2008 supplemental spending bill already pinned the cost of the war in Afghanistan at $173 billion. At a time when our economy needs a boost to the tune of a trillion dollars, increasing spending on an unwinnable war is not only a strategic mistake, but also a cost we simply cannot afford.
The United States should make nuclear disarmament the leading edge of a global trend towards demilitarization and redirection of military expenditures to meet human and environmental needs. (Nuclear Disorder or Cooperative Security?)
In 1995 testimony before the International Court of Justice, Hiroshima Mayor Takashi Hiraoka told the Court: “History is written by the victors. Thus, the heinous massacre that was Hiroshima has been handed down to us as a perfectly justified act of war. As a result, for over 50 years we have never directly confronted the full implications of this terrifying act for the future of the human race.”
The Nuclear Information Project has estimated that there are still more than 25,000 nuclear weapons in the world. The United States and Russia have by far the largest nuclear arsenals, with thousands of deployed weapons, capable of destroying any country and killing tens of millions. The United Kingdom, France and China each have hundreds of modern nuclear weapons and long-range missiles capable of carrying them. All of these countries promised the world, decades ago, when they signed onto the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), that they would negotiate to get rid of their nuclear arsenals. There are no such negotiations underway.
Remaining outside the NPT are India and Pakistan, believed to have fewer than 100 nuclear weapons each and engaged in an unpredictable new arms race; Israel, the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, believed to have several hundred nuclear weapons that can be delivered by plane or missile; and North Korea, which claims to have conducted a single nuclear test in 2006 and which has not tested successfully any missiles that could carry a nuclear weapon to the United States. (Western States Legal Foundation Information Report, Fall 2006)
The United States is the only country that has used nuclear weapons in war. And it is the only country with nuclear weapons deployed on foreign soil. Nuclear weapons continue to play a central role in U.S. “national security” policy. Today the U.S. possesses approximately 9,400 nuclear warheads. Of these, some 2,200 strategic (long range) warheads are actively deployed on intercontinental ballistic missiles and at long range bomber bases. Another 500 or so tactical (short range) nuclear weapons are actively deployed, about 200 of them in Europe. (Federation of American Scientists, Strategic Security Blog)
But it’s not just about the numbers. A September 2008 Department of Defense report on the Air Force’s nuclear mission describes “the importance of nuclear deterrence” this way: “Though our consistent goal has been to avoid actual weapons use, the nuclear deterrence is ‘used’ every day by assuring friends and allies, dissuading opponents from seeking peer capability to the United States, deterring attacks on the United States and its allies from potential adversaries, and providing the potential to defeat adversaries if deterrence fails.”
The Pentagon’s 2001 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) expanded the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security policy, including the possible use of nuclear weapons in “immediate, potential, or unexpected contingencies” and called for indefinite retention of a large, modern, and diverse nuclear force. The NPR has served as the primary justification for each subsequent annual nuclear weapons budget request as well as the current “Complex Transformation” plan to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories and manufacturing plants for decades to come. (Western States Legal Foundation, Information Brief, Spring 2008)
According to a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report entitled, Nuclear Security Spending: Assessing Costs, Examining Priorities ,in fiscal year 2008, the United States spent $52.4 billion on nuclear weapons programs alone. This staggering amount is a drop in the bucket compared to overall U.S. military spending ($711 billion), but it exceeds the entire military budgets of nearly every other country. In 2006, the last year for which figures are available, only China ($121.9 billion), Russia ($70 billion), the United Kingdom ($55.4 billion) and France ($54 billion) spent more on their militaries than the U.S. spent on its nuclear weapons. (CACNP)
Atomic Audit, a study by the Brookings Institution completed in 1998, found, as a conservative estimate, that the United States spent $5.5 trillion dollars on nuclear weapons from 1940–1996 (in constant 1996 dollars). The Brookings study found that nuclear weapons spending during the 56 year period it examined exceeded the combined total federal spending for education; training, employment, and social services; agriculture; natural resources and the environment; general science, space, and technology; community and regional development, including disaster relief; law enforcement; and energy production and regulation.
Bring all troops, everywhere, home. Now.
Former Cold War hawk and CIA analyst, Chalmers Johnson, has written: “As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize — or do not want to recognize — that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet. This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire — an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class.” Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can’t begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order.”
Noting that “official records on these subjects are misleading,” Johnson in 2004 estimated that the Pentagon maintains more than 700 overseas bases in about 130 countries, with an additional 6,000 bases in the United States and its territories. “These numbers,” he concluded, “although staggeringly large, do not begin to cover all the actual bases we occupy globally…. If there were an honest count, the actual size of our military empire would probably top 1,000 different bases in other people’s countries, but no one — possibly not even the Pentagon — knows the exact number for sure, although it has been distinctly on the rise in recent years.” According to Johnson, “Pentagon bureaucrats calculate that it would require at least $113.2 billion to replace just the foreign bases – surely far too low a figure but still larger than the gross domestic product of most countries. . . .”
When establishment of the new United States Northern Command was announced in April 2002, the official press release declared: “For the first time, commanders’ areas of operations cover the entire Earth.” DefenseLink.mil)
Military Industrial Complex
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
Dwight D Eisenhower, Jan 17, 1961
James Quinn’s article entitled “The Economic Cost of the Military Industrial Complex” summarizes the current status of this nexus well: “The top five U.S. defense contractors generated almost $129 billion in revenues and $8 billion in profits in 2006, double the revenue and profits in 2000 when George Bush became President. The War on Terror has been a windfall for the defense industry and their shareholders. These companies have intertwined themselves into the fabric of our government and defense department. They contribute tremendous amounts of money to Congressional candidates and have thousands of lobbyists pushing for more defense contracts.” Boeing, for example, reported spending $16.6 million on lobbying in 2008 (opensecrets.org).
There is also the issue of the “revolving door,” where politicians cycle between governmental positions and private sector companies posing serious questions about conflict of interest. Famous examples are Dick Cheney, who went from the government to CEO of Halliburton, back to the government. In the new administration, Obama’s national security advisor, Gen James Jones (Ret.) sat on the board of major military contractor, Boeing as well as oil giant Chevron (TheHill.com). Additionally, a former Raytheon senior vice president now sits as the nation’s deputy defense secretary (Bloomberg.com).
B.R. Reece recently summarized some of the Economic Conversion guru, Seymour Melman’s arguments against the power of the Military Industrial Complex in a book review for The Peace Economy Project. “The defense industry profits through inefficiency at the expense of the general population,” she writes. “The difference is that consumers are free to purchase vehicles that are price competitive, efficient, have high technical standards and low failure rates, and so the inability of domestic automakers to produce competitive vehicles has resulted in lost sales. No such situation exists in defense contracting: inefficiencies and losses are absorbed by the taxpayer, not by the producer. The contractors thus have an incentive not only to ignore the hemorrhaging created by inefficiencies, but to build in greater inefficiencies in the form of huge bureaucracies, inefficient production and innovation practices, and pricing methods designed to maximize cost to the final purchaser (a practice that would be impossible to sustain if the company had to compete for buyers).” Melman’s commentary, though 35 years old, still describe the waste we encounter today; a 2005 NY Times article notes, “The Pentagon has more than 80 major new weapons systems under development… Their combined cost, already $300 billion over budget [emphasis added], is $1.47 trillion and climbing.”
The Pentagon is NOT a Jobs Engine
Jobs should never be used as a justification to produce instruments of war.
31 year veteran of the defense analysis field, Winslow Wheeler has written extensively against the idea that Pentagon should be used as a jobs program: “With its huge overhead costs, glacial payout rates and ultra-high costs of materials, I believe the Pentagon can generate jobs by spending but neither as many nor as soon as is suggested.
“…even if Congress appropriated today the USD11 billion needed for [60 new F-22s], the work would not start until 2010: too late for the stimulus everyone agrees is needed now.
“…if employment is the aim, it makes more sense to cut defence spending and use the money in programmes that do it better. As for the defence budget, less money offers the opportunity for reform – just what the doctor ordered. Despite high levels of spending, the combat formations of the services are smaller than at any point since 1946. Major equipment is, on average, older, and, according to key measurables, our forces are less ready to fight.”
The Center for Economic and Policy Research released a report in mid 2007 noting the following: “It is often believed that wars and military spending increases are good for the economy… In fact, most economic models show that military spending diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment.”
A 2007 University of Massachusetts, Amherst study wrote that dollars invested in alternatives to defense spending such as education, healthcare, mass transit, or even tax cuts “create more jobs and,” potentially, provide “both an overall higher level of compensation… and a better average quality of jobs.”
An honest look at the defense industry does show that millions of jobs are related to massive military contracts but it does not have to remain this way. As the above comments demonstrate, creating jobs in other sectors would be a more effective means of widespread employment. The workers who design, build, and maintain these elaborate, high priced machines are incredibly skilled workers whom could relatively easily be retrained to produce goods that create and maintain higher levels of capital.
Our current military philosophy and actions are unnecessarily dragging our nation to the poorhouse. If we actively confront the threats of illness, disease, poverty, racism, unemployment, and the environmental crisis, our dollars will create more jobs and capital and will finally honor the words of one of our nation’s greatest heroes, Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
* It should be noted that increasing reliance on biofuel is controversial. A Sustainable Energy Future is Possible Now, a report by Abolition 2000, warns that “unconstrained industrial biofuel production will produce dire consequences for the natural environment.” Concerns range from biofuel feedstock taking priority over food crops due to limited arable land, to use of pesticides, to widespread deforestation. The report makes the case that solar, wind, and geothermal power, tidal and smaller scale hydro-electric energy, and hydrogen fuel are good choices for the economy, citing a University of California finding that sustainable energy sources provide more jobs “per MW of power installed, per unit of energy produced, and per dollar investment than the fossil fuel-based energy sector.” The report concludes that “switching to sustainable energy would have an added benefit of promoting democratic values and the international aspirations embodied in the United Nations.”
A “renaissance” in nuclear energy is being promoted as part of the solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But nuclear power is fraught with problems including the potential for proliferation of nuclear weapons by virtue of the connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons materials and technologies; the potential for catastrophic accidents; the unsolved problem of nuclear waste storage and disposition; and the very high financial costs associated with all aspects of nuclear power production.
The United States can and should implement energy production, distribution, and use policies that will phase out the use of fossil fuels and nuclear power by the year 2050. A recent book, Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy, by the Institute for Environmnetal and Energy Research and the Nuclear Policy Reseach Institute, provides a detailed analysis that shows that this goal is technically and economically feasible. The Roadmap lays out how we can get from a 4 percent reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear energy (as of 2005) to none by mid-century. Oil imports would be completely eliminated along the way.
Document compiled and organized by:
Andy Heaslet, Coordinator of the St Louis based Peace Economy Project