Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Ike Rules

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The cost of one heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.”

What tree-hugging, pinko is responsible for this diatribe? Paul Robeson, Bobby Kennedy, Malachy McCourt?

None of these esteemed gentlemen. Such words were uttered by the last great Republican president, Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Much attention has been given of late to Ike’s farewell warning against the influence of the military-industrial complex. The poor man must be twisting in his grave, for the US has become a military-industrial complex.

Cut education, cut social security, cut your granny’s bingo allowance, but don’t even dream of examining a defense budget! Might as well toss the baby Jesus out of the crib before you cut a buck from this sacrosanct military shopping list.

The waste, over-run budgets, out-of-date weaponry is astounding; the money galore seeping from the pentagon to the military suppliers, defense contractors and security firms is common knowledge and yet with a few honorable exceptions our political representatives adopt a hands off attitude.

What kind of madness is this? We don’t have enough money to rebuild roads, bridges, schools, or rail lines, but amazingly we spend more on our military than the countries with the next fifteen largest budgets combined.

Now I’m not talking about the wage or salary of the soldier or sailor, nor of the benefits they receive when they come home – they deserve everything they get and more. What is troubling is the mindset that defense budgets are holy cows to be held in awe but never touched.

Have you ever considered that the US has been at war – or on a war footing – ever since Eisenhower vacated the White House in 1960? We careen internationally from local vendetta to civil conflict often taking sides indiscriminately, usually without any sense of realpolitik.

It was so nice of us to go into Iraq, lose 4,400 US lives, waste billions borrowed from China, with the end result of handing the joint over to Iran. But even before we’re shown the door out of Baghdad, we’ve already shifted most of the troops to another un-winnable war supporting a narco-based, ultra-corrupt Afghani government.

Who is our next bogeyman, Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-il, Bono? Hey, with oil running out, how about we resurrect the Fenian Brotherhood and invade Canada?

The real problem is that our political culture doesn’t allow us to discuss defense budgets. You have to hand it to these military-industrial dudes - they really run a tight game with bone-deep roots in both political parties, the media, and the national psyche; just as soon as anyone even mentions this madness, out come the flags, and the “hey, commie, why don’t you buzz off to Cuba” chants erupt.

The celebrity warrior culture does us no favors. Now I think General Petraeus is a sound man and an astute tactician; but even he would tell you that his “surge” worked because our former enemies, the Sunni Sons of Iraq, were added to the US employment rolls. Money well spent, I say, even if it never appeared in any budget – defense or otherwise.

His new surge in Afghanistan will work too. The Pashtun clans, AKA Taliban, will melt away – for the time being. Why not, they know we’ll eventually leave, might as well take a paid vacation courtesy of our Pakistani allies, and return when the heat dies down.

But then, General Petraeus is a soldier, unlike President Eisenhower who became a statesman. The general sees only the short-term. Ike looked down the road and saw what we could, and have, become – a nation at permanent war afraid to ask the reasons why.

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