Defense Cuts Not Part of Elite Neoconservative Agenda
Google “defense cuts” and what do you get? A myriad of articles from various sources arguing for or against cuts to the DOD. Some espouse the familiar line that cuts will damage American jobs, while others hold the myth that defense spending is crucial in maintaining our role as global police state.
According to CNN, the FY 2012 budget increases the National Security budget, including an extra $4 billion for the Defense Department and a 1% increase for the State Department. The Wall Street Journal reported the opposite, namely that defense outlays are targeted at $671 billion, which is less than that requested for FY 2011 and spent in FY 2010 – $708 and $691 billion respectively. So why the conflicting report from two major news sources? It’s all in the numbers and how you crunch them.
The Center for American Progress reported that the projected $78 billion cuts first proposed by Defense Secretary Gates are attributable to “management and acquisition reforms,” that will not impact the defense budget until 2016. In other words, these cuts in defense are simply cuts in spending growth only. The implication of this is subtle, yet, fundamentally important for understanding Washington politics. 2016 is a long way off for a politician, and America may have a new President and/or Secretary of Defense with new priorities. In short, if these discretionary cuts in spending growth do not happen, who will the voters have to hold accountable? Possibly no one. The reality is cloaked by smoke and mirrors. According to Benjamin H. Friedman:
Neither Obama nor Secretary Gates has ever proposed cutting actual defense spending. In the unlikely event that the administration’s new five-year spending plan holds up, the non-war portion of Pentagon spending will cost taxpayers $2.918 trillion from fiscal year 2012 to 2016, rather than last year’s proposed $2.994 trillion, a reduction of 2.5 percent. We will still spend more on the non-war Pentagon budget, even adjusting for inflation, than we did in the prior five years, which was the most ever. Some cut.
In fact, the baseline defense budget of $553 billion excludes funding foreign wars. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will add $118 billion. This, coupled with a 1.6% increase in defense spending resulting from the Republican-proposed continuing resolution for FY 2011 (to begin in March when the current resolution expires) will balloon the defense budget for FY 2012 to well over $700 billion. This is 20% of the entire federal budget and accounts for over half of all discretionary spending.
So after all this talk of spending cuts, according to Brett Arends every American household will hold not only $125,000 of the national debt, but what is equivalent to a $7000 defense tax. Not many would call that a fiscally responsible budget that matches the rhetoric coming from Washington since the midterms last year. The following excerpt from Klein’s article in the Washington Post raises an interesting question concerning that rhetoric versus the reality behind the curtain. He states:
The military made out quite nicely in the 2012 budget proposal. The administration is cutting $78 billion from the Defense Department’s budget — known as “security discretionary spending” — over the next 10 years. That’s a bit of a blow, but compare it to the $400 billion they’re cutting from domestic discretionary spending — that’s education, income security, food safety, environmental protection, etc. — over the next 10 years. And keep in mind that the domestic discretionary budget is only half as large as the military’s budget. So if there were equal cuts, the military would be losing $800 billion….
If this is a fiscally responsible budget, then cutting $500 billion — forget $800 billion — from the Defense Department would’ve opened room for much more domestic investment. It also could’ve gone to pay down the debt. As it is, we’re pumping that money into sustaining a fighting force that’s orders of magnitude larger than anything retained by any other country. The theory implicit in that decision suggests that the fight to win the future might be rather different than the Obama administration is letting on.
So what is missing? The general voice coming from Washington speaks of using fiscal responsibility to “win the future,” yet, pressures to increase defense spending at the cost of domestic programs such as education and research and development won out again. To understand this, one must first understand the elite neoconservative philosophy that dominates not only our foreign policy, but our domestic spending. Much of it is leftover propaganda from the post 9-11 Bush-Cheney years and amounts to an America bent on global military hegemony. Immediately preceding 9-11, the Project for a New American Century issued a report that called for a sustained defense budget of at least 3.5 to 3.8 percent of GDP with an annual increase of $15 to $20 billion. The report states, “The program we advocate [is] one that would provide America with forces to meet the strategic demands of the world’s sole superpower” (p. 75). It established four primary objectives for U.S. military forces:
1. defend the American homeland;
2. fight and decisively win multiple simultaneous major theater wars;
3. perform the “constabulary” duties associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions;
4. transform U.S. forces to exploit the “revolution in military affairs” (p. iv)
Moreover, it opens with the following: “This report proceeds from the belief that America should seek to preserve and extend its position of global leadership by maintaining the preeminence of U.S. military forces” (p.iv). The project’s statement of principles is as follows:
•we need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global
responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future;
• we need to strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values;
• we need to promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad;
• we need to accept responsibility for America’s unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.
This elitist rhetoric is still very much alive in Washington politics today: increases in defense spending, challenging other sovereign regimes, spreading democracy abroad, building an International Order. Of course, none of this is possible without military spending. Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Buck Mckeon stated, ”A defense budget in decline portends an America in decline.” It is worth noting that his top 4 campaign contributors for 2009-2010 were Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing Co and General Electric, all beneficiaries of the elite neocon agenda. The result is defense spending reaching a new high of nearly 5% of GDP in 2010. Defense Secretary Robert Gates concedes that “the military needed to prepare for an era in which defense dollars don’t flow as freely.” However, he immediately reverts back to the neocon philosophy that makes defense spending sacrosanct. The debate, he said, was “becoming increasingly distant from strategic and operational reality—distant, in other words, from the real world.” Whose real world, the elite neoconservative that believes American prosperity rests on government controlled defense contracts instead of domestic stability, or the middle school teacher trying to pay back student loans while juggling a second job?
An interesting lesson you would think Washington had learned by now is the primary factor in the Soviet Union’s downfall. Any Stern makes the point that economic weakness can and has been an Achilles heel.
Russia’s competition to succeed militarily at the expense of its domestic economy is cited as a key factor in its demise. In the end it was not a lack of military prowess, but rather economic weakness, that accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Now nearly 20 years later that lesson is seemingly ignored in our economic thinking represented in this year’s budget proposals.
Everyone who is awake knows that defense spending accounting for over half of all discretionary spending, 54%, is not conducive to any degree of domestic stability short of dependence on government. Benjamin H. Friedman states the misconstrued dilemma most eloquently: “Strategy is a product of our making, not a landscape we passively confront. National security threats to Americans are quite limited in historical context, and mostly avoidable. A less activist stance would avoid the peril we now increase by having defense commitments in so many unstable places.”
- Amidst Budget Cuts, Defense Department Akin to its Own Economy (kapitalcon.wordpress.com)
- Defending Defense Badly (cato-at-liberty.org)
- Obama: More Neocon Than The GOP (andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com)
- Believe it or not, Obama recommends more Defense Dept. spending than Republicans do (dailycaller.com)
- Andy Stern: A Valentine’s Day Message: From Russia with Love (huffingtonpost.com)
- Pentagon cuts are not what they seem (money.cnn.com)