Up Against a Wall
In proclaiming a Global War on Terror the United States has taken on a mission very much like the Cold War (shadowy, conspiratorial enemy, infiltrating, lurking, etc). Only this time, the nation is fighting without the economic strength that was one of its major advantages during the Cold War. BushCheney neo-conservatives are fond of touting the collapse of the Soviet Union as the product of of the US military build-up of the Reagan years (Motto: “We spent ‘em over the cliff.”). America’s economic weakness in the first decade of the 21st Century will severely hamper our ability to pursue that strategy in an unending war.
The financial strain is beginning to affect even the Pentagon. Despite still lavish funding levels, the Washington Post reports that the Defense Department will be cutting programs in order to pay the costs of the ground war in Iraq. Fighting a protracted war, maintaining the world’s most powerful military and addressing domestic needs will be increasingly difficult at a time when the United States faces the challenges posed by a weakening dollar, trade imbalances and loss of manufacturing and other well paying jobs.
BushCheney refused before invading Iraq to estimate on the invasion’s cost, although they strongly intimated that costs would be minimal as would the need for an extended occupation. Now, almost two years after the invasion, BushCheney still cannot say what it will cost because they do not know. What Americans do know, however, is that costs are high and that Iraqi oil revenue is not offsetting those costs. BushCheney have created a wound in the US economy that will continue to hemorrhage, further weakening government ability to address domestic needs such as education, environmental protection and health care. At the same time, the war also literally bleeds the Army and Marine Corps as they die in the alleyways and highways of Iraq.
During the Vietnam War, America faced similar financial demands but could rely on its strong economy to provide guns and butter, as Lyndon Johnson was fond of saying. At least for a few years. The costs of that war finally escalated to the point where deficit spending contributed to an inflationary spiral that plagued the nation for over a decade. In 2005 the US economy is far weaker; and the financial impact of Iraq ware are evident now. BushCheney talk of drastic cuts in domestic spending to support the war on terror (ie, ground war in Iraq). Now, it seems, that even their cherished Pentagon programs are at risk.
In these circumstances, prudence requires that limited funds be used effectively. But BushCheney are pouring money into a needless war that has little to do with protecting this country from terrorist threats. Funds that support military operations in Iraq are not available address domestic security and anti terror needs such as container inspections at ports or airline cargo inspection. Instead we are paying for bullets, bombs and artillery against Iraqi nationalists and their jihadist allies, neither of whom would be in Iraq but for the American invasion. In the process, American actions generate anger and hatred that will further inflame Arab hostility against the US.
BushCheney’s willingness to waste resources is further evidenced by the National Missle Defense program. Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter recently published an analysis of missile defense and arms control. He states:
On Christmas Eve 2004, the Russian Strategic Missile Force test fired an advanced SS-27 Topol-M road-mobile intercontinental ballistic Missile (ICBM). This test probably invalidated the entire premise and technology used in the National Missile Defense (NMD) system currently being developed and deployed by the Bush administration, and at the same time called into question the validity of the administration's entire approach to arms control and disarmament.
Even though the Post article notes that National Missile Defense will be cut almost $6 billion in the 2006 budget, it remains a major BushCheney priority and will consume resources. And, like the war on terror, lack of measurable success has not led to meaningful questions about either the specifics or overall strategy. Instead, funds continue to flow into a system that will be of marginal value at best.
BushCheney is fast creating a government in the radical conservative image of its ideologues, a government that ignores all responsibilities save national defense. Funny thing is, BushCheney is not even doing much for national defense other than squandering funds and personnel in pursuit of misguided and harmful policies. In the meantime, America’s economic strength continues to wane.