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Sunday, July 18, 2010

OUR UNHEALTHY OBSESSION WITH THE MILITARY

A special thanks goes out to Jerry Critter over at Critter's Crap(http://critterscrap.blogspot.com) for the graph below and for having inspired this piece.

Upon leaving office in January, 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, himself a career military man, warned us about the rise of a dangerous military/industrial complex. He thought it unwise for the country to have too cozy a relationship between arms manifacturers and the military, or for military adventurism and huge military xpenditures to become institutionaized as an accepted and permanent norm in American life.

Regrettably, the country did not heed his warning.


As this graph clearly shows, our current spending on the military vastly outranks and dwarfs that of every other major country on the planet. From weapons manufacturers like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grunman, and Boeing, to parasitical supply and mercenary security groups like Halliburton and Xe (formerly Blackwater), our government has embarked on an unsustaunable and insane program of gigantic military expenditure. The time has come for us to take a serious look at what we are doing and what we have become.

Below is a chart showing expenditures among our top 100 defense contractors in 2009 (for reasons of brevity, only the top 10 are shown here. You can see the full table at www.governmentexecutive.com). You'll note that we spent a whopping $377,545, 789, 635 among these contractors, and that did not include pay for our troops or for the hugely bloated Pentagon. That's right---the figure was $377.5 BILLION! That's more than $1 BILLION for every man, woman, and child in the country! Read this and weep, people:

Total Purchases: $377,545,789,635

Rank /Parent Company /Total DoD /Air Force /Army /Navy

1 Lockheed Martin Corp. $30,051,930,697 /$13,402,513,986 /$4,673,579,372 /$9,994,571,537
2 Northrop Grumman Corp. 23,493,816,066 /5,479,989,076 /6,716,656,907 /10,105,473,396
3 Boeing Co. 23,337,676,385 /7,794,047,338 /5,731,974,349 /7,748,677,940
4 BAE Systems 16,280,496,923 /828,059,801 /10,089,734,594 /4,804,129,315
5 General Dynamics Corp. 14,438,355,290 /1,214,774,012 /6,405,315,050 /6,483,123,733
6 Raytheon Co. 14,219,207,207 /2,253,498,433 /5,355,002,065 /5,065,679,797
7 United Technologies Corp. 8,300,866,917 /1,523,796,618 /4,688,709,458 /1,815,768,432
8 L-3 Communications Holdings 6,708,092,019 /2,351,444,344 /2,609,680,934 /1,002,989,257
9 KBR Inc. 5,997,147,425 /0 /5,967,705,203 /21,562,825
10 Navistar International Corp. 4,755,920,575 /0 /1,050,487,191 /3,661,537,716

QUESTION: Now what if even 4 or 5 of these companies had devoted themselves to producing more fuel-efficient engines, or items that would help modernize our infrastructure, as opposed to making only products designed to kill and maim people outside of our borders?

We have become a nation obsessed with the military. Signs of its glorification are everywhere, and have been for years. Seldom a week goes by that I don't get an email or two extolling the good deeds and bravery of our soldiers and telling me to pray for them. The words "support our troops overseas!" are repeated like a mantra. Seventh inning stretches at major league baseball games are often devoted to specific troopers being recognized and praised, and then leading a chorus of "God Bless America." An entire cable/satellite television network devotes its entire programming to past wars as well as past and future military equipment, and even glamorizing certain branches of the military, like Navy SEALS and the Marines. Country music has produced a number of nationalistic songs reinforcing the errant notion that we are the only country that really matters in the world and that we are inherently correct and good in all that we do, not to merntion being unquestioningly the very best. It is almost as though we are subtly and continually being sold war, the military, and nationalism, and I do not believe that to be a healthy thing.

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld deliberately lied and sold us into an unnecessary and bloody war in Iraq. They tried to sell us the notion that pre-emptive war was normal and honorable and that torture was permissable and advisable. Even worse, they rewarded corporate campaign supporters with gigantic lucrative non-bid contracts at taxpayer expense to supply our troops in that war. In the process, thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians were brutally murdered, and the war itself was turned into a profit-center bonanza for private American companies. Cheney, in particular, yet all of his neocon followers as well, are pressing for military intervention in Iran, trying to keep us perpetually at war all across the globe. This is insane and immoral as well.

There was nothing glorious or glamorous about that.

The sole reason for war is legitimate defense. It is NOT to be conducted primarily for profit or bravado or to reward political friends and campaign contributors.


The following is a table of the top 15 countries with the highest military expenditure for 2009 published in the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Yearbook 2010 using current market exchange rates in current (2009) US dollars.[3]

Rank Country 2009 Spending ($ b.) Share of 2008 GDP (%) World Share (%)
— World Total 1531 2.7 100
1 United States 661 4.3 43
2 China 100 2.0 6.6
3 France 63.9 2.3 4.2
4 United Kingdom 58.3 2.5 3.8
5 Russia 53.3 3.5 3.5
6 Japan 51.0 0.9 3.3
7 Germany 45.6 1.3 3.0
8 Saudi Arabiab 41.3 8.2 2.7
9 India 36.3 2.6 2.4
10 Italy 35.8 1.7 2.3
11 Brazil 26.1 1.5 1.7
12 South Korea 24.1 2.8 1.6
13 Canada 19.2 1.3 1.3
14 Australia 19.0 1.8 1.2
15 Spain 18.3 1.2 1.2

The amount we spend on our military is ridiculously excessive. Don't get me wrong: I very much appreciate the supreme sacrifice many of our fallen soldiers have made to ensure the continuation of our freedom. And I do support the hardship and sacrifice those currently overseas are going through on our behalf. But at the same time, I am ashamed at the immorality of our being the world's biggest arms merchant, and the fact that these expenditures are being made nonstop even as our infrastructure crumbles, millions are unemployed or underemployed,domestic hunger and poverty is rising, and our overall quality of life is dropping for many. In light of these events, such vast expenditures cannot be justified.

As you look at the figures below, remember that they not only represent each nation's security, but also are buying DEATH for many innocents.

Rank Country Military expenditure, 2009, % of GDP, 2008

1 United States 663,255,000,000 4.3%
2 China 98,800,000,000 2.0%
3 United Kingdom 69,271,000,000 2.5%
4 France 67,316,000,000 2.3%
5 Russian Federation 61,000,000,000 3.5%
6 Germany 48,022,000,000 1.3%
7 Japan 46,859,000,000 0.9%
8 Saudi Arabia 39,257,000,000 8.2%
9 Italy 37,427,000,000 1.7%
10 India 36,600,000,000 2.6%
11 South Korea 27,130,000,000 2.8%
12 Brazil 27,124,000,000 1.5%
13 Canada 20,564,000,000 1.3%
14 Australia 20,109,000,000 1.8%
15 Spain 19,409,000,000 1.2%
16 Turkey 19,009,000,000 2.2%
17 Israel 14,309,000,000 7.0%
18 Greece 13,917,000,000 3.6%
19 United Arab Emirates 13,052,000,000a 5.9%a
20 Netherlands 12,642,000,000 1.4%
21 Poland 10,860,000,000 2.0%
22 Colombia 10,055,000,000 3.7%
23 Republic of China (Taiwan) 9,866,000,000 2.1%
24 Iran 9,174,000,000b 2.7%
25 Singapore 7,966,000,000 4.1


We are spending ridiculously high amounts on producing death and destruction across the globe. We are not only blowing this money on armaments, but just as we are doing in the areas of oil and health care, our failure to stand up and raise cain about it enables a very small elite to prosper tremendously on the suffering of others. Yes, the defense industry provides a great number of good-paying American jobs. But it is blood money, and it would be far better if a portion of this investment were to go toward producing goods for green technology, our infrastructure, or the agricultural or medical fields instead. For we have fueled not only a mega-industry of death, but also a culture of militarism that will make it very easy to become involved in yet another illegal and aggressive pre-emptive military fiasco elsewhere down the line. It is indeed just and necessary for us to respect and protect the lives of our troops who are in harm's way, but it is also time for us to look for new alternatives other than rifles, tanks, and bombs to be profitable growth areas for the economy. end to end our excessive and unhealthy obsession with the military!
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15 comments:

Tim said...

I couldn't agree more Jack. I think I pointed this out before that since the end of WWII we have been in over 42 Wars and conflicts. We are a War mongering Nation trying to take the place of Britain as Nation builders.
I'm sick of it. People are now having to go on Welfare because there's know money for unemployment.
Really? know money ehh. I think we should start taking care of our own Nation and stop trying to make the World just like us. Looking in the mirror, we didn't do such a hot job.
BTW Good Morning

Vigilante said...

Jack, are you saying we do have a third party?

Jack Jodell said...

Tim,
Very well put, and I agree.
---------------
Vigilante,
I don't know about a third party, but it's almost like we have a shadow government made up of those who want us constantly at war.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all the points you made. In my opinion, we need to wrap up the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. What good purpose are we really serving there? Mainly creating more bad-will and enemies, besides spending trillions of dollars we don't have and can't afford.

I just read two books that play into those thoughts. One is about how we (unsuccessfully) tried to make Indians into white farmers. That reminds me of how we're trying to (unsuccessfully) convert Iraq and Afghanistan into model Western democracies. Another is a kids' book set during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Thank God that JFK was able to negotiate a peaceful resolution of that without resorting to the war that the military was urging him to start!

We have some friends whose son is training to be a fighter pilot. He has just found out he's gotten his "dream plane." Very good kid--smart and with leadership abilities, but I cringe at the stories of what it's like to be in military training and at the fact that each training test flight costs something like $16,000. That of course is a tiny drop in the bucket of military expenditures, but it's all coming across like some grand fun adventure in that family. I shudder to think about how devastated they will be if a plane crashes or he ends up going to war and is injured or killed.

Jack Jodell said...

Thank you for your thoughtful reasoning and observations, Anonymous. You are welcome here anytime, even in your full identity! :-)

mud_rake said...

The spigot for the Pentagon goes directly to the Treasury without any check-valves. Politicians are afraid of being labeled anti-military or unpatriotic if they dare to question the necessity and/or funding of another war.

The word pathetic doesn't even come close to describing this endless military stupor that we Americans imbibe year after bloody year.

What will historians write about us? I am embarrassed to even begin to surmise. Perhaps: the American War Lords

Jack Jodell said...

mud_rake,
Regrettably, there is much truth in what you say. Perhaps, sadly, future historians will regard us as a primitive people who exploited those around us, were the arms merchants of the planet, and used perpetual war to maintain ourselves. That IS pathetic! :-(

Mycue23 said...

We are a nation of excess in so many areas. The military is just another example of that. Our attitude has always been that if some is good, then more is better. The USA is all about over consumption. It's how we show the world how much better than them we are.

Beach Bum said...

For we have fueled not only a mega-industry of death, but also a culture of militarism...

Leave it to me to get all philosophical but I think our obsession with the military goes deeper than just going gaga over the troops in uniform and our “cool” weapons systems. It has been observed by others smarter than me that at least since the 1980’s our biggest movies usually involved big explosions and some tough guy holding a machine gun or a rocket launcher. Have an international problem or crisis and you can solve it by sending in Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Norris, or any number of other heavily armed bad actors and after a few thousand rounds of spent ammo the world is again safe for democracy.

Hey I admit it, I like some of those movies but my head spins when I hear people seriously suggest such actions could solve international troubles. Of course I guess such things should be expected when history is such a weak subject for so many right-wingers. The complexities and, heaven forbid, nuances of culture and history are too long to fit on a bumper sticker. These war video games only seem to make the problem exponentially worse in my opinion.

Long story short, the huge majority of the American public are far too disconnected from the horrors of war. Start up a draft with no convenient deferments for rich college kids and after a bunch of them come home in body bags this “culture of militarism” and obsession with the military will quickly end.

Jack Jodell said...

MyCue23,
Those are very sad, but very wise and true words. We do need to get a grip on proper perspective and reality.
---------------
Beach Bum,
Very well said. We have allowed our distance from the direct consequences of war numb us and blind us to its true horror, which is death, destruction, and maiming. Our aloofness keeps us viewing war as a spectator sport, or another abstract form of perverse entertainment. We have got to get a grip on all this, and soon!

Manifesto Joe said...

I know that this is considered a treasonous thing to say in contemporary America. But I think the basic problem here is that this country hasn't taken enough ass-kickings.

But, I think more are coming. Vietnam was just one -- not nearly enough. It was arguable that we won every battle there and still lost the war. There will have to be several more such humiliations, probably, before the U.S. will take its place alongside Britain, France, Russia, Germany and other erstwhile military powers and recognize the obvious limits.

Jack Jodell said...

Very true, Manifesto Joe, and I would never consider that to be a treasonous observation. Our bravado in recent years reminds me of a young Marine I encountered a few years back. He was full of himself and full of tall tales about all his "courageous adventures" in our occupation of Panama during the ouster of Noriega and later in the Gulf War. He didn't realize it, but the more piss and vinegar he displayed, the more it became obvious that he had experienced very, very little of the horrors of war firsthand. For any person I have ever spoke to who had actually experienced a buddy being killed right alongside him took a far more sobering and reasoned view on war and what it really means. Collectively, this country has not yet learned that lesson, nor will we until war is no longer an abstract thing done far away with remote weaponry. And I sincerely hope we never WILL have to experience the horrors of war up close.

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Anonymous said...

I think the problem is that the US have never hosted a major war on their own soil. It's obviously sad when you lose your son, father etc. in Iraq or Afghanistan. But they've never experienced the horrors of war right at their doorstep, soldiers entering your house, killing your family, dropping bombs on your city, all the destruction and death right before your eyes. I'm German and the general opinion here is that no matter how justified it might be to invade another country, we don't ever want to experience another war on European soil again. We've long been healed from our obsession to rule the world. I think that as long as Americans only know war from TV and video games, nothing is going to change.

Anonymous said...

Your math is off, I know 4 years past, but there are only 377 people in the united states?