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The Pentagon and the world



The American public scarcely realizes the size of the US military budget. It will be US$379 billion next year, the biggest increase in 21 years. The US defense budget already is higher than the total of all the next 15 biggest military spenders, including Russia, China and major NATO allies. The US$2.13 trillion budget would pour billions of dollars into the armed forces but cut government spending to keep the deficit down. The spending plan for the fiscal year that begins on 1 October came draped in a red-white-and-blue cover and featured for the first time color photos of weapons.

What is the reaction of the other NATO countries to this blockbuster? I don't know where John Heelan of the UK comes from politically, but he despises Prime Minister Blair (whom I, like a majority of people. admire) as a lackey of President Bush. To my remark that Bush and Blair have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize", he replies scathingly "Given the probable grounds for recommending them, they might meet strong competition from the supporters of Robert Mugabe". John, you exaggerate and thereby damage your argument.

As for the US military buildup, he says: "The isolationist policies of Fortress America are not new. Further, cynical critics of the US have sometimes claimed that the US "shoots" its way out of recession, by harnessing latent jingoism to enable it to take part in a "foreign war" somewhere in the world beyond US territorial boundaries. (Such accusations have been made- sometimes unfairly- to explain US intervention in WW1, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, the Space Race, Latin America, Kosovo, Somalia, Grenada, etc). War is the ultimate in consumerism- i.e. it's good for business and the US defence lobby is very strong".

My comment: There is much to what John says. The military industrial complex is indeed strong and extended. Here the local press is gloating that the new budget is good news for Silicon Valley. I am antagonized by the space race. There is talk of putting a man on Mars (appropriately the god of war), a pointless, grossly wasteful idea at a time when the needs of ordinary citizens are neglected. The space race is the Superbowl or Orangebowl of national rivalries. Having won it, the US should forget it and beware of industrial attempts to revive it. Things like communication satellites are quite another matter.

To explain the US "intervention" in World Wars I and II by commercial motives is a grossly unfair distortion. The intervention in Vietnam was a serious miscalculation, and the danger is that the US will intervene in countries without adequate information, or disregarding it. The US military presence in the Philippines is presently very controversial. I have received numerous messages from Bienvenido Macario on this subject. There is a good analysis of this in The Economist (2/2-8/02).

Having conceded all that, I am on balance in favor of a of a pax americana, or rather a peace enforced by the responsible countries of the world, led by the US and NATO. The world is pestered with autocratic clowns some seeking power, and some haing it, like Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who is thumbing his nose at the US. Exactly how the world grand alliance should act in particular cases such as Iraq is a moot question. NATO should reach a consensus on it.

Ronald Hilton - 2/6/02


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