War today means the business of war. “Defense” in the US is never about defense. Since the end of WWII it has always been about offense against small and weak states, and has absorbed nearly as much money as the military budgets of the entire rest of the world combined. This makes no sense.
War historians call the time since WWII “The Long Peace”, because no two great military powers have been at war, and every form of violence is at a historical low and continuing to decline. It is obvious that no army in the world is remotely strong enough to attack America, even if the military budget were halved, not to mention that far more is to be gained from commerce than war. Yet we continue to pour billions into war mongering every week as if the Barbarians were about to swarm over the border.
The 9/11 attacks by a non-army prove the obsolescence of armies, as does the success of homemade bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq that caused great damage with the most minimal cost, while we squandered hundreds of billions every week, adding well over a trillion dollars in unnecessary cost to our national debt. International wars of invasion have been obsolete for half a century, but the Pentagon doesn’t want to believe it. Nor did W.
There are two primary reasons for our gross over-expenditure on the military: the illogical conservative belief in the importance of a super-strong military, even in the absence of any possible threat, and the vast profit for the rich generated by the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about. “Defense” has nothing to do with it.
The profit of the war machine that goes to the rich is virtually mirrored by the loss to the country as a whole. Billions of dollars went into construction of thousands and thousands of vehicles of war for Iraq and Afghanistan. These billions are marked “credit” by the rich, “debit” by the rest of us, to the tune of some $20,000 per family this past decade. And now that we are finally quitting that vast folly, we are planning to leave all of these tens of thousands of vehicles to rust on the Iraqi desert.
There was never a reason for our wars in either Afghanistan or Iraq, yet we wasted a decade and thousands of lives on them, drove our national debt to historic levels, and blackened our national image. And we remain in Afghanistan yet.
The Pentagon militants haven’t absorbed the most important messages about war yet: there is no reasonable excuse for going to war unless we are attacked by an army. Nor do they understand that there is no country even slightly interested in the project. There is always a net loss for war, except perhaps for those warmongers among the very rich. It is we, the people, who pay with our lives and our fortunes, not the rich, not the Pentagon.
How we are to put a stop to our ongoing military maladventurism is not at all clear, but stop it we must. The US has been unfailing since the beginning of the republic in always having military escapades in progress, and this has cost us morally as well as financially. Failing to elect warmongers like George W. Bush would be a good start, but more important would be seizing control of the Pentagon and its procurement processes. Trillions of dollars feed the Pentagon’s vast maw, an insatiable monster we long ago lost control over. Zombie projects can’t be killed, and hang on for decades, costing hundreds of billions, never becoming usable, never going away. The costs are always famously inflated and often secret, corruption is rampant, and much of the money is wasted on pet projects of the generals that are obsolete before they begin. The Pentagon has never had a financial audit. We don’t even know how much they actually spend, or on what.
At base, the Pentagon is still preparing for a war that became outmoded and unworkable in 1945. Congressional cowardice has ensured ongoing waste, and even those in favor of restraint insist on full funding if it occurs in their constituent territory. And so we go on, squandering billions every week that should be spent on things we actually need.