Sunday, March 23, 2008

Lessons We Still Haven't Learned

We can't have universal health care access because it's too expensive. We can't adequately fund Medicare because there's just not enough money to do it. Ever wonder about that? Well, the rest of the world has, and some have even pointed to what one of the sources of our current economic woes just might be. From an op-ed piece in the March 22, 2008 Korea Herald (South Korea):

As the United States and the world mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, debates are raging about the consequences -- for Iraq, the Middle East, and America's standing in the world. But the Iraq war's domestic impact -- the Pentagon's ever mushrooming budget and its long-term influence on the U.S. economy -- may turn out to be its most lasting consequence.

The U.S. Defense Department's request for $515.4 billion in the 2009 fiscal year dwarfs every other military budget in the world. And this huge sum - a 5 percent increase over the 2008 military budget - is to be spent only on the U.S. military's normal operations, thus excluding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since he took office in 2001, President George W. Bush has increased America's regular military budget by 30 percent, again not taking into account the cost of the wars he launched. Last year, America's entire military and counterterrorism expenditures topped $600 billion. One can assume that next year's total spending on military affairs will be even bigger. Adjusted for inflation, U.S. military spending has reached its highest level since World War II.

It's not like we're in some kind of race. The next biggest military budget is that of the United Kingdom at $55 billion. Why the huge expansion these past seven years? The explanation we have been given is that we're engaged in the Global War On Terror. If you stop to think about it, however, that is hardly a rational reason, as Pascal Boniface (the author of the piece) points out. In fact, he maintains, there are far more productive ways to use our money and our efforts.

After all, the dangers that America faces today do not come from nation states, but from non-states actors against whom nuclear weapons and aircraft carriers are useless. It would be less expensive and more fruitful for America to tackle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, return to a multilateral approach, and respect the moral principles that it recommends to others. Likewise, only by adopting such a strategy can the United States start to compress the Pentagon's inflated budget and begin to address its many domestic woes.

Like we used to suggest back in the '60s: maybe the Pentagon could hold a bake sale. That way we could use our treasure in a more fruitful manner.

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Blogger Steven said...

If you haven't already, you might want to pick up a copy of the $3 Trillion Dollar War, by Stiglitz. It's a great book, though slow going; not because of the writing style, which is clear and most informative; it's because I have to get up and vomit after each chapter and that takes time.

Why aren't these people in jail?

5:14 PM  

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