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News Link • Military Industrial Complex

The China Excuse: Last Refuge of American War Profiteers

• Stan Abrams
I’ve never had much use for war. The benefits seem to be consistently outweighed by the liabilities, at least with the conflicts I’ve seen. There simply aren’t that many large-scale disputes these days that require a nation to “go all in” and commit its armed forces. Aside from World War II (which happened before my time), I’ve only had lukewarm support for limited police actions in places like Bosnia, East Africa, and Kuwait.1

And yet the war business seems to be booming:

For 2009, annual spending among the world’s militaries rose about 6% to $1.53 trillion — a record year even after accounting for inflation, according to Bates Gill, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute[.]

Apparently it’s a good time to be militant, particularly if you’re American. The U.S. alone accounted for more than half of that spending increase last year. Note that this occurred as the U.S. was coming out of a recession, flirting with double-digit unemployment, and dealing with severe structural fiscal deficit problems. In the face of all of this, the defense budget went up.

A recent column by Robert Scheer explains how all of this spending is justified on Capitol Hill. Although it is true that a great deal of hawkish rhetoric in recent years has focused on the threat of terrorism, and a huge amount of money has been shoveled into the Iraq and Afghanistan adventures, this is not nearly sufficient an excuse for spending the big bucks.

[T]he so-called “war on terror” does not cut it as a substitute excuse for feeding the immense maw of the military-industrial complex. It is laughable to suggest that the ever more complex and costly high-tech weaponry we continue to build is needed to defeat an opponent armed with the box cutters used by the 9/11 hijackers or a primitive roadside bomb set off by an Iraqi insurgent.

Once the Cold War was over, the Russian bogeyman wasn’t scary enough to keep the war fires burning. The “war on terror” has done its part but is ultimately not good enough to explain the high-end stuff.

It is simply too much of a stretch to argue that huge nuclear submarines are needed to flush out Osama bin Laden from a cave in a land-locked nation. Come to think of it, the U.S. wouldn’t need to build any kind of submarine to neutralize that threat, much less large nuclear ones.


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