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William Hartung: The Generals vs. the Ideologues or the Generals and the Ideologues?
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Let’s think about the logic of it all for a moment. The 2016 Pentagon budget came in at just over $600 billion and that royal sum, larger than the combined military investments of the next seven countries, was hardly the full measure of the money U.S. taxpayers spent on what we like to call “national security.” Add everything in — including funding for the Department of Homeland Security and for veterans affairs — and you’re approaching a trillion dollars annually, according to the Project on Government Oversight. No other country spends anything faintly like it, which means the United States has a military that, by any normal measure, is unmatched on planet Earth.

For the last 15 years, that military has been engaged in a series of wars and conflicts across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa that have been both unending and by anyone’s standards remarkably unsuccessful, if not disastrous. Or put another way, the greatest military around, sent into action for a decade and a half and funded in a way that no other military comes close to, hasn’t notched a victory to its name in its twenty-first-century era of permanent war.

Now for that matter of logic. In response to such over-the-top outlays of taxpayer dollars and such a record of unsuccessful wars, the Trump administration is moving fast to improve the situation by… yes, of course… working to massively increase spending on the U.S. military and national security, while slashing the budgets of outfits ranging from the State Department (goodbye, diplomacy!) to the Environmental Protection Agency (goodbye, relatively unpolluted surroundings!) to education and “social safety net programs” (don’t be young and poor!). Trump will reportedly call for adding a “supplemental” $30 billion to the 2017 defense budget and a whopping $54 billion in 2018, an increase of close to 10%. To put that sum into perspective, ask yourself where the U.S. military would rank internationally if that were its entire military budget. The answer: 7th in the world (according to 2015 figures). It would come just after Great Britain at $55.5 billion and would outrank India ($51.3 billion), France ($50.9 billion), and Japan ($40.9 billion). Put another way, despite recent rising fears about Russia, that $54 billion alone would be more than 80% of the total Russian military budget of 2015.

In other words, there will be more planes, ships, troops, and weaponry of every sort — armaments industry stocks naturally rose on the news — to fight America’s disastrous wars, while domestically the “security” of the American people will be slashed in just about every imaginable way. (And to add a touch of humor to the mix, Republican Senator John McCain promptly attacked President Trump for his miserly approach to the needs of the U.S. military.) As TomDispatch regular William Hartung, author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex, points out today, if you add into all this Trump’s bevy of generals (and his ideologues), you have a fabulous formula for permanent war into the (un)foreseeable future.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump 
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  1. It’s no secret that our new president loves generals. He’s certainly assembled the most military-heavy foreign policy team in memory, if not in American history…

    If I were in President Trump’s shoes I would do the same thing as he has done. With the most sinister, outrageous, what was called in my schoolyard days,”piling on”, ever seen directed at a new administration, he better have the army at his back.

    Even Obama is leaping gleefully on the pile! Hoping perhaps for a quick smothering of DJT before we get a history lesson that doesn’t flatter Barry. What a puerile display from a former chief executive. Maybe he is very nervous about his legacy?

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  2. The good news is that Trump appears to be a fighter.


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  3. Miro23 says:

    The repercussions of this excess military expenditure are probably domestic.

    In times past, Empires used their permanent militaries to launch regular campaigns against neighboring countries aiming at incorporating new tribute paying regions, which worked reasonably well if the new Imperialists could offer the conquered some advantages (e.g. Roman citizenship, a modern social infrastructure etc.).

    I haven’t heard of any plan to invade Canada and Mexico and send in US administrators, or to incorporate the Middle East into the United States, so it’s difficult to see any gain.

    The current policy seems to be to smash up some militarily weak Middle Eastern country, make some feeble attempt to install a new “regime”, then abandon it in ruins, while moving on to the next target. An attack on Iran would probably follow the same formula.

    The present difference is that Trump was elected on the promise to not “waste $ Trillions on pointless ME wars” and rather spend the money on rebuilding US infrastructure.

    However, he is promising the military more money, not less, rather like the old Soviet Union dedicating a hopelessly large proportion of GDP to an overgrown military at the expense of the public. In the Soviet case the whole system imploded through the economic repression of the public, but in the US, the illusion has been sustained through colossal issuance of debt.

    Everyone knows by now that US debt can’t be repaid, and when interest rates rise (as they will one day) the US won’t even be able to pay the interest – which means that they can’t issue more debt – which means that they have to live on actual tax revenues (strange idea) – which they can’t do either, so one way or another the US is going down, and Trump probably calculates that he wants the military on his side when it does.

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