The US Military: An Uncontrollable Juggernaut?

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I begin with
a report of some statements made by John McCain, Republican presidential
candidate for 2008, and the naval son and grandson of American admirals:

The Huffington Post

presidential candidate who sang “Bomb bomb Iran” is already looking
towards the war after the war in Iraq. Sen. John McCain told a
crowd of supporters…, “It’s a tough war we’re in. It’s not going
to be over right away. There’s going to be other wars.” [H]e repeated…:
“I’m sorry to tell you, there’s going to be other wars. We will
never surrender but there will be other wars.””

did not elaborate who the United States would be fighting. But
he did warn the crowd to be ready for the ramifications of current
and future battles. “And right now – we’re gonna have a lot
of PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] to treat, my friends,”
he said. “We’re gonna have a lot of combat wounds that have to
do with these terrible explosive IEDs that inflict such severe
wounds. And my friends, it’s gonna be tough, we’re gonna have
a lot to do.” u201D

The above prompts
the following reflections. Although I've made some of these points
before, I now consider directly, the mindless militarism expressed
so clearly and so well by Sen. McCain:

As I've pointed
out previously,
the US is (a) the world's most prosperous country (b) its third
largest in terms of population (c) surrounded by 3–4000 miles
of empty, stormy ocean on two sides; by Canada to the north and
impoverished Latin American countries to the south. No government
therefore has been insane enough to suppose it could successfully
invade and occupy the US.

For the US
military, therefore, the perennial problem is: how to secure continued
tax revenues, domestically? Given the military realities above,
their only avenue: some sort of overseas "threat."
Now, the same three facts that render the US invulnerable to any
foreign attack, also mean that the world overseas is dim,
distant, vague, and mostly completely unknown to its population.
This profound ignorance in turn means that, when their officials
and politicians speak with the utmost assurance about a foreign
"threat," Americans generally have no way of assessing
such confident assertions.

Pearl Harbor
was not, and could never have been, a precursor to invasion and
occupation of even Hawaii, never mind the mainland US. At most,
it was occasion for a major reprisal. But this would not have been
grounds for a major military expansion. Only entering WWII could
supply that excuse. So by 1945 the US government included a very
extensive military establishment, with troops deployed in Britain,
France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Korea. The military (be it noted)
are a branch of government – so naturally they wished to continue
receiving tax revenues, and even expand their empire. This is what
all government officials want.

So after 1945:
"occupation" of the territory of a defeated enemy supplied
the excuse for retaining American troops and bases in Germany and
Japan. The Korean War gave a "reason" for troops and bases
in the south of the peninsula. It was around this time, in the mid-1950s,
that former Gen. Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the "military-industrial
complex" which had already emerged.

The American
military and politicians then quickly seized on continuing political
rivalry with the Soviet Union and with China, as a rationalisation
for continuing to maintain military forces in various parts of Western
Europe, Japan, South Korea, etc. Over the following decades, this
excuse eventually resulted in some 700 US military bases around
what to the overwhelming bulk of Americans is the dim, distant,
fuzzy, unknown world, somewhere beyond the Atlantic and Pacific
oceans. The Soviet bugaboo collapsed in 1991, so further foreign
occasions had to be, and were discovered, to keep domestic American
tax revenues flowing into American military hands.

Over these
decades, what was the point of all these military "alliances"?
During the Soviet era, no doubt the Soviet Union may have had enough
missiles to damage parts of many American cities – but to what
end? The Soviets were not so stupid as to try and invade Western
Europe, right on their very doorstep: they had enough to do, to
hold on to the territories they invaded and occupied during WWII.
What gain then, from attacking unconquerable American territory,
several thousands of miles away? And did the Western European governments
propose to help stop such totally pointless missile attacks on the

with South Korea. No doubt the North Korean government was once
a menace – of sorts – to the government of South Korea.
But its danger diminished rapidly as the South Korean economy took
off. A country (like North Korea) which suffers from famine –
in the late 20th century! – cannot offer any threat whatsoever
to a country which is the world's twelfth largest economy and the
world's largest producer of electronic parts – and which therefore
feeds as well as South Korea does (it is the largest single importer
of Australian beef).

[This night-time
says it all: that totally black hole in the centre, surrounded
by the blazing lights of Japan, South Korea, and even mainland China
– is North Korea.]

So what was
and is this military "alliance" between the US and the
South Korean government about? The danger of a North Korean or a
Chinese invasion of the US? Against which the South Korean
government has promised military assistance?

The same goes
for the American counter-invasion of Kuwait in January 1991, after
Saddam Hussain's invasion in August 1990. No doubt Hussain wished
to add to his oil revenues, but this was hardly any sort of menace
to American oil imports. To whom could he have sold the oil? NB,
which was only a fraction of total oil production anyway. Had he
refused to sell to American oil companies (thus cutting off his
nose to spite his face) – some intermediary would've stepped
in, and American companies would've still obtained any supplies
they wanted from the Kuwait oil-fields.

Finally, the
11th September 2001. Patently, this was not, and could never
have been, a preliminary to an invasion and occupation of the US
– by whom? Rather, "entangling foreign alliances"
brought on this disaster.

The identities
of the men who took over the planes make it clear that the whole
was part of an intra-Saudi Arabian/Islamic political
quarrel. The instigator was a man who aspired to obtain the oil
revenues of Saudi Arabia for himself. He denounced the current rulers
of Saudi Arabia precisely for their alliance with the infidel Americans,
and for allowing infidel troops on Arabia's sacred soil. The men
themselves came from tribes in the Yemen whose rulers had been displaced
by the rulers of Saudi Arabia. Or else they belonged to ultra-Islamic
political movements in Egypt, whose leaders sought to replace the
rulers of Egypt, and then impose a stricter, more "Islamic"
regime on their fellow-Egyptian Muslims. Because the US government
was allied with the Saudi Arabian government, therefore the
enemies of that last government attacked a major American landmark.
"If I wound my enemy's friend, I wound my enemy."

And so on….To
summarise: The US is the third most populous country in the world,
and its richest. It is protected even further by 3–4,000
miles of open ocean, east and west. Thus it is totally impregnable
to invasion and occupation. Therefore the only way the American
military can obtain large and growing tax revenues is through: maintaining
some 700 military bases round the world; fighting foreign wars;
invading and occupying small, poor countries. They have done this
for some 60 years now. American taxpayers have handed over trillions
of dollars in taxes so "their" military can embark upon
all sorts of military adventures overseas.

why must this military maintain and enlarge those 700 bases, and
build more? Fight, invade, occupy small, poor territories? –
How else to obtain trillions of dollars in tax revenues? Thus the
whole process feeds on itself – it can continue indefinitely
– there is no built-in check of any sort…. And so McCain
can confidently promise more wars, more suffering for an indefinite
time to come…

18, 2008

Shenoy [send her
], an Adjunct Scholar of the Mises Institute, is an Honorary
Associate in Economic History at the University of Newcastle in
Australia. See her
interview in the
Economics Newsletter

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