Domination By the US: An Economic Disaster in the Making
S. Leon Felkins
not yet a member of the Rand Corporation,
but I do occasionally have some big thoughts. I have pondered the
apparent success of the US in its new self-assigned role as "World
Cop" and I see a disaster in the making.
in the last 20 years or so have proven that the US has become so
powerful that there is now no other country that can seriously challenge
us. "Balance of power" no longer has any meaning as there is no
other country that even comes close to having the military and economic
power that the US does.
a democracy cannot keep the peace, a powerful despot can.
concept of forming a union of the states of the world expecting
it to police itself, i.e., the United Nations, in a democratic forum
is a flawed concept as any student of Rational
Choice can tell you. It is like telling a gathering of young
children to police themselves. It will not work. However, a powerful
overseer can keep the peace be it a bunch of unruly kids or the
nations of the world. The US has now stepped up to that role. On
the other hand, the "balance of power" that supposedly existed when
the former Soviet Union was a viable challenge to the US, was a
very dangerous situation. We came very close to a nuclear holocaust
several times. Having one great power is far more dynamically stable
and safer for everyone. To be fair, we will quickly note that safety
and liberty have almost a negative correlation with each
is dynamically stable because having great power creates the opportunity
for further enhancement of that power and diminishes the opportunity
for any other country to become stronger. There are many reasons
for this, among them being:
- A dispersed
group, even if the sum total of the individual powers in the
group would exceed the US, can be effectively managed by subduing
any states that attempt to challenge the US, one at a time.
- The US
has almost unlimited espionage capability and the power to severely
degrade that of its enemies.
satellite, spy plane and ship surveillance make it nearly impossible
for any other country to move any amount of military personnel
or equipment without the US having full knowledge of it.
weapons systems allows the US to quickly destroy any defensive
mechanism. For example the radar beam that a radar site uses
to track an incoming plane becomes the target of airborne radar
tracking missiles which then knock them out.
- The US
has essentially unlimited funds and a vast logistics system
in place to be able to put unlimited pressure on any point in
the world in a very short time.
- The US
has vast nuclear weapons superiority and the hardware to deliver
these devices to any place in the world in a matter of minutes.
have shown that we can subdue a country, such as Afghanistan, in
short order and without any significant losses to our side. It is
important to note that just a few years back the Russians failed
at the same effort, took years to accomplish that failure, and sustained
major losses. We have demonstrated convincingly that we can
police the world.
the collapse of the Soviet Union the US is the only remaining war
power to have such world dominating power. Who we haven't intimidated
by force, we have subdued with money and other aid. The current
US/Pakistan relationship is the best example of that approach.
summary, for all practical purposes we have run out of traditional
enemies (you would not know that by looking at our budget but that
is another problem that we will take a brief look at later). The
terrorists showed up just in time. Thank goodness, for even the
apathetic American Public was getting a little restless about spending
more money, many times over any other country in the world, when
there was no noticeable enemy.
terrorist attack came along just in time.
spin is already on to get the public accustomed to the idea that
we desperately need to beef up the military budget for a whole new
round of technology. The TV news pitch is that we need to add to
the present massive inventory of military equipment for it is just
not adequate for fighting terrorists. Through no fault of our
own, we suddenly find that we need to spend billions for new technology
at the airports, for detection of terrorist activity throughout
the land, for increasing the presence at the Canadian and Mexican
border, and for even smarter devices to be used in terrorist/guerrilla
wars such as we just had in Afghanistan. The Military Industrial
Complex (MIC) has kicked in with full force to supply this need
even before we knew we needed it.
the president is still promoting the bogus Star Wars scheme, the
Missile Defense (NMD) system, he has to worry that the docile
public might eventually get skeptical of spending such a huge amount
of money defending against imaginary enemies. On the other hand,
for now anyway, with an 80% approval rate, Bush could get away with
funding the building of steel domes over all our cities! So , it
looks like the lucky taxpayers will be paying for both Star Wars
and a major build up to fight terrorism, simultaneously.
if all threat of terrorism ended tomorrow, the MIC should be able
to ride the terrorism thing for 10 years are so keeping the military
budget at or near its present $300 billion or more level. In fact,
the Bush Administration is requesting $343.2 billion for the Pentagon
in Fiscal Year 2002, almost back to the spending peak of the Cold
Spending: The US vs. the World
is a nice summary from the CDI article, "World Military Expenditures":
$343 billion, the U.S. military budget request for FY'02
is more than six times larger than that of Russia, the second
is more than twenty-three times as large as the combined
spending of the seven countries traditionally identified
by the Pentagon as our most likely adversaries (Cuba, Iran,
Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria).
is more than the combined spending of the next 15 nations.
United States and its close allies spend more than the rest
of the world combined, accounting for roughly two-thirds
of all military spending. Together they spend over thirty
eight times more than the seven rogue states.
seven potential "enemies," Russia and China together spend
$116 billion, roughly one-third (34%) the U.S. military
military spending has declined from $1.2 trillion in 1985
to $809 billion in 1999. During that time the U.S. share
of total military spending rose from 31% to 36% in Fiscal
have run out of incontrovertible enemies and the number of third
world dictatorships that are willing to challenge our power is rapidly
diminishing. Iraq is still making noises but it appears from the
hints being spun to and by the press that they will be next to be
leveled if they don't straighten up and act right. After the trouncing
the US gave the Taliban, surely Sadam will pause before he gets
too rambunctious. Only an extreme fool would now challenge the US.
impact of running out of enemies would severely impact the US economy.
The defense department budget is so important to government's friends that
to run out of enemies would be economically disastrous for them.
See "Money Talks:
The Implications of U.S. Budget Priorities", a special report
of Foreign Policy In Focus website. According to that article:
the U.S. accounts for about one-third of the world's military
expenditures and more than all other NATO allies combined. We
spend over three times as much as the most exaggerated estimate
of Russian spending, over four times that of China. Indeed, with
our allies and friends, we account for about three-fourths of
global military spending. Eight of the world's ten largest military
budgets are those of our allies.
Since we supply
over half of the world's arms supplies (see "Military-Industrial
Complex Revisited"), if per chance the warring nations of the
world decided that their efforts were futile and that they would
likely feel the wrath of the "World Cop" if they started something,
a reduction in their "military needs" could also impact important
interests in the US negatively. The impact on our military
spending is significant because it smoothes the purchase of new
supplies if the old stuff can somehow be dumped on some other country.
(An alternative customer for aging but still functional military
equipment is the various cities in the US to "help fight crime."
However, several cities are beginning to balk at accepting this
free armament as being inappropriate for domestic use, especially
things like tanks and poison gas. (See The "Militarization
of 'Mayberry'" and "The
Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments".)
the military budget is often quoted is around $300 billion (the
US spends more on defense
than China, Russia, North Korea, Iraq and Iran combined), the
actual cost is approximately $500 billion, or worse see "Military Costs: The Real Total".
loss of the military budget would be a financial disaster for the
MIC. The drug war, which the public seems to be getting a foggy
signal that it just might not be on the up and up, cannot be counted
on to replace our defense industry as a source of funds and employment.
Were talking $300 billion, not $30 billion.
have been on a war footing since World War II. I again quote
from "Money Talks:
The Implications of U.S. Budget Priorities":
this budget, the Pentagon fields a military force without rival
in the world. It sustains over 1.4 million men and women in active
duty plus another 870,000 in the reserves. Standing forces include
10 active Army divisions, three Marine divisions, 13 active and
seven reserve Air Force fighter wings, and 12 aircraft carrier
battle groups (11 active), plus around 7,200 deployed nuclear
warheads capable of being launched from the ground affixed to
MX and Minuteman missiles, by sea from Trident submarines, and
by air from B-52 and B-2 bombers. The Pentagon has basically completed
its post-cold war drawdown and, with minor reductions, plans to
sustain this force structure indefinitely. The Pentagon budget
also includes over 770,000 civilian employees, almost 40% of total
executive branch civilian personnel.
20% of the government's budget goes to the military (now over half
(50.5%) of all discretionary spending see "Fiscal Year 2002 Budget" at
CDI). Serious economic ramifications would result in causing all
these military people to find peaceful, useful employment and to
cut government expenditures by that much. The government cannot
let this happen. It must find new enemies somewhere. But where that
might be is a mystery today.
about China, you say?
makes no sense for China to attempt to challenge the US militarily
for to do so would be to commit economic suicide. China today is
extremely dependent on income from exports to the US. They might
not mind kicking ass with the US military, but they damn well do
not want a hair touched on the US buying public or one blemish placed
on a Wal-Mart store. Thus does trade promote peace!
Felkins [send him mail]
is a retired former military officer, college professor, and computer
systems engineer. He is now an activist in the fight for the reform
of the forfeiture laws now plaguing the US and the world. He is
presently serving as the Executive Director of F.E.A.R.,
the forfeiture reform group. In addition, he maintains a web page
on Political Philosophy, "A
Rational Life" and another on the history of politics, "The
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