To Hell With Fighting the Houthis!

Here we go again. The “Joe Biden” thing just started another war in Yemen without a constitutionally compliant declaration by Congress. And it/they did so against a rag-tag tribe of desert insurgents who cannot possibly harm the liberty or security of the American homeland.

After all, the most fearsome missile possessed by the Houthi is the Burkan-3, which has a maximum range of 750 miles. Yet the last time we checked, the distance from Yemen to Washington DC was 7,200 miles. So why is the GOP leadership branch of the Uniparty saluting Sleepy Joe with a chorus of attaboys?

GOP Senate Leader, Mitch McConnelI welcome the U.S. and coalition operations against the Iran-backed Houthi terrorists responsible for violently disrupting international commerce in the Red Sea and attacking American vessels. President Biden’s decision to use military force against these Iranian proxies is overdue.

GOP House Speaker Johnson: This action by U.S. and British forces is long overdue, and we must hope these operations indicate a true shift in the Biden Administration’s approach to Iran and its proxies that are engaging in such evil and wreaking such havoc. They must understand there is a serious price to pay for their global acts of terror and their attacks on U.S. personnel and commercial vessels. America must always project strength, especially in these dangerous times.

No, Speaker Johnson, America must not go abroad seeking monsters to destroy, as our sixth president, John Qunicy Adams, stated so cogently nearly 203 years ago on Independence Day. The Red Sea is not the Gulf of Mexico, Long Island Sound or the Gulf of Catalina—meaning that the Houthi blockade on ships heading to Israel in retaliation for the latter’s genocidal assault on Gaza is Jerusalem’s business to treat with, not Washington’s. Debating War Lorenzo, David J. Best Price: $41.14 Buy New $41.17 (as of 07:17 UTC - Details)

Moreover, the US Navy has not been hired by the UN or any other global body to safeguard every sea lane on the planet. Nor should it take the assignment if offered because the homeland security of America does not depend upon Washington functioning as the gendarmerie of the world.

In fact, there are only two ways our liberty and security could be threatened in today’s world: Either by nuclear blackmail or by a conventional military invasion and occupation of US territory. Neither are even remotely possible; and, in any event, assurance of that impossibility does not require aircraft carriers and military bases strung around the planet.

As to nuclear blackmail, there is no nation on earth that has anything close to the First Strike force that would be needed to totally overwhelm America’s triad nuclear deterrent force, and thereby avoid a retaliatory annihilation of its own country and people. After all, the US has 3,800 active nuclear warheads and they are spread under the sea, in hardened silos and among a bomber fleet of 66 B-2 and B-52s—all beyond the detection or reach of any other nuclear power.

For instance, the Ohio class nuclear submarines each have 20 missile tubes, with each missile carrying an average of four warheads. That’s 80 independently targetable warheads per boat and at any given time 12 of the 14 Ohio class nuclear subs are actively deployed, and spread around the oceans of the planet within a firing range of 4,000 miles. So that’s 960 deep-sea nuclear warheads to find and neutralize before any would be blackmailer even gets started.

And then there are the roughly 1,200 nukes aboard the 66 strategic bombers, which also are not sitting on a single airfield Pearl Harbor style waiting to be obliterated, but are constantly rotating in the air and on the move. Likewise, the 400 minutemen missiles are spread out in extremely hardened silos deep underground. Each missile carries 3 warheads, providing another 1,200 nuclear warheads that must be taken out by would be blackmailers.

Needless to say, there is no way, shape or form that America’s nuclear deterrent can be neutralized by a blackmailer, and the best thing is that the nuclear triad costs only $65 billion per year to maintain, including allowances for periodic upgrades.

At the end of the day, the only other potential military threat to the homeland security of America is invasion by a massive conventional armada of land, air and sea-based forces many, many times larger than the military behemoth that is now funded by Washington’s $900 billion defense budget. The logistical infrastructure that would be needed to control the vast Atlantic and Pacific Ocean moats surrounding North America and to sustain an invasion and occupation force on the North American continent is so mind-bogglingly vast as to be scarcely imaginable.

At the least it would take a $50 trillion GDP to support such a thing. And if obviously not the mere $2 trillion GDP of Russia or even the $18 trillion GDP of the Red Ponzi, exactly what distant interstellar domain of the known universe might we be talking about?

Moreover, it’s not as if in an age when the sky is flush with high tech surveillance assets that such a massive conventional force armada could be secretly built, tested and mustered for surprise attack without being noticed in Washington. There can be no repeat of the AkagiKagaSōryūHiryūShōkaku, and Zuikaku  strike force steaming across the Pacific toward Pearl Harbor sight unseen.

As a practical matter, Russia has only one aircraft carrier and China has just three— two of which are refurbished rust buckets purchased from the remnants of the old Soviet Union, and which carriers do not even have modern catapults for launching their strike aircraft.

Likewise, neocon knuckleheads like Nikki Haley have been jabbering about China’s growing Navy, which numbers 400 hulls compared to 305 ships in the US Navy’s fleet. But what she doesn’t say is that most of these Chinese units are coastal patrol boats, which likely couldn’t even make it to the coast of California, anyway.

In terms of Naval power projection capability, the proper measure of lethality is not the number of hulls, but the total displacement tonnage. In this connection, the US Navy has 4.6 million tons of displacement, averaging 15,000 tons per ship. By contrast, China’s Navy has but 2.0 million tons of displacement, averaging only 5,000 tons per boat. That is to say, the Chinese Navy is totally visible, assessable and trackable, and is not remotely of the size and lethality that would make an invasion of America remotely plausible.

In other words, all of the Uniparty prattle offered by McConnell and Johnson in the quoted remarks above makes sense only through the false lens of a Washington-based Global Hegemon. So, yes, if Washington is obliged to keep the peace everywhere on the planet and safeguard all the sea lanes and all the air space from quarrelling local parties, as in the extant case, then let the assembled legislators call a vote and declare yet another war, as did the hapless Woodrow Wilson in April 1917 to no avail except the resulting rise of Hitler, Stalin, World War II, the holocaust and the Cold War.

But the truth is, local wars like the extant spat between Israel and its Muslim neighbors do not threaten either the peace or even the commerce of the globe. If it did, then the most immediately impacted parties would be the heaviest shippers and neighbors on the Red Sea.

For instance, Saudi Arabia lives on the Red Sea, with major ports at Jeddah, Yanbu, Jubail and the massive futuristic investment at Neom. Likewise, China sends more containership cargo through the Red Sea by far than any other nation. And, of course, Egypt collects the tolls from the Suez Canel through which the Red Sea traffic transits.

So, has Saudi Arabia, China or Egypt joined Washington’s coalition to bomb the daylights out of the Houthi?

……Hmmmm. We thought so. No they haven’t.

But what is especially rich is all the handwringing from the Washington neocons about the 9% of global seaborne oil traffic that traverses the Red Sea/Suez route. The fact is, however, the US is now a net energy exporter. So higher oil prices would actually be a slight benefit economically.

But actually, despite the entire kerfuffle over the Houthi interdiction of Israel bound traffic, there has been no visible impact on global oil prices, even if you make use of a magnifying glass. So what in the hell, exactly, are they talking about?

Daily Price Of Brent Crude Since October 2021

Yes, until Israel comes to terms with its neighbors, seaborne traffic from China and the Far East may be diverted into the longer route from Asia around the Cape of Hope. But so what? The distance from Shanghai to Rotterdam through the Red Sea is just under 6,000 miles versus 9,400 miles around the Cape. That adds another third to the trip, but all the bleating from Washington about the extra costs is really too much.

The extra costs are variable costs from slightly more days on the water, but those extra costs are not close to being proportionate to the added mileage. And secondly, we are talking about Chinese commercial traffic to Europe, not California, even as this bogus point is coming from the very same Uniparty politicians that wish to have a war with China over Tiawan, which is none of America’s business, either.

The fact is, the US doesn’t need any of its 700 global bases, nor 100,000 military personal in Europe and roughly 100,000 in Korea, Japan and elsewhere in Asia, as well. And most especially it does not need aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf and 50,000 American troops in Syria, Iraq. Kuwait, Bahrain etc.

These latter forces depicted below (sans Afghanistan), in fact, are all sitting ducks in harms’ way, waiting to get caught in the crossfire of local Shiite/Sunni conflicts or Israel’s perpetual conflict with its Arab and Muslim neighbors in the region. Yet all these forces would do exactly nothing to deter (nonexistent) nuclear blackmailers or (nonexistent) global armadas heading for the New Jersey shores.

And, no, there is not a sinister monster state in Iran behind all of the commotion, either. Iran poses zero threat to America’s homeland security. Period. It has no missiles capable of reaching the US and has no nukes at all, and would never get any had the Orange Man not cancelled the 2015 nuclear agreement that Tehran was fully complying with.

The fact is, even though all of these bases and US naval forces in the middle east region are of no benefit whatsoever to America’s homeland security, they are also actually a profound disservice to the security of Israel, as well. That’s because the putative US military shield in the region has emboldened the rightwing religious fanatics led by Bibbi Netanyahu who control Israel’s government to fight a two-state settlement to the bitter end, without leveling with the Israeli electorate about the true implications of going it alone as a Garrison State.

That is to say, if Israel wanted to safely and permanently incarcerate the Gaza strip and its 2.3 million population in an open-air prison, then it needed not only the Iron Dome to protect its population against Hamas’ primitive rockets, but also a full-time garrison along the border to putdown any breach of the Wall, and thereby preempt anything remotely like the catastrophe of October 7th. Forever Strong: A New,... Lyon, Dr. Gabrielle Best Price: $10.91 Buy New $14.98 (as of 07:01 UTC - Details)

To put a fine point to it, the Gaza strip is 25 miles long or 131,000 feet. If you put one IDF soldier every 6 feet, that’s a 22,000-man requirement. And on a 24/7 four shift basis that’s 88,000 troops in total at an average cost of $40,000 per soldier plus $20,000 for the overhead and generals. Overall, we are talking $5 billion of expense to make the Gaza prison break-proof, which amounts to about 1% of Israel’s $550 billion GDP.

All along, that’s been part of the unacknowledged incremental cost of the Garrison State alternative to a two-state settlement. It would have meant appreciably higher taxes on Israel’s citizen, but the bloody and barbaric breach by Hamas fighters on October 7th would have never happened, either.

In truth, however, Israel never even considered tightening its own economic belt to pay for the war policy that its militaristic and religious extremist government insisted upon. Netanyahu ceaselessly campaigned for decades implicitly on behalf of a Garrison State national security policy, but one funded on the cheap via a quasi-pacifist defense spending level.

That’s right. Israel’s military expenditures had plunged from more than 20% of GDP at the time of the last existential crisis during the Yom Kippur War of 1973 to just 5% of GDP on the eve of the October 7 attacks. In effect, Netanyahu falsely told Israeli voters that they didn’t have to take the risks and make the territorial concessions implicit in a two-state and diplomatically-based solution to the Palestine problem. But at the same time, they could also avoid having to be taxed to the gills to pay for the alternative—a costly, heavily militarized Garrison State.

The wink and nod underlying this false solution, of course, was a pitiless willingness to keep Hamas in check by “mowing the grass” every few years in Gaza, as a desperate Israeli government is now doing once again to the horror of much of the civilized world.

So even more than the failure of Israel’s vaunted intelligence operations in the run-up to the October 7th massacres, the real deep policy failure is the flaccid blue line in the chart below, slouching toward 5.0% of GDP defense spending after the Netanyahu coalition came to dominate policy in the 1990s. You simply can’t have a Garrison State policy—no negotiations with the Palestinians, no two-state solution, no continuation of the Oslo or other international negotiations process and the quarantine of 2.3 million largely destitute Palestinians in a congested dysfunctional strip of land cheek-by-jowl with the Mediterranean Sea—on a 5% of GDP war budget.

In short, Israel’s $25 billion defense budget is a pittance compared to its booming, technologically advanced and robust $550 billion national economy. The latter, in turn, is 20X larger than what had been the $28 billion that passes for an economy in the shambles of Gaza—a whisp of GDP mainly funded by foreign philanthropists and so-called malign actors in the region. And even that will soon virtually cease to exist.

Even if you count a few hundred million per year of aid from Iran and others that flows through Qatar to Hamas, there is simply no contest. Israel is an economic Goliath relative to the thin resources of the Hamas terrorist apparatus and does not need a US military shield in the region to ensure its survival. It just needs a government that will tell voters the truth about the real cost of the Netanyahu policy of perpetual war.

Needless to say, Bibi Netanyahu and his coalition of rightwing religious parties would have likely never stayed in power with their “rejectionist front” against an internationally brokered and superintended two-state arrangement had they leveled with the public about the immense increase in military spending and taxes these policies required.

But even that is not the half of it. The truth is, Netanyahu is a megalomaniacal madman who has had the reckless audacity to pursue an utterly dangerous Machiavellian strategy of promoting and funding Hamas in order to kill dead as a doornail any prospect whatever of a two-state arrangement.

The public record makes absolutely clear that this is what Netanyahu has done, even as he failed to tell the Israel’s public that this policy, in turn, necessitated a full-bodied Garrison State with painful tax increases to keep his Frankenstein monster contained inside the Gaza prison walls.

Israel Tax Revenue As % Of GDP, 1995 to 2021 

For want of doubt, the facts are these. Between 2012 and 2018 Netanyahu gave Qatar approval to transfer a cumulative sum of nearly one billion dollars to Gaza in the form of suitcases full of cash. And at least half of that is estimated to have reached Hamas, including its military wing.

According to the Jerusalem Post,

……in a private meeting with members of his Likud party on March 11, 2019, Netanyahu explained the reckless step as follows: The money transfer is part of the strategy to divide the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Anyone who opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state needs to support the transfer of the money from Qatar to Hamas. In that way, we will foil the establishment of a Palestinian state (as reported in former cabinet member Haim Ramon’s Hebrew-language book “Neged Haruach”, p. 417).

In an interview with the Ynet news website on May 5, 2019, Netanyahu associate Gershon Hacohen, a major general in reserves, said, “We need to tell the truth. Netanyahu’s strategy is to prevent the option of two states, so he is turning Hamas into his closest partner. Openly Hamas is an enemy. Covertly, it’s an ally.”

Indeed, earlier that spring Netanyahu himself was widely quoted as saying during the aforementioned meeting of Likud MKs that,

“Whoever opposes a Palestinian state must support delivery of funds to Gaza (cash in suitcases from Qatar) because maintaining separation between the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza will prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

So Israel’s governing faction of religious extremists, militarists, messianic settlers and Eretz Yisrael ideologues have chosen, instead, to live in a Garrison State and to be periodically compelled to “mow the grass” in the Gaza outdoor prison. Yet if its rightwing governments want to operate a modern-day Sparta, they need to tap their own taxpayers first.

In the meanwhile, Washington needs to truly sober up. Uncle Sam’s checking account is massively overdrawn. Now is not the time to fund wars which do nothing for America’s homeland security (Ukraine) or to launch yet another war on behalf of an ally that is unwilling to pay for the Garrison State its own blood-soaked anti-Palestinian war policies require.

Reprinted with permission from David Stockman’s Contra Corner.