Rumors of War

TimeWatch Editorial
April 6, 2017

Peter Van Buren writing for Reuters on March 10, 2017 describes what he sees as the intention of the President regarding the State Department this way.

“Concerns around the State Department that President Donald Trump's transition was in chaos  seem mistaken. What if it’s by design? What if Trump decided America doesn't need State and if he can't get away with closing it down, he can disable, deconstruct and defund it? The question is not theoretical. Trump wants to cut government, shift money to infrastructure and other proposed programs, and views military force, or its threat, as a primary tool of global problem-solving. Never a favorite of conservatives, State seems an easy target for Trump. But he will quickly find out he'll need State to keep the lights on at embassies and consulates, and find some way to process visas. After that, there is a lot to cut few will miss.” Peter Van Buren, “ Trump wants to gut the State Department. Not everyone thinks that’s a bad idea.” Reuters, March 10, 2017

It is very easy to think that the way the government works can be changed simply by, as Steve Bannon puts it, “Deconstructing the Administrative State.” Looking at the State Department from the outside, one might think that many of the traditional roles were unnecessary. Clearly, however, America’s interaction with the rest of the world depends heavily upon the State Department. This kind of influence is referred to s “Soft Power,” that persuasive interpretive role that helps to fashion the perception of the United States by the world. What we are now seeing is the move from “Soft Power” to a concentration on military force. In our March 25, 2017 Editorial entitled “Global Dominance” we quoted from s“Trump to seek 54 Billion increase in Military Spending” In the New York Times.

“WASHINGTON — President Trump put both political parties on notice Monday that he intends to slash spending on many of the federal government’s most politically sensitive programs — relating to education, the environment, science and poverty — to protect the economic security of retirees and to shift billions more to the armed forces. The proposal to increase military spending by $54 billion and cut nonmilitary programs by the same amount was unveiled by White House officials as they prepared the president’s plans for next year’s federal budget. Aides to the president said final decisions about Medicare and Social Security would not be made until later in the year, when he announces his full budget. But Sean Spicer, his spokesman, cited Mr. Trump’s campaign commitments about protecting those programs and vowed that “he’s going to keep his word to the American people.”“Trump to seek 54 Billion increase in Military Spending,” New York Times, February 27, 2017

What is even more amazing is the fact that when compared with the amount of money by which the President desires to expand the military budget, it is almost as much as Russia has spent on their military in the last financial year. The following chart compares the ten largest military budgets for the year 2015.

Global Spending on Military 2015
Country Spending ($ Bn.)
World total 1,676.0
United States 596.0
China 215.0
Saudi Arabia 87.2
Russia 66.4
United Kingdom 55.5
India 53.6
France 50.9
Japan 40.9
Germany[a] 39.4
South Korea 36.4

Notice that the proposed expansion of the US budget is approximately the size of the entire Russian budget for a year. Of course we have seen a change taking place in many areas since the change is administration however such an increase in military investment can only suggest the preeminence of future force. Andrew J. Bacevich, writing in the Atlantic January/February 2011 issue reminds us of Dwight d Eisenhower’s remarks in 1961.

“Fifty years ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower joined such august company when, in his own farewell address, he warned of the rise in America of the “military-industrial complex.” An accomplished soldier and a better-than-average president, Eisenhower had devoted the preponderance of his adult life to studying, waging, and then seeking to avert war. Not surprisingly, therefore, his prophetic voice rang clearest when as president he reflected on matters related to military power and policy. Equally significant, if now nearly forgotten, was his presentation to the American Society of Newspaper Editors on April 16, 1953. In this speech, the president contemplated a world permanently perched on the brink of war—“humanity hanging from a cross of iron”— and he appealed to Americans to assess the consequences likely to ensue.” Andrew J. Bacevich, “The Tyranny of Defense. Inc, Atlantic January/February 2011 issue

President Eisenhower, even though not necessarily always remembered for many of his speeches, has ironically delivered some relevant information that truly applies to our present situation. Listen to how Andrew Bacevich continues his article.

“Largely overlooked by most commentators was a second theme that Eisenhower had woven into his text. The essence of this theme was simplicity itself: spending on arms and armies is inherently undesirable. Even when seemingly necessary, it constitutes a misappropriation of scarce resources. By diverting social capital from productive to destructive purposes, war and the preparation for war deplete, rather than enhance, a nation’s strength. And while assertions of military necessity might camouflage the costs entailed, they can never negate them altogether. “Every gun that is made,” Eisenhower told his listeners, “every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” Any nation that pours its treasure into the purchase of armaments is spending more than mere money. “It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.” To emphasize the point, Eisenhower offered specifics: The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities … We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.” Andrew J. Bacevich, “The Tyranny of Defense. Inc, Atlantic January/February 2011 issue

Few could have put it better. But of course we have advanced to a place where we will continue to hear of wars and rumors of wars. Nation shall indeed rise against nation. Soon sorrows will indeed intensify.

Cameron A. Bowen

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