Within the next month, the Pentagon will submit its 2009 budget to Congress and it’s a fair bet that it will be even larger than the staggering 2008 one. Like the Army and the Marines, the Pentagon itself is overstretched and under strain — and like the two services, which are expected to add 92,000 new troops over the next five years (at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion per 10,000), the Pentagon’s response is never to cut back, but always to expand, always to demand more.
After all, there are those disastrous Afghan and Iraqi wars still eating taxpayer dollars as if there were no tomorrow. Then there’s what enthusiasts like to call “the next war” to think about, which means all those big-ticket weapons, all those jets, ships, and armored vehicles for the future. And don’t forget the still-popular, Rumsfeld-style “netcentric warfare” systems (robots, drones, communications satellites, and the like), not to speak of the killer space toys being developed; and then there’s all that ruined equipment out of Iraq and Afghanistan to be massively replaced — and all those ruined human beings to take care of.
You’ll get the gist of this from a recent editorial in the trade magazine Aviation Week & Space Technology:
Even on the rare occasion when — as in the case of Boeing’s C-17 cargo plane — the Pentagon decides to cancel a project, there’s Congress to remember. Contracts and subcontracts for weapons systems, carefully doled out to as many states as possible, mean jobs, and so Congress often balks at such cuts. (Fifty-five House members recently warned the Pentagon of a “strong negative response” if funding for the C-17 is excised from the 2009 budget.) All in all, it adds up to a defense menu for a glutton.
Already, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said that 2009 funding is “largely locked into place.” The giant military-industrial combines — Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Raytheon — have been watching their stocks rise in otherwise treacherous times. They are hopeful. As Ronald Sugar, Northrop CEO, put it: “A great global power like the United States needs a great navy and a great navy needs an adequate number of ships, and they have to be modern and capable” — and guess which company is the Navy’s largest shipbuilder?
There should be nothing surprising in all this, especially for those of us who have read Chalmers Johnson’s Nemesis, The Last Days of the American Republic, the final volume of his Blowback Trilogy. Published in 2007, it is already a classic on what imperial overstretch means for the rest of us. The paperback of Nemesis is officially out today, just as global stock markets tumble. It is simply a must-read (and if you’ve already read it, then get a copy for a friend). In the meantime, hunker in for Johnson’s latest magisterial account of how the mightiest guns the Pentagon can muster threaten to sink our own country. (For those interested, click here to view a clip from a new film, “Chalmers Johnson on American Hegemony,” in Cinema Libre Studios’ Speaking Freely ser! ies in which he discusses military Keynesianism and imperial bankruptcy.) Tom