The Real Third Rail
There are many who say Social Security is the third rail of American politics. If you were talking about the average American voter they are probably right but if you are talking about the people who actually direct policy they are wrong. One of the groups that make policy is The Project for the New American Century. Their goal is an American Empire. History tells us that empires are rarely defeated militarily – they fail because they simply go broke. In spite of that the real third rail of American politics is “defense” spending. With all the talk of deficit reductions few talk about reigning in America’s imperial dreams and slashing defense spending. One exception is Nicholas Kristof.
We face wrenching budget cutting in the years ahead, but there’s one huge area of government spending that Democrats and Republicans alike have so far treated as sacrosanct.
It’s the military/security world, and it’s time to bust that taboo. A few facts:
- The United States spends nearly as much on military power as every other country in the world combined, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It says that we spend more than six times as much as the country with the next highest budget, China.
- The United States maintains troops at more than 560 bases and other sites abroad, many of them a legacy of a world war that ended 65 years ago. Do we fear that if we pull our bases from Germany, Russia might invade?
- The intelligence community is so vast that more people have “top secret” clearance than live in Washington, D.C.
- The U.S. will spend more on the war in Afghanistan this year, adjusting for inflation, than we spent on the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War combined.
This is the one area where elections scarcely matter. President Obama, a Democrat who symbolized new directions, requested about 6 percent more for the military this year than at the peak of the Bush administration.
Osama bin Laden’s goal of course was not to defeat the United States militarily but to have the US respond militarily and overextend. The Bush administration gave him exactly what he wanted and the Obama administration has continued the same policy. It was someone a rarely agree with, Pat Buchanan, who wisely said they don’t hate us for who we are the hate us because of where we are. Where is that where?
After the first gulf war, the United States retained bases in Saudi Arabia on the assumption that they would enhance American security. Instead, they appear to have provoked fundamentalists like Osama bin Laden into attacking the U.S. In other words, hugely expensive bases undermined American security (and we later closed them anyway).
But the dream of empire dies hard for some and they are the ones calling the shots. The New American Century will only last a little over a decade and then face the fate of all empires and would be empires.
Cross posted at Newshoggers.