Saturday, April 04, 2009

Follow the Money

I grew up in a British army family during the Cold War. During that period,we were bombarded with the message that the Russians had a vast and powerful military machine. By contrast, when I read about the USSR, the discussion was always that their equipment broke down all the time. This week, I talked with an ex-Soviet tank commander, who told me that his tank was inoperable every three days.

The source of this disparity was a combination of the arms manufacturers, faced in the late 1970's with their first downturn since 1939, and Leo Strauss' neo-conservative movement. Their propaganda assured us that the Soviets had invisible and powerful secret weapons that we had to counter. Under Reagan, the US engaged in the biggest peacetime arms build-up in history.
When the USSR collapsed, so did the need for all of our weapons. Just in time, we had the War on Terror. Rather than a counter-terrorist operation, we managed to turn it into a massive conventional war, when we chose to invade Iraq.

To date, we have spent at least $1 trillion in Iraq, $4 trillion on an uneccessary and unworkable Star Wars missile defense, and the military consumes over 50% of the budget.

Had we not been consumed by paranoia and fear, would we have a deficit now?


Jim in San Marcos said...

I don't see one fact in anything written here. It's a bunch of hot air.

Deficits are caused by governments spending more than they take in.

I suggest you quote sources, not just state "facts."

Jim in San Marcos said...

I guess I ought to elucidate a bit. I our military costs per year are about 17% of the budget. Whether they sit at home or fight in Iraq, you have fixed costs to pay the military.

We as a country haven't spent 1 trillion in Iraq let alone 1/10th of that. We build it here and pay for it here and ship it to Iraq.

As for the 4 trillion dollars Star wars missile defense program, I think you have confused that with the bank bail out and government stimulus package.

hatfield girl said...

The real cost to the US of the Iraq war is likely to be between $1 trillion and $2 trillion (£1.1 trillion), up to 10 times more than previously thought, according to a report written by a Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard budget expert Linda Bilmes.
The study, which expanded on traditional estimates by including such costs as lifetime disability and healthcare for troops injured in the conflict as well as the impact on the American economy, concluded that the US government is continuing to underestimate the cost of the war...
...despite the staggering costs laid out in their paper the economists had erred on the side of caution. "Our estimates are very conservative, and it could be that the final costs will be much higher. And it should be noted they do not include the costs of the conflict to either Iraq or the UK." In 2003,... Larry Lindsey, George Bush's economic adviser, suggested the costs might reach $200bn. ... Paul Wolfowitz, said Iraq could finance its own reconstruction.

Three years later, with more than 140,000 US soldiers on the ground in Iraq, even the $200bn figure was very low...

Congress has appropriated $251bn for military operations, and the Congressional budget office has now estimated that under one plausible scenario the Iraq war will cost over $230bn more in the next 10 years. According to Mr Stiglitz and Ms Bilmes ... there are substantial future costs not included in the Congressional calculations.

... the latest Pentagon figures show that more than 16,000 military personnel have been wounded in Iraq. Due to improvements in body armour, there has been an unusually high number of soldiers who have survived major wounds such as brain damage, spinal injuries and amputations. The economists predict the cost of lifetime care for the thousands of troops who have suffered brain injuries alone could run to $35bn. Taking in increased defence spending as a result of the war, veterans' disability payments and demobilisation costs, the economists predict the budgetary costs of the war alone could approach $1 trillion.

And there was no need for any of this at all. Yes a state must be ready to defend its borders and its interests. No it shouldn't launch aggressive wars of primitive accumulation. We thought we'd understood that in 1945.

Paddington said...

Jim - estimates on Star Wars since 1980 are $4-$5 trillion. Last year's defense budget was $741 billion for DoD and $54 billion for Homeland Security. We spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined. Considered as total tax revenues, that is about 30%. When you subtract Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, it is almost 50%. In many sources, the base figures do not include supplemental bills for Iraq and Afghanistan, Black Ops and Star Wars. I will repeat my contention that we cannot sustain this level of spending, and it contributes largely to our deficit.

sobers said...

Judging by the Russian performance in WW2, had it decided to invade western Europe in the 70s/80s, it wouldn't have required that much superior technology, or even reliable equipment. Sheer weight of numbers would have engulfed us.

It took a totalitarian psychopath such as Stalin, who was prepared to sacrifice millions, to beat an equally pyschopathic dictator in the form of Hitler. No democratic state could ever countenance such human destruction.

Whatever our superiority in technology, we would have lost because eventually you run out of missiles & ammunition. Ask the National Servicemen who fought the Chinese in Korea.

Paddington said...

Sobers - which is exactly why the NATO first response would have been battlefield nukes.