July 2015 Archives

Which Is The Greater Threat to U.S. Security?

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        The contretemps over the Iranian Nuclear Pact that the U.S. government has negotiated along with the representatives of Russia, China, England, France and the European Union has grown ever more intemperate as bloviating demagogues such as Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump accuse President Obama of treason, and invoke the specters of Neville Chamberlain and Munich and the gas ovens of Auschwhitz. Meanwhile, a consortium of pro-Israeli and rightwing interests have blistered the airwaves with equally charged and preposterous claims, but all are too cowardly to admit that the only viable alternative to a nuclear pact with Iran is war.  Of course, the war that these defenders of the welfare-through-warfare state would support would never be one in which they, their children or grandchildren would be placed in harm's way. Any war would be someone else's job to fight - preferably those drawn from the ranks of the down-and-out and the hard-scrabble who would be led into combat by this country's professional warrior class. 



            Since the events of September 11, 2001, the United States has been continuously involved in two major misbegotten foreign adventures and a series of other counter-productive and disastrous incursions in the Middle East in which we are viewed as the invaders and in which we have had little prospect of  achieving "favorable outcomes." In addition to the more than 7200 military lives lost, thousands more have been physically injured or traumatized, and hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq and Afghanistan have been killed and maimed.


            When all of the accounts have been tallied and reconciled, the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost taxpayers $4 trillion to $6 trillion, including medical care for wounded veterans and expensive repairs to a military depleted by more than a decade of fighting, according to a study by a Harvard University professor Linda J. Bilmes, in a report that was released in March of 2013.


            According to a another recent report prepared by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the United States today spends more on defense than the next 8 countries combined. "Defense spending accounts for about 20 percent of all federal spending - nearly as much as Social Security, or the combined spending for Medicare and Medicaid. The sheer size of the defense budget suggests that it should be part of any serious effort to address America's long-term fiscal challenges." The report quotes Admiral Mike Mullen, the past Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "The single greatest threat to our national security is our debt."


            As of August 2013, despite the putative end of U.S. involvement in Iraq and the winding down of the of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, there were approximately 1.43 million active-duty military personnel on duty in the armed forces of the U.S. States and more than 850,000 in the active duty reserves of all branches. In addition, the United States has active duty personnel stationed in more than 150 countries. While many of these deployments involve assignments to American embassies and special training projects overseas, the presence of U.S. active duty military personnel throughout Europe, and in Japan and Korea remains significant, sixty-nine years after the end of World War II in Europe and sixty-one years after an armistice was declared in Korea.


            More than 100,000 active-duty American military are presently assigned to these three regions, the cost of which is still largely borne by U.S. taxpayers. Because of the U.S. military shield, the European countries, especially Germany, and Japan and South Korea have been able to invest in the modernization of their manufacturing sectors and to increase the number of their exports to the United States at a time when American manufacturing has been increasingly out-sourced to third world countries. Japan and Korea, in particular, have adopted onerous, restrictive trade policies that make it almost impossible for American automobile companies and heavy equipment manufacturers to compete successfully in those countries.


             Further, a recent "Base Structure Report" of the Department of Defense stated that "the Department's physical assets consist of As one of the Federal government's larger holders of real estate, the DOD manages a global real property portfolio hat consists of more than 557,000facilities (buildings, structures, and linear structures), located on over 5,000 sites worldwide and covering over 27.7 million acres." Most of these locations listed are within the continental United States, but 96 of them are located in U.S. territories around the globe, and 702  are situated in foreign countries.


            For the fiscal year 2015, the U.S. Department of Defense and military-related budget is $756.4 billion. That sum includes $495.6 billion for the base budget of the Department of Defense; $85.4 billion for Overseas Contingency Funds for the wind-down of the War in Afghanistan;  $175.4 billion for defense-related agencies and functions; $65.3 for the Veterans Administration ; $42.6 billion for the State Department; 38.2 billion for  Homeland Security; $17.6 billion for FBI and Cybersecurity in the Department of Justice; and $11.7 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration in the Department of Energy.  Because of the newly announced initiative to confront ISIL, that estimate is likely to be far too conservative.   


            Based upon the size and budget of the U.S. defense budget, and the pre-occupation of the popular media, the chattering class media and the political establishment, many Americans may understandably assume that the Ted Cruz, and Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump are right in their contention that Iran, followed perhaps by ISIS, Russia, China, Cuba or any combination of the theocratic Islamic lunatics and the four countries pose the greatest threat to the safety and security of the United States. But the facts show otherwise.


            Within the past month, this country has continued to witness horrific acts of gun violence including in Charleston, South Carolina and Louisiana. According to the Gun Violence Archive, as of July 31, 2015, 28,954 men, women and children have been killed or injured by guns since January 1, 2015.  The Violence Policy Center reports that, since 1960, more than 1.3 million Americans have died in firearm suicides, homicides, and unintentional injuries.  By contrast, since the founding of this Republic, the same number of military have perished in all of the wars, here and abroad, in which this country has been involved.


            Something is terribly wrong with a political system that continues to spend trillions of dollars to protect against imaginary threats abroad, yet remains oblivious to the fact that its citizens are more likely to be killed by gun-toting neighbors, deranged psychopaths, criminals, hate groups and rightwing militia members who prowl the highways, malls and public spaces of this country armed with their murderous firepower. The first and most fundamental duty of any government, Justice Scalia and District of Columbia v. Heller notwithstanding, is to  protect and defend the lives of its citizens. On that basis the political system of the United States - and its elected and appointed officials - have failed miserably.