The global arms madness continues.
A new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
(one of my favorite think tanks) confirms that worldwide military
expenditure is again on the up and up, with spending having increased
by 4 percent in 2008.
"All regions and subregions have seen significant increases since
1999, except for Western and Central Europe," says the report (available at www.sipri.org).
The United States loomed large over all other countries, with a
whopping $607 billion swallowed up by the military in 2008, nearly 10
percent more than the previous year. And SIPRI is being very
conservative here, because the total U.S. expenditure was roughly $1
trillion when you add military-related costs that are not in the
Pentagon budget. (See my column)
Sadly, the change of Administration has not reversed the trend. The Obama Administration has asked for $663 billion for the military for fiscal year 2010,
including supplemental funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Although some wasteful big-ticket boondoggles have been cut and the
budget is more transparently honest, the Pentagon is still being
showered with money, even in our current parlous economic condition.
Plus, President Obama has appealed for an additional $83.4 billion for fiscal year 2009 for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bizarrely enough, some of the U.S. media coverage of the SIPRI report
has been focused on the faster increase in Chinese military spending.
Duh: It's called playing catch up. The United States accounts for
nearly half of global military spending, and China's double-digit
increase was only slightly more than that of the United States. The
U.S.-China rivalry is a strategic game about who can project power most
forcefully. And, here, the United States has, by far, the upper hand.
The section of the SIPRI report that gave me the biggest heartburn
was the one on international arms transfers. The United States, Russia,
Germany, France and United Kingdom continued their gleeful dominance of
the arms racket, while China and India, oblivious to the needs of their
people, were the biggest importers of weapons.
"Together [the top five arms exporters] accounted for 79 per cent of
the volume of exports for 2004-2008," SIPRI states. "They have been the
top five suppliers since the end of the cold war and have accounted for
at least three-quarters of all exports annually."
Boeing, BAE Systems (British), Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman,
General Dynamics and Raytheon were the largest producers of death, with
arms profits for Boeing itself topping $4 billion. U.S. companies have
almost a monopoly on the production of weapons in the big leagues, with
almost two-thirds of the total arms manufactures of the top 100
companies being U.S. based.
Perhaps my all-time favorite quotation is by General Dwight David
Eisenhower. (I even have a T-shirt with the first sentence printed on
"Every gun that is made, 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 not clothed. This world in arms is not
spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the
genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way
of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war,
it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."
This is such a simple, graspable truth that it penetrated the
consciousness of even a career military man like Ike. What will it take
for the current crop of leaders around the world to comprehend it?