I'll believe it when it finally happens.
But the news that Congress might actually stop production of a
high-tech, job-generating and, most of all, high-profit weapons system
because it fills no legitimate national security function is a
considerable victory for President Barack Obama and Secretary of
Defense Robert Gates, as well as for logic.
You wouldn't think it should require great
courage to conclude that the 187 F-22s already authorized are enough
when the plane has yet to fly a single combat mission in Afghanistan,
Iraq or anywhere else. But if usefulness was the criterion for defense
spending, it would not have ballooned since the 9/11 attack, accounting
for more than half of the federal government's discretionary budget.
Trillions wasted--ostensibly to defeat a terrorist enemy armed with an
arsenal that can be purchased for a couple of hundred bucks at any
garden-variety hardware store. We would not be spending as much on the
military as the rest of the world's nations combined, friend and foe,
if defense spending was anything more than an elaborate political slush
Just check the spectacle of supposedly
enlightened Democrats like California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne
Feinstein, joined by Connecticut's Chris Dodd, treating yet another
$1.75 billion F-22 allotment for war profiteers as a progressive jobs
program. Los Angeles couldn't find $50 million to keep its summer
schools open, but a supposedly liberal senator like Boxer has voted for
hundreds of billions over the years for exquisitely expensive military
junk. Having lost the courage to make the swords-into-plowshares
argument, they act like craven hustlers for the Daddy Warbucks types
that support their re-elections. And once again, when it comes to being
rational about military spending, John McCain, a Senate co-sponsor with
Michigan Democrat Carl Levin of an amendment against funding the F-22,
distinguished himself in the very moment when so many of his presumably
less hawkish Democratic counterparts failed.
Gates failed to halt further production of
the F-22 during his tenure in the Bush administration, but this time
the bipartisan military-industrial complex clique was beaten back. The
incredibly intricate and therefore expensive plane was designed to
defeat an ultra-advanced Soviet air combat ability that was never
realized. And it obviously has no purpose in fighting irregular wars
against terrorists, as Obama has pointed out. But those who support the
plane make the same "the Chinese are the new Soviets" argument that
Sen. Joseph Lieberman uses to such great effect to get his $2 billion
submarines built in Connecticut to combat an enemy holed up in caves.
The absurdity of borrowing money from the Chinese at a furious rate to
be able to afford to build weapons to counter weapons that the Chinese
have no intention of building rises to the level of a Madoff scam.
The end of the Cold War, with its
potential for human extinction, was greeted with a great sense of
relief by most of the world's citizenry. For the U.S., as the first
President Bush pointed out years ago, it was an opportunity to "look
homeward even more and move to set right what needs to be set right--for
half a century now, the American people have shouldered the burden and
paid taxes that were higher than they would have been to support a
defense that was bigger than it would have been if imperial communism
had never existed. ... Two years ago, I began planning cuts in military
spending that reflected the changes of the new era."
He and his then-secretary of defense, Dick
Cheney, did cut defense spending by 30 percent. President Bill
Clinton, ever mindful of triangulating with the hawks, did less. Now we
are reduced to being grateful that Obama halts an extremely wasteful
F-22 program, even as he makes the claim that this will free up money
for his disastrous war in Afghanistan.
That's not good enough. We don't need a
more "rational" use of defense dollars to fight yet another irrational
war. Combating terrorism should never have been thought of in military
terms, but rather as a matter of international police work that has
very little to do with most of the items on our bloated defense budget.
But terrorism is not the major threat to
our security; that threat is rather to be found in the failure of
public schools, the decay of our economic institutions and the
corruption of our politicians. All of those failures combine to produce
politicians like Boxer, Dodd and Feinstein, whose idea of looking
homeward is not to create a vibrant peacetime economy, but rather to
hype high-tech weapons systems as the only viable jobs program.