October 25, 2017 "Information
- The US has a serious addiction problem. George W
Bush previously warned about its “addiction to oil”.
Current President Trump this week declared the
nation’s addiction to opiate drugs an “emergency”.
While his predecessor Barack Obama’s calls for
firearms controls following numerous mass shootings
fueled concerns of “gun addiction”.
But the biggest American addiction of all is hardly
mentioned – the country’s massive dependency on war.
On that problem, the country is living in denial, at
least for those among its political class.
feuding with Republicans and Democrats
over passing his budget for tax cuts and social
spending, one item remains off-limits for debate.
The Congress is whistling through a record miltary
spend of $700 billion for next year. That’s an
increase of some $50 billion on last year’s budget
for the military, which itself was something of a
US-based National Priorities Project audits,
American military spending consumes over half of the
annual $1.1 trillion discretionary budget. That
allocation represents about 10 times what the US
federal government spends on either education or
healthcare out of its annual discretionary budget.
that $700 billion annual military expenditure into a
global context, the US spends 10 times more
than either Russia, Britain or France. Or, put
another way, the US spends the same aggregate amount
as the next nine top world military spenders
combined, including China, Russia, Britain, France,
Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
today the American military budget is at a record
high compared with any other time during the Cold
War. Think about that. Officially, the Cold War
ended in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet
Union. Yet, in a nominal period of peace, the US has
escalated its war economy.
David Stockman, who
worked as a senior economist in the Ronald Reagan
administration during the 1980s, has compared the
present military spend with previous peaks
during the Cold War. In equalized dollar terms, he
estimates that the current $700 billion figure is
roughly double what the US was spending at the
height of the Cold War during the
Cuban missile crisis
Another data point, in 1968 when the
Vietnam War was
raging, the annual American military spend was $400
billion, according to Stockman.
during the 1980s, when President Reagan launched an
unprecedented arms race against the Soviet Union –
the US military budget reached a peak of $550
billion a year. That is, $150 billion less than what
the Trump administration and Congress are proposing.
A quarter-century after the Cold War supposedly
with some understatement, calls this allocation
of US tax dollars “hideously oversized”. He
describes America as a “warfare state” and he
predicts that the misallocation of resources is
leading eventually to the nation’s economic
collapse. The “bleeding of fiscal solvency” is
piling on ever-more national debt – estimated
already at $20 trillion.
There are many
reasons why this insatiable consumption of national
resources for the military should be deplored.
reason is the appalling neglect of social needs
for millions of Americans. Trump is pushing
through a $1.5-trillion tax cut plan – which the Tax
Policy Center calculates will largely benefit the
super wealthy and corporations. That giveaway
for the richest top 10 per cent of the population
will be paid for by brutal cuts in public spending
on healthcare, social welfare, education, housing,
and medical and scientific research.
If the US
government slashed its military spending instead, it
is estimated that all Americans would have
top-class, universally free health and education
lamentable reason is that America’s monstrous
military-industrial complex is the cause of so much
global insecurity and conflict. Paradoxically, US
politicians justify military spending with the need
to make America secure with robust defense. The
reality is the opposite.
as the US stockpiles more and more weapons, other
nations are obliged to increase their defenses. This
dynamic leads to further tensions, mistrust and
misapprehensions. As the world’s top military
spender, the onus is on the US to scale back. If it
did so, that would serve to deescalate the military
spending by other nations.
war economy – for that’s what it is – has other
far-reaching deleterious impacts. The US weapons
industry accounts for half of the world’s arms
trade. The planet is awash with America-made
weapons, which fuels regional conflicts and
non-state terror groups.
Furthermore, with such an engorged military, the
ineluctable logic is for US governments to seek wars
in order to maintain its war economy. America’s
“scramble for Africa” is a topical case in point.
READ MORE: America's Scramble
historical record shows that no other nation has
been involved in as many wars as the US since the
Second World War. There’s no comparison. Historian
William Blum has documented dozens of US wars
around the world. The major ones include Korea,
Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and a host
of clandestine ones in Asia, Africa, the Middle East
and Latin America. The death toll from US military
conduct over the past seven decades is reckoned
to be about 25 million.
Why is the
US addicted to war? A major reason is do with the
failure of American capitalism. The US economy is
propped up by its military-industrial complex,
comprising giant weapons manufacturers like Lockheed
Martin, Boeing and Raytheon. These companies have
enormous lobbying influence on government, think
tanks and corporate media, which perpetuates in the
this war economy is unsustainable, as David Stockman
and others remark. It is leading to cataclysmic
American fiscal debt and social decay. It is also
fomenting a highly unstable world of international
tensions and conflict. Washington’s belligerence
towards China, Russia, Iran and North Korea is a
corollary of its irrationally disproportionate
dangerous state of affairs was warned about some 55
years ago in 1961 by President Ike Eisenhower
during his farewell address to the nation.
Eisenhower foretold the grim emergence of an
all-dominant military-industrial complex that would
pose a danger to the US nation and the world.
John F Kennedy, was
determined to rein in the military. He was opposed
to a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union and was
moving to withdraw American troops from Vietnam.
It’s not just
the rest of the world that suffers from America’s
addiction to war. American society and democracy are
also casualties. Just imagine how much healthier,
better educated, more prosperous, more cultured
American citizens would be if they did not have
to feed their war-addicted economy with an annual
fix of $700 billion.
irony is that America’s other pathological
addictions are intertwined with its war habit. Its
Big Oil addiction, the opiate crisis fueled
by illicit drug business behind the war
in Afghanistan, and the proliferation of military
weapons in society, are all, in one way or another,
rooted in America’s addiction to war.
Cunningham has written extensively on international
affairs, with articles published in several
languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural
Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the
Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England,
before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He
is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20
years, he worked as an editor and writer in major
news media organisations, including The Mirror,
Irish Times and Independent.
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