Will 50% Cuts “Hollow Out” The Military?

Despite the collapse of the supercommittee deficit talks on Monday, both parties are almost certain to keep trying to come up with some sort of deal, if for no other reason as to keep their views in the spotlight.

This segment on the Real News Network provides a useful discussion of the politics and practicalities of cutting military budgets.

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  1. Jesse

    One of the few (only?) good things about the crisis: we might be forced in the USA, and possibly much of the world, to think about how much we’re throwing away on maintaining massive armed forces.

    Every engineer we have building new weapons systems could be building new technologies that actually benefit people. What if all that brain power we spend on thinking up new ways to kill people went towards developing new medicines? Would we have cured cancer by now?

    1. ambrit

      Dear Jesse;
      The fact that these enginers are working towards superior military capabilities isn’t that clear cut a disaster. A great deal of ‘cutting edge’ technologies are developed for unpeaceful purposes. I think it’s an artifact of risk aversion. It takes a ‘crisis’ on the order of massive ‘national’ defeat and or humiliation to motivate decision makers to engage in extraordinary gambles. Developing a new technology is such a gamble. In quiescent times, the need isn’t seen to engage in such gambles. Conservatism rules.
      Also, today, and I would guess it always has been so, lots of well trained and creative people end up in jobs severely mismatched with their skills. In the box store where I currently work, our essentially ‘retail’ work force contains people with college degrees in technical fields that aren’t hiring. Even our much vaunted military can’t make up the shortfall in demand for trained personnel in todays economy. In other words, yes, it would be nice to shrink the size of Americas military industrial complex, but, and this is crucial, where is the political economic will to re-employ these people in other ways?

      1. Jesse

        You make a good point. It just intuitively feels like a completely inefficient way of pursuing discovery, and there’d be more money to “gamble” with if we didn’t ship it into the MIC in the first place. Plus the existence of exciting new weaponry almost guarantees it will be used at some point (don’t make the black swan mistake i.e. “we had massive nuclear arsenals in the past and managed not to use them.”) They now have drones ready to patrol for the 2012 RNC. Awesome.

        Along the same lines, I made a joke to someone a while back about how the Chinese needed to put a man on the moon so we’d finally get around to sending a man to Mars.

        1. ambrit

          Dear Jesse;
          Excellent joke, but I’d reverse the order. “It would take the Chineese putting a man on Mars for us to put a man back on the Moon!”
          As to the wastefulness of it all: My experiences in commercial construction, and now national retail, have demonstrated decisively to me that waste and indifference to inefficiency are built in parts of business practice.(I don’t know if it’s still so, but you could write off bribes to officials in certain foreign countries as ‘necessary business expenses’ in the old days. Approved by the IRS!) The general rule seems to be; “Expediency trumps Efficiency.”
          “Human, all too Human.”

          1. F. Beard

            Come now, for wedding parties, surely they create a “pink mist” instead?

            What the wicked fears will come upon him, but the desire of the righteous will be granted. Proverbs 10:24

            The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1

      2. wunsacon

        >> Developing a new technology is such a gamble. In quiescent times, the need isn’t seen to engage in such gambles. Conservatism rules.

        LOL. Yes. It takes “fear” to sell “conservatives” on government action. Absent fear, you get people like Sarah Palin complaining about research on fruit flies.

        (Who was the blogger in the past 2 months that said we have a bloated MIC because that’s the only government stimulus conservatives support? Probably on this site.)

    2. Jason

      You could say the same thing about all the IVY leaguer’s hired straight into the financial sector to create complex financial instruments simply so the 1% can take that commission when money moves from point A to point B, and not adding any wealth to society.

      1. Jesse

        Yeah, I did almost add a line to the effect of, “Who am I kidding, all that saved money would just go from the MIC to hedge funds and investment banks.”

    3. Daniel Pennell

      As a veteran I have no problem with cutting waste and excess out of the budget. Nor do I have a particular problem with reducing the size of the force.

      What I fear is that what will be cut will not be the waste, the overkill, the pet projects of various Generals, Congressmen and Senators but rather the things that actually keep the military capeable of performing effectively.

      I would like to see the size of the overall active service reduced but I would like to see that off set by mandatory military service for all 18 yr olds for a period of 18 months and then 4 yrs in the reserves. Those who cannot or should not be allowed to serve in the military would serve 24 months in some sort of civilian aid corp.

      This would do a series of things.

      1. Provide a common experience of community service to all americans.

      2. Return the military to a less mercenary nature

      3. Reduce the cost of keeping trained troops while maintaining the ability of the US to respond to large crisis.

      4. Give every American a stake in any decision to go to war. No more sending the volounteers to die while others go shopping.

      Beyond that, we need to expand the special forces units and we need to expand out lift capeability while reducing the number of overseas bases we maintain.

      1. LucyLulu

        I won’t argue with your motivation of building community and developing a massive force that would be ready to activate, but I don’t see how this would cut costs. If anything, I see this as greatly increasing costs. IIRC, only 1-2% serve in the armed forces currently, and I don’t know what portion of the defense budget goes towards pay and health and pension benefits, but multiply that by 50. If we aren’t involved in a global war, we don’t need 18 months from all our youth, unless we find civilian type work for them, e.g. building bridges and highways at home. I don’t have any studies or figures to back me up, I’m just going off the top of my head what seems, at least to me to be pretty obvious. And if it involves more spending……. well, you know what that means.

      2. Antifa

        Compulsory military service slash civilian corps service is a horrible idea.

        We already run our public schools on the Prussian model, fitting every round peg into a square hole even if it ruins the child. Now we take over their lives through boot camp, military service and then four years of two weekends a month until they’re damn near thirty years old?

        As the brass asshats at the Pentagon found out in the Vietnam era, a drafted Army is just a bunch of “Eff The Army” enthusiasts interested mostly in beer and drugs and putting in their time until they can go home. They know better than to try that experiment again on any scale.

        And after America has seen our military lose every damned conflict they’ve engaged in since 1963, showing our military adventurism to be nothing but a money-making scheme for the 1% and a grand way for the powers that be to slowly militarize our civilian police, the public will have zero interest in seeing their sons and daughters conscripted for the best years of their lives, for the years when they should be learning and blossoming and becoming citizens — not barracks fodder to be fed to the machine guns somewhere Over There.

        The only thing national service will accomplish in fact is to increase the population of Canada significantly.

      3. Psychoanalystus

        I think you are suggesting reasonable measures, many which have been explored at length in books such as Chalmers Johnson’s “Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope”.

        However, we have to remain realistic and recognize that it is highly unlikely that any such measures will be be implemented. If anything, Obummer’s recent speech in Australia should make it clear that nothing will change.

        We have, my friend, long crossed our own Rubicon. At this point there is no turning back. We lost the democracy, we lost the republic, and now we lost the economy. Empire is all that is left. And those who profit from Empire, whether when it is on its way up (as the US empire was after 1947), or on its way down (as it is now), will ride this empire until its last breath, extracting the last penny out of it.

        The 1% will ride this Empire until exhaustion or collapse. However, to any student of history it is now becoming evident that what will follow collapse of this empire is not a magical return to democracy, prosperity, and enlightenment. What will likely follow our collapse is what followed the collapse of our sister-Empire from history, the Roman Empire. Our collapse is likely to be followed by a long repeat of the Dark Ages. Everything is in place: an ignorant uneducated population, a collapsed social system, a security state, an oligarchic feudal ruling class, a disintegrating value system, an addiction to violence, a vanishing middle class, and a well-oiled system of circuses.

        Personally, I think what is left for us, the 99%-ers, is to leave this sinking ship and try to protect our own families. There are still bright spots on this planet. Failing to recognize that, my friend, I recommend to you a couple of comfortable seats with a great view of the ocean on the upper deck of this Titanic.

        1. Lambert Strether

          Gardening is my personal hedging strategy, although I am actually more optimistic, for reason I can’t pin down. The Occupations, which are world-wide, are one reason for me to be hopeful. History doesn’t repeat, but rhymes.

          Also, on the collapse of the Roman Empire: I think we could do with a little less Euro-centrism. The dark ages in the West were the T’ang dynasty in China. That is not to say that the problems of the world are not dire, they are, but that we are in a different world today, and so perhaps new things can happen.

          1. ambrit

            Mr. Strether;
            Well put, but, the oriental Empires were just as prone to interregnums and “Years of Four Emperors” etc. as anything Europe could produce.
            I would posit that the ‘Euro-Centrism’ you decry is an artifact of the education system that shaped our thinking. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating; the Chineese ideograph for China translates as “The Middle Kingdom.” Halfway between Heaven and the rest of us here on the dusty globe.
            Human nature is just that, Human.

          2. propertius

            The dark ages in the West were the T’ang dynasty in China.

            This is certainly a fair point, but the greatness of the T’ang made very little difference to the plight of the denizens of Transalpine Gaul. I also think that, given the interconnectedness of 21st Century society, the next imperial collapse is likely to be global.

          3. mansoor h. khan

            Lambert Strether,

            “Human nature is just that, Human.”

            Yes. But that does not mean we cannot manage our natures better (become more peaceful and less destructive).

            That is in fact should is the whole point of blogging. Self improvement (where self first is oneself, then self = family, then self = community and then self = humanity).


          4. ambrit

            Mr Kahn;
            I’m flattered to be mistaken for Mr Strether. I agree that the underlying purpose of blogging can be self improvement. This, however, assumes a degree of self knowledge on the part of the blogger. Your progression suggests the Eightfold Path, a worthy goal. I would join that persuit with a western goal, arete. Well explicated by Pirsig in his “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” The persuit of excellence is itself an enlightening process. Human, as a descriptor, covers a great deal of territory, but implies unity. One human race, one human nature, and, now, in the age of globalization, one human history.

        2. psychohistorian


          I agree with your analysis and wish more had your/our view of history.

          I guess I want to try tilting at that windmill for a bit more seeing the youthful energy and wisdom that seems to be there.

          That said, where are the bright spots on our planet and how do I immigrate there?

        3. ambrit

          My Dear Psychoanalystus;
          (I would use the traditional Roman Greeting, but alas, I fear it might be misconstrued.)
          My view is that our Rubicon was the establishment of a ‘professional soldiery’ when the draft was done away with. This has led to all the evils that cumulate in the police state we are beginning to suffer under. The American Founding Fathers rightly feared a standing army, and envisioned a citizen soldiery as the bulwark of freedom.
          Mr Pennell has some very good ideas. His world view, I suspect, is based on an old fashioned, but honorable concept: Public Service. Since we are all parts of this society, we owe sercice to each other. The present social miasma of Hedonism, so amply demonstrated by our worship of wealth, defines the problem to be wrestled with.
          Alas and alack, I fear that my reading of History tends to agree with your bleak assesment of our near future. Our possible hope lies in the idea that we may have crossed another Rubicon with the creation of an Informational Superhighway. Mate this with what appears to be a paradigm shift in energy production, truly efficient photovoltaics, and we have a vague outline of a decentralized society that can work.
          Deck chairs are all fine and good; I’m for lashing them together to make some more liferafts!

      4. abprosper

        the TL,Dr version

        Much too costly

        Politically impossible

        Lack of social comity

        Lack of legitimacy

        Ignoring the political impossibly here it can’t be done for practical reasons and though we’d want to we can’t repeat the post WW2 era by doing that.

        Even if we thought we faced an existential threat to our existence, the US is no longer mostly homogeneous and lacks the trust or propaganda tools to create false homogeneity or trust. A 90% White (roughly) populace with high trust in the State (thanks to Roosevelt) and limited access to media (no TV, only Movies, Radio and Print) is easier to mold into a unity than a a diverse one with diverse media options and pretty much no trust …

        That nation whose young are, roughly nearly 50% poor minority (Black and Hispanic) many of whom have poor literacy skills and long standing social disconnect cannot be governed like a nation that was 89.8% White (with the rest basically Black and American Indian) — basically that America was Prussia 2.0 (most of them were Anglo/German in origin) this one is Brazil 2.0 and as such, on a broad scale will function that way.

        We get around this by tapping the best and brightest from all ethnicities (A wise policy BTW) and by mainly using White kids in combat arms. This seems possibly seems racist but isn’t. Anyone can get in, its just the other groups (Hispanics exempted to a degree in the Marines) simply rarely meet whats needed.

        Broadly, being inclusive would not push those numbers up, but reduce morale as mentioned before.

        Also once they are done, than what? Outside of government the ability of the less skilled (any of them) to get into the middle class is basically zero.

        If you call middle class a comparable to the late 50’s to early 70’s standard of living, i.e. 1 salary supports a home, a new car every 5 years, a vacation once a year and college for the smart kids, well that class is 10 maybe 20% of the population, only the smart (ish) well connected and educated.

        The “working class” folks who got there in the past have no path. You can’t cog them into a cubicle and they are not needed at the factory.

        Thus you’d train the entire young population for war and have nothing for them to do.

        Its also far too costly , assuming 2010 figures from wikipedia, the personnel costs alone would be on the order of several trillion dollars (maybe 20x the 150 billion we spend now)

        Lastly, not to put to fine a point on it, a lot of people, almost all minority, lack the basic skills needed for modernity, they are about 50% illiterate, often in poor health (Whites too) and many have extensive criminal records. This imposes titanic costs on any system, especially one needing high cognitive skills and technical acumen.

        And yes we faced similar problems back in 1940 but literacy rates were higher and its was easier to get them up to speed. Much less knowledge was needed and the gap between a poorly educated city kid from LA in 1940 was much less than his counterpart today.

        Fixing the roots of that issue would be crazy expensive and require a brutally intrusive state that lacks the legitimacy to do this. You can’t make single Moms (like most Black and many others families) parent and you can’t make every Hispanic family (many do, but enough do not) have a high investment child rearing strategy at gunpoint.

        You also can’t tap that much revenue and transfer it like that. Social Comity allows for a welfare state and group efforts. Diversity does not and there is no way the remaining productive people of any group would be willing to pay an extra 4 trillion in taxes, call it total of 7 trillion.

        We cannot collect half of the GDP under any circumstances.

      5. Binky the Bear

        It might also get some rubes out into the world away from home, Fox News, and hanging around some podunk place or the old neighborhood waiting for something to happen.

      6. Stephen Nightingale

        I would rather give them 18 months of international service – not national service, and to countries where the infrastructure is more broken than here and where they don’t speak English.

    4. Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

      Until China, Russia, India, Iran et al add to their military power, at which time all the Tea/Republicans will whine and shriek in fear about our weak military.

      The fact: It would be foolish to cut the military, because it would be foolish to cut the federal deficit. The U.S. is Monetarily Sovereign, and deficits are the only method for growing the economy.

      Those who do not understand Monetary Sovereignty (http://rodgermmitchell.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/monetarily-sovereign-the-key-to-understanding-economics/) do not understand economics.

      Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

    5. teetoe

      Marijuana cures cancer we all know that, it is big medicine that is keeping that one from being legal.

    6. Jay

      I’ve been in research (in electronic materials) for years, and DOD is pretty much it. Private sector research has been slashed to extinction or moved to Shanghai. If the DOD gravy train stopped, at least 80% of this country’s physical sciences (as distinct from biological or social) research jobs would vanish.

      Not that we’re doing anything useful, but we like jobs as much as everyone else.

      1. Jesse

        My point is, why does it have to be the DOD that funds the research? Create a new Department of Science and fund that instead.

    7. Jim Elliot

      But the “economy” would shrink due to the reduction in sales of chemo drugs and all the other associated services.
      Don’t you get it? Curing cancer (or anything else) would be negative for the economy.

  2. Max424

    You would think that the Military Industrial Complex would be in favor of a single-payer health care system, because if we switched to that, our country would know yearly budget surpluses, instead of massive deficits, and then the DOD would be freed up to spend even more outlandish sums on outdated weapon systems and superfluous carrier groups.

    But nooOOO! Single-payer healthcare is socialism! Whereas crazy levels of spending by our MIC is … well … it’s socialism too, but it’s a manly, defense-of-capitalism type of socialism — so it’s ok.

    Note: Hey, anybody know much cash we lost in Iraq. You know, how many skids of newly printed crisp hundreds — stacked and cellophane wrapped — did we leave unattended in Iraqi warehouses? Was it really $60 billion worth?

    It would make a good movie: a lowly private steals a 7 billion dollar skid in a Baghdad depot and attempts to distribute the money to the masses, while evil Defense Department accountants try to track him down and whack him. Action-adventure. PG-13

    1. Jesse

      Hey, anybody know much cash we lost in Iraq.

      It’s strange that she referenced this as I’d just read a few weeks ago that they’d ended up accounting for this money ($6.6 billion, see: http://is.gd/6IxeyB). Then again, it’s entirely possible that they end up losing “footballs” of cash all the time and there’s still loads more out there in a palace somewhere.

        1. Antifa

          Scene: FBI agents kick in the door of a shabby double-wide in a trailer park in rural Oklahoma. They arrest an ex-Lance Corporal and seize his solid gold toilet . . .

          1. wunsacon

            Bring back progressive taxation. With it:
            – Those who enjoy creating/contributing for its own sake will continue to do so, while earning a good living for themselves. (E.g., Steve Jobs founded Apple in 1976, amidst highly progressive taxation.)
            – Those who require a king’s ransom before contributing won’t continue. But, we do not want “contributions” from these people, because anyone far more interested in their own compensation versus what they contribute has a rentier mentality.
            – It reduces the wealth gap and makes our society less of a plutocracy.

  3. Expat

    Forget it! Both sides count on Security spending to bribe voters and campaign contributors. The core American voter truly believes it is America’s job to build weapons and use them against foreigners, preferably from afar but up-close, no-trial murder by special forces is cool, too.

    We would be better off cutting the Security budget by 50% and spend the money on education, health care, and building factories. But that would be, as pointed out above, socialism. Capitalism means overpaying billions for weapons and equipment which is never used and then destroyed.

    Everything about this debate demonstrates that America is fucked up and humans are fucked up. Bring on the nukes, I say.

    1. Psychoanalystus

      I’d have to agree that humans are fucked. Noam Chomsky likes to say that “intelligence is a deadly mutation”. Once we’ll be gone as a species, and the bugs and the bacteria will move back to the top of the food chain, this planet is likely to breathe a lot easier.

  4. ex-PFC Chuck

    In the late 1970s a reform movement coalesced within the defense establishment itself under the leadership of the late USAF Col. John Boyd, and it still exists today under the stewardship of Boyd’s proteges. Among the key thrusts of these folks’ arguments is that the bottomless money bucket available to them actually inhibits the the ability of the US to acquire first class weapon systems, and to develop a coherent, appropriate national strategy. People currently active in the movement include Winslow Wheeler, Franklin “Chuck” Spinney, Pierre Sprey, who all write from time to time on Counterpunch.org. These guys are not DFH pacifists; they’re almost all now-retired career uniformed officers, DoD civil servants or Hill defense committee staffers. There are also a few serving officers close to the movement, in spite of the peril the association, should it become known, poses to their careers. Here are some links that will give you a taste of their thinking:
    Sprey & Wheeler on the F-35 in Counterpunch: http://bit.ly/sh5U6U
    Video of Sprey interview re F-35 weaknesses: http://bit.ly/tvYFJy
    Center for Defense Information (Lots of Links): http://www.cdi.org/index.cfm
    As for the instigator of this movement, John Boyd is one of the most fascinating figures in American military history. He is now regarded by many as our country’s greatest military thinker, in the same league with Sun Tzu and Clausewitz. His biography is a great read: http://amzn.to/sQX5Tk

    1. ex-PFC Chuck

      I think the left is making a huge mistake by not connecting to these guys (and they are all guys, AFAIK.) When last summer’s Netroots 2011 here in Minneapolis was in the planning stages I submitted a proposal for a panel session on military reform featuring several of the people I mentioned above, as well as one or two others such as Andrew Bacevich. Needless to say it was shot down.

  5. Psychoanalystus

    The point to focus on is not what defense spending reductions will do to the military, rather what the military spending has already done to the US economy. Right now, all evidence indicates that this insane military spending has already hollowed out America’s economy. America no longer has a viable economy in the sense of a manufacturing and export base. Literally everything in the US is now based on consumption, military, and (of course) a crooked financial system. Everything else already fully collapsed or is in advanced stages of collapse: construction, infrastructure, education, research, manufacturing. There is nothing left beyond exporting weapons and pulling Wall Street scams.

    This current so-called economic system is maintained by the Fed’s ability to continue to print dollars, thanks to the dollar’s remaining reserve status. However, as that reserve status is now coming to an end, all 3 components of America’s current economy (consumption, military, finances) will come to an immediate halt. A recent US Congress report indicated that within 5 to 10 years the dollar is likely to be replaced by the Chinese renmimbi — see this recent interview with James G. Rickards, author of Currency Wars, who sure thinks so:


    1. Crazy Horse

      To continue your theme, we shouldn’t loose sight of the fact that the USA spends as much as the entire rest of the world combined maintaining its imperial army. A 50% cut would still leave it with the world’s largest military expenditures per capita.

      I recently found myself aboard a sailboat with a retired aircraft carrier captain. I asked him what he would change if the role of the military was only to defend the nation. His response– the mission was to project force worldwide because the world is full of bad guys, not just to defend the country at its borders.

      So without examining the morality of that role, just how effective has the world’s most expensive military been? Defeated the little guys in black pajamas in Vietnam? nope. That one ended with us fleeing the embassy with soldiers clubbing people off the helicopter skids so they could take off. Shock and awe (and a million dead) in the Middle East to make the world’s last cheap oil flow into our SUV tanks? nope. Our death squads defeated the Sandinistas in Nicaragua? nope.

      Seems the only “victories” our multi-trillion dollar imperial army has delivered since WWII were against an opposition force of 3O Cubans in Grenada and the overthrow of our agent Noriega in Panama because he wanted too big a cut of the drug profits.

      1. Psychoanalystus

        Indeed, we lost most conflicts after WWII. And, even WWII was not won by us, but rather by the efforts of the Russians. But we have this incredible ability to spin and lie, which is what ultimately brought down the Soviet Union, and what maintained this degenerated form of capitalism in place these last few decades.

        What caused us to win the Cold War was psychology. However, I was just thinking today that we are now in the same position as the Soviet Union was during the 1970s and 1980s, when everybody living behind the Iron Curtain knew that their system was discredited. Nobody in the USSR and Eastern Europe believed the official media. Everybody was getting their news from American-sponsored sources such as Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, and the Voice of America.

        Today, the tables are turned. Informed Americans get their news not from Fox, CNN, or MSNBC, but rather from Al Jazeera, Russia Today, and blogs such as this one. As a psychologist I see the elites in this country completely clueless about the meaning of this. They really have lost the psy wars already, and when you lose psychologically, how much you spend on physical weapons becomes irrelevant.

        It will be interesting to see how OWS evolves. Will it be what the Polish Solidarity was to the Communist empire? Will it be the small river that in time erodes and levels off the mighty mountain?

        As the Chinese say, “May you live in interesting times, my friend”.

        1. Lambert Strether

          The DoD: Great at spending money, terrible at winning wars.

          Why, one would almost think that funneling tax money to the rentiers for useless weapons was the mission statement!

          * * *

          I remember the whole armor controversy in Iraq. Turns out the Iraqi insurgents displayed adaptability, and began to use very cheap, low tech devices to blow up our very expensive Humvees and, if it comes to that, our highly trained and not very numerous soldiers.

          And the DoD took an incredibly long time to respond, so as a result we had the farce of the troops armoring their own HumVees with scrap metal, small towns holding bake sales to send their kids body armor, and the like. [Somebody smarter about electoral politics than me should think through the implications of all that.]

          And ultimately, the military got the vehicles and the troops armored. With what result? Both were heavier and more road-bound — more oil-dependent — than ever. So we end up with a military that’s fully capable of pulverizing a single city like Fallulajah, but far less capable of operating against a light-weight network of insurgents on a theatre, let alone a continental scale. Also, too, Millenium Challenge.

          So if the point at issue is, Can the military be used to put down a non-violent Occupation movement exercising its right to peaceably assemble for redress of grievances on a continental scale, I would argue that the answer is no. The 1% may try, because doubling down on #FAIL is all they know, but they will not succeed.

          One alternative strategy to save the fat and chunky bacon of the 1% would be a widespread system of data-and surveillance-driven domestic drones, but despite Obama’s great success at killing civilians on a small scale in DoD’s R&D project in Afghanistan, I doubt very much that we have the will (or the money, which comes to the same thing) or even the ability to scale out and deploy such a system here. We can’t even build a tunnel under the Hudson or a wall along the Mexican border, for pity’s sake. This again will not prevent the 1% from trying it.

          FWIW, I think that the next decade will show that the 1% really is boxed in. “They have no place to go.” If the 1% were smart, they’d find a second FDR and buy enough of us off again. But they aren’t smart, or at least not smart in that way. The Randroid ideology with which they justified their looting has anesthetized the empathetic abilities that even shepherds, say, have for the livestock they will later slaughter.

          Elizabeth Warren, for example, now being carefully positioned slightly to Obama’s left by the usual suspects in the career “progressive” camp, has nothing good to say about the Occupations, and seems to think that reform is a matter of creating human-readable mortage documentation, and not banksters in orange jumpsuits doing the perp walk for accounting control fraud before a grateful populace. But 1% fraud is at the heart of the permanent financial crisis, and so although Warren is a smart and tenacious person, FDR II na ga happen on her watch. (And please don’t tell me “She has to say that.” How’d that work out for ya in 2008?)

          So, Warren == 1% #FAIL. In fact, for the 1%, #FAIL is the prospect going forward on all fronts. It may not feel like that to us now, but if you accept the analysis above on the monopoly of violence, it is true. They have no ideas, they have no moral ascendancy, the shell of Big Lies is cracking (“can’t fool all of the people”), there is no demonstration of good faith one can imagine them performing*, they have only their loot, which everybody knows has been stolen. They no longer govern, but only rule. And noblesse oblige, a cheap and effective tool for wise princes, is in notably short supply. Even the Valhalla (or the floating island) scenario is #FAIL, since even the most odious psychopath comes to realize — although, generally, too late — that money can’t buy loyalty forever, and all it takes is one lowly security guard at Valhalla to let the rest of the world leak in….

          TINA but #FAIL for the 1% were they able to see it. Bold, persistent experimentation for the 99%!

          * * *

          Well, that was a longer comment than I expected to make! I’m going to go out and shovel some snow.

          NOTE * Normally, I’m not a worse is better guy, but a greater and more widespread sense of realism about the ability of our electoral system to deliver concrete material benefits to voters, at least as that system is currently configured, is one beneficial outcome of Obama’s utter betrayal of the hopes of voters and his own base after 2008. 10% nominal (20% real) DISemployment has that kind of bracing, clarifying effect.

          UPDATE Editorial tinkering for clarity and increased snark.

  6. Norman

    To Daniel & others, two items; We used to have a draft in this country, remember Vietnam, (to those who don’t, it was where the U.S.Military lost), the second the DoD has DARPA, which has its fingers into most of the research that takes place in this country, for good or otherwise. Reduce the Generals & their perks, close the revolving door between Congress & lobbyists, as well as term limits, but most of all, educate the people of this country as to who the Government is, the citizens, who pay taxes, that provide the labor, the consumption, investments, etc., etc.! I’m sure that other rational souls can add to this, but what is needed, is for people to come together if we are to survive. Forget about who’s on top, this country is in bad shape, finger pointing doesn’t help, even my suggestions.

  7. Susan the other

    But we were reluctant imperialists. We started out in 1945 to win hearts and minds and make the world capitalist. Be careful what you wish for. It appears to me that making the world capitalist has destroyed the climate, allowed an unconscionable increase in the human population, and wiped out the entire world economy and all the banks and sovereigns far more effectively than a holocaust of atomic strikes.

    How ironic. And even more ironic, I’m now thinking that the military (which I once hated) is the future. But not for war except in the most extreme situations. Because today nobody is going to accomplish anything going to war. We have squandered all our earthly worth on the last 10 years of war and we are a laughingstock. Hearts and minds know a pompous, ignorant, hypocritical ass when they see one. This is not the fault of the military. It is the fault of our asinine politics.

    We should participate in the discussion about the new mandate for the military. The best way to win hearts and minds (that phrase almost gags me) is to do good. Not just a little good but lots of it. There is no way around this fact. If we look at the military as a national corporation that is well equipped to do things on a big scale, like environmental cleanup and disaster mitigation, maybe even a modest policing of various wayward rogues like bank CEOs bringing down world finance, then the military is just what we need. And because we are going into a brave new world all our industries will change and green-up faster this way and we might never have an unemployment catastrophe again. There is so much work to be done. If we don’t do it (clean up the environment, etc) “security” will not be achievable.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Not all that reluctant, if you start the timer in 1898 with the Phillipines.

      Not reluctant at all, if you start the time at 1492.

      I like the idea of “a new mandate for the military.”

    2. ambrit

      Dear Lady;
      Good point, after all, who built a big chunk of those justly famous Roman Roads? The Legionairres, that’s who. Those roads were vital for the transit of troops and supplies, and thus, vital to the military of the time. Now if we could just convince the ‘powers that be’ that other pro social tasks are vital to the ‘national security,’ we’d be half way there.

    3. ex-PFC Chuck

      I’m not nearly as optimistic as you are that the military can be readily redirected to a new, less aggressive mandate, at least not in today’s environment, for two reasons.

      First, the bureaucracy’s primary concern has become keeping the money spigot flowing wide open. National strategy and readiness considerations are secondary, and this has seeped deeply into the military culture. This is addressed in the book America’s Defense Meltdown, a collection of essays by the military reform suspects edited by Winslow Wheeler. The Amazon page for the book is here: http://tinyurl.com/yc7dqe8 And an overview can be found at this link for an interview with Wheeler: http://bit.ly/vBnON4

      Secondly, the religious right has made huge penetrations during their decades-long campaign to populate the services’ officer corps with their minions. The military is a good fit for their up and coming legions of authoritarian followers. They have been most notably successful with the Air Force, however the other services are not far behind. Mikey Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation has been doing “the Lord’s work” pushing back against this (http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/); its Director of Research, Chris Rodda, also posts frequently at greater length at http://www.talk2action.org and The Huffington Post. Weinstein writes in his book With God on Our Side that when he was a cadet at the USAFA (Class of 1977) there were four chaplains for a cadet corps that was about 600 larger than it is today: two protestants, a Catholic priest and a Rabbi IIRC, at the time of his writing there were about 15 of them, all but two or three evangelical Christians who look forward to the early arrival of the “End Times.” It seems like every week te MRFF site exposes another incident of harassment of non-Christians, or even the wrong kind thereof, and as the years have gone by the instigators are higher and higher in the pecking order. It will take a long time to turn this culture around, if ever.

  8. jjmtacoma

    Back in January, Obama said something about cutting military spending or freezing the spending during his State of the Union. I thought it was weird that it didn’t get picked apart by any of the mainstream media (fox) – then I found this Brookings Report and the money quote:

    So the minute that someone says, well, defense is the top constitutional obligation of the federal government and therefore it should be protected regardless, and we should make our deficit reduction out of other accounts. If we start a conversation in those terms, then a big constituency is going to come up and say let’s protect Social Security, or let’s protect college loans for students because that’s our future after all. Or let’s protect science research or infrastructural development, and you get the idea pretty soon you’ve lost the spirit of shared sacrifice that I think is essential if we’re going to have any hope of reducing the deficit in the coming years.

    So that’s the basic motivation. We’re not probably going to reduce the deficit effectively, and therefore strengthen our long-term economy and the foundation for our long-term military power, if we don’t establish a spirit of shared sacrifice.

    Here was my prediction from January: the peacetime operating budget for defense will be cut by some percentage (and 50% is floated here) and the next thing “on the table” will be SS and Medicare in order to “share the sacrifice” because, “See? The defense budget was cut and now it is time to look for other “sacred” budgets to cut”.

    1. EH

      Funny that when I was a schoolkid during the Cold War, the zeitgeist about Russia was that they had to stand in bread lines because the military was the government’s highest budgetary priority. Plus ca change.

  9. Goin' South

    I sure hope so.

    Could there be anything better for the majority of the world’s citizens than a drastic drop in U. S. military power? We’ve been butchering people around the world since I was born nearly 60 years ago. Enough already.

  10. barrisj

    Anybody interested in where US tax dollars are going re: military hi-tech weapons systems and related “defence” toys should spend some time scanning The Wire’s “Danger Room”. The breadth and depth of technological exploitation directed against “enemies of the State” – both foreign AND domestic – is truly astonishing. “Seek and destroy” is the name of the game, and our lads at the Pentagon and their defence industry playmates spare no effort nor cost to confect the most amazingly devious and deadly killing systems, particularly UAVs of various sizes and payloads, all in the service of preserving Merkan power projection and empire, despite a failing economy and bankrupt political system.

    Danger Room – what’s next in national security

    1. EH

      I wrote Wired off as journalists after their odious role and conduct in the Bradley Manning case came to light. There are plenty of better sources for this kind of news out there.

  11. citizendave

    In May of last year, Secretary of Defense Gates talked about the future of the Navy.


    “…Do we really need eleven carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one? Any future plans must address these realities…

    …It is important to remember that, as much as the U.S. battle fleet has shrunk since the end of the Cold War, the rest of the world’s navies have shrunk even more. So, in relative terms, the U.S. Navy is as strong as it has ever been.

    In assessing risks and requirements even in light of an expanding array of global missions and responsibilities – everything from shows of presence to humanitarian relief – some context is useful:

    The U.S. operates 11 large carriers, all nuclear powered. In terms of size and striking power, no other country has even one comparable ship.
    The U.S. Navy has 10 large-deck amphibious ships that can operate as sea bases for helicopters and vertical-takeoff jets. No other navy has more than three, and all of those navies belong to our allies or friends. Our Navy can carry twice as many aircraft at sea as all the rest of the world combined.
    The U.S. has 57 nuclear-powered attack and cruise missile submarines – again, more than the rest of the world combined.
    Seventy-nine Aegis-equipped combatants carry roughly 8,000 vertical-launch missile cells. In terms of total missile firepower, the U.S. arguably outmatches the next 20 largest navies.
    All told, the displacement of the U.S. battle fleet – a proxy for overall fleet capabilities – exceeds, by one recent estimate, at least the next 13 navies combined, of which 11 are our allies or partners.
    And, at 202,000 strong, the Marine Corps is the largest military force of its kind in the world and exceeds the size of most world armies…”

    I would add that the 11 aircraft carriers are at the center of the 11 Carrier Strike Groups, consisting of various support ships, numbering close to 300 ships. Gates reiterates his warning about the growing vulnerability of the ships: “…a Ford-class carrier plus its full complement of the latest aircraft would represent potentially a $15 to $20 billion set of hardware at risk…” (Not to mention six thousand lives).

    How much is enough? The Republicans continue to insist that we must dominate the globe militarily. And they want us all to pay for their fixation. Somebody once said to me “The world is at peace because of our extensive military presence.” If my neighbor is armed to the teeth, it doesn’t feel like peace in my neighborhood. I don’t really trust a neighbor who is paranoid about potential adversaries. Maybe in his craziness he will think I am a threat. Instead of tending my garden, I would be inclined to fortify my house and gather arms against the possibility that my neighbor will turn his weapons against me. But if he would relax a bit and retire most of his arsenal, and start fixing his increasingly dilapidated house, I would be inclined to turn my attention away from him, and go back to tending to my garden and my house. Peace cannot be achieved at gunpoint — that’s more like a truce or a cease-fire, like smiling and showing respect to a bully carrying a big stick. True peace should be our goal.

    1. F. Beard

      How much is enough? citizendave

      There is never enough when one does not trust in God (despite our motto).

      1. citizendave

        Indeed. Although I never much cared for our national motto — too Judeo-Christian-Muslim centric. Maybe OWS could come up with a better motto.

  12. ECON

    Aside from other countries purchasing (and not inconsequential) military hardware from USA, military hardware and research is not brought to the market for sale.
    Consequences of the trillions spent since 1980 on the military industrial sector leaves the domestic economy poor.

  13. Ed

    A U.S. military whose mission is mainly and mostly limited to defending the physical frontiers of the United States would be so different from what we have now (the one we have now is to take out “threats” when they emerge in their own countries), that I’m not sure if you could just take the existing military and reduce it. I think you would have to almost start from scratch and build something completely separate.

    And the current version of the military is a large employer, and just about the only major institution left in the U.S. that bothers with training and giving defined pensions to working class people, and the way things are going will be an outlier in terms of even employing them or giving them healthcare as well. What industrial policy the U.S. federal government has is basically channeled through Department of Defense contracts, which also underwrite a good chunk of U.S. higher education. So you are looking at a fairly nasty crash if you got rid of all this in one year. It would be better to try to phase it out.

  14. John

    Wait, how does 50 billion over TEN YEARS translate into 50% cuts???????

    What is god’s name kind of math is that?????????

    1. jjmtacoma

      My bet is that it will be a cut to the “peace time operating budget” and it won’t cut to the support of the wars or other “special” programs.

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