Wednesday Open Thread: Our Warfare State
It's Day 290 of the Year 2018 CE
So, October 17, 2018 - for my reference if nothing else.
As I am writing this there is a ton of hue and cry about Hamal Kashoggi. Mr Kashoggi was a Saudi citizen who had been working as a journalist for WAPO. He had been sufficiently critical of the Saudi regime that he went into voluntary exile Nonetheless, he voluntarily went into the Saudi consulate in Turkey to obtain some papers for his upcoming marriage. There he disappeared. It is widely believed that the Saudis either kidnapped or killed him, with the majority opinion seeming to be the latter. The Turks claim to have proof and video and all that, but I am both an empiricist and a skeptic and I'm really fed up with people asserting that they have this, that, or the other evidence for something and yet never producing it, and treat as such unsubstantiated assertions as the mere allegations that they are.
Whatever the case, the endless war sometimes falsely called the war on terror or GWOT, has been an exceptionally deadly period for the working press. Abnormal numbers have been attacked, injured and even killed, year, after year, after year. The US has even killed some itself. Yet, almost never has there been such a hue and cry over the killing or incarceration of a member of the press, both as to volume and duration.
Beyond that, "the Kingdom", better known as the Saudi regime, is known for somewhat arbitrary and barbaric practices, including torturing and killing people, both through extra-judicial and judicial processes. They have draconian laws and punishments and an autocratic government tinged with theocratic overtones. This is usually seen as simply their way of doing things, and very rarely has there been such a hue and cry about their treatment of any of their citizens, nationals or
indentured serfs "guest workers.
The continuing sturm und drang about Kashoggi, noise that was not made (with notable exceptions) regarding other members of the press, nor (again with rare exceptions) regarding other victims of the Saudis, makes it seem as if this is not about human rights, or the press. It is almost as if Kashoggi had links to (love that usage) the US Department of assassinations, torture, clandestine and illegal wars, insurrections and all that, the Constitutionally Impossible Assemblage, or CIA. If not something like that, then Bezos has a ton more clout, and a lot more bots, human and otherwise, than we've been giving him credit for. Whatever the case and whatever the facts and whether or not we will ever learn them, Something pretty amazing has nonetheless happened.
In the face of the resultant calls from the press, Congress and our allies, and even some of the public to halt arms sales to the Saudi regime, Donald Trump, a pathological liar, got up there and told the truth. That's right, Donald J. Trump actually told the truth, and one that may cause discomfort in some quarters. It is not news to any government or government official, nor to banksters, speculators, captains of industry, rentiers and other elites. It isn't really even news to the press, but they don't talk about it much. It is probably not even news to most people if they stop and really think about, but part of the job of everybody in the media and all of the other elites is to see to it that they don't ever stop and think about it.
So, I'll just grab some text from Common Dreams here:
"We have jobs. We have a lot of things happening in this country. We have a country that's doing probably better economically than it's ever done before," Trump said in a Fox News interview. "A part of that is what we are doing with our defense systems and everybody is wanting them and, frankly, I think [ending arms sales] would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country."
The U.S. has sold more than $200 billion in weapons and military equipment to the Saudis in recent years, with Trump signing off on a $110 billion agreement weeks after taking office and the Obama administration offering the country $115 billion in arms sales. ...
That's right, our economy thrives on war and is booming thanks to wars, our wars and other people's wars. That's why we can't and won't stop arming, funding and otherwise, supporting, fomenting and even fighting them. It's big bux. In 2016, the US' global major weapons exports were $9.9 billion, but that's peanuts. The real lucre is the vast military expenditures by the US for its own war machine.
According to Wikipedia:
In FY 2017, the Congressional Budget Office reported spending of $590 billion for defense, about 15% of the federal budget. For the FY 2019 president Donald Trump proposed an increase to the military to $681.1 billion.
Years 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 Defense Budget (Billions) 491 506 556 625 696 698 721 717 681 610 614 637
Perspective: In 2017, the US population was 325.7 million, so were pissing away roughly 2 grand per person.
Not only that, but a serious chunk of that bread is spent abroad, because we have a lot of foreign bases.
According to Politico:
the United States still maintains nearly 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories abroad—from giant “Little Americas” to small radar facilities. Britain, France and Russia, by contrast, have about 30 foreign bases combined.
By my calculation, maintaining bases and troops overseas cost $85 to $100 billion in fiscal year 2014; the total with bases and troops in war zones is $160 to $200 billion.
By way of Comparison:
The United States spends more on their defense budget than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, France, and Japan combined. The 2009 U.S. military budget accounts for approximately 40% of global arms spending. The 2012 budget is 6–7 times larger than the $106 billion military budget of China. The United States and its close allies are responsible for two-thirds to three-quarters of the world's military spending (of which, in turn, the U.S. is responsible for the majority). The US also maintains the largest number of military bases on foreign soil across the world. While there are no freestanding foreign bases permanently located in the United States, there are now around 800 U.S. bases in foreign countries. Military spending makes up nearly 16% percent of entire federal spending and approximately half of discretionary spending. In a general sense discretionary spending (defense and non-defense spending) makes up one-third of the annual federal budget.
In 2015, out of its budget of 1.11 trillion, the United States spent $598 billion on military. U.S. defense spending is equivalent to the next seven largest military budgets—India, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China—combined.
This isn't for "defense" either. It is largely corporate welfare with a side order of global imperialism. The point and purpose is to threaten other countries in an attempt to force them to do what we tell them to in all things; the form of their governments and even the personnel therein. to sell what we want them to, to the buyers of our choosing, in the currency of our choosing, and to borrow from who we tell them to. To make these threats viable, we need to carry them out on occasion, slaughtering assorted mostly non-white foreign persons including great numbers of civilians, all for the benefit of our oligarchs and corporate interests and to try to force everybody everywhere to adopt the predatory "market based" rentier capitalism that is impoverishing most of our citizenry in order to further enrich a very few very wealthy persons.
Here, some would truck out various arguments based on morality, (or ethics for us atheists).Such arguments usually have no force and no impact. How is today different? One additional reporter has been killed. Otherwise things are pretty much exactly as they have been for several years now, and, more broadly speaking, for decades. Why should those folks who didn't give a shit prior to today suddenly actually care. Certainly, at the most, there might be a bit of momentum to curtail future armament sales to the Saudis, but there will be none to rein in our assorted wars of choice, to prohibit future ones or to diminish the torrent of funds poured into the warfare machine. Harold Laswell's "Garrison State" long ago morphed into a full on warfare state and nobody has yet to show any interest in shutting it down. As it has grown and continues to grow, the problem will only worsen.
I would like to speak about the money for a moment, however. Let's call it 600 billion US. That buys a ton of wheaties, bridges, road repairs, hospitals, and the like. Admittedly, there is some "stimulus", and some jobs, but also lots of corporate profits and dividendsm lots of the waste for which military procurement is famous in this cuntry, and lots of obscene excutive salaries. According to WAPO,
Robert Barro and Charles Redlick released a paper in 2009 calculating the “economic multiplier”— that is, the GDP bang per spending buck — of defense spending, using data from 1914 to 2006. They found that during normal economic times, the multiplier is about 0.67,
(Which means that each dollar of military spending will grow the economy by 67 cents.) Continuing --
It’s worth noting, though, that while certainly stimulative, military spending isn’t the most stimulative thing the government spends money on. Mark Zandi of Moody’s estimates that the multiplier is 1.74 for food stamps, 1.61 for unemployment benefits, and 1.57 for infrastructure spending.
(This pretty much corresponds with what I was taught decades ago, that the multiplier for military expenditures is the least there is)
And, of course, that's for spending done here. A ton of spending is done abroad, ehlpig foreign economies instead of ours. I guess we can look it as a type of foreign aid, but I suspect that many of the recipient nations would prefer cash.
I don't think that there ae many who couldn't think of a better use for a significant chunk of that money. Heck, we could even help the homeless, instead of creating and find better ways to assist those with PTSD instead of giving it to people. We are buried under the rhetoric of austerity and paygo, but nobody ever asks "well, exactly where is this 600 billion coming from?". There's always the odd half a trillion or so for the war machine, and that it simply totally ass backwards. According to Moden Monetary Theory, the US's big challenge, other than global wrming, is really going to be producing enough goods and services for our citizenry. Enormous piles of tanks, bombs, ammo and strike fighters don't qualify, they are a distraction, a waste of funds, and a wste of resources. They cannot feed, clothe, house or provide useful transport and communication services for our populace. Sure, we desparately need a standing military, but surely not more than half of the one we have now, if even that. We have two borders, and don't really face the threat of war on either one, or anywhere else in the Americas.
((Image B-52 with partial bomb load)