Tuesday, February 24, 2009

PAX AMERICANA & DEFENSE (much from "Everything Must Change" by McLaren)

I've read a string a books over the past few years that draw visible connections between the Roman Empire and the current American Empire (if you disagree that America has had a type of empire in this world, you probably have not really looked at all the statistics and facts yet). These books can fall in many areas—political science, history, sociology, but even religion and the intersection of politics and religion. Many people see this strange comparison both inside and outside of religious contexts.

This comparison can be looked at in many ways—wealth and prosperity (the U.S. is the wealthiest nation ever by some definitions of wealth over a period of time), the widening equity gap (can it get worse than in the U.S.?), defense (huge in Roman days, huge in the U.S. who has the most massive defense budget ever), the promise of peace through victory, etc. But since I'm considering another defense position, I'm curious about that connection. Let's start with a quote from the publication Optimum:

The status of the United States as the world's superpower is likely to continue for some time. There is no other country which has the United States' potential economic might or capacity to make war. In 2008, the US will spend $623 billion on defense, or more than the rest of the world combined. The next 10 largest military budgets amount to less than $350 billion.

It sounds a bit problematic: why does our defense budget need to be so large? Let's look deeper.

In 2004, global military expenses surpassed $1 trillion but terrorist attacks (international) increased from 175 to 655.
Cold War militarization (1948 – 1989/1990)
US and USSR created about 70,000 nuclear warheads whose combined power is 1,000 times the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima
US alone spent $5.48 trillion on nuclear weapons and systems to deliver them since 1940 according to an estimate by the Brookings Institute
by 1969 Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) had been reached and a US nuclear sub could destroy 169 Soviet cities simultaneously

These figures and info (and the following info) come from “Everything Must Change” by McLaren and indirectly from “Hope in Troubled Times” A New Vision for Confronting Global Crises” by Baker. McLaren points out that one might think since mutually assured destruction ceiling had been reached, the arms race would stop. Instead, it continued as US government officials removed the ceiling and allowed more weapons to be amassed. Kissinger said “The joint Chiefs of Staff cooperated because they understood that the doctrine of assured destruction would inevitably lead to political decisions halting or neglecting the improvement of our strategic forces, and in time reducing them. We therefore developed in 1969 new criteria of strategic sufficiency.”

So the limit was removed, and we were able at one point to destroy 10 planet Earths with American nuclear capability (in a defense planning document Military analyst William Arkin said that no target on the earth or in space would be immune from American attack; for more on defense by attack, see bostonreview.net/BR28.5/chomsky.html and Noam Chomsky). Today we have the ability to destroy many planet earths, though many warheads have been dismantled. Still thousands remain and there is a current fight about non-proliferation (don't make more and increase the numbers; most agree I believe), disarmament (decreasing the numbers) and total disarmament (decreasing the numbers down to zero; VERY FEW government and corporate leaders believe in this).

Today the U.S. spends $100 million/day to keep weapons ready for a preemptive strike. As Rumsfeld said “We do not exclude the possibility that for the defense of our interests we will be the first to use nuclear weapons.” globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/report/crs/rl31623.pdf

So we have to remember, as McLaren points out, that this type of mentality is not new (especially when you compare it to Rome) because it's been in US governmental ideology for awhile, regardless of the party in power. Clinton even said we have the right to “'unilateral use of military power' to ensure 'uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources.'”
by 2000 (before 9/11) US defense budget had risen to 20% of fiscal budget (over half-trillion dollars), over ½ of US national debt was related to defense. this has increased since 9/11
by 2003, the US military budget was larger than the next 15 nations combined, spending $2billion/day on military expenses
by 2006, military budget had increased by over 49% of it 2000 levels without including Afghanistan and Iraq; in this year it was larger than the next 25 nations combined

McLaren says the strongest 25 nations would all have to become U.S. enemies for the U.S. to be confronted by a larger military force.

Here are three priorities from the national security strategy of the U.S. (http://www.us.gov/)

1.Perpetuate U.S. military dominance globally so no nation can rival or threaten the U.S.
2.Be prepared to engage in preemptive military strikes, whenever the US government considers another nation to be a threat to the U.S., its forces or installations abroad, or its friends or allies (very similar to the Roman empire where pretty much every area of the known world at that time was seen as of some interest to the Roman empire. According to Shumpeter in “Imperialism and Social Classes”, if the interests were not Roman, they were of Rome's allies and if Rome had no allies, then allies would be invented. Edward Walker Jr (former deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs said that “the president doesn't see any difference between American interests and Israeli interests with regard to the Middle East now” indirectly from Sofo.net 18 Aug 2006; This is why some Israelis (I think unnecessarily) fear Obama because they are not sure that he sees things the same way)
3.Maintain immunity for U.S. citizens from prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

Let's destroy some myths for a moment that people always tell me:

1.The U.S. is the most generous nation in terms of actual numbers of dollars. This is false. Japan gives more in actual numbers.
2.Well, the U.S. gives the most percentage-wise of any other nation. We are the most generous. This is not true. In 2006, for example, the military budget was 21 times the diplomacy and foreign aid budget combined. The U.S. was last that year among developed nations in foreign aid as a percentage of GDP. The U.S. is around 21st globally giving about 0.068% in aid. Denmark gives 1.04%. This reminds me of that rule we find quite true on an individual level; the more you make the less (percentage-wise) you give. This works among countries as well.

If we invested on 10% of the U.S. defense budget into aid, basic needs for the entire world's poor could be met (including the U.S. poor). Or just ½ of 1 percent (0.5%) would cut hunger in half in Africa by 2015 according to McLaren.

Many people don't realize this. In fact many people don't realize what is going on in general with government, politics, defense, wealth and prosperity. But I am encouraged by the many pockets around the world of people who are waking up and seeking to make this a better world. Anyway who acts as if this situation is specific to the U.S. isn't telling the truth. Such things happen with any empire or with anyone who becomes the sole superpower. It is not specific to any one people, space, or time. It's what happens with power. The desire is insatiable. And power corrupts. Eisenhower said “It happens that defense is a field in which I have had varied experience over a lifetime, and if I have learned anything, it is that there is no way in which a country can satisfy the craving for absolute security—but it can easily bankrupt itself, morally and economically, in attempting to reach that illusory goal through arms alone.”

The concept where the wealthiest nations manufacture and sell arms (conventional arms not nuclear ones) with the right hand and then promote peace with the left hand. Jimmy Carter said in 1976 “We cannot have it both ways. We can't be both the world's leading champion of peace and the world's leading supplier of arms.” controlarms.org/the_issues/armsindustry.htm for more info

McLaren quotes Baker quoting John Ralston Saul in “Voltaire's Bastards” (p 82) commenting on McNamara during and after the Vietnam War era: “McNamara concluded that it would be rational to limit armament costs by producing larger runs of each weapon and selling them abroad. The U.S. also happened to be running a three-billion-dollar general trade deficit. Foreign arms sales would be a way to balance the situation.” Does this make sense? To pay for military weapons, let's make more and sell them to people who will use them against us (and thereby increase our suicidal, cyclical need for more).

I've said it before: all the permanent members of the UN Security Council manufacture weapons (they produced and sold 86.7% of the market on global weapons sales in 2004). The U.S., though, produced 53.4% of the world's weapons.
In 2003, 80% of the top buyers of U.S. weapons (20 of the top 25 clients) were countries the U.S. Department of State labeled undemocratic or countries known for their human rights violations (i.e. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.)
In 1991, the U.S. supplied arms to 92% of the conflicts anywhere on the Earth and many times supplied both sides of the conflict
between 1998 and 2001, the U.S., the U.K., and France earned more money from selling weapons than they gave those same developing countries in aid

Here's a quote from Tutu in “Everything Must Change”

For many years, I've been involved in the peace business, doing what I can to help people overcome their differences. In doing so, I've also learned a lot about the business of war: the arms trade. It is an industry out of control. Every day, more than 1,000 innocent people, including children, are killed by conventional weapons, according to the UN.
There have been international treaties to control the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons for decades. Yet, despite the mounting death toll, there still is no treaty governing sales of small arms and other conventional weapons, from handguns to helicopters. . . .
This is allowed to continue because of the complicity of governments, especially the governments of rich countries that turn a blind eye to the appalling human suffering associated with the proliferation of conventional weapons. It is estimated that every year small arms kill more people than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki put together. Many more people are injured, terrorized or driven from their homes by armed violence.
The world has the chance to finally say “no” to the continuing scandal of the unregulated weapons trade. . . .No longer should the peace business be undermined by the arms business.

So this was the Roman way. Peace through the sword. I believe it's in direct opposition to Jesus who also offered peace but through a different means. I think he would say “I'm not willing to kill for what I believe in, but I'm willing to die for it.” And we (Christians) believe he did.

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