In an Arms Race with Ourselves

Original Publication Date: 
Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Military spending is the economic elephant in the middle of America's living room. In 2006, we will commit roughly $500 billion to our armed services, an amount equal to the defense budgets of the rest of the world combined. We'll do so despite the evident reality that our "best-trained, best-equipped" force is neither trained nor equipped to counter the asymmetric threats we now face and expect to confront for the foreseeable future.

More than a decade after the demise of the Soviet Empire, and with no peer military competitor on the horizon, America is in an arms race with itself. That our defense industry has become a sacred cash cow should come as no surprise. In his 1961 farewell address to the nation, President Dwight David Eisenhower warned America:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

Something Old, Something New

In perspective, the collusion between industry and the military is hardly a post-modern American phenomenon. It's as old as the Industrial Age itself. Prussian Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke (the elder) exploited 19th-century Europe's transportation revolution to win the German Wars of Unification. Moltke also happened to be a part owner and director of one of Prussia's largest railway lines.

In 21st-century America, however, we've refined this form of military-industrial 'bedfellowing' to a fine art. You can't count the hands of everyone who's knocking down a piece of the defense pie because everyone's hands are in somebody else's pockets. It's a complicated web to untangle, but we can get a sense of it by starting at the top of the arms business food chain.

Top Down, Bottom Up

Harriet Miers: Hacking Her Way to the Supreme Court?

Original Publication Date: 
Thursday, October 13, 2005

Last year, then-Deputy Chief of Staff Harriet Miers hosted four sessions of Ask the White House "an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House." Miers responses suggested some characteristics that one might not necessarily associate with a prospective Supreme Court justice:

  • She appeared to be comfortable with allowing blocks of text borrowed from other authors to be published under her name, without any acknowledgement or formal attribution.
  • She did not seem to feel obligated to ensure that her writings, published at the official White House Web Site, were proofread to identify and correct glaring errors.
  • She appeared willing to continue to recite partisan political talking points after they had been largely dismissed as inaccurate or misleading to the public.

Miers Ask the White House responses also include some statements that may serve as the basis for a few provocative confirmation hearing questions.

On Borrowed Time
Forum participant "C", from Tyler, Texas, questioned (then) Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Miers on a day devoted to domestic policy issues: Will there ever be a stop to the time changing [sic]. It is hurting everyone. Its been proven that our kids do worse in school everytime [sic] there is a time change....

On October 14, 2004, Harriet Miers responded:

Daylight saving time has been around for most of this century and even earlier. Did you know that Benjamin Franklin first suggested the idea in an essay he wrote titled, "An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light"? The title of Franklins essay captures one of the principal reasons we have daylight saving time today: it saves energy.

White House Numbers Raise More Questions

Original Publication Date: 
Friday, October 7, 2005

During Bushs major and unprecedented speech Thursday, he made this claim: Overall, the United States and our partners have disrupted at least 10 serious al Qaeda terrorist plots since September the 11th, including three al Qaeda plots to attack inside the United States. Weve stopped at least five more al Qaeda efforts to case targets in the United States or infiltrate operatives into our country.

During yesterdays White House press briefing, Scott McClellan was asked for specifics about the 10 plots that were disrupted. He mentioned Jos? Padilla and Iyman Faris and said that the other eight were still classified. And then:

Q: Why is this the first time weve heard about these eight others from the President?

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, I think hes talked I think he talked back in June about some incidents that we had disrupted.


MR. McCLELLAN: You said why just now, and I would refer you back to some of his June remarks when hes talked about it.

McClellan was referring to a speech Bush had made on June 9th, in which he was pushing for 16 provisions of the Patriot Act to become permanent. In the speech, Bush mentioned Iyman Faris and also said, In April 2004, a man sent an e-mail to an Islamic center in El Paso and threatened to burn the mosque to the ground in three days.

So yes, Bush had referenced disruptions in that speech, although one has to ask if an e-mail threat really rises to the level of a serious plot. But also in that speech, Bush said, Since September the 11th, federal terrorism investigations have resulted in charges against more than 400 suspects, and more than half of those charged have been convicted.

Three days later, The Washington Post ran an article with the headline, U.S. Campaign Produces Few Convictions on Terrorism Charges, that thoroughly debunked Bushs claim. From the article:

Top 10 Bad Reasons for "Staying the Course" in Iraq (and One Good One)

Original Publication Date: 
Monday, October 3, 2005

10. Democracy takes time. America needed 13 years to write its Constitution.
The American Revolution analogy is ludicrous. Britain did not invade the American colonies in order to liberate us, and we did not ask them to stick around for more than a decade to help us form our government.

9. If we leave now, well embolden the terrorists.
Theyre not exactly shrinking violets now. The longer weve stayed, the bolder theyve become.

8. Withdrawing will show lack of American resolve.
Getting in a bar fight over a girl shows resolve. Waking up in jail with your nose broken shows how stupid you are.

7. Were fighting them there so we dont have to fight them here.
If we dont have to fight them over here, why do we spend around $40 billion a year for a Department of Homeland Security?

6. The spread of democracy in the Middle East will enhance Americas security.
"Free" elections in the Middle East have helped Afghanistan become the worlds leading exporter of narcotics and transformed terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah into "legitimate" political parties.

5. We need to support our troops.
I applaud and deeply respect our men and women in uniform for their magnificent service and sacrifice. These are my people, remember? However, comma&.

In the first place, we are supporting our troops to the tune of nearly half a trillion dollars a year.

Second, when we continue to commit those men and women in uniform to a struggle for which there is no military solution, we are abusing them, not supporting them.

Third and most importantly America does not exist for the purpose of supporting its military. Our military exists to support America. And if its not defending us at home or achieving our national aims overseas, its not supporting our country.

4. If we pull out now, well look weak.
Weve committed our national power to an ill-advised war and are losing. How much weaker can we look?

Wars and Empires

Original Publication Date: 
Wednesday, September 14, 2005

America's warfare-centric approach to foreign policy is turning us into a one-trick superpower, and the trick is losing its magic.

Since the early 20th century, war has proved to be a progressively counterproductive means of achieving America's national aims. Granted, some of our modern wars produced good things. Some were unavoidable. Many were noble. But without exception, they also produced unintended and unfavorable results.

Termination of World War I, "the War to End All Wars ," laid the foundations of World War II. "The Good War " led to the decades-long Cold War and the third-world proxy wars that accompanied it. More than 50 years ago, we fought North Korea to a tie. Today, though North Korea canbarely feed its own people , it still manages to give ussecurity fits . And our 2004 presidential election showed that America still suffers from the aftershocks ofVietnam

Like our other modern wars, the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) has produced some good things, most notably the ousting of Saddam Hussein from power. But one is hard-pressed to argue that the good has outweighed the bad.

Whatever Brave New Math theNational Counterterrorism Center is using to measure global terrorism these days, it's clearly on an uptick. Iraq has become the international center forterrorist recruiting and training , and its progress at establishing a constitutional government has been, to put it kindly, less thanconfidence-inspiring .

Afghanistan, the "crown jewel" in the GWOT, is once again a haven for the Taliban and has turned into anarco-state , hence a major source of terror funding.


Original Publication Date: 
Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Editors' Note: On the first year anniversary of Katrina, Louisiana resident and writer, Polydactyl reflects on her in-the-moment journals and diaries to remind us of what it was like in the eye of the storm.

about the author: Polydactyl dons her blogger's hat in Central Louisiana between shifts as a wife, mom, cat-herder and computer healer.