Imperial Overreach: Forces Driving Pentagon Spending and US Asia-Pacific Military Strategies
(Photo: Official U.S. Navy Imagery / Flickr)While US foreign and military policy focus on preserving US Asia-Pacific hegemony, the US government forgets that military strength ultimately depends on economic strength, educational achievement and social cohesion and tests the limits of popular tolerance for the military-industrial-Congressional complex.
At the height of the Cold War, Rev. Ulises Torres, a political exile from the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, was asked when you know if you have a military government. He answered: "Look at your national budget." Then, the US military budget, not counting secret intelligence spending, was $221.1 billion (just over $500 billion in today's dollars.)
Today, excluding veterans' benefits and interest for past wars, US military spending is $711 billion. It consumes 60 percent of US discretionary spending, compared to 6 percent for education and 1 percent for transportation. The Pentagon budget equals the combined total of the world's next 14 greatest military spenders and is four times greater than the combined spending of its most likely adversaries, including China and Russia.Projected US military spending over the next decade is $5.77 trillion in 2013 dollars, a number that is almost beyond comprehension.
Why such a commitment to military might and to nationally self-destructive military spending? The widespread acceptance of US "manifest destiny," the belief conveyed by the title of Joseph Nye's book that the US is Bound to Lead, provides the ideological underpinnings. But the structural answer lies in President Eisenhower's last public speech as president, when the former general and World War II hero warned that,
"… 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. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."
The original draft of Eisenhower's speech decried the "military-industrial-Congressional complex," but Eisenhower removed the reference to Congress, thinking it unseemly for an outgoing president to criticize an incoming Congress.
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