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Cow Most Sacred: Why Military Spending Remains Untouchable

Posted on Jan 27, 2011

By Andrew Bacevich, TomDispatch

This article was originally published by TomDispatch. Click here to read Tom Engelhardt's introduction.

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In defense circles, “cutting” the Pentagon budget has once again become a topic of conversation. Americans should not confuse that talk with reality. Any cuts exacted will at most reduce the rate of growth.  The essential facts remain: U.S. military outlays today equal that of every other nation on the planet combined, a situation without precedent in modern history. 

The Pentagon presently spends more in constant dollars than it did at any time during the Cold War—this despite the absence of anything remotely approximating what national security experts like to call a “peer competitor.” Evil Empire? It exists only in the fevered imaginations of those who quiver at the prospect of China adding a rust-bucket Russian aircraft carrier to its fleet or who take seriously the ravings of radical Islamists promising from deep inside their caves to unite the Umma in a new caliphate.

What are Americans getting for their money? Sadly, not much.  Despite extraordinary expenditures (not to mention exertions and sacrifices by U.S. forces), the return on investment is, to be generous, unimpressive. The chief lesson to emerge from the battlefields of the post-9/11 era is this: the Pentagon possesses next to no ability to translate “military supremacy” into meaningful victory.

Washington knows how to start wars and how to prolong them, but is clueless when it comes to ending them. Iraq, the latest addition to the roster of America’s forgotten wars, stands as exhibit A. Each bomb that blows up in Baghdad or some other Iraqi city, splattering blood all over the streets, testifies to the manifest absurdity of judging “the surge” as the epic feat of arms celebrated by the Petraeus lobby.


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The problems are strategic as well as operational. Old Cold War-era expectations that projecting U.S. power will enhance American clout and standing no longer apply, especially in the Islamic world.  There, American military activities are instead fostering instability and inciting anti-Americanism. For Exhibit B, see the deepening morass that Washington refers to as AfPak or the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater of operations.

Add to that the mountain of evidence showing that Pentagon, Inc. is a miserably managed enterprise: hide-bound, bloated, slow-moving and prone to wasting resources on a prodigious scale—nowhere more so than in weapons procurement and the outsourcing of previously military functions to “contractors.” When it comes to national security, effectiveness (what works) should rightly take precedence over efficiency (at what cost?) as the overriding measure of merit. Yet beyond a certain level, inefficiency undermines effectiveness, with the Pentagon stubbornly and habitually exceeding that level. By comparison, Detroit’s much-maligned Big Three offer models of well-run enterprises.

Impregnable Defenses

All of this takes place against the backdrop of mounting problems at home: stubbornly high unemployment, trillion-dollar federal deficits, massive and mounting debt, and domestic needs like education, infrastructure and employment crying out for attention.

Yet the defense budget—a misnomer since for Pentagon, Inc. defense per se figures as an afterthought—remains a sacred cow. Why is that? 

The answer lies first in understanding the defenses arrayed around that cow to ensure that it remains untouched and untouchable. Exemplifying what the military likes to call a “defense in depth,” that protective shield consists of four distinct but mutually supporting layers. 

Institutional Self-Interest: Victory in World War II produced not peace, but an atmosphere of permanent national security crisis. As never before in U.S. history, threats to the nation’s existence seemed omnipresent, an attitude first born in the late 1940s that still persists today. In Washington, fear—partly genuine, partly contrived—triggered a powerful response. 

One result was the emergence of the national security state, an array of institutions that depended on (and therefore strove to perpetuate) this atmosphere of crisis to justify their existence, status, prerogatives and budgetary claims. In addition, a permanent arms industry arose, which soon became a major source of jobs and corporate profits. Politicians of both parties were quick to identify the advantages of aligning with this “military-industrial complex,” as President Eisenhower described it. 

Allied with (and feeding off of) this vast apparatus that transformed tax dollars into appropriations, corporate profits, campaign contributions and votes was an intellectual axis of sorts government-supported laboratories, university research institutes, publications, think tanks and lobbying firms (many staffed by former or would-be senior officials)—devoted to identifying (or conjuring up) ostensible national security challenges and alarms, always assumed to be serious and getting worse, and then devising responses to them. 

The upshot: Within Washington, the voices carrying weight in any national security “debate” all share a predisposition for sustaining very high levels of military spending for reasons having increasingly little to do with the well-being of the country.

Strategic Inertia: In a 1948 State Department document, diplomat George F. Kennan offered this observation: “We have about 50 percent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population.” The challenge facing American policymakers, he continued, was “to devise a pattern of relationships that will permit us to maintain this disparity.” Here we have a description of American purposes that is far more candid than all of the rhetoric about promoting freedom and democracy, seeking world peace, or exercising global leadership. 

The end of World War II found the United States in a spectacularly privileged position. Not for nothing do Americans remember the immediate postwar era as a Golden Age of middle-class prosperity.  Policymakers since Kennan’s time have sought to preserve that globally privileged position. The effort has been a largely futile one. 

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By Anarcissie, February 3, 2011 at 12:18 am Link to this comment

Don’t forget James Jesus Angleton.

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By JDmysticDJ, February 2, 2011 at 4:14 pm Link to this comment

“Neither Beck, Hannity nor Savage nor the hate merchants at Fox News and talk radio can claim to have invented their genre. Toxic right-wing vitriol so dominated the public airwaves from the McCarthy era until 1963 that President Kennedy, that year, launched a citizen’s campaign to enforce the Fairness Doctrine, which required accuracy and balance in the broadcast media. Students, civic and religious groups filed more than 500 complaints against right-wing extremists and hate-mongering commentators before the FCC.

The Dallas, Texas, airwaves were particularly radioactive; preachers and political leaders and local businessmen spewed extremist vitriol on the city’s radio and TV stations, inflaming the passions of the city’s legions of unhinged fanatics. There was something about the city—a rage or craziness, that, whether sensible or not, seemed to have set the stage for Jack’s murder. The Voice of America, half an hour after the assassination, described Dallas as “the center of extreme right wing.” The Texas town was such a seething cauldron of right-wing depravity that historian William Manchester portrayed it as recalling the final days of the Weimar Republic. “Mad things happened,” reported Manchester. “Huge billboards screamed ‘Impeach Earl Warren.’” Jewish stores were smeared with crude swastikas. Fanatical young matrons swayed in public to the chant “Stevenson’s going to die—his heart will stop stop stop and he will burn burn burn!” The mercantile elite that ruled the city carefully cultivated the seeds of hate. Radical-right broadsides were distributed in public schools; the Kennedy name was booed in classrooms; junior executives who refused to attend radical seminars were blackballed and fired. Manchester continued:

Dallas had become the mecca for medicine show evangelists of the National Independence Convention, the Christian Crusades, the Minutemen, the John Birch Society and Patrick Henry Societies and the headquarters of right wing oil man H.L. Hunt and his dubious activities… The city’s mayor, Earl Carroll, a right wing co-founder of the John Birch Society, was known as ‘the socialist mayor of Dallas’ because he maintained his affiliation with the Democratic Party.

Dallas’s oil and gas barons who routinely denounced JFK as a “comsymp” had unbottled the genie of populist rage and harnessed it to the cause of radical ideology, anti-government fervor and corporate dominion.”

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By JDmysticDJ, January 31, 2011 at 10:45 pm Link to this comment

Don’t forget Eisenhower’s Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and head of CIA Allen Dulles. The Dulles brothers were plutocrats of the worst sort. John Foster was one of the architects of the Cold War, and Allen was closely associated with the United Fruit Company. You’re familiar with the designation banana republic I’m sure.  Arbenz, the democratically elected President of Guatemala nationalized 40% of United Fruits land holdings in Guatemala, so Allen Dulles had him assassinated, and the military junta that took over killed 200,000 people; many of those deaths occurring during the Central American murders that occurred during Reagan’s reign.
Kennedy famously said that the Vietnamese would have to fight their own war; he was opposed to using U.S. conventional forces in Vietnam. Ngo Dinh Diem was assassinated with the approval of the CIA on Nov. 2, 1963; Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. Whether elements of the CIA approved of Kennedy’s assassination is unknown.

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By Leefeller, January 31, 2011 at 12:27 pm Link to this comment

Thanks for the reply Zing. As for doddering fools plus add a second rate actor, Ronald Reagan was an exceptional doddering fool in my opinion unfortunately my chimp source has asked to remain anonymous.

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By D.R. Zing, January 31, 2011 at 2:51 am Link to this comment


Points noted. Thanks for replying. Have a good evening.


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By Anarcissie, January 31, 2011 at 2:30 am Link to this comment

Dr. Zing—As an example of Eisenhower’s methods, consider the career of Richard Nixon.  After the defeat of the French in 1954, Nixon, allied with Cardinal Spellman and various Vietnamese rightists, tried to Americanize the war there, a sort of new Korea now that the old one had been wound down (by Eisenhower).  Instead of refusing to do anything, Eisenhower sent about 1100 officers there to train the Vietnamese.  This ploy—‘We’re doing something!’—leaked enough wind out of Nixon’s and Spellman’s sails to forestall their plans for a major war.  By contrast, on the day Kennedy was assassinated, there were 17,000 U.S. soldiers in Vietnam, and they were shooting people.  Which was the one with mind function problems?

Eisenhower conducted his presidency about the same way he conducted World War 2.  He let hotheads and fanatics blow themselves out.  No doubt his policies, which, as I said, were conservative, will not seem satisfactory to those who would have preferred a more progressive approach to the country’s problems.  But he was not stupid.  The bumbling and fractured syntax, the seeming ignorance and ineptitude, will be all too familiar with anyone who has had to deal with an old-time Southern lawyer.

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By D.R. Zing, January 31, 2011 at 2:12 am Link to this comment

Left out one thing:

Eisenhower authorized the CIA to facilitate the overthrow of democratically elected leader Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran in 1953 at the behest of a British oil company, currently known as British Petroleum.  That worked out well too. See: Iran 1979.     
Leefeller. Source: Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President (The Renowned One-Volume Life). It is a great, very respectful book. Eisenhower warned about the Military Industrial Complex in his farewell address to the nation, the very last speech of his two-term presidency. Eisenhower smoked four packs of cigarettes a day up until 1949 when he quit.  He suffered a massive heart attack in 1955. So, yes, I’m just speculating about the vascular dementia based on asinine decisions and acquiescences he made during his presidency. Still, if the shoe fits—   
Anarcissie:  With all due respect (I enjoy your posts), Ike initiated the training for the soldiers who eventually invaded the Bay of Pigs. He sent American advisers to Vietnam. And, as I noted in my original post, I beg to differ that the blow itself out plan worked with McCarthy. But I’ll respectfully agree to disagree on that.

I would say I am in awe of Eisenhower and how he conducted himself as the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe during World War II.  He was a great general. There is also no doubt that he was an honorable and great man.  But equally true is that he was a lousy president who consistently made terrible decisions that haunt us to this day. 

Yes. I do know idiocy when I see it.  Thank you for replying to my post.

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By Leefeller, January 30, 2011 at 6:28 pm Link to this comment

For some strange reason I assumed on my usual unsound grounds,  MIC’s only lived in Texas with the smirking Bush of Texas and shoot-em before you see the whites of their eyes Chaney, don’t both lillyliver in Texas? Isn’t Hallowburton in Texas too? I suppose GE is sort of MICish?  Over the years We have been force fed over a million Big Mics sponsored by clowns.

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By samosamo, January 30, 2011 at 6:25 pm Link to this comment


So basically the pentagon has no problem with throwing u.s.
citizens under the bus, individually or in mass. Which really says
that the new born baby boomers taking over, ever so slowly, the
military will use the evolving ideology to justify their penchant
for making the american military a totally separate nation within
a nation because when the country fails, the pentagon will surely
have set itself up to remain and damn everything and everybody

Surely as true to life a monster out of control that can be
imagined. Goddamn the legacy we will leave for our progeny and
the world’s.

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By PatrickHenry, January 30, 2011 at 5:22 pm Link to this comment

Its simple, industrialists see no real profit from turning swords into plowshares.

Through strategic placement of military bases, R&D installations, tank and fighter factories in all 50 states, companies like Lockeed Martin, McDonnel Douglas, Boeing, General Dynamics, G.E., Ratheyon and many many others have made sure that any cuts to the bloated ‘kill’ industries will be felt by the local taxpayers as these are some of the last of the better paying jobs that haven’t been outsourced.

Its interesting to note that many of these firms also own a majority of stock in the media which perpetuate fear and ensure and reinforce the need for a tank or APC in every garage.

The profits from media are but a sideshow than those offered by the MIC.

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By Anarcissie, January 30, 2011 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment

Inherit The Wind, January 30 at 5:12 am:

‘So why is it so tough to control military spending? Is it a vast, deep, satanic conspiracy?  Or is it simply a system too stupid to comprehend its own problem? ...’

I would say it’s because people love violence, and knowing they love it, fear it in others.  Since they cannot themselves practice violence without (usually) getting hurt to a degree that destroys their pleasure, they project it onto groups, parties, and especially the nation-state.  They desire that their own nation-state bully others, and correspondingly fear that other nation-states, being similarly constituted and motivated, will bully theirs (and thus themselves).

Smaller, weaker states, like smaller, weaker people, cannot freely bully others, so they must at least submit to those who can.  However, the primary nation-states have done plenty of bullying, plenty of violence, as the victims of Britain, Germany, France, Russia, Japan and many others, including the United States, could tell you.  And of course what they do to others they fear in others, even when the others are by comparison ghosts and shadows.  The desire for and fear of absolute power feeds upon itself, and the more it eats, the stronger it grows.

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By RayLan, January 30, 2011 at 10:03 am Link to this comment

Nicely said.
The war against benevolent democractic government is active here. There are those who style themselves as ‘conservative’ who are the generals of this war.
They have learned the lessons of historic emperors to placate the masses with bread and circuses (corporate media and expensive wars)
It isn’t working anymore - the middle class are realizing they have been disenfranchised and that government is the iron arm of the monied class. The path to a civil uprising is clear.

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By kogwonton, January 30, 2011 at 9:05 am Link to this comment

That budget has nothing to do with fighting some strong national enemy, and everything to do with impoverishing ‘we the peoples’ of the U.S., and putting down the sorts of uprisings exactly like those that are happening in Egypt and Tunisia.

I feel ashamed of my nation because the spirit of liberty and resistance to tyranny is stronger in nations where the jackboot has trodden on people for for so long you can almost see it imprinted on their DNA, while here at home people have completely forgotten what real freedom means. But the day the U.S. wakes up to her strength as a people we will see why the U.S. spends so much on weapons of war. It is specifically to defend against the unwashed hordes who have had enough. Those weapons are to defend the robber barons against YOU, should you ever put down the chicken nuggets, the beer, and the remote.

Hopefully ‘we the people’ won’t be shooting at each other when it does finally happen.

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By Inherit The Wind, January 30, 2011 at 12:12 am Link to this comment

So why is it so tough to control military spending? Is it a vast, deep, satanic conspiracy?  Or is it simply a system too stupid to comprehend its own problem?

Consider: In virtually every government department (especially the military) there is NO incentive to conserve and EVERY incentive to overspend. How does this happen?


Say the Department of Widgets has a Division of Widget Counting.  And say that Division has a Section for Cubic Widget Counting.  Now suppose that Section for Cubic Widget Counting has a budget of $40,000,000/year. If the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cubic Widget Counting manages to get his job done for only $30,000,000 in a year, he can damn well count on Congress cutting HIS budget next year to…$30,000,000 or less.  That means the Department’s budget is also cut by $30,000,000.
So the results are 3-fold
1) The Deputy Assistant Sec must NOW get that job done again next year for $30,000,000, and has no lee-way for contingencies.
2) His boss, the Asst Sec, and HIS boss, the Sec, are both pissed at him for losing them budget and, with it, influence.
3) Some other RIVAL department gets that $10,000,000 saved added to ITS budget.

Our intrepid Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Section for Counting Cubic Widgets, who should be a hero, becomes, instead a “problem”.  IF he survives, he’ll make damn sure he NEVER makes that mistake again.

In short government managers must spend their entire budget or risk losing part of it, and pissing off their superiors to boot, so why even CONSIDER cost-cutting?

No conspiracy, not deep, dark evil. Just simple upper mgt stupidity that self-perpetuates.

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By Virginia from Virginia, January 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm Link to this comment

What are Americans getting for their money? With our hundreds and hundreds of foreign bases, our wars and threats of new wars, the use of our weapontry for othes to kill neighboring people, our paying off “supporters” who treat their own citizens most cruelly - what are Americans getting for their money? - innumerable new enemies.

We lament bequeathing to our children and grandchildren a humongous debt.  But we are also bequeathing to our children and grandchildren millions and millions of new enemies. That’s also what we’re getting for our money.

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By Inherit The Wind, January 29, 2011 at 10:48 pm Link to this comment

There are some obvious flaws in the thesis, even if the major point, that we spend probably 10x too much on “defense” is valid.

“Washington knows how to start wars and how to prolong them, but is clueless when it comes to ending them. Iraq, the latest addition to the roster of America’s forgotten wars, stands as exhibit A.”

Actually, Iraq AND Afghanistan both stand as fundamental idiocies.
1) Afghanistan had clear targets and goals initially and was meeting them.  There was clearly an end in sight, but…..........Bush &Co; drained the Afghanistan war effort of its materiel and personnel to fight the Iraq II war.  Any doctor knows if you don’t keep giving antibiotics till the infection is gone, it comes back, and now it’s resistant.  YEARS of neglect caused the Afghan war to morph into something else…the original strategy wasn’t followed.
2) The CIVILIAN leadership the led us into the Iraq II war was given very precise details on the resources needed to subdue that nation.  THEY WERE IGNORED AND THE ADVISER(S) FIRED!  Remember Gen. Erik Shinseki, now head of the V.A.?  Shinseki explicitly laid out what was required.  Secretary Rumsfeld, “National Security Adviser” Cheney, and Mutt of the White House George W. Bush cut Shinseki’s estimates to less than half and forced Shinseki to retire.  (ignoring, of course, the obvious issue that the war was fundamentally unnecessary AND based on a series of deliberate lies to the President (who was in a position to know better) and Congress).

So, the Military DOES actually know how to win wars…or did before Bush’s Stalinistic purge of any original thinkers.

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By RayLan, January 29, 2011 at 5:16 pm Link to this comment

The off limits attitude towards defense stems from the right wing view of government. According to them, it’s only allowable function is to provide an army and a legal system that monitors sexual orientation - (no gay marriage), and abortion, not to mention domestic spying on citizens.
That is to say, a completely anti-social view of the role of government.
If this model of government, which BTW is nowhere exemplified, is enforced, the US will become a throwback to the Wild Wild West, complete with high noon gun fights and lynchings. Americans need to get their priorities straight very soon.
Bitching about the deficit allowing these huge exceptions has absolutely no credibility.
I don’t hear the Right complaining bitterly about the Wall Street bail out. I would be OK if the ‘too big to fail companies’ would be left to die a natural death - signaling the end of runaway capitalism.

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By frecklefever, January 29, 2011 at 4:21 pm Link to this comment


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By Leefeller, January 29, 2011 at 11:56 am Link to this comment


Sources would be a nice touch.

Using timed association to call Eisenhower a doddering fool because of the existence of McCarthy sounds as if McCarthy was vice president, like the intimate relationship between Bush and Chaney?

I remember reading something about IKE warning about the military complex, did he make his warning before his doddering foolery days?

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By ardee, January 29, 2011 at 11:04 am Link to this comment


Not exactly. The mere presence of Westerners does too. Remember, the root of the terrorist threat is religious in nature, and a heathen is a heathen whether he’s in uniform or not. Try being a woman.

The presence of Westerners that have traditionally stolen resources, subjugated or enslaved populations is a more definitive explanation I think. While the terrorism we see is indeed a province of the religious extremist, I think that nationalism is the real cause. In extreme times the offering of extreme solutions becomes more attractive. I view AlQaeda and the Taliban as symptoms actually.

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By LocalHero, January 29, 2011 at 2:43 am Link to this comment

I agree with Rodney. If these arrested adolescents want to play war, let them buy their own weapons, ships, planes, tanks, helmets, boots, MRE’s and dog tags as well as their own plane tickets to the “theater” where the conflict is (supposedly) taking place. They can also buy there own god damned body bags to come home in.

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By REDHORSE, January 28, 2011 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment

Great report A.Bacevich/T.Dispatch. Solid facts, logical opinion and no RED MEAT. Thank you!!

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By Anarcissie, January 28, 2011 at 1:10 pm Link to this comment

I disagree with Dr. Zing.  I think Eisenhower was a rather clever fellow.  His favorite reading was said to be Machiavelli.  In regard to McCarthy and the cabal that wanted to start wars in Vietnam and Cuba, his strategy was to allow them to blow themselves out.  This worked with McCarthy; unfortunately, the Vietnam and Cuba plans were transferred to his far less clever successor where they bore exactly the fruit Eisenhower reasonably feared.  One should remember that Eisenhower was a small-c conservative, not a progressive or reformer.  As such, he was—again, reasonably—afraid that the imperium founded by Truman, Marshall and Acheson would develop a life of its own and eat up its parent.  This is what he tried to warn us about, and this is what has happened.

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By tropicgirl, January 28, 2011 at 11:22 am Link to this comment

Another dissertation on all the special interests that support the war machine. We’ve heard it all before and we are all well aware of it.

But the analysis falls down. NONE of this would be ENOUGH to propel us into the permanent downward spiral of war spending, innocent killing, and maimed service persons, were it not for 911.

It has not gone unnoticed to many people, that the regularity and coincidental usefulness of the “terror attacks”, or, threats of “terror attacks”, or unsuccessful “terror attacks” with more and more everyday articles being put on the suspect list, contribute to the overall, irrational feeling of danger lurking constantly. More people die from hitting deer while driving.

And, it has not gone unnoticed to many people, that given what is being revealed to us regarding the clandestine nature of our government “agencies”, and the things they feel are within their rights to do, it would not be very difficult to stage just about each and every event.

And, each time, more and more freedoms are taken away.

No, despite all the faith in our sense of morality, with regard to war, all is trumped by 911. The truth about 911 is the only thing that will stop this madness.

The implications of 911 truth is that: it wasn’t the first, it isn’t and won’t be the last. Here and around the world.  It’s manipulation to the 10000th degree. Nothing will counter-act that, except the truth.

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By Mike789, January 28, 2011 at 9:09 am Link to this comment

[What are Americans getting for their money?]

Quite frankly, we get defense contract jobs. And…we get to sell weapons. Like it or not, world leaders want our weapons tech and we’re not about to allay the state sponsored paranoia to diminish our major export product.

Not quibbling with the overall tenet of the article. Actually finishing Chalmers Johnson’s “The Sorrow of Empire” which, if you really want the low down on the MIC and can stand the unending lecturing, can be quite enlightening.

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By purplewolf, January 28, 2011 at 5:35 am Link to this comment

What are Americans getting for their money?Isn’t it borrowed money and therefore not really ours in the first place?Well,we get plenty for that money.Here at home we get:crumbling infrastructure,obsolete water and sewer systems,roads that do damage to your car because of poor maintenance,substandard schools,cut backs on programs that used to fill the safety net for those who need help,less police and firefighters,outsourced jobs that leave many to join this volunteer army just to have some type of income as there are no jobs here,poor phone service due to lack of basic maintenance,inadequate medical for the returning soldiers and the rest of the population-unless you get that SOCIALIZED MEDICAL COVERAGE the congress critters condemn about for those of us how have actually worked a REAL JOB and paid into the system yet cannot afford coverage or have a pre-existing condition that they get for free,lower wage created jobs,if any or very few that offer no benefits seen in the past of Americas working class and the list is endless.Some cities like Flint, Mi.are so poor and had to cut police/fire and now have roughly 1 officer per 1000 people. Arson were up to over 400 fires last year and yet our people enlist to earn a living. Bring the soldiers home and use them in this crumbling country called America. We could still pay them to police our own violent cities. We cannot take care of things here,why go destroy things and people in other parts of the world.Many states, including mine cannot afford to maintain the freeway system and roads and have begun to de-pave the roads to save money.This consists of grinding up the pavement and laying it back down as gravel.Not very safe to drive on either,more accidents/deaths,but then the insurance companies can raise your rates. 

Thanks to the lied for wars we have seen the rich get richer,tax cuts they do not need,deregulation of the very same businesses/corporations that need EXTRA supervision like BP as they tend to take advantage of the no/less regulation situations that are not in the best interest of this country and it’s people.

And as for that Bimbo Sarah Palin saying that Russia went bankrupt due to the Sputnik program. Where in the hell did she get her education?Or did she ever have one in the first pace?And her father being a teacher to boot.It is obvious she never studied history or she would have know the correct answer for Russia’s collapse was directly related to an over bloated military budget before she said it.How can anyone so ignorant of world history among other topics ever think that they have a chance at the White House?There needs to be some type of mental competency testing for the stability of candidates,along with a knowledgeable background of history,world affairs,management of running a country,finance,etiquette,tact,anger management-a big problem for Palin,empathy,HONESTY-yeah,I know that is a hard one,levelheadedness in a crisis situation are only the tip of the iceberg.Sarah wants to explode the spending on the MIC.No regulation of the very people/corps that caused this meltdown in the first place.Even with any cuts to the MIC,they already received a 6% increase in their budget for this year already.So they really don’t loose anything.

And why do we have to buy a surplus engine for every engine on the planes sold to the war machine?Wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact they are built in John Boehner’s district would it?

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By D.R. Zing, January 28, 2011 at 2:27 am Link to this comment

I like Dr. Bacevich’s article very much and agree with the import of it.
The only thing that sticks in my craw is the quote from Eisenhower. It’s seems odd to be quibbling with a history professor—no doubt one who could paint me a total idiot in a live debate—but what the hell, here goes.

Eisenhower was a doddering fool horribly disabled by heart disease and most likely suffering from advanced vascular dementia by the time he left office. By the time he left office being the operative words here.

There’s no doubt he was a great military commander and an absolute master of military logistics and strategy.

But Ike was a lousy president.

Think about it: Who was president in 1954 when McCarthy started his hearings?  Hearings that have stifled free speech, stifled Hollywood, stifled the news media, stifled intellectuals from speaking out to this very day? Ike.  And what did Ike do about it? Very little to nothing. 

Also remember that Ike the Idiot, on the eve of peace talks with Khrushchev, peace talks that could have shortened the Cold War by 40 years, idiotically authorized the U2 spy plane to fly over the Soviet Union, lied about it when the Soviets shot it down, and then looked like a befuddled horse’s ass when the Soviets produced the U2 pilot Gary Powers alive. 

Ho-lee-she-yit!  What an imbecile!

His farewell speech was “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” For one he changed the wording. At one point the speech referred to a Congressional Military Industrial Complex, which really put the balls in the pockets where they belong.

But the biggest problem was the timing of the speech. A statesman, a leader, a man with his full faculties would have given that speech early in his presidency or a least after his first term when he was re-elected when he could have actually done something about it.

Ike’s ultimate divine atrocity was choosing Richard Nixon as his vice president. Thanks Ike, that really turned out well.

So again, Dr. Bacevich, I like the article very much, but let’s stop promoting the myth that Ike was some kind of enlightened peacenik who shone the light to the promised land.

Eisenhower was a befuddled fool in no way competent by intellect or disposition to be president of the United States, who torpedoed a chance for peace with the Soviets, who allowed McCarthy to establish the precedent of politicians banking their careers on the Cold War—and the Congressional Military Industrial Complex.

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By SteveL, January 28, 2011 at 2:12 am Link to this comment

Will this insanity go on until the country goes bankrupt?

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By Awi, January 28, 2011 at 12:59 am Link to this comment

In simple terms, people do not cut the budgets of those who have the guns.

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By RenZo, January 27, 2011 at 10:46 pm Link to this comment

The title, “sacred cow” brings an interesting derivational metaphor to this discussion. According to Sri Aurobindo (Secret of the Veda), the holiness of cows in the Hindu religious mindset owes its origin to a pun. The word for cow and for rays of light (from heaven) is the same, or easily and frequently confused. Thus, cows become a symbol for (or the embodiment of) the grace of god (Brahman)shining down as rays of light from heaven.
I wonder if Bacevich knew this when writing this review of military policy. US militarism has become the final word of affection for all those lovely people around the world who used to love us.

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By TAO Walker, January 27, 2011 at 10:40 pm Link to this comment

The Martians landed here long ago, and occupied “the homeland” right under the noses of the flag-waving ‘trustys’ in general-population.  There are dozens of towns and cities all over the west named “Fort” Something-or-other….tokens of that part of the operation CONducted to get us Indians out of the way. 

So today an entirely professional military juggernaut, armed to the teeth, devotes much of its attention and effort to perpetuating and increasing the “power” of its carefully CONtrived place of privilege and “honor” in a fever-dream CONstruct even now disintegrating from fatal CONtradictions in its driving CONceit….the pathologically idiotic “full spectrum” ‘dominance’-paradigm.  An appeal such as Andrew Bacevich’s here, to a non-(and never-)existent ‘common sense and decency’ among “....your huddled masses,” itself betrays a grievous tendency to indulge in the false-comforts of “self”-administered “self”-delusion.

Here’s a Way theamericanpeople actually can get out from under this home-grown crushing burden not-so-slowly squeezing what’s left of their half-lives out of ‘em.  Surrender unconditionally to us surviving free wild Native Turtle Islanders.  Disown the make-believe CONstruct called “America.”  Take the Medicine we’ve offered here….the Living Virtue of Organic Functional Integrity found only in genuine Human Communities of Natural Persons.  BE the vital components in the immune system of our Mother Earth that Human Beings by-Nature ARE.



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By FiftyGigs, January 27, 2011 at 10:23 pm Link to this comment

Amen, ardee, although I drifted away right about here:

“The chief lesson to emerge from the battlefields of the post-9/11 era is this: the Pentagon possesses next to no ability to translate “military supremacy” into meaningful victory.”

That’s much too blithe. Go down to Fort Hood and call anybody a pussy, and you’ll discover a very effective translation.

The point about victory is true for all time and for all military. The problem is that our military industry is largely constructed as a defensive force.

“American military activities are instead fostering instability…”

Not exactly. The mere presence of Westerners does too. Remember, the root of the terrorist threat is religious in nature, and a heathen is a heathen whether he’s in uniform or not. Try being a woman.

Now, Andrew, you may continue with your rant about the bloated Pentagon budget.

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By old nj guy, January 27, 2011 at 9:23 pm Link to this comment
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Its a zero sum game financially.  Dollars needed to fund the Middle East wars reduce dollars available to build infrastructure, increase jobs, and improve our educational and health care systems.

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By Rodney, January 27, 2011 at 9:09 pm Link to this comment
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We will never reduce our military spending because of the corruption bribes kickbacks and payoffs involved. Dick Cheney and Halliburton made millions in Iraq. Black water is still making millions despite being involved in rape torture and even murder. We would rather kill and control that feed house and nurture. The same companies that make billions off of defense spending donate millions to the corrupt politicans to keep the flow of money. If we want to save money on defense let the military let them take care of themselves. Let them cook and clean their own uniforms. Get rid of the mercenaries and let the special forces protect the dignetaries. Most of all stop the crooks who work with military from making ten times more that the soldiers then they will go away. The crooks will never work for a soldiers pay.

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By ardee, January 27, 2011 at 8:22 pm Link to this comment

I applaud Mr. Bacevich for raising the issue, as it seems astonishing that, amidst the crumbling economy, the cuts demanded of the poor, the children, the seniors, the working class, not one politician stands up and points a finger at a bloated MIC. The waste, the unnecessary and far too costly weapons systems designed for a war we will never fight, the simple but astounding fact that we spend so much and get so little in return begs the question as to just how cowardly is our President and every other politico as well.

Supporting our troops does not mean supporting the trillion dollar industry that serves us ill.

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