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Defense Spending in a Time of War

March 23, 2004

Government spending continues to rise, despite growing concerns about the widening budget deficit. Paul Gessing shows how billions of dollars in defense spending to police a burgeoning American empire have very little to do with fighting terrorism.

Since shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, when the war on terror officially began, President Bush and Congress have been unified in calling for higher levels of defense spending. Even as public pressure has begun to build on Congress over runaway deficits and new entitlements, defense spending ìin a time of warî has continued to rise dramatically.

The unfortunate thing is that much of what our nation does spend on defense has almost nothing to do with fighting the ìwar on terror.î The U.S. bomber fleet is a useful example. Keeping 94 B-52s flying costs about $250 million a year ñ less than half the cost of one new B-2 ñ and yet in fighting terrorists they are equals. In fact, we are still developing weapons systems for use against a Soviet adversary that has not existed for nearly 15 years.

The Bush Administration should be commended for eliminating both the Crusader artillery system and the Comanche helicopter, but in light of all of the new missions our military is now coping with, a more aggressive effort to reallocate resources is essential. The 2005 budget proposes to spend billions on weapon systems like the F-22 ($4.7 billion), the Joint Strike Fighter ($4.5 billion), and the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft ($1.7 billion). Each of these programs was originally developed to meet threats that no longer seem viable, while the Osprey has been plagued by crashes during its development, killing a total of 30 men. The General Accounting Office has called the Osprey ìfar less reliableî than it needs to be for active service. The Virginia-class submarine, SSN-774, ($2.7 billion) is yet another weapons system that could be eliminated in light of our existing fleet of SSN-668 Los Angeles-class vessels, which is unquestionably the best in the world. President Bush himself called for the programís cancellation in a 1999 speech at the Citadel.

In addition to spending billions of dollars on weapons systems to defend against a threat that no longer exists, American taxpayers are paying for troop deployments in locations that might be considered strategic in light of an attack from the former Soviet Union, but not where they might be useful in keeping an eye on brewing conflicts in the Middle East. In fact, the United States has approximately 72,000 troops stationed in Germany, 41,000 troops in Japan, 13,000 in Italy, and 11,000 in the U.K. These are enough troops to more than double our presence in Iraq. Rather than asking for a substantial hike in defense spending and a $50 billion supplemental after the election, President Bush would be better served by redeploying these overseas troops in the war on terror and closing their former bases to save taxpayer money.

There is plenty of wasteful and unnecessary spending in the defense budget that has less to do with keeping Americans safe and more to do with distributing pork barrel spending. Congress cannot achieve true fiscal responsibility if it only tackles non-defense, discretionary spending. Rather, all programs must be scrutinized for savings, defense included.

Paul J. Gessing is Director of Government Affairs for the National Taxpayers Union (NTU). As a private citizen, he is also a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy.

Posted by coalition at 10:14 PM | Comments (0)

U.S. Global Primacy and National Security: Choices for the Next President

March 10, 2004

In thinking about a proper grand strategy for the United States, Subodh Atal wonders whether the quest for global supremacy contributes to success in the war on terrorism, or, conversely, whether it contributes to the rise and spread of anti-Americanism.

by Subodh Atal

Foreign policy received insufficient attention in the 2000 presidential election campaign. Few Americans pondered the intricacies of grand strategy. September 11, and the events since, have significantly altered the landscape. Americans are now acutely aware that international affairs, including events in remote corners of the world, cannot be neglected. Many ask whether we are "winning the war on terror," and whether the next administration's foreign policies will minimize the risk of future terror reaching Americaís shores. A significant number of voters are likely to choose the presidential candidate whose foreign policy is better positioned to counter terror.

While a "war on terror" has been waged since late 2001 in response to the attacks on New York and Washington, the results of this action are uneven. A number of senior Al Qaeda operatives have been captured or killed, and the United States has not suffered an attack on its homeland since September 11. On the other hand, as CIA director George Tenet himself said at a Senate hearing, a global movement infected by Al Qaeda's radical agenda now threatens America. Not only are anti-U.S. terrorist networks expanding globally, a large number of threats that had been identified soon after September 11 have yet to be dealt with.

Although the Taliban regime was overthrown and the terrorist camps in Afghanistan destroyed in U.S.-led action starting October 2001, Taliban supporters and other anti-U.S. forces are making a comeback in Afghanistan. The United States fought a war and touched off an insurgency in Iraq based on exaggerated terrorist and WMD threats. During that period, in Pakistan, an international arms trading system--a veritable Wal-Mart for nuclear proliferation--was supplying weapons technology to a number of nations on the international rogues list. Jihadis continue to operate inside Pakistan, and the exposure of its nuclear proliferation network has renewed doubts about whether that nationís nuclear weapons can be kept out of jihadi hands. A very small proportion of global jihad funding has been identified, and there is continued concern that the Saudis have not shut down the funding sources that have long seeded international jihad operations.

Thus, the results derived from the current implementation of the "war on terror" are mixed, at best. Some will say, with good reason, that this war is a long-term undertaking and overnight results should not be expected. But the complexity and magnitude of this war does not explain our spotty efforts to fight it. There is another reason: the "war on terror" is being played out in a larger milieu, one that is defined by a U.S. grand strategy that has attained far more clarity since September 11. This strategy seeks primacy in an ever-expanding number of regions around the globe, and its aims and implementation tactics do not always coincide with those of the "war on terror."

In America's Strategic Choices, a book published over three years before the events of September 11, the authors predicted that a strategy for global domination would lead U.S. policy makers to inflate threats in order to justify questionable interventions abroad. Conversely, the same quest for global primacy also creates "sacred cows," such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, as evidenced by the Bush administration's tendency to omit references to misdeeds attributable to the two nations.

In the case of Saudi Arabia, its financial support for jihad continues, but this is often downplayed given its role as a U.S. ally enabling unquestioned American strategic dominance in the Middle East. Similarly, a long-term U.S. strategic hold in South Asia is accorded a higher priority than forcing Gen. Musharraf to shut down the entire terrorist infrastructure for good, and getting Pakistan's nuclear assets out of the reach of jihadis hell-bent on destroying America.

Should the next administration continue on a path towards increasing U.S. primacy in the world, even if it means compromising in the war on terror? Is the quest for global primacy more important than national security, and is such primacy even feasible, given that such a quest has helped push the nation towards destabilizing budget deficits? The 2004 presidential campaign will be a chance for the American electorate to understand and question such vital choices that are being made at the highest levels of strategic policy making.

Subodh Atal is an independent foreign affairs analyst based in Washington, D.C.

Posted by coalition at 10:13 PM | Comments (0)