A good friend passed along an article at Forbes from a month ago with the pregnant title, “U.S. Army Fears Major War Likely Within Five Years — But Lacks The Money To Prepare.” Basically, the article argues that war is possible — even likely — within five years with Russia or North Korea or Iran, or maybe all three, but that America’s army is short of money to prepare for these wars. This despite the fact that America spends roughly $700 billion each and every year on defense and overseas wars.
Now, the author’s agenda is quite clear, as he states at the end of his article: “Several of the Army’s equipment suppliers are contributors to my think tank and/or consulting clients.” He’s writing an alarmist article about the probability of future wars at the same time as he’s profiting from the sales of weaponry to the army.
As General Smedley Butler, twice awarded the Medal of Honor, said: War is a racket. Wars will persist as long as people see them as a “core product,” as a business opportunity. In capitalism, the profit motive is often amoral; greed is good, even when it feeds war. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is willing to play along. It always sees “vulnerabilities” and always wants more money.
But back to the Forbes article with its concerns about war(s) in five years with Russia or North Korea or Iran (or all three). For what vital national interest should America fight against Russia? North Korea? Iran? A few quick reminders:
#1: Don’t get involved in a land war in Asia or with Russia (Charles XII, Napoleon, and Hitler all learned that lesson the hard way).
#2: North Korea? It’s a puppet regime that can’t feed its own people. It might prefer war to distract the people from their parlous existence.
#3: Iran? A regional power, already contained, with a young population that’s sympathetic to America, at least to our culture of relative openness and tolerance. If the US Army thinks tackling Iran would be relatively easy, just consider all those recent “easy” wars and military interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria …
Of course, the business aspect of this is selling the idea the US Army isn’t prepared and therefore needs yet another new generation of expensive high-tech weaponry. It’s like convincing high-end consumers their three-year-old Audi or Lexus is obsolete so they must buy the latest model else lose face.
We see this all the time in the US military. It’s a version of planned or artificial obsolescence. Consider the Air Force. It could easily defeat its enemies with updated versions of A-10s, F-15s, and F-16s, but instead the Pentagon plans to spend as much as $1.4 trillion on the shiny new and under-performing F-35. The Army has an enormous surplus of tanks and other armored fighting vehicles, but the call goes forth for a “new generation.” No other navy comes close to the US Navy, yet the call goes out for a new generation of ships.
The Pentagon mantra is always for more and better, which often turns out to be for less and much more expensive, e.g. the F-35 fighter.
Wars are always profitable for a few, but they are ruining democracy in America. Sure, it’s a business opportunity: one that ends in national (and moral) bankruptcy.
William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.