Pentagon’s Doomsday Looks a Lot Like 2007

The Project on Defense Alternatives sends along “Pentagon Cuts in Context: No Reason for ‘Doomsday’ Hysteria” [.pdf].

Key points:

* The Budget Control Act (BCA) provides for assured caps and reductions on Pentagon spending only if the Joint Select Committee – the “super committee” – fails in its mission or if Congress fails to accept the Committee’s plan. This would trigger caps and reductions in Pentagon spending resulting in a ten-year budget about $1 trillion below the plan originally submitted by President Obama in February 2011. This is the so-called “doomsday scenario.” It is the only provision in the Act that would directly cap Pentagon spending.

* Doomsday equals 2007. The “doomsday scenario” would produce average annual DoD base budgets equivalent to the 2007 level of funding, adjusted for inflation. The average annual base budget for 2012-2021 would be about 13.6% below the 2011 level in real terms. However, total spending during 2012-2021 would be only 6% less than total spending during the previous decade, 2002-2011.

* The so-called “doomsday” scenario entails a decade-to-decade reduction far less severe than that experienced after the Cold War ended. The decline in DoD budget authority would be only one-quarter as steep.

* What makes the “doomsday” scenario impractical is the manner in which the Budget Control Act would implement reductions, which is precipitous. This is intentional. The provision is meant to motivate, not mitigate, tax increases and entitlement cuts.

* A gradual approach could achieve equivalent savings with much less disruption — for instance, by reducing the Pentagon base budget step-by-step to $490 billion over four years and then allowing it to increase by inflation only. This would require reducing the budget by only 4% in real terms for each of four years, starting with 2012. Over ten years, this saves the same amount, but without pushing the Pentagon off a wall.

* The “doomsday” scenario can be averted if the Joint Select Committee produces a plan that becomes law and saves at least $2 trillion via cuts, revenue increases, or both. In that case, the BCA ensures at least $841 billion in discretionary budget savings, as measured against the March 2011 CBO baseline. This is the officially preferred or “non-doomsday” scenario. But it involves no direct caps on the Pentagon base budget. Lawmakers are left free to seek proportional savings from the Pentagon or not.

* The Administration and Congress are both disinclined to seek proportional savings from the Pentagon. For the next two years, the International Affairs budget is likely to pay the price. After 2013, the BCA allows more of the burden to be shifted to non-security accounts.

* Proportional cuts equal 2008. Proportional reductions in the DoD’s discretionary base budget would entail a real reduction of 8% from the current level of expenditure. The average Pentagon base budget would be rolled back to the level of 2008, adjusted for inflation. Comparing decade to decade, total base budget expenditures for 2012-2021 would be the same as the total for 2002-2011 in 2012 dollars.

Are We Not Zombies?

What do zombies and the military industrial complex have in common? Let us count the ways. In fact, let military strategy & policy professor Michael Vlahos (relation, yes!) take you down that thorny path.

"Battle of Yonkers" By Daniel LuVisi

Michael writes in Dark Lord, Dark Victory: America’s Dark Passage, in the latest issue of Kosmos (.pdf), that the 9/11 War has eroded America’s  “redeemer” identity, and instead has made it more akin to the “Dark Lord,” or “the mythic essence of children’s nightmares.” In other words, we’ve sort of lost our way, and where in the past “our historical method to redeem humanity has been war,” the current Long War has done nothing of the sort. In our zeal to recreate the glory and alleged redemption of World War II, the US manufactured another “true evil,” or Dark Faith (Muslim extremism), making it an epoch battle in which Muslims “readily understood it to mean … eviscerating the entire edifice of Muslim life, replacing it with American consciousness.”

But this has only made us weaker, nearly alone, reviled and unsure of ourselves. This Long War is a slow kill and a buzz kill.

So what’s this have to do with zombies? We can see it in the latest AMC series, “The Walking Dead,” but more poignantly, in World War Z, a bestselling science fiction novel of “The  Zombie War” by Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft). After nine-years of playing a humiliating game of whack-a-mole with a “rag tag” enemy that was supposedly vanquished after 9/11 but in key areas has seemingly more support from the people we are supposed to be liberating than we ever did, Americans are now indulging in elaborate fantasies, like World War Z,  in which they regain all of the pride and strength and virtue that was lost — by fighting an even more ruthless adversary, the ultimate evil –  the flesh-eating undead.

Maybe, just maybe, we can win that war, and liberate ourselves!

Sounds “fantastical,” and sure, “The Walking Dead” is nothing but a slick soap opera with lots of blood and guts, but as Vlahos points out:

“…are not zombies our former selves — hence, the most terrifying and relentless enemy of all? Are not their ranks also flush with those who had lost American virtue: The passive, the narcissistic, the cynical, the uncaring? Sacred wars are about purification, revival and redemption. By indirection, Brooks is making the troubling point as well, that only zombies — or a national challenge equally existential — can renew America now.”

AMC's "The Walking Dead"

Brooks makes his own point, however indirectly, on his own website, below his mention of Mike’s piece. It seems U.S soldiers in Afghanistan have been buying out  “zombie hunter” patches like hotcakes. He points to a summertime piece by the Global Post’s Ben Brody, where soldiers languishing on Forward Operating Bases waiting for some kind of meaning in what they are doing are increasing turning to … zombies.

Dog-eared copies of Max Brooks’ “World War Z,” a first person account of the Great Zombie War, and his definitive undead-fighting manual, “The Zombie Survival Guide,” are found wherever soldiers relax and oil their weapons.

One soldier showed me a huge, razor-sharp Nepalese Ghurka knife that weighed about seven pounds — a lot of extra weight to carry on patrol. He explained that because killing zombies required a decapitating or skull-crushing blow, there was simply no better tool for fighting the undead in close quarters.

As uniforms and body armor become more and more covered in Velcro, Zombie Hunter patches have become hot sellers for tactical suppliers. At the German Post Exchange at Kandahar Airfield, that patch is continually sold out.

The problems of war against the undead have parallels with the problems soldiers face daily in Afghanistan. A zombie needs no food, water or equipment and pursues the living with implacable determination. For soldiers trying to defend a million dollar vehicle against a malnourished, illiterate man wielding a $40 roadside bomb, the similarity must be chilling.

No, more like it’s morally degrading and humiliating and one of the few salves are heroic apocalyptic fantasies, where everything is black and white and good and evil. Indeed, maybe these fantasies do spill over to the battlefield, because it’s easier to think of the Taliban as mindless, flesh-starved creatures. One can hardly see how this helps our cause, or the people of Afghanistan for that matter. In fact, I can’t help but think when i read this, “oh well, there goes the rest of this bloody war.”

Soldier's Zombie Patch in Afghanistan -- Photo by GlobalPost

So how did it get to this point? Its a journey, but Dark Lord, Dark Victory attempts to explain it, noting that it is much of the citizenry’s fault for creating and maintaining this “warrior nation” identity encapsulated in the Defense Tribal Confederacy that is now crippled by its own myopic, misguided vision.  An ambitious read that may leave you wondering just how far off these Zombie Wars really are.

Dubya was right??

From film-maker Oliver Stone’s interview with former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, we discover:

Oliver Stone: "Were there any eye-to-eye moments with President Bush that day, that night?"

Nestor Kirchner: "…I said that a solution to the problems right now, I told Bush, is a Marshall Plan. …He said the best way to revitalize the economy is war and that the United States has grown stronger with war."

Stone: "War. He said that?"

Kirchner: "He said that. Those were his exact words."

Stone: "Was he suggesting that South America go to war?"

Kirchner: "Well, he was talking about the United States. …All of the economic growth of the United States has been encouraged by the various wars. He said it very clearly. –Fmr. Argentine President Kirchner Dies of Heart Attack, Democracy Now!, Oct. 28, 2010

So, WAS Dubya right?

"War" [1] is indeed a key part of the U.S. economy. Some folks call this "military keynesianism."

Consider: Despite one of the most defensible geographic situations on earth — unless you fear the Canadians — the U.S. Government spends more on "defense" than almost the rest of the world combined. AND, not surprisingly, U.S.A. is the biggest arms merchant in the world.

So, Mr. Bush was exactly right.

If you’re a U.S. Citizen, approximately 43% of your income taxes go to pay for wars, past and present. And that’s before Uncle Sam is forced, kicking and screaming, into officially admitting PTSD is nearly universal in combat veterans, lasts a lifetime, and is expensive to treat. According to former IMF Chief Economist and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, the two current "wars" will eventually cost U.S. taxpayers between four and six trillion dollars. That’s trillion. With a "T."

And don’t fret about the militaryindustrial budget. While Mr. Obama isn’t yet responsible for killing as many men, women and children as Mr. Bush — and hasn’t spent as much doing so, give him a chance — he’s not even two years into his presidency and he’s already sent at least 60,000 new U.S. troops into Afghanistan and has plans to escalate the U.S. presence in Pakistan, and the largely ignoredU.S. presence in Yemen too.

With these kinds of numbers — that 43% of your income tax spent for “wars” for example — maybe a bit of money invested in to stop them might be a good investment, not only for you, but for your kids, grand kids and the yet unborn. What do you say?


[1] The U.S. Government hasn’t been at war according to its Constitution since the end of World War II. That would require the U.S. House of Representatives to vote for war, which it hasn’t done. This means the so-called "wars" — the Korean "War," the Vietnam "War," The Iraq "Wars," the "War" in Afghanistan, etc. — must be something else. Or, since they insist on calling them "wars" anyway, unconstitutional. But as George W. Bush is reported to have claimed, "The constitution is just a damned piece of paper." So, who cares? return


Can YOUR card do this?

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you how war fits into this. I mean, you co-wrote the book with Linda Bilmes, The Three Trillion Dollar War. How does war fit into our problems with the economy?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, war fits in because you’re creating a liability, you’re spending money. And when we went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we already had a deficit. And so, these wars were the first wars in America’s history financed totally on the credit card. So, you’re creating a liability, but you’re not creating an asset. So that’s the kind of spending that does weaken the economy, because it’s one-sided. … The numbers now are much more like four to six trillion.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, across this country, as the debates for various congressional and Senate seats[go], war is almost never raised [as an issue]. –Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz: Foreclosure Moratorium, Government Stimulus Needed to Revive US Economy


PRECEDENT? According to a "Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting" two week study, during the lead-up to the Iraq war, a period of particularly intense debate (Jan. 30 to Feb 12, 2003), U.S. mainstream media, ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS Evening News, conducted 393 interviews about the pending war. Only three of those interviews were with peace leaders.

OOPS! Again.

…allegedly "hacked" software, in the case of the CIA, is now being used to guide killer drones to their targets, according to IISI’s legal pleadings, despite the fact that the modified software doesn’t function properly… –CIA Drone-Code Scandal Now Has A Big Blue Hue