What? A Sane Defense Policy?

The Obama administration has taken a whole series of steps towards a sane defense policy. This is diametrically opposed to a foolish and expensive policy that believes any defense action or spending is good, especially if it looks aggressive.

So now we’ve eliminated a few hundred billion of spending on missile defense shields that don’t work. There’s a reason we called ballistic missile defense “Star Wars” back in the 1980s: it’s never been more than science fiction. At least Newsweek is getting it right – it may look good on a TV news graphic, but that’s not the same as working in the Real World.

I’m glad that President Obama has the courage to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the the real war fighters in the Pentagon against the chicken hawks of Congress and the right wing media.

Somewhere along the line the general public bought into the notion that war is profitable on a national level. It’s like the economic “broken window fallacy” – everyone profits from a broken window, since it makes work for the window repairer and draws attention to the victim, possibly improving the victim’s own business. In fact, the money spent paying for the broken window (or the pork barrel defense spending) is less money spent paying for productive economic activity (or paying down debt).

The economy never could afford to give the Pentagon a bottomless piggy bank. We tried to do it during the Reagan era and ran up record deficits. We did the same thing during Bush II, and now we’re paying for it, in addition to paying for careless, unregulated speculation on Wall Street.

One side effect in Gulf War II was that we spent extra money hiring mercenaries instead of increasing the size of our military forces. This dramatically increases costs while putting our defense in the hands of high-priced and poorly managed “contractors.” The focus on mercenaries (oops, I should say “contractors”) reduced the pressure on military personnel, since that’s been a political hot button. On the other hand, it introduced us to the hideous circus of trusting these unreliable and unaccountable contractors to defend our embassies and interrogate suspects. Boy, has that been a failure.

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