Despite President Biden’s criticism of virtually every aspect of the U.S. establishment he has long been a part of, and whose policies he frequently played a principal part in authoring, as well as his stated intention of enacting sweeping reforms during his presidency, one part of the U.S. establishment is clearly safe from any such revisitation or revision: the military industrial complex.
Even with the country nearing 28 trillion dollars in debt, the administration has not seen fit to reevaluate the Pentagon’s budget, though by its own conservative reporting the Pentagon spends a staggering 1.3 million dollars per hour. In fact, he wants to increase its budget still further.
Biden’s choice for Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, is equally telling of his commitment to the continued preservation of the fiscal-military state. A decorated Army Commander, Austin left the service in 2016 to take a job on the board of Raytheon, a long-standing pillar of the military industrial complex. It is unsurprising, then, that in the hundred days since his tenure began Austin has expressed his commitment to the continued projection of U.S. force abroad, in the South China Sea, Middle East, and Eastern Europe.
In more classic, Orwellian doublespeak Biden’s insistence on democracy promotion at home and in Myanmar has been coupled with simultaneous recommitment to the totalitarian Saudi regime – as well as to the continued tolerance of equally undemocratic regimes around the world in order to preserve U.S. basing rights in places like Egypt, Bahrain, the UAB, Burundi, et cetera. Depending on the definition one uses to describe a “base,” the U.S. maintains approximately 800 foreign military bases according to its count, though this number can be stretched to over 1,000 if smaller communications, refueling, special operations command posts, or other such “lily-pad” installations are included. Apart from the gross violations of human rights these regimes regularly precipitate, simply maintaining these bases costs, again according to its own internal estimates, approximately 25 billion dollars per year. This to say nothing of the fact that the “forward-presence” of U.S. bases abroad has long served as a focal source of anti-American sentiment, and likely makes us less safe – not more.
Astounding though they are, these are not even the heights of the gross inefficiency of U.S. military spending or impoverished strategic thinking. Apart from systematically overpaying for its procurement of basic items, first exposed in the 1980s by the Packard Commission, as Andrei Martyanov has detailed in his recent detailed survey, the problem of inefficient expenditures extends even to its most important technologies. To take just one example, with a price tag of over 14 billion dollars apiece, a single one of the U.S. Navy’s new Columbia-class submarines costs more than the entire fleet of new Yasen-class Russian submarines, whose capabilities are in the final analysis of stealth and destructive power virtually identical – and this is to make no mention of the vaunted Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter program, one of the greatest boondoggles in corporatist history, with a projected cost now totaling over 2 trillion dollars and operating at a cost of nearly 40k an hour.
Finally, in terms of hypocrisy, with his administration’s insistence on intruding into the lives of U.S. citizens and business owners with Green New Deal-inspired regulations, the U.S. military remains the world’s single largest polluter.
So just so we’re all on the same page: we have no money and need to raise taxes; democracy is very important; and U.S. citizens and business owners need to work a lot harder to save the planet.
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