The weekly Daley: Beat more swords into plowshares

By From page A6 | February 08, 2013

Word out of Washington is that “they” may cut pay increases to the military by a percent or so. That’s a slap in the face not only to the soldiers but also to their families — and to all off us. And the reason is because of the sequestration deal that’s looming a little over the horizon. That’s the deal manufactured by one of the “gang of gangs” to punish each other and us for not negotiating a budget and debt deal a year-and-a-half ago.

Taking it out of the troops’ paychecks is a pretty chicken way to save money. No doubt it will save some money, but there’s a lot of much pricier stuff that could be looked at before you start biting the hand that feeds you, in a manner of speaking. And there’s a real smack of disingenuousness in referring to all our troops as “heroes” on Monday and cutting their pay on Tuesday.

Many of us are led to believe that there is tremendous waste and fraud in the medical/healthcare industry. Whether or not it’s really true, I don’t know, but I suspect if not a tremendous amount, there’s plenty.

Likewise, who could doubt that there’s every bit as much waste and fraud connected to defense and the military/industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about so long ago?

Julian Zelizer, a history professor at Princeton and online commentator wrote this week:

“Despite all the dramatic rhetoric (about how much the cuts will degrade the military), the fact is that the United States spent more in 2011 ($711 billion) than did China, Russia, the UK, France, Japan, India, Saudia Arabia, Germany, Brazil, Italy, South Korea, Australia and Canada combined ($695 billion).”

He also quoted Time Magazine reporting that even with all the cuts in the sequestration, our overall defense spending would only be reduced from 40 percent of the world’s defense spending to 38 percent. Much of our spending is generated by legislators whose districts include big-time defense contractors. Meanwhile, we’re told that a significant portion is being spent on old weapons or technology the military no longer even wants.

Zelizer leans a bit to the left, but if the data is accurate, how can we justify not reducing defense spending of that magnitude? Who are the enemies that we need to outspend 10 or 20 or 50 or a billion to one? The Shoe Bomber? The Underwear Bomber? The rebel army in Mali? Al Qaeda is still out there along with any number of what’s called al Qaeda-linked organizations, most of which have no particular agenda that includes bringing us down. They’re too busy fighting for their own survival in failed states whose economies are primarily based on sand. And most of them think a nation without sports, TV and beer, but with women you can’t see and lots of severed hands would be heaven on earth.

We need super strong homeland security and super alert intelligence systems and super effective Special Forces and super reliable allies. Gazillion-dollar nuclear submarines and globe-shattering missiles and the like aren’t going to catch the occasional nut who puts a bomb in his drawers.

Threatening to begin draconian deficit reduction by picking the pockets of soldiers is about as blatantly political a scheme as one could imagine. I get it. It’s meant to shame Congress into taking some realistic and legitimate steps toward cutting debt and balancing a budget, and with any luck, taking a hard look at why we are spending $700-plus billion a year on defense.

Chris Daley is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. His column appears each Friday. 

Chris Daley

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