Fear can be a great motivator – and a great manipulator. Those who oppose cuts to military funding play on our fears to convince us that any reduction in the defense budget would be a dangerous threat to our national security and to our economy. But is this level of panic justified? An examination of the assumptions that underlie the fears will expose just how shaky those assumptions are.
Shaky Assumption 1: The US must control, by force, the air, seas, and land of the entire planet.
Why such overwhelming military power? The United States spends more on our military than our next 14 military competitors combined -- six times more than China, 13 times more than Russia, and 73 times more than Iran. While we funnel roughly half of our discretionary tax dollars into military programs, China is capturing the market for solar panels. Most countries are fearlessly investing in health care and education for their citizens while the U.S. is pulling funding from those very hallmarks of a great society. The result is that the U.S. now ranks 37th on health indicators and our students rank 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.
Shaky Assumption 2: We need high priced weapons systems such as the F-15 and the “advanced multi-role stealth fighter jet” to keep us safe.
Our current “enemies” have no air force and no navy, and it is a stretch to claim that terrorists even have an army. The Rand Corporation, a think-tank allied with U.S. government military and intelligence forces, concluded that there is no battlefield solution to terrorism. Since 1968, only 7 percent of all terrorist groups were taken down by military force. In contrast, 40 percent of those groups were defeated through police and intelligence work, and 43 percent gave up their terrorist tactics as they were integrated into the political process.
Shaky Assumption 3: The military is a good jobs program.
According to analysts at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, spending $1 billon on education and mass transit would produce more than twice as many jobs as spending $1 billion on defense. Spending on healthcare and construction for home weatherization and infrastructure would produce about 1-1/2 times as many jobs. The Pentagon spends $1 million a year to field a soldier in Afghanistan. With that same amount, we could hire nearly 30 teachers for a year. Additionally, many jobs learned in the military do not translate to civilian employment, so the jobless rate for returning veterans is far higher than for the general population.
Shaky Assumption 4: Reducing military industries will hurt our economy.
Many people are employed by military contractors and in service industries near military bases, but does our economic health depend on this? Military spending has grown by 81 percent in the past decade, the period of the worst recession since World War II. Clearly, high military spending is not the key to our economic well-being. People employed in weapons industries, making products that kill people and destroy property and ecosystems, could just as well be working in jobs that improve our communities and our quality of life here at home.
Shaky Assumption 5: We need the military for innovations such as the microwave oven, the GPS and the Internet.
The U.S. military has a very large budget to fund research and development, but innovation can, and does, come from anywhere. On June 26, 100 university presidents from across the U.S. sent a letter to President Obama calling for an easier path to permanent resident status for foreign students. Why? Because they found that of the 1,500 patents awarded to the top 10 patent-producing universities in the U.S., three-quarters had at least one foreign inventor. All-told they represented 88 countries.
Rather than triggering that old “fight or flight response “at the mere mention of reducing military spending, let’s develop a new adaptive “stop and think” response. We will survive a reduction in military spending. We could even thrive if we redirected our tax dollars to productive and innovative ways of improving the well-being of our citizens and the world at large.
End Wars and Occupations -
In October 2014, the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research (www.pipr.co.uk) asked Noam Chomsky to comment on some important world developments, including the threat of nuclear war, the recent escalation of violence in Gaza, and the growth of ISIS in Iraq.
This year commemorates the centenary of the 1914-18 First World War. What are your reflections?
THERE IS much debate about assignment of responsibility/blame for the outbreak of this horrendous conflict, along with general agreement about one point: There was a high level of accident and contingency; decisions could easily have been different,...
Noam Chomsky and the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research 20 Oct 2014 Hits:689 EWO Articles
President Obama is bombing the opposite side in Syria from the side he swore we needed to attack one year ago, and those pleased by this declare that he is "doing something."
U.S. polls suggest that the same people recognize that this something will make the U.S. more likely to be attacked and nonetheless favor this action. This is unthinking fear produced by slick beheading videos for audiences too distracted to notice that the Iraqi government, Saudi government and numerous other U.S. friends and allies behead. And are we to imagine...
David Swanson | War Is A Crime 05 Oct 2014 Hits:461 EWO Articles
President Obama’s decision to bomb Syria stands in stark violation of international law, the UN Charter, and the requirements of the U.S. Constitution. It contradicts his own commitment, stated a year ago in the UN General Assembly, to reverse Washington’s “perpetual war footing.”
And it portends disaster for the people of Syria, the region, and much of the world.
The White House stated goal is to destroy the headquarters of the violent and extremist ISIS militia. But you can’t bomb extremism out of existence. The U.S. bombs do not fall on “extremism,”...
Phyllis Bennis | Institute for Policy Studies 05 Oct 2014 Hits:441 EWO Articles
Thirteen years ago, a draft dodger from Texas stood on a pile of rubble in New York City and promised, “The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” Of course, the people who flew the planes into the World Trade Center could not hear anybody, as their remains were buried in the rubble beneath Bush’s feet. And our government’s extraordinary relationship with one of the world’s last and most brutal absolute monarchies ensured that any accomplices still in the U.S. were quickly flown home to...
Nicolas J.S. Davies | AlterNet 12 Sep 2014 Hits:620 EWO Articles
Whatever your politics, you’re not likely to feel great about America right now. After all, there’s Ferguson (the whole world was watching!), an increasingly unpopular president, a Congress whose approval ratings make the president look like a rock star, rising poverty, weakening wages, and a growing inequality gap just to start what could be a long list. Abroad, from Libya and Ukraine to Iraq and the South China Sea, nothing has been coming up roses for the U.S. Polls reflect a general American gloom, with 71% of the public claiming...
Tom Engelhardt | TomDispatch 07 Sep 2014 Hits:719 EWO Articles
“Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar,” John McCain told CNN’s Candy Crowley in January 2014. “Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar, and for our Qatari friends,” the senator said once again a month later, at the Munich Security Conference.
McCain was praising Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then the head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services and a former ambassador to the United States, for supporting forces fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham had previously met with Bandar to encourage the Saudis to arm...
Steve Clemons | The Atlantic 09 Aug 2014 Hits:915 EWO Articles
A humanitarian crisis that could turn into a genocide is taking place right now in the mountains of northwestern Iraq. It hasn’t made the front page, because the place and the people are obscure, and there’s a lot of other horrible news to compete with. I’ve learned about it mainly because the crisis has upended the life of someone I wrote about in the magazine several weeks ago.
Last Sunday, Karim woke up around 7:30 A.M., after coming home late the night before. He was about to have breakfast when his...
A Friend Flees the Horror of ISIS | The New Yorker 09 Aug 2014 Hits:595 EWO Articles
The Obama administration is considering US air strikes and humanitarian air drops to help besieged religious minorities chased up a mountain by militants in Iraq.
The move comes as Qaraqosh, Iraq's largest Christian city, was all but abandoned as the jihadist group Islamic State (Isis) advanced through minority communities in the country's north-west and towards the Kurdish stronghold of Irbil.
The US military is already helping the Iraqi government coordinate air drops of vital supplies to at least 40,000 Iraqis, mostly from the Yazidi minority, trapped on top of Mount Sinjar in...
Spencer Ackerman, Martin Chulov and Julian Borger | The Guardian 07 Aug 2014 Hits:560 EWO Articles
The world awaits with bated breath to see if the interim truce negotiated by US Secretary of State John Kerry will lead to a long-term ceasefire. But if US mediation is to be sincere and effective, the American government needs to take Hamas off its terrorist list and allow Hamas to be fully represented at the table.
For the past month, Secretary Kerry has been traveling around the the Middle East trying to negotiate an end to the violence. He has had ongoing discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. He consults...
Medea Benjamin | Mondoweiss 05 Aug 2014 Hits:555 EWO Articles
Gunmen who crossed into northeastern Lebanon from Syria attacked several army checkpoints in a border town on Saturday in what appeared to be an effort to win the release of a Syrian rebel who had been detained by Lebanese troops.
Initial reports from the town, Arsal, described a chaotic situation involving multiple attacks on checkpoints, security posts and homes and also the seizure of some members of the security forces by the gunmen, identified as rebel fighters from across the border in Syria.Read the FULL TEXT of this article at The...
Hwaida Saad | The New York Times 03 Aug 2014 Hits:583 EWO Articles
Professor of Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University Chris Coyne (whose excellent book, Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails was reviewed on this blog) and Abigail R. Hall, a second year Mercatus PhD Fellow, have come up with original research that shows the dangers of America’s unfettered global arms sales:
– Policymakers cannot know the outcome of supplying new arms in an attempt to influence foreign affairs in one manner or another because there are a series of unpredictable consequences that emerge from any single...
Peter Van Buren | Fire Dog Lake 03 Aug 2014 Hits:537 EWO Articles
It's time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa. In July 2005 a huge coalition of Palestinian groups laid out plans to do just that. They called on "people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era". The campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions was born.
Naomi Klein | The Guardian 20 Jul 2014 Hits:594 EWO Articles
SO...WHAT'S going on in Iraq?
A lot, and it has been going on for a long time, but the English language media has chosen to ignore most of the important stuff as it occurs. Now, with the Sunni insurgency "capturing" Mosul, the country's second-largest city, we are going to get a flurry of coverage, probably followed by it dropping back into oblivion, even as the drama increases in pitch and importance.
Three articles from the New York Times--"Sunni Militants Drive Iraqi Army Out of Mosul," by Suadad Al-Salhy and Tim Arango; "Exhausted...
Michael Schwartz | Socialist Worker 07 Jul 2014 Hits:579 EWO Articles
This week Iraq emerged from the recesses of American memory and became a hot topic of conversation. Alarming headlines about ISIS’s “takeover” of Mosul and their march towards Baghdad have elicited a number of reactions: The most conservative call for direct US military action against ISIS to ensure that the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki remains stable in Baghdad. The most liberal lament the ongoing violence and divisions in Iraqi society caused by the US occupation; though they make no attempt distinguish between the violence of ISIS and...
Ross Caputi | Common Dreams 07 Jul 2014 Hits:587 EWO Articles
For over three years, the United States has sought to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by supporting an Al Qaeda-infused opposition that Washington either knew or should have known would fail. Yet, in his commencement address at West Point on Wednesday, President Obama promised the American people and the rest of the world more of the same.
Obama’s vague pledge to “ramp up” support for selected oppositionists is a craven sop to those claiming that U.S. backing for the opposition so far—nonlethal aid, training opposition fighters, coordination...
Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett | The National Interest 03 Jun 2014 Hits:511 EWO Articles
During his speech at West Point Military Academy earlier this week, President Barack Obama described climate change as a "creeping national security crisis" that will require the armed forces to "respond to refugee flows, natural disasters, and conflicts over water and food."
The speech emphasised that US foreign policy in the 21st century is increasingly being honed in recognition of heightened risks of social, political and economic upheaval around the world due the impacts of global warming.
A more detailed insight into US military planning could be seen in the report published...
Nafeez Ahmed | The Guardian 03 Jun 2014 Hits:685 EWO Articles
Hundreds of billions of dollars will once again be spent on the U.S. defense budget.
It’s Pentagon budget time. And once again, Congress and the White House are haggling over the fine print of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). But what has stayed constant over the years is the massive spending on the defense budget, which points to the American political establishment’s appetite for militarism.
Congress’ proposed Pentagon budget this year is for $601 billion, a sum that dwarfs spending during the Vietnam War. There have been predictable howls from conservative...
Alex Kane | Alternet 29 May 2014 Hits:784 EWO Articles
The death toll in Odessa stands at 42 people killed, most of them burned to death or suffocated by smoke inhalation in the inferno at the Trade Unions House. There is no dispute over who were the victims and who were their killers. The victims were pro-Russian protesters who had occupied the building. The attackers who set fire to it with petrol bombs were members of Right Sector, the ultra-Nationalist strike force of the U.S.-backed coup that overthrew the elected government of Ukraine in February.
Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh...
Nicolas J.S. Davies | AlterNet 08 May 2014 Hits:474 EWO Articles
Twelve years into America's "war on terror," it is time to admit that it has failed catastrophically, unleashing violence, war and instability in an "arc of terror" stretching from West Africa to the Himalayas and beyond. If we examine the pretext for all this chaos, that it could possibly be a legitimate or effective response to terrorism, it quickly becomes clear that it has been the exact opposite, fueling a global explosion of terrorism and a historic breakdown of law and order.
The State Department reports seem, at first glance, to...
Nicholas J.S. Davies | AlterNet 10 Feb 2014 Hits:680 EWO Articles
They operate in the green glow of night vision in Southwest Asia and stalk through the jungles of South America. They snatch men from their homes in the Maghreb and shoot it out with heavily armed militants in the Horn of Africa. They feel the salty spray while skimming over the tops of waves from the turquoise Caribbean to the deep blue Pacific. They conduct missions in the oppressive heat of Middle Eastern deserts and the deep freeze of Scandinavia. All over the planet, the Obama administration is waging a...
Nick Turse | Tom's Dispatch 04 Feb 2014 Hits:965 EWO Articles
Iran and a group of six world powers completed a deal on Sunday that will temporarily freeze much of Tehran’s nuclear program starting next Monday, Jan. 20, in exchange for limited relief from Western economic sanctions.
The main elements of the deal, which is to last for six months, were announced in November. But its implementation was delayed as negotiators worked out technical details.
The agreement faced opposition from Iranian hard-liners and Israeli leaders, as well as heavy criticism from some American lawmakers, who have threatened to approve further sanctions despite President...
Michael R Gordon and Eric Schmitt | The New York Times 13 Jan 2014 Hits:598 EWO Articles
Call Your Representative at 1-855-686-6927 Say Vote "NO" on the Defense Authorization Act
The House will be voting on a final version of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Bill. This measure includes $80.7 billion to continue the war in Afghanistan, on top of a $552.1 billion base budget for the Pentagon. Coming at a time, when we are experiencing cuts in food stamps, public housing, Head Start and a host of federal programs that our people urgently need – this bill is outrageous!
Please call your Representative today on the Capitol Switchboard...
Tim Carpenter 10 Dec 2013 Hits:883 EWO Articles
President Obama said Saturday that he could envision a final diplomatic agreement with Iran that would let the country’s government enrich nuclear material for power production with enough restrictions to assure Israel and the rest of the world that it could not produce a nuclear weapon.
But Mr. Obama said there was no guarantee that such a deal would emerge as Iran and Western nations negotiate during the next six months.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s more than 50-50,” Mr. Obama said during a conversation at a conference run by the Saban...
Michael D Shear | The New York Times 08 Dec 2013 Hits:789 EWO Articles
This past summer, the Army began investigating why the military spent nearly $36 million to construct a well-appointed 64,000-square-foot headquarters in southwestern Afghanistan that commanders in the area did not want and has never been used.
The two-star Army general in Kabul who conducted the inquiry has determined that the decision to commission the building was appropriate — and recommended that U.S. troops move in, after more work is done on the facility.
(Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) - The exterior of the Regional Command-Southwest (RC-SW) Command and Control...
Rajiv Chandrasekaran | Washington Post 04 Dec 2013 Hits:849 EWO Articles
How can some policymakers claim to be fiscal conservatives when they won’t allow small spending cuts to the defense budget to go through?
We've seen that the “sky is falling” predictions about sequestration haven't materialize. Yet lawmakers in both houses of Congress are still seeking to at least partially undo the spending reductions in the Budget Control Act of 2011, despite evidence the Pentagon is wasting taxpayer dollars on overly expensive -- and arguably unnecessary -- projects.
A recent amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act by Republican Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla.,...
VERONIQUE DE RUGY | Washington Examiner 26 Nov 2013 Hits:678 EWO Articles
Spending billions on the U.S. Navy is an obscene waste
The Budget Control Act of 2011 required automatic spending cuts unless Congress could agree on a long-term deficit reduction plan. When the law was passed, the conventional wisdom was that the automatic cuts in Pentagon spending would be unthinkable, and this would force the long-term budget deal.
The conventional wisdom proved to be wrong, and the cuts to Pentagon spending began in March 2013.
It was a dumb idea to reduce the deficit with unemployment elevated, but given that government spending was going...
Mark Weisbrot | The Denver Post 18 Nov 2013 Hits:718 EWO Articles
Plan Unaffordable, Unnecessary, Critics Note
In a time of budget cuts, and with their leadership constantly insisting there isn’t enough funding to go around, the Pentagon is planning to “modernize” the B61 tactical nuclear weapons in a plan they estimate to cost at least $10 billion.
“The B61 is the only weapon in the stockpile that fulfills both tactical and strategic missions,” insisted Gen. Robert Kehler, who insisted the plan was vital in testimony to Congress last week.
The US made the first B61s in the 1970?s, and has created nearly a dozen...
Jason Ditz | AntiWar.com 07 Nov 2013 Hits:659 EWO Articles
Retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton comes from a military family. His three children are all soldiers, his wife is an Army captain, and his two brothers in-law are helicopter pilots.…
Likely Republican presidential hopefuls who once expressed hawkish views on U.S. policy in Syria are pivoting with an eye on how the issue will play in the 2016 GOP primary.…
A Pakistani family devastated by drones gave a landmark briefing on Tuesday.
On Tuesday morning, almost 10 years after the U.S. government began using drones to target suspected militants in Pakistan—one…
Defense contractors have managed to not only stay afloat but also thrive in a climate of government closure and massive cuts to the Pentagon’s budget, continuing to rake in billions…
The federal government is currently in a state of shutdown thanks to a small faction of extremist Republicans who vehemently bellow that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will have a…
When the US invaded Iraq in 2003 Sundus Shaker Saleh, an Iraqi single mother of three, lost her home and her property, and was forced to flee to Jordan.
A tragic milestone was reached last year, when 185 active-duty Army soldiers died by suicide, surpassing the 176 soldiers killed in battle in Afghanistan that year. The Army's annual death…
The intoxication of war, fueled by the euphoric nationalism that swept through the country like a plague following the attacks of 9/11, is a spent force in the United States.…
The Associated Press reports Syria's Foreign Minister has said his country has accepted a Russian proposal to relinquish control of its chemical arms stores.
On Monday, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem stated…
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PDA is organized around several core issues. These issues include:
Each team hosts a monthly conference call. Calls feature legislators, staffers and other policy experts. On these calls we determine PDA legislation to support as well as actions and future events.