The $622 Billion Answer

Why do the American people no longer support our efforts in Iraq? Why are the President's job approval ratings in the tank? How did "Mission Accomplished!" turn into "Quagmire, The Sequel?" And, more significantly, why is any future military plan contemplated by the Bush administration surely dead on arrival?

The short answer to all these questions is plain to anyone with an objective view. The government of the United States has evinced a continued lack of seriousness in both our approach and actions in the Middle East and elsewhere. Evidence? Witness this week's White House request for a record $622 billion military budget for 2008, and, oh, another $93 billion added to this fiscal year.

It may seem contradictory at first to say that record military expenditures equate a lack of seriousness. But nothing can illuminate reality like the power of money. Money spent spells out priorities clearer then words and even actions. Year after year, we as a nation continue to invest in the mightiest military the world has ever known. And we have no intention of using it.

In truth, the United States has been on a constant investment "war" footing since December of 1941. Through hot and cold wars the defense budgets have grown to gigantic scale. Now forty-seven years since President Eisenhower (no peacenik, to be sure) warned of and lamented the power of the military-industrial complex, it has only continually grown larger, and exponentially, since then. Even in real dollars, adjusted for inflation, this is the largest military budget ever requested. We have long established and maintained an arsenal capable of destroying everything on the planet several times over.

This may be, as the saying currently goes, all good. The continuous build-up of our military prowess has garnered a solid return on investment. There is today absolutely no credible threat to our national security if, and here comes the salient point, if we have the will, purpose, and wisdom to use the power we possess.

But, of course, it has become obvious to all that we have neither the will, purpose, nor, especially, wisdom to use our enormous power. On the contrary, we are constrained by our enormous strength and size. Beleaguered by pests and ineffectual in our defense, like an elephant swatting at flies, recent history makes us uncomfortably aware that although we can kill many of our scattered and various enemies (and will continue to do so), our natural state and open society dictates that we remain unavoidably exposed and vulnerable at all times.    

Admittedly and frustratingly, our enemies have shown the ability to take out a building, or an airliner, or a train. But what can we do? We can nuke a city. We can actually vaporize a country. Yet curiously we seem to be the ones condemned to live under the shadow of terror. Why? Because we believe they will do it if they can. And we will not. And everyone knows it.

America is a land of free people with very little martial spirit until fully roused. Slow to perceive threats, tolerant of insult, we are distracted by a dynamic capitalist society of rapid change, constant entertainment, and almost unbelievable technological innovation. Thus, we are sitting ducks for the agents of monomania in all its virulent forms.

To the average American, our military is seen, accepted, and acknowledged to be an unavoidably necessary bureaucracy of enormous waste and corruption that nonetheless is exceptionally good at it's primary task, killing people and destroying property. History instructs that over short periods of time the citizenry of the United States will support any war deemed necessary. However, to maintain that support, the object of the war needs to be clear and the termination of the conflict foreseeable.

Iraq, and our malleable mission there have violated these simple precepts. Time is up. Over three years our conduct as a supreme superpower unwilling to use the tools available has revealed the difference between our enemies and ourselves in stark colors. We won, but they don't give up. They are energized. We are enervated, exasperated, bored. Our political class is in revolt. We want to move on. No more killing. Let's get the hell out of there!

All this was foreseeable. All of this was predictable.

In Washington the beltway routine proceeds inexorably. So now we need to give the Pentagon $622 billion to protect us in 2008. Protect us from what? Sunnis? Shiites? The Russians? China? Iran? North Korea?

Why? With what we have stockpiled right now we can out take every one of them tonight!

Everyone knows that we won't. And this is to our credit.

Thus the $622 billion is seen and recognized as business as usual. It is almost comforting. Regular expenses are itemized and augmented, office staff, tanks and personnel vehicles, carriers and destroyers to patrol the Seven Seas, research and development, armaments, weaponry, depots and camps in congressional districts far and wide, and above all, human beings to be fed, clothed, and paid. Yes, $622 billion, roughly two billion dollars a day, for the mightiest military of the greatest country in the history of the world, a country based on the concepts of freedom, trade, citizen soldiers, and, in the words of it's greatest and wisest President, "no entangling alliances." We must be safe.

The American people sense, perhaps unconsciously, that if we were truly at war (by that I mean, a declared, constitutionally valid call to arms, supported and approved by all as a necessary means to secure our nation, our lives, and our sacred honor),then surely we would not only need less than $622 billion, we could win and be done with it by tomorrow afternoon. 

Andrew Sumereau is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.
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