To establish my bones on this subject; I spent 22 years in the military including deployment to Viet Nam.
The men and women I served with were fantastic. The professionalism of the units I served in was beyond question; BUT, the U.S. military complex as a whole operates like a big sow, eating up a huge portion of our federal budget – growing larger and fatter than necessary. This results in the inability of our government to fund important social programs; and, it tempts our politicians to use our military injudiciously.
The military is made up of mostly young men and women from the lower socio-economic classes that go into the military for a pay check, for job training or, in some cased, to act out an adventure scenario they experienced in a Play Station video or saw on television. The reality of war and death is not a concept they truly understand.
Once in the military they are indoctrinated on valor, flag, country and corps. They are animated to become the cannon fodder that can be deployed by politicians and manipulated as expendable chess pieces by senior officers on career tracks (who, in almost all cases, are not themselves in harms way.)
I find it sad to see veterans lined up with their flags, their hats, their campaign ribbons and their military insignias in support of wars. For a great many, a military deployment in a combat zone is the high point of their life. It is their only bragging right. They have never been able to separate their membership in the “band of brothers” with the ignoble mission and carnage of war itself. They came home, married girlfriends, sired children, worked in a mill ,or some other dead end job, and on occasion line up at the bar in the VFW and drink beer and get misty eyed about their experiences. Hey, I’m not knocking them, they are my brothers.
We had no legitimate reason to be in Viet Nam – all bullshit aside, we were trying to establish a permanent military presence on the southern border of China – but we lost.
I get tense when I hear the about a young man or woman who has died in our present wars. They gave their all for our country. Bullshit! They are dead – and for no good reason. They will never have a family; they will never experience beauty; they will never have joy; they are dead. But, the politicians who declared the war are doing just fine. In an off moment, between reelection campaigns and feathering their nest, they may feel the obligation to utter some catch phrase of lip service for the dead, but it is as quickly forgotten, and their life and priorities go on.
Enough beating the antiwar drum – WAR SUX and the military should never be deployed except in a response to an imminent threat to our country. And, at such times a draft should be instituted so that all share equally in the burden and pain.
SNAFU – A word coined by military men and women.
Situation Normal All Fucked UP.
We have the image of the military as a lean mean fighting machine. In reality, the movies Catch-22 and Mash were not far afield. The military as an entity often appears to the men or women in uniform as a comedy of errors. During war time I would express it as a tragedy of errors
The idea of the military as a smooth operating, efficiently functioning autocracy is a misconception. In some cases military units are run by officers that are not screwed down tight. I served under one Commander who was obsessed with parking regulations and would threaten court-martial if the tire of your car extended a few inches beyond the gravel parking lot onto the grass. Another Commander in Vietnam refused to issue pistols to flight crews flying covert missions over the North, because his Pentecostal preacher had named him a missionary to the Vietnamese people before he deployed. A junior officer I knew pulled a pistol on his flight crew because they were not cleaning the wheel wells of his aircraft in a timely manner. Another Commander risked the lives of 23 crew members by refusing to abort from Iceland to Scotland during a blizzard and subsequently crashing his aircraft in the rough between runways. I could fill pages of mission SNAFU’s and erratic leadership from my experience of twenty-two years in the military. Yet, the junior officers and enlisted men and women on the ground always seem to be able to pull it together, protect each others ass and complete the mission.
The military is an integral part of the American experience. As mentioned earlier, our history is denoted by wars and the time periods in-between. There have been times when military service was a requirement; and, at all times (Viet Nam a possible exception) military service has been honored.
Big Brother, in George Orwell’s 1984, has a lot in common with our Republican Party. In Big Brother’s Party the word doublethink denoted the ability to accept two opposing concepts at the same time. The Republicans practice doublethink. They believe in decreasing the size of government, decreasing revenue and decreasing government spending; and, at the same time, increasing the size of the military and increasing military spending.
CONTROLLING MILITARY SPENDING
One of the biggest goals of our government should be to balance the National Budget and pay down the National Debt. If we are ever to achieve this goal we must bring our military spending under control.
President Obama’s budget proposal for 2011 is for $3.83 trillion (with a deficit forecast of $1.56 trillion, increasing our national debt from $13.8 trillion to over $15 trillion.) Approximately one third of the budget is slated for defense. http://www.ask.com/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_States
Our government spends over one half of the world military expenditure. Our military budget is greater than the next 168 largest national military budgets combined. It is more than six times the military expenditure of China.
At present we have military troops stationed all over the world. It has been estimated that there are over 700 military detachments on foreign soil. The following is a list of major U.S. bases located overseas. Very few of these are actually necessary for our defense.
Armstrong Army Heliport, Buedingen, Hessen, Germany
Brasschaat Army Airfield, Brasschaat, Belgium
Bucholz Army Airfield, Kwajalein Atoll, Kiribati, Marshall Islands
Camp Able-Sentry, Macedonia, Skopje
Camp Bondsteel (Army), Kosovo, Urosevac, Serbia
Camp Comanche, Bosnia-Herzegowina
Camp Doha, Kuwait City, Kuwait
Camp Eagle (Army), Wonju, Korea
Camp Gary Owen (Army), Munsan, Korea
Camp Henry (Army), Taegu, Korea
Camp Monteith, Kosovo, Gnjilane, Serbia
Camp Page (Army), Chunchon, Korea
Camp Udairi, Kuwait City, Kuwait
Camp Walker (Army), Taegu, Korea
Cochran Army Airfield, Camp Stanley (Uijongbu), Korea
Coleman Army Airfield, Mannheim, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany
Combat Maneuver Training Center (CMTC) - Hohenfels AAF, Regensburg, Bayern, Germany
Conn Barracks (AHP Schweinfurt), Schweinfurt, Bayern, Germany
Fort Kobbe (Army), Colon, Panama
Hanau Army Airfield, Hanau, Hessen, Germany
Heidelberg Army Airfield, Heidelberg, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany
Hohenfels Army Airfield, Hohenfels (Regensburg), Bayern, Germany
Kastner Army Airfield, Camp Zama, Japan
Katterbach Barracks Army Airfield, Ansbach, Bayern, Germany
Mayaguana Army Airfield, Mayaguana, Bahamas
Patton Barracks (AAF Heidelberg), Heidelberg, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany
Schweinfurt Army Heliport, Schweinfurt, Bayern, Germany
Storck Barracks Army Airfield, Illesheim, Bayern, Germany
Stuttgart Army Airfield, Stuttgart-Echterdingen, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany
Wiesbaden Army Airfield, Wiesbaden-Erbenheim, Hessen, Germany
AIR FORCE BASES
Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait
Akrotiri Royal Air Force Base, Akrotiri, Cyprus
Al Dhafra Air Base, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Al Udeid Air Base, Al Udeid, Qatar
Alconbury Royal Air Force Base, Huntingdon (Cambridgeshire), UK
Ali Air Base, Nasiriyah, Iraq
Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait
Andersen Air Base, Yigo, Guam
Aviano Air Base, Aviano, Pordenone, Italy
Bagram Air Base, Parvan, Charikar, Afghanistan
Balad Air Base, Balad, Iraq
Bitburg Air Base, Bitburg, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany
Camp Adder (Ali Air Base), Nasiriyah, Iraq
Camp Anaconda (Balad Air Base), Balad, Iraq
Cha Shan Air Base, Hualien, Taiwan
Cheong Ju Air Base, Cheong Ju, Korea
Clark Air Base, Balibago (Luzon), Philippines
Croughton Royal Air Force Base, UK
Diego Garcia (Air Force), Diego Garcia, BIOT
Einsiedlerhof Air Station, Kaiserslautern, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany
Eloy Alfaro Air Base, Manta, Ecuador
Eskan Village Air Base, Saudi Arabia
Fairford Royal Air Force Base, Fairford (Gloucestershire), UK
Feltwell Royal Air Force Base, Thetford (Norfolk), UK
Ganci Air Base (Manas Intl. Airport), Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Geilenkirchen Air Base (NATO), Geilenkirchen, NRW, Germany
Ghedi Air Base, Vicenza, Italy
Greenham Common Royal Air Force Base, Greenham (Newbury), UK
Hahn Air Base, Hahn, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany
Howard Air Base, Panama City, Panama
Hualien Air Base (Cha Shan), Hualien, Taiwan
Incirlik Air Base, Adana, Turkey
Istres Air Base, Istres, France
Izmir Air Base, Izmir, Turkey
Kadena Air Base, Kadena, Okinawa, Japan
Kandahar Air Base, Kandahar, Afghanistan
Kapaun Air Station (KNCOA), Kaiserslautern, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany
Khanabad Air Base, Khanabad, Uzbekistan
Khost Airbase, Paktia, Khost, Afghanistan
Kimhae Air Base, Pusan, Korea
King Abdul Aziz Air Base, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
King Fahd Air Base, Taif, Saudi Arabia
King Khalid Air Base, Khamis Mushayt, Saudi Arabia
Kunsan Air Base, Kunsan City, Korea
Lajes Field Air Base, Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal
Lakenheath Royal Air Force Base, Lakenheath (Suffolk), UK
Mazar-e-Sharif Airbase, Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan
Mildenhall Royal Air Force Base, Mildenhall (Suffolk), UK
Misawa Air Base, Misawa, Honshu, Japan
Molesworth Royal Air Force Base, Huntingdon (Cambridgeshire), UK
Moron Air Base, Sevilla, Spain
Osan Air Base, Osan, Korea
Paya Lebar Air Base, Sembawang, Singapore
Ramstein Air Base, Ramstein, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany
Rhein-Main Air Base, Frankfurt/Main, Hessen, Germany
Richmond Royal Australian Air Force Base, Australia
Riyadh Air Base, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
San Vito dei Normanni Air Station, Brindisi, Italy
Sembach Air Base, Kaiserslautern, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany
Seoul Air Base (K-16), Seoul, Korea
Soesterberg Air Base, Soesterberg, Netherlands
Sola Sea Air Base, Norway
Soto Cano Air Base (Camp Picket), Comayagua, Honduras
Spangdahlem Air Base, Spangdahlem, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany
Stavanger Air Base, Stavanger, Norway
Suwon Air Base, Seoul, Korea
Taegu Air Base (K-2), Taegu, Korea
Tallil Air Base, Nasiriyah, Iraq
Taszar Air Base, Pecs, Hungary
Thule Air Base, Thule, Greenland, Denmark
Torrejon Air Base, Torrejon, Spain
Upper Heyford Royal Air Force Base,
Upwood Royal Air Force Base, Ramsey (Cambridgeshire), UK
Woomera Air Station, Woomera, Australia
Yokota Air Base, Tokyo, Honshu, Japan
Zweibruecken Air Base, Zweibruecken, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany
NAVAL BASES AND STATIONS
Andreos Island Naval Air Station, Bahamas
Munoz Air National Guard Base, San Juan (IAP), Puerto Rico
Borinquen Coast Guard Air Station, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, Okinawa, Japan
Keflavik Naval Air Station, Reykjanes, Iceland
Guantanamo Bay Naval Air Station, Cuba
Cubi Point Naval Air Station (Subic Bay), Olongapo City, Philippines
Atsugi Naval Air Facility, Sagamino, Honshu, Japan
Guam Naval Base, Guam
La Maddalena Naval Support Activity, Sardinia, La Maddalena, Italy
Lajes Field Naval Air Station, Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal
Naples Naval Support Activity, Naples, Italy
Yokosuka Naval Station, Yokohama, Honshu, Japan
Subic Bay Naval Base, Olongapo City (Luzon), Philippines
Roosevelt Roads Naval Air Station, Caguas, Puerto Rico
Rota Naval Air Station, Rota, Spain
Sigonella Naval Air Station, Sigonella, Sicily, Italy
Souda Bay Naval Support Activity, Chania (Crete), Greece
Why do we need this world deployment of U.S. forces? The expense to maintain these bases is mind boggling.
Imagine the accomplishments we could make if we could channel this money into social programs, health care, education, medical research and scientific research.
MILITARY: BUSINESS AS USUAL
As I mentioned; in another life time (Solzhenitsyn) I was a career military man. One thing I can state for certain is that the military spends like a teenager with a credit card. They pay too much and buy things they don’t need. We want our military to be the best armed and best trained in the world; however, we are stuck in a mentality of tradition that is costing our government trillions of dollars.
One huge chunk of our military budget goes to maintaining five separate and distinct military organizations (not including Homeland Security) that overlap in order to do one job – protect the United States.
Each one of our military organizations has distinctive uniforms. When I was an enlisted man in the Navy I had two summer uniforms, two winter uniforms, two dress uniform and three working uniforms which I had to maintain. Granted, the maintenance of these uniforms were at my expense after the initial issue, however the government had to contract with clothing manufacturers to produce the distinct pieces of clothing apparel. Add to this list a pea coat, rain coat, working jacket, fatigue jacket, shoes, boots, hats, flight suites, flight jackets etc, and you can see how the expense adds up – Navy officers had totally different sets of uniforms of their own.
If we multiply uniform expenses times four, for the Army, Navy/ Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Air Force, you can visualize the cost to the defense department just in uniform contracts (Coast Guard and Navy share the same uniforms.)
And then there is equipment: the Navy has a grey flashlight, the Army has a green flashlight, the Air Force has a blue flashlight – each one of these had to be produced to military specifications under contract which included research and development: In other words, expensive, identical, flashlights of different colors. The list is unending; military equipment, including vehicles is duplicated for each specific branch.
Major crossover expenditures come in aircraft. Here there is more duplication. We have the Air Force, Naval/Coast Guard Aviation, Marine Corps Aviation and Army Aviation. Each of the branches issues contract for research and development of aircraft specific to their needs. Each branch has its own training commands that train pilots and support personnel to fly and maintain their specific aircraft. All of these aviation missions could and should be transferred to the Air Force, which could operate them cheaper with multipurpose aircraft.
See Military Budget of the United States.
Combining the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and Home Land Security into one force (U.S. Forces) makes sense. The defense department would have to supply only one set of uniforms, one set of equipment, one set of training commands per mission, one administrative branch and one supply corp. This merger alone would save the government at least a quarter of its defense budget.
Why don’t we do this? Can you imagine the flack the politicians would have to take from veterans groups? No more Army, Marine Corps, Coastguard, Navy, Air Force – just American Forces. How would it work?
U.S. MILITARY COMBINED FORCES
It would take a strong, resolute president to assert him or herself as Commander-and-Chief to totally reorganize the military. As Commander-and-Chief I do not believe the President would require Congressional approval for the reorganization. Reorganization would be extremely unpopular with military veterans who live in past glories. The outcries would be horrendous, but the results would increase our security and decrease out expenditures.
Suggestions for a leaner meaner combined force:
• Organize the military into five specialized units: ground command, air command, sea command, homeland command and support command. Each command would have a specific mission with no duplication.
1. Air command assigned all missions of aviation nature.
2. Sea command assigned all missions of sea security.
3. Ground command assigned all missions requiring ground troops.
4. Homeland command assigned all missions effecting homeland security, including response to natural disasters such as fire, flood and earth quake relief.
5. Support command assigned joint administrative, supply and medical support.
6. All commands would have specialized training but work cooperatively under one central command i.e. the air command would be tasked to supply air support for the other three commands, as needed.
• The defense department would adopt one set of uniforms – distinguishing each command by unique rank insignias and different color berets.
• Equipment would be standardized
• Where possible commercially available materials and equipment would be purchased in place of more expensive government contracted designs.
By drastically reorganizing the military we could cut waste and duplication. Our military should be strictly a defensive force. With the technology and weaponry we have, we should be able to decrease the size of our military and increase our secure, while cutting our total military expenditures by at least fifty-percent.
THE U.S. AS WORLD GESTAPOS
If we are to bring military expenditure under control, we can not continue with a world police mentality. We must restructure our military to a formidable defensive force
We can not and should not police the world. We will not survive as the world power if we hold all countries we disagree with under the threat of an American first strike. The cost is too great in lives and money and world opinion for us to engage in continual warfare.
There are countries where military intervention should take place. Nations in chaos like Darfur should be occupied by United Nation’s troops and the killing of civilians not tolerated. It is not, however, the place of the United States to go it alone. And, it is not the place for the United States to form a coalition and intercede. If we unconditionally backed the United Nations, supported it financially and militarily, and accepted the U.N. resolutions as law we could turn over the job of world police to the world body. Without our world wide police actions they would have to step up.
Here we have dealt with the financial cost of supporting the largest, most expensive military in the world, and the effect on the national budget and by extension the effect on our inability to fund social programs.
The problem in defense spending is to figure out how far you should go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without.
We have not focused on the morality of war.
War is like fire in the human community, one whose fuel is living people.
I will propose a simple solution to war:
The reason our leaders do not flinch sending our young men into battle is because they have no personal vested interest in the mortality of the outcome.
I propose that when countries are destine for conflict, we should take the major political leaders ( ie. President, Speaker Of The House, Leader Of The Senate, and the Minority Leaders From Both Houses) of the United States and pair them with the top six leaders of the opposing country; we should strip them all naked, give each two single edged razor blades, and place them in a small room and cut the lights out. The first ones to surrender are the losers and must accept the terms of the winners.
If this was the recipe for war - there would be no wars.