Empire by the Numbers

Number of Pakistani troops killed at checkpoint Saturday by a US helicopter raid from Afghanistan: 25

Number of NATO supply trucks allowed to cross from Pakistan to Afghanistan Saturday: 0

Number of Afghan children killed near Qandahar Wednesday by a US air strike: 6

Percentage of Pakistanis [pdf] who want US troops out of Afghanistan: 69

Number of US troops now in Iraq: 18,000

Number of US troops in Iraq at height of war: 170,000

Number of bases US built in Iraq: 505

Number to be turned over to Iraq: 505

Percentage of Arab publics expressing favorable view of US in 2011: 26

In 2010: 10

Increase in Pentagon budget today over that in Reagan’s first term (when US faced Soviet threat): 11 %

Number of US troops President Obama deployed to Uganda last month: 100

Likely cut in Pentagon budget as a result of failure of super-committee to reach budget deal: 20%

20 Responses

  1. So at least something good will come out of all this bickering …

    “Likely cut in Pentagon budget as a result of failure of super-committee to reach budget deal: 20%”

  2. Pentagon “cuts?” Maybe what could charitably be called “paper cuts,” which in my war (Vietnam) could get you a Purple Heart, if you connected to Management in the right way.

    Go on over to Tomdispatch, read a little history of the REAL wars that our Service Branches fight, there in the Rings of Power and Wealth Transfer in the Pentagram. You got to understand the whole process, of peddling Doctrines and primping Threats and pumping up the organs of Power Projection, and the whole Procurement Apparatus with all the stake-holders always on the attack trying to drive that stake through the heart of any SoftonCommunism wimp who might dare to say, from a committee position in the Capitol, “That’s enough, already,” and the entire set of partisan tribes that “support” and get rich off of this, that or the other weapon system. And of course the entire cultural jag that shows so brightly in our addiction to both meatspace and bitspace implementations of the “Call of Duty.”

    Go read the NYT or the “Defence” (the preferred International spelling) trade press on the bitter, vicious Black Ops being carried out to “protect” the “jobs programs” that are supposedly the V-22 “Osprey” (a bird that defends its territory by vomiting up half-digested fish parts on its ‘enemy’) or the F-35 or F-22 or any one of a thousand other Procurement Exercises that are all about building shit that won’t work outside the projection rooms of the Networked Battlespace that the Brass have mostly succeeded in turning the entire planet into.

    Not going to happen. It’s an addiction, worse than crack.

    • Not going to happen. It’s an addiction, worse than crack.

      But, in fact, it did happen, less than 20 years ago.

      link to usgovernmentspending.com

      Between 1991 and 1998, the defense budget was cut by more than 20%, and under very similar circumstances – the disappearance of the primary security threat that had been driving military spending, during a period of great concern about the size of the national debt.

      Unless you can give me some explanation for why we are in a different situation today, all you’re doing is telling me that something is impossible, despite a recent example of that very thing happening.

      • Joe, do you track the weapons programs and procurement process? And follow or look up more than summaries of budget numbers, which some critics point out do a really marvelous job of showing how creative accounting can hide things like entire wars (off-budget), and the growing category of black ops, and the growth of private armies under the State Department, and such-like?

        Even if the “20%” number would be rated as “half-true” by something like PolitiFacts, the reality is that more and more of the nation’s wealth is dumped into Really Cool Weapons Programs and Grand Strategies and Winning Doctrines, which time after time prove to be the Wrong Stuff, on so many levels. And the “conservative” cheering section for that game is just fine with cutting the number of GI boots on the ground, who used to be the folks that did the actual important military functions, and the “benefits” those GIs thought they earned by Serving Their Country. Military.com tracks the hacking away of pay and benefits for us.

        You know sorting out the reality of the MIC funding and machinery is complicated, and your referenced summary is a little hard to measure against any what you might call audited numbers that include all the actual categories of military spending. There’s no room here for the dissertation it would take to critique the one chart you reference, and reducing it to simplistification hides the reality very nicely. That reduction you rely on, ’91-98,swapped readiness for more Really Great Airplanes and more capital ships for admirals to hang their flags on, not the greatest deal when, per Rumsfeld, in response to a GI whining that he had to dig up scrap metal to weld to his Humvee for protection:

        “As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

        He added: “If you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up.”

        link to washingtonpost.com

        Here’s one quick search result, from a more jaundiced perspective:

        The December 2010 Report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform proposed cutting $1,230 billion over the period 2012-2020 from the security category, which constitutes about two-thirds of the discretionary budget. Security includes all defense spending, although for purposes of the caps war spending was addressed separately. It also includes spending on nuclear weapons, homeland security, veterans, and international affairs. Spending would be frozen at 2011 levels in 2012, estimated at $688 billion, and brought down to inflation-adjusted pre-crisis levels in 2013. [One study puts 2011 at over $1.2 trillion, almost double the given number.] This path would require serious belt-tightening to begin in 2012, followed by substantial nominal cuts in 2013. This would be done by holding spending growth to about half the rate of inflation. Although the Report is not overly explicit, this seems to entail a cut [from the President’s budget] of about $60 billion in 2012 and $100 billion in 2013.

        link to globalsecurity.org There’s so much more at that link, for those who want to deal in something other than sound bites.

        Your comfy chart kind of omits the thing that Panetta said some time ago, that what will happen to the Pentagram is a “reduction in the rate of growth” of the wealth transferred to the MIC. In my book, that is not a “cut.” And gee, “we” sure get a lot of “success” and “victory” and “winning” for all that money. I bet you are ok with the notion that Defense Spending ought to be a percentage of the nation’s GDP, a notion that has absolutely nothing to do with real security.

        But of course you and I are looking at very different parts of the beast. I see something a little less benign than a smiley face embroidered on a US flag sewn to the latest of five new battle-dress uniforms that the Pentagram has procured over the last what, eight years, at $40 or $100 million a pop? There are people who just can’t live without the loom of some huge war machine, lots bigger than all the rest of the planet’s war machines combined, “protecting them” from something or other, and giving the warlords on Our Side more “options” for “projecting power”….

        Nice try at impeachment, though.

      • What JTMcphee should have pointed out is that the defense budget should have been cut a hell of a lot more than 20% after the USSR was gone. We should have had a real public debate on exactly what our agenda was overseas. Are we in the business of pointing a carrier group at every 3rd world country that doesn’t kiss our asses? Are we claiming that any event, anywhere in the world, that could cause a Wall Street crash (because we let it become so crash-prone) is therefore a “vital national interest”? Why do we have military installations in 130 countries?

        We should be frankly terrified that the public was conned into believing some guys in caves in Afghanistan represented the same degree of threat as the USSR. Clearly it has nothing to do with real capabilities, since Russia still has a lot of nukes and no one cares anymore. It’s about ideology, the mere idea that there are folks out there who are opposed to our global hegemony. But that doesn’t explain our willingness to bankrupt ourselves to stifle everyone abroad who takes up arms against our agents. We must also fear, in some dark corner of our souls, that one day the world will recognize that we really are the undeserving imperial pigs that bin Laden said we were, that the incredible economic injustice in our world will one day be avenged by an infinite army of starving dark-skinned kids, who will pour across our borders like army ants.

        So now what will replace al-Qaeda as our next budget-justifying bogeyman, animal rights activists? Occupy Wall Street?

        • Another thing; if the Democratic Party stood for anything other than special interests, it would have spent every day the last 10 years jumping up and down pointing at the economic boom that followed that small cut in military spending by Clinton. I don’t think it’s as simple as that; there was a lot of personal borrowing and Ponzi schemes going on in the ’90s; but why can’t we even discuss the evidence that military spending is the productive equivalent of setting fire to a giant pile of dough? Have we a primitive superstition that the right-wing factions that get most of the money from the war machine are God’s favorites (Halliburton pigs, Lyndie England torture-necks, Christian crazies turned soldiers) and He will punish us for not terrorizing the world for Him?

  3. You could continue the list for days. Trillions of dollars wasted, record amount of families destroyed because of long deployments, thousands of US soldiers killed and maimed, torture accepted as a norm, just to name a few more.

    According to HuffPost there are 900,000 widows in Iraq, thanks to Bush/Cheney and their partners in crime, neocon WMD liars and the US house/senate.

  4. How about:
    Number of Marines to deploy to new base at Darwin Australia – 2500 (Who said money is tight?)

    • Oh , please don’t mention this – every time I hear mention of our new visitors I feel a bit sick. And 2500? ….I would bet my big fat arse that in no time there will be 10x that many ( and we’ll still be wondering why that could possibly upset the Chinese)

    • Joe, we could have saved a lot more money than that by just saying one thing:

      “Europe, you’re on your own.”

      I’m fine with that because I trust EU foreign policy more than US foreign policy. Their very lack of unity is a deterrent to imperialism, but the fact that the EU – except for its ties to Washington via NATO – is about a million miles to the left of the US means they can counter us if our crazies get in the White House and try to start a war with our boogeyman-du-jour.

      Now that doesn’t mean I disagree with the Kosovo intervention, but if we had dismantled NATO when its reason for being had ceased to exist, the EU would have had to come up with a replacement, a unified, democratic nuclear superpower with its own sphere of influence, which would have included Kosovo. We admitted back then that Rwanda was outside of our zone of interests, and it’s a tragedy what happened there, but at some point we have to draw an overt line around our interests and say, “We will not go into that area by ourselves.” Kosovo should have been the EU’s responsibility but we seem to not want it capable of acting independently of us.

      Same for Japan. The dirty secret of Asia is that Asians still fear the Japanese, but we can’t coddle these countries forever by pretending to be Japan’s ally when in reality we’re its jailer. One of these centuries, we’re going to have to trust that once Japanese voters have their fate in their own hands, they won’t immediately invade Manchuria.

      I think that’s a 50% cut right there. And all those years Bush was wasting our money on Iraq, Latin America began wrestling itself free of US hegemony, and it’s working for those countries both economically and militarily (as in, we built up those militaries into a threat to wage war on their own citizens).

      I am not a pacifist. I think the model for our military policy should be that formerly held by Britain; that in the absence of a genuine superpower threat, we simply keep our Navy strong enough to defeat any likely combination on the high seas (two carrier groups could do that if we’d stop poking around the Persian Gulf), and rely on the Marines for short incursions without the means to carry our a full occupation. The Strategic Air Command and most of the Regular Army perform no function but to tempt our leaders into foreign adventures. Really the only part of our Air Force that justifies its monstrous price tag is the part that protects ground forces, meaning the A-10, the slow plane the USAF didn’t want. Our air wars have not broken any nation to our will.

  5. It is hard to describe the sample as “Arab” since a lot of countries are missing but among the sampled populations in Egypt, Lebanon, UAE, Jordan and Morocco:

    In retrospect, do you believe the international intervention in Libya was the right thing to do?
    The right thing to do 35%
    The wrong thing to do 46%

    link to brookings.edu

    What two countries pose the biggest threat to you?
    Israel 71%
    US 59%
    Iran 18%

    There is international pressure on Iran to curtail its nuclear program. What is your opinion?
    Iran has a right to its program 64% (53% in 2009)
    Iran should be pressured to stop its nuclear program 25% (40% in 2009)

    I also note that Brookings was careful _not_ to ask directly what the respondents think about Israel’s legitimacy as a enforced Jewish majority state.

    Instead it asks if Israel returns all 1967 territory, which is not even on the table, would the respondents accept Israel. The results were still not positive for Israel, but more positive than a relevant question would have yielded.

  6. All the bases will be turned over to Iraq, all 505 of them? A very impressive number indeed — if it actually happens.

    A less impressive number is the 18,000 American troops still in Iraq as there will be a like number of Americans permanently assigned to the gargantuan American embassy (formerly known as the Green one) in Baghdad plus approximately 60,000 private contractors whom could fairly be described as mercenaries.

    • Hi, Steven. Oh, the other 18,000 will be out by the end of this year.

      An estimated 150 Marines will guard the embassy.

      Foreign security contractors will be 5,000, but will be in the country at the pleasure of the Iraqi government (Xe/ Blackwater was kicked out).

      The thing to be afraid of is not a residual American imperialism but an imperial Nouri al-Maliki and his levies.

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