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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Clarke part LII

How can it be that the US military is strained to the breaking point occupying (sorry assisting) two medium sized countries when we spend about half of total world military spending ? I'm not sure this post is in regular readers' comfort zone, but one reason is that US elected officials have allowed the services to form a budget request cartel such that increased spending on the Army and Marines must be balanced by increased spending on the Air Force and Navy which is needed so they can protect us from the Soviet Union.

I am moved to type this by Ezra Klein's post "Clarke on Obama"

I'm at a panel featuring a conversation between Rand Beers and Richard Clarke, both of whom are supporting, and advising, Barack Obama. Clarke was just detailing the absurdity of buying weaponry to fight the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, despite the fact that neither exists any longer, and arguing the defense budget needs to be downsized. Then he cocked his head, and said, "you know, both presidential candidates support expanding the size of the armed forces. I support Barack Obama, but that doesn't mean I support everything he does. And I want to ask, 'what the hell do we need to expand the armed forces for?'"

I was particularly struck by a comment.

IIRC, Obama is talking about expanding the number of "men under arms" and shifting a bit from expensive metal stuff to a more "labor intensive" military.

While McCain wants more soldiers AND more expensive metal stuff.

Posted by: joe from Lowell | July 18, 2008 3:41 PM

I agree with Joe from Lowell's version of Obama that the problem is the rigid rule that "Until now, the Pentagon has largely divvied up the services' shares of the defense budget the same way every year: the Army receives 24 percent, the Air Force 29 percent, and the Navy and Marines a combined 31 percent. It is a delicate balance that has kept the services from moving aggressively to raid each other's accounts to pay for their additional needs."

leading to absurdities like emergency borrowing by the Army

That's no way to run a republic, it also no way to run an empire. While the candidates debate empire vs republic maybe they can also debate Army vs Navy (not the football game). No prize for guessing which side McCain will be on. This is an issue where he probably actually cares and where his likely position is clearly absurd.

The one key step is to ask former secretary of the Navy Senator Jim Webb if he is uhn on board for the anti Navy plan before attempting take off (from the Air Force too).

update: New frontiers is spam targeting. Soon after posting this I received the following e-mail with subject line "Army" and alleged recipient ""

From: [Name Deleted] ([name.deleted2]
Medium riskYou may not know this sender.Mark as safe|Mark as unsafe
Sent: Sun 7/20/08 11:04 PM
Reply-to: [Name Suppressed] ([Name8.Deletedz]
To a beautiful future [] No script req'd

[Name Deleted]

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Notice the nonsense stream of words which are not say "male", "enhancement", "Nigeria" or "free" which enabled the spam to successfully evade the excellent google spam filter. Notice that the 'bot, which certainly has nothing to do with [Name Deleted], had access to the information that I had expressed some interest in the Army and the Air Force. The only comfort [capsule] is that the 'bot didn't figure out that I had not expressed sympathy for the Air Force.


Anonymous said...

Hmm... many nasty things can be said about the need to split up the military/naval/air froce budget in some way that satisfies all the services -- probably most of them true. And one could justifiably point to the high costs of developing and procuring weapon systems that are far in advance of anything our likely opponents in future wars might have. and so on.

But my sneaking suspicion is that actually fighting a war and chewing up vast stockpiles of material and many many human lives is innately an expensive process, far more expensive than we dare admit to ourselves, and that we have managed to conceal this dangerous fact only by confusing periods of peace with "normaility."

To use some numbers: duirng WWII the USA spent about 40% of GNP on the armed forces; during the Eisenhower administration, the figure was about 10%; by the end of the Viet Nam war the figure was about 6%; currently it is about 4% of GNP, after a fall to maybe 3.5 during the Clinton administration. For comparison purposes, most European states have kept military spending under 3% since the 1970s.

No where in the world are there government officials who have a live visceral understanding of real war fighting costs. Everywhere we look, we see amateurs guessing that "war is like peace with 25% extra cost".

Which partially explains why the US Army ain't wiping up a couple of unfriendly pissant states over the weekend, let alone conquering the world for an encore.


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