Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Spot unburdened II

Yesterday, Spot had some things to say about the respective stances (bad word choice, sorry) views of Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer and Al Franken on ending the Iraq war. Today, Spot wants to talk about the even larger issue of defense spending in general.

It is a subject about which, as far as Spot can tell, Al Franken is silent. There is nothing about this issue on Al's web page, and Spot has not heard him talk about it.

But it is something that Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer has mentioned every time that Spot has heard him. Jack talks about the teachers we could hire, the infrastructure we could repair, or the myriad of other things we could do it we just reined in the defense budget (and we're not talking about the care of veterans here), and divorced ourselves from the PNAC crowd's idea of building and maintaining global hegemony.

We can't afford it, boys and girls. We're spending ourselves into oblivion on defense at the expense of all the things that really make the U.S. strong: its economy and its human capital.

Here's part of what Frida Berrigan wrote recently at Tomdispatch:

A full-fledged cottage industry is already focused on those who eagerly await the end of the Bush administration, offering calendars, magnets, and t-shirts for sale as well as counters and graphics to download onto blogs and websites. But when the countdown ends and George W. Bush vacates the Oval Office, he will leave a legacy to contend with. Certainly, he wills to his successor a world marred by war and battered by deprivation, but perhaps his most enduring legacy is now deeply embedded in Washington-area politics -- a Pentagon metastasized almost beyond recognition.

The Pentagon's massive bulk-up these last seven years will not be easily unbuilt, no matter who dons the presidential mantle on January 19, 2009. "The Pentagon" is now so much more than a five-sided building across the Potomac from Washington or even the seat of the Department of Defense. In many ways, it defies description or labeling.

Who, today, even remembers the debate at the end of the Cold War about what role U.S. military power should play in a "unipolar" world? Was U.S. supremacy so well established, pundits were then asking, that Washington could rely on softer economic and cultural power, with military power no more than a backup (and a domestic "peace dividend" thrown into the bargain)? Or was the U.S. to strap on the six-guns of a global sheriff and police the world as the fountainhead of "humanitarian interventions"? Or was it the moment to boldly declare ourselves the world's sole superpower and wield a high-tech military comparable to none, actively discouraging any other power or power bloc from even considering future rivalry?

The attacks of September 11, 2001 decisively ended that debate. The Bush administration promptly declared total war on every front -- against peoples, ideologies, and, above all, "terrorism" (a tactic of the weak). That very September, administration officials proudly leaked the information that they were ready to "target" up to 60 other nations and the terrorist movements within them.

John McCain bellows about not surrendering in Iraq; hell John, it's a little late for that. Iraq was the wrong flight to begin with. Osama bin Laden - remember him? - is more than happy with our giant exercise in self-flagellation in Iraq. Maybe some day, it will dawn on John that the terrorists have already won.

But back to Al Franken. Franken does not articulate any vision for the U.S. role in the world - not that Spot has ever heard, anyway - that shows any promise of leading us out of this war-like morass.

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