Monday, August 15, 2011

Why the Afghanistan War Won't End Soon

Let's hope Richard Falk is eventually proven wrong (although, for the time being, his analysis strikes me as correct). That is, let's hope a powerful, organized anti-war movement emerges that is capable of undermining the legitimacy of this costly and inhumane venture.

One of the ideas floating around out there is that the punishing wave of austerity being pushed through by Obama and the Democrats has a "silver lining" in that it includes cuts to defense spending. First off, it's not difficult, even in ruling class circles, to make the case for reducing "defense spending" when the budget is as bloated as ours is at present. Finance capitalists are so hell-bent on deficit reduction that it is reasonable, even within a ruling class perspective, to think that defense spending can be trimmed down a bit.

Second, we have to keep in mind that Washington is committed to financing the continued occupation of Afghanistan. Even if cost-cutting moves are made, they pale in comparison to the cost of that conflict alone.

Finally, as Doug Henwood points out, "in 2000, we spent 3.7% of GDP on the military. The Pentagon didn’t have to hold bake sales. We’re now spending 5.4%. Merely going back to 2000 would save 1.7% of GDP, or $255 billion. If over the next decade we spent 3.7% of GDP instead of 5.4%, we’d save $3.6 trillion." Now, you'll have noted that this sort of reduction is not even discussed as an option among the two corporate parties. It's taken for granted that the military-industrial complex must more or less remain intact as it is. Both parties are committed to maintaining the US's Cold War military buildup indefinitely. Both parties are committed to the subjugation of the peoples of the world to the interests of domestic elites in the US. Nothing will change as long as progressives believe that they can challenge imperialism by voting Democrat.

And, in reality, even a 1.7% decrease in defense spending (as a fraction of GDP) is modest. The US government outspend nations that could conceivably pose a military threat by more than 3 to 1. Left-liberals should be suspicious of cheap attempts to quell their discontent by pointing to a few minor cuts to a bloated Pentagon budget. A genuinely progressive diagnosis yields the following demands: end the wars, tax the rich, no austerity.

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