Christopher A. Preble / The National Interest & Eric Margolis / UNZ Review – 2018-02-26 22:42:02
Trump’s Budget Is a Bonanza for Hawks
Christopher A. Preble / The National Interest
(February 22, 2018) — The Trump administration released its budget for FY 2019 on Monday, and the reviews are in: military spending advocates are pleased and deficit hawks are dismayed . The top line  steers $716 billion to various national security functions.
The Pentagon will get $617 billion in its base budget, plus $69 billion to pay for the ongoing wars. Spending on nuclear weapons tucked away in the Department of Energy makes up most of the rest. Over the next five years, the Trump administration expects to spend $3.6 trillion on the nation’s military.
The size of the active-duty force will rise by 25,900, and there is more money for operations and maintenance. Funds for the procurement of new equipment will grow by nearly $19 billion, a 14.9 percent increase over 2018. The details reveal a smorgasbord of spending going to the nation’s defense contractors:
* $10.7 billion for seventy-seven F-35 Joint Strike Fighters
* $2 billion for twenty-four F/A-18s
* $7.4 billion for two new Virginia-class submarines
* $6 billion for three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers
* $2.3 billion for the B-21, the long-range strike bomber that will eventually replace B-1s and B-2s
* $3 billion for fifteen K-46 refueling tankers; and
* $900 million for six new presidential helicopters.
Speaking of POTUS’s air travel, two new Air Force Ones “are still projected to cost $4 billion,” reports DefenseOne‘s Marcus Weisgerber , “despite President Trump’s claims he negotiated with Boeing to take $1 billion off the price tag.”
Lastly, not to be outdone, the Missile Defense Agency  is requesting $9.9 billion, a 20 percent increase over last year.
President Trump boasted “we took care of the military like it’s never been taken care of before.” According to the president , Secretary of Defense James Mattis gushed “Wow, I can’t believe I got everything we wanted.”
The SecDef didn’t confirm the president’s account of this conversation, but did tell reporters traveling with him  to Europe this week that the new budget would “bring us back to a position of primacy.”
It’s not clear that we ever left. US military spending, in real, inflation-adjusted dollars, remains well above the Cold War-average, even under the modicum of spending restraint imposed by the bipartisan Budget Control Act (BCA) passed in 2011. Indeed, as CSIS’s Todd Harrison notes, the increase “comes on top of a budget that was already higher than the peak of the Reagan buildup.”
We shouldn’t be fooled, in other words, by Pentagon CFO and comptroller David Norquist’s claim that defense spending has fallen well below the rate of inflation. That is only true if one ignores the massive drawdowns from Iraq and later Afghanistan.
Most of the decline in military spending since 2011 can be attributed to the sensible decision to reduce the nation’s losses in these open-ended conflicts — though both Presidents Obama and Trump ultimately opted not to cut these losses entirely. The rest of the Pentagon’s budget has continued to rise, while the force has grown smaller.
During this period of supposed austerity and restraint, the United States expanded existing wars, launched new ones, and doubled down on policies aimed at discouraging US allies from doing more to defend themselves and their interests.
President Trump, in particular, has significantly expanded  US military operations around the world, an apparent contradiction to his “America First” rhetoric. Meanwhile, Barack Obama also gave  the US military plenty to do, despite his instinct to not do “stupid s—.” 
Unsurprisingly, America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, have been feeling the strain. The modest spending discipline imposed by the BCA, combined with a still-high operational tempo, compelled US military personnel to do more with less.
You might think that someone in a position of authority in Washington, when confronting a massive fiscal hole, would opt for refocusing the US military on those missions that are essential to US national security. Instead, military spending hawks dug in their heels, refused to prioritize, or shed burdens to other capable actors, and waited for additional taxpayer dollars to make up the means-ends shortfall.
With the Trump budget, they’ve gotten their wish. But the victory may prove short-lived. Our debt-fueled spending binge, after all, is sustainable only so long as the buyers of paper believe that Uncle Sam will honor the financial commitments underlying them.
And, with domestic spending already consuming a larger and larger share of total federal outlays, a rise in interest rates could pose a greater threat to the Pentagon than China or ISIS.
Christopher A. Preble is vice president for defense and foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute and the author of The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free .
Why One War When We Can Have Two!
Eric Margolis / UNZ Review
(February 24, 2018) — ‘We will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists, but great-power competition — not terrorism — is now the primary focus of US national security.’ Henceforth Russia and China will be America’s main enemies, with Iran and North Korea thrown in for good measure.
So declared US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, last week in a statement of profound importance for the world.
For the past seventeen years, the US military has been laying waste to the Muslim world in the faux ‘war on terrorism.’ Afghanistan, Iraq, much of Syria, Somalia, Pakistan — all have been heavily bombed. US B-52’s and B-1 heavy bombers have tried to pound those resisting American ‘guidance’ into submission.
In Afghanistan, America’s longest war, President Donald Trump ordered a doubling of bombing against Taliban forces battling US occupation. Now, the US is running very low on bombs, guided munitions and even air-to-air missiles for some reason. Stores of munitions are being rushed from the US Pacific command to the Mideast.
At the same time, the US is fast running out of Muslim targets to bomb, now that the bogeyman ISIS has vanished into thin air and US air attacks in Syria are being minimized for fear of clashing with Russia. Iran still remains on the US potential hit list.
Which brings us back to General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis. He is quite right that so-called terrorists (that’s anyone who actively opposes the Lex Americana) pose no real life or death threat to the US mainland.
But if so, how then to maintain the $1 trillion US military budget? Well, of course, trot out those good old ‘Reds Under Our Beds.’ Actually, the Pentagon has been planning a new war with China for the past three years, a mainly air and naval conflict to dominate China’s coasts and seas. The Pentagon is loading up on new aircraft, missiles, satellites and naval craft for the next Pacific War, and trying to enlist India as an ally against China.
But what then about Russia? Not so easy. The likely theater for a US-Russia clash is on the Baltic coast, Ukraine, the Black Sea or Syria. In this case, the US would be confronted by the same problem that afflicted France in the fall of 1939.
Few people know that it was France that first attacked Germany, not the other way around. Responding to the German invasion of Poland, France and Britain declared war on Germany. French divisions began to invade Germany’s Rhineland.
But after a few skirmishes the French high command, under the inept Gen. Maurice Gamelin, didn’t know what to do next. Germany was large, and the defensive-minded French did not anticipate occupying its entire country.
After a brief demonstration, the French Army withdrew behind the Maginot Line. Hitler did not counter-attack in hope he could forge a peace treaty with London and Paris. Winston Churchill and his fellow imperialists furiously sought to push Britain into war with Germany. But months of inactivity went by, known as the “Sitzkrieg” or “drole de guerre” until Germany acted decisively.
This would also be America’s problem in a war against Russia. How deep into Russia to attack (assuming no use of nuclear weapons)? How to protect ever-lengthening supply lines? Napoleon and Hitler faced the same challenges and failed.
Of course, this supposes the US is ready for war. In truth, neither the US and NATO nor Russia are in any way prepared to fight a real war on land, sea and air. Military forces on both sides have been so run down and depleted by little wars and budget cuts that there are serious shortages of war stocks and aging equipment.
Key NATO member Germany is in a shambles. Its feminized military, run by a nice but incompetent lady defense minister, could not fight its way out of a paper bag. France is not much better off. The US armed forces and Britain are critically short of spares, munitions, transport, and armor. Russia’s once mighty Red Army is short of everything. Both east and west are simply unready for a real war.
As if there is any reason for one. There is not. Those jackanapes in the US Congress and media trying to inflate online mischief by 20-something Russian hackers into a second Pearl Harbor are crying ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.
A final respectful note to Gen. Mattis (my dad was a marine): A good general does not pick a fight with two, far-away major powers at once. The trick is to turn them against one another. Declaring a future war against China and Russia is a crazy idea. Only draft-dodgers and generals who lost the Vietnam War could come up with it.
Republished from EricMargolis.com)
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