Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Working for the Meltdown: Introduction

I've recently completed an anthology edited by Winslow Wheeler entitled, America's Defense Meltdown, and the selections are, at least to this reader, illuminating. Each chapter is written by a different author (though some authors pen multiple chapters) and each such sub-unit takes on a separate facet of the overall mission. In its entirety, America's Defense Meltdown is an attempt to reexamine America's military heritage, its current and past priorities and strategies, and the interplay of entrenched defense-related interests with each of the foregoing, all in an attempt to offer advice on how to better tailor defense policy (and spending) to what would be an optimal approach given our current goals and limited resources.

It's an ambitious project, and the roster of civilian experts and retired military personnel contributing to the effort do an admirable job of providing the relevant history and background, as well as concrete recommendations for future action. But the true strength of the book lies in the willingness of its many contributors to challenge conventional wisdom and a well-guarded the status quo. This is no small feat considering the size, reach and potency of the interests being challenged. Consider, from Lt. Col. John Sayen's (US Marine Corps, ret.) Chapter 1 overview:

Our military is very expensive. The “official” budget will soon hit $600 billion per year. This approximates the military budgets of all other nations of the world combined...[T]he real budget is much higher than the official one. The official budget does not include the Department of Homeland Security or Veterans Affairs, both of which are really military expenses. The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are paid for by offline “supplemental” budgets so they are not included either. If one adds these costs the budget climbs to about a trillion dollars. [emphasis added]

Any time one seeks to pick a fight with a trillion dollar domestic industrial complex - which employs millions both directly and indirectly - one should expect to meet stiff and formidable resistance. As stated in the Preface:

The vast majority, perhaps even all, of Congress, the general officer corps of the armed forces, top management of American defense manufacturers, prominent members of Washington's think-tank community and nationally recognized "defense journalists" will hate this book. They will likely also urge that it be ignored by both parties in Congress and especially by the new president and his incoming national security team.

Nevertheless, over the coming weeks, I will offer mini-reviews on certain of the chapters, highlighting the issues raised therein, in an attempt to widen the parameters of what should be considered acceptable, if not vital, debate. That is not to say that the recommendations contained in this work should be accepted whole-cloth. That would be an impossible expectation, and it would belie the fact that there is not unanimity amongst the book's authors as to the ideal course going forward.

Rather, by putting forth forceful, fact-based, well-reasoned challenges to entrenched patterns and accepted norms - and the vested interests represented by a massive segment of our economy and population - America's Defense Meltdown provides a useful entry into a larger discussion that we as a nation cannot afford to put off any longer - both literally and figuratively.

The first such installment to follow shortly.

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?