Presidents come and go, but some powerful forces here in Washington, D.C., such as the military industrial state, go on and on. President Trump and all announced candidates for president agree on one thing — a strong military and increased defense spending. Why? Because we want our nation to be safe and we don’t want another 9/11 attack. We think that by spending more money we are assuring our safety.
We should also be working to innovate within our military so we can spend less while actually improving our national security.
The military industrial state is ingrained into the fiber of our nation. Every state has some military facilities and there are thousands of employees associated with military spending. Trump has proposed spending more on the military, and both parties in Congress have concurred — primarily for building more ships and planes of WWII traditional style.
Our labor unions support increased military spending in part because almost all military weapons are built by union labor. Military construction and building ships, aircraft and other military-related items is the last stronghold of organized labor. Thus many Democrat representatives who are friends of the unions support expanding military spending. Republicans tend to support increased military spending as part of the party’s platform. Every representative and senator has a significant military constituency. To be “soft on defense” is fatal in American politics.
So why is there no serious discussion of reducing or streamlining the military budget? Not a single current presidential candidate has put forth a plan to modernize and change our weapons systems — keeping America safe with fewer dollars. In fact there is little discussion of using more drones, robots, robotic combat vehicles, lasers, thermal imaging and computerized information-blocking weapons.
We have a serious problem — the federal deficit. It is my greatest fear that the huge federal deficit might well lead us to financial disaster and meltdown. One way to reduce that deficit might be stop building all those WWII era bombers and ships. Experts tell us that our naval carriers are sitting duck for drone-delivered bombs, yet we keep building them out of inertia. Experts say that we could build drones and robots much cheaper.
There is, of course, a moral dilemma in using drones and robots. It seems to violate our sense of fairness to have robots carrying weapons invading a lesser developed nation. As a Vietnam combat veteran, I can attest that I felt an immense moral dilemma in carrying a rifle into the Delta of Vietnam in 1967. Several of the Vietnamese military officers spoke English or French, and I was able to make some friends (with whom I am still in touch). But most American soldiers returned without a single Vietnamese acquaintance.
Today our troops go into countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan with almost no conversations with the locals. We could use robots instead.
With satellite mapping, thermal sensing and night vision, robots and drones can actually see better than human beings. And they create fewer civilian-related casualties. Pakistan, however, has accused the United States of causing several drone-related deaths on the frontier with Afghanistan where we have used some drones on a limited basis.
Some feel converting to drones would actually make our military more effective. Drones would not get PTSD. If we really decided to convert to new technology completely we could substantially reduce the size of our military, and we would not have so many veterans like myself who suffer from PTSD or other war-related maladies.
Here in Washington, the status quo in military weapons is strongly supported by the military industrial state. The construction of military weapons is supported by both political parties, the Pentagon and legions of law and lobbying firms. New ideas about streamlining weapons systems are almost non-existent.
Perhaps it will take a new political party to really shake things up in our massive military. The Libertarian Party has shown some signs of having the courage to tackle our military structure. That party opposes foreign interventions and has made mention of weapon modernization.9 comments on this story
And of course the average citizen would have to be convinced. However, without a single mention of modernizing from the current presidential candidates, our bloated military will continue to grow.
And so will the federal deficit. I served on a commission projecting our worldwide military spending. It is just not sustainable in the long run without either a substantial tax increase or the streamlining of our weapons systems. We have some hard choices to make. I hope our political parties and our presidential candidates will start talking about real military reform.