Militarized Politics or Politicized Military?
In one sense those terms can mean the same thing. It's common in water-cooler speak to imagine a scene where our gigantic military is scrutinized, defended and discussed.
Strawmen aside, most people, Left, Right or anywhere in between approve of a capable military force. They all approve of the military having the needed armaments and supplies to keep themselves safe while doing their job of defending the country. Now of course, there's a lot of detail there that will forever be in dispute. The right size and budget for the military being one such detail. Tied into size and budget is a perception of the needed our military is many grey areas and what exactly our military needs.
Personally, I prefer to err on the smaller side. I think our military is a lot bigger and more expensive than it needs to be. I also don't find it prudent to use it as often as we do. I think a fully functional and lethally capable military, besides being a great deterrent, does not need to be anywhere as large and expansive and expensive as it is. The military cost is also much larger than just the defense budget. Many defense-related programs and appropriations fall into different categories like the Dept. of Energy. And let's not forget those supplements.
Christpher Preble, military budget policy scholar at Cato, has an interesting write-up today at Cato Daily Commentary about the politics of war and the military industrial complex surrounding advanced weaponry and the F-22 fighter jet in particular.
Preble notes that many military experts are forever preoccupied with the idea that America is still fighting "the last war". Secretary of Defense Gates, OTOH, actually thinks the establishment is too preoccupied with fighting next one and looking to justify projects that simply make no sense on any level other than building fun, new toys...because we can.
Gates said recently in Colorado that our military, in its current predicaments, would have a hard time launching a further ground assault elsewhere. But that doesn't seem to be his top concern:
"I have noticed too much of a tendency towards what might be called 'next-war-itis,' the propensity of much of the defense establishment to be in favor of what might be needed in a future conflict"....[ As it stands, we can] defeat any — repeat any — adversary who committed an act of aggression — whether in the Persian Gulf, on the Korean Peninsula, or in the Straits of Taiwan."
No surprises there. Anyone who thinks we can't more than protect ourselves militarily, even at current activity levels, is simply not being realistic. Our military is ridiculously huge, dangerous and advanced....to the point of being comedic.
Nonetheless, none of this stops the establishment from pushing for expensive new weaponry "with no applications, present or future." says Preble. All this despite the fact that any "enemies" the US faces, like Al Qaeda, have no air force or military to speak of...nor do we have any realistic potential "foes" where this upgrade is even remotely necessary.
When the F-22 program began, Air Force officials hoped to acquire 750 aircraft, but current plans call for just 183 F-22s to be built. When you factor in the $65.3 billion spent over the life of the program, the average cost of the plane comes to more than $356 million per unit.
At every stage in its development, the actual costs of the F-22 have exceeded projections. Government largesse insulates the military-industrial complex from market forces, and the Pentagon often purchases weapons on the basis of political considerations. The F-22 is no exception: the program involves as many as 1,000 subcontractors in 44 states.
The F-22's supporters have launched a Save the Raptor campaign, urging Congress to purchase at least 20 additional planes. Lockheed workers in Marietta, Ga., where the F-22 is assembled, have the most to gain from a decision to extend production. If the company doesn't receive a new contract by November, the production line might be closed down.
Naturally, congressmen like Phil Gringery (R-Alabama) and Chet Edwards (D-Texas), who represent districts with many of this jobs, are making hysterical cries against the end of the F-22 program. Gringery warned that his district would become "a ghost town" without the military pork and Edwards called its termination a "train wreck" for his district. This is crony socialistic capitalism at its most shameless and blatant....and the epitome of "make work" policy. Justifying "busy work" with tax money for its own sake is bad enough...doing it with expensive high tech busy work is even worse.
Gates, for one, questions the worth of such project with an unrealistically hypothetical enemy in mind as the F-22 is designed for "near peer conflict". In terms of air power, we have no peers, good or bad, near or far. So basically, it becomes of an issue of keeping jobs...jobs we don't need but pay for anyway.
We need debate on military spending issues. It's not a question of weak or strong. It's a simple matter of wasteful or useful.
We shouldn't fritter away precious defense dollars on extraordinarily costly platforms like the F-22, simply to protect the jobs of defense workers when our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are being attacked on the ground every day.
If we allow political considerations, rather than strategic necessity, to dictate what weapon systems are built, taxpayers might well be on the hook for more F-22s. And these planes, the most expensive fighters in history, may spend their entire lives preparing for a war that never comes, and sitting out the ones that do.