William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. This article was distributed by Minutemanmedia.org.
Buy that sub/ And plane and tank;/ Makers rush it,/ To the bank.
Life in a military-industrial state can be a trifle surreal. Take helicopters. We make them here. Lots of them. But in an attempt to lower labor costs and to cuddle up to more Congress members, Sikorsky has shifted some of its production to other states. This cost-cutting and political scheming has worked fine against the company’s real enemy, Boeing, but not so well in the war. Quality control has suffered. Now the Pentagon and the GIs who have to fly the things have grown testy. You just can’t please everyone.
But at least our helicopters do go to war, ready or not. Our submarines don’t. The Navy wanted to sail them up the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to support the troops, but the water was too dirty.
And so, instead of fighting in the Halls of Montezuma or other combat, our subs fight in the Halls of Congress. How many nuclear submarines should America produce and which companies should get to do the work? That’s our central military security issue. Profits and jobs are on the line here. The enemy is not al Qaida or Iran, but Congress members from competing states. And occasionally the Pentagon commissions a consultant to produce a study showing that indeed China will become a serious threat by 2061, so we had better start getting those subs built now.
Other states produce other white elephants. Aircraft carriers are the biggest. We need a bunch of them, just in case the Japanese ever rekindle their designs on Pearl Harbor. We also must push ahead with the F-22 and Joint Strike fighter now that Vladimir Putin is responding poorly to our new missile plans.
Still other states make guided missile destroyers or cruisers, or bombers or aerial tankers. Some are the sites of ancient intercontinental ballistic missiles or the new anti-missile missiles. None of these any longer show much military utility, but their workers are making good salaries, their manufacturers are making good profits, and their factories are paying good taxes. Military necessity can’t hold a candle to arguments like that.
It has been especially disconcerting to watch one of our able new Democratic members of Congress here get sucked into this old martial syndrome. Joe Courtney is a particularly high type politician, but when you only win by a whisker, you can’t afford to offend the submarine lobby. This is how the subs keep getting built and the rest of the world looks upon each christening as yet another military provocation.
The aircraft carriers, of course, are even more provoking. They’re so big. They also harbor flying war machines that can undertake thousands of pernicious small-scale missions. In this role, they helped conduct the low-level bombing war against Iraq throughout the ’90s, destroying water purification plants and thus poisoning many thousands of civilians. This affront effectively fertilized the growing al Qaida hatred of the United States.
But no matter. Carriers must be constructed because they have a political constituency. And their planes must be given missions because that’s why we went to all the trouble to build them and to train their crews. Luckily, none of our putative enemies has the capacity to bomb us back. They’re carefully chosen for that quality.
And let’s not forget the members of Congress who not only support that budget but actually favor war and empire. Joe Lieberman and Chris Shays are among these. For them, a mighty war machine makes it easier to promote combat as our central international strategy.
For the rest of us the defense budget is just a big trap. Its main impetus may simply be jobs, but its message to the outside world is one of aggression. And in the hands of our current malevolent leaders, that is exactly what has happened.