Bush panders to irrationality

Elton Wong

One issue that always gets kicked around during the political debates is military spending. This is certainly an important topic. George W. Bush has publicly declared that he supports increased military spending, because he thinks our forces are not as strong as they should be.

Many Republican party platforms being drafted across the nation voice similar sentiments. On the other side of the spectrum are organizations such as the Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, who call for a 15 percent reduction in the Pentagon budget.

Current military spending accounts for about 50 percent of the national budget. Which side is more reasonable?

Is our military force declining? Yes and no. In 1993, the Clinton administration conducted what it called a “bottom-up review” of our military interests, preparedness and real capabilities. These studies found that the U.S. military strength has indeed declined since the 1980s. Studies such as these are often used as evidence that we must give more money to the Pentagon.

However, comparing current military with military during the height of the Cold War is not a reasonable method. This criticism has been articulated by Dr. Lawrence Korb, the former Assistant Secretary of Defense under Reagan.

Korb proposes we compare our military strength to that of any potential adversaries. Studies like “bottom-up review,” which were done by the Pentagon itself, are nothing more than rationalizations of the existing force structure by those involved in it.

The Cold War is over now, and the need for a military industrial complex is over too. If America today had to fight a war against America in the 1980s we would probably lose, but so what?

Although absolute military strength has gone down, our actual military strength has gone up, in the sense that none of our potential adversaries now pose anywhere near the threat of the U.S.S.R. in the Cold War. We must recognize this.

Take combat aircraft, for example. Perhaps the most ridiculous example of military spending is the B-2 “Stealth” bomber. The United States purchased 20 of these planes at one billion dollars apiece. The high cost was supposedly justified because these planes were supposed to be invisible to radar.

This claim turns out to be true, unless the plane is actually used to deploy bombs. When this happens, the open bay doors of the plane make it perfectly visible to radar, as evidenced in Kosovo last year. Also, the B-2 can’t tolerate any moisture in the air, so it can only fly when there’s no rain or cloud cover.

But if we ever need a sweet-looking plane to fly around in a blue sky while not dropping any bombs, the B-2 would be a fine pick.

The B-2 replaced the B-1, which was developed over thirty years ago and formerly was the most expensive plane ever bought by the military at that time.

It turns out the B-1 was never actually used for anything. Hawkish people point out that the B-1 was never intended to be deployed, because it was a nuclear-strike bomber. Instead, they point out, the B-1 was a threat that kept peace by intimidating our enemies.

Forgoing the obvious Einstein quote about preparing for and preventing war, it is interesting to notice that when it comes to nuclear weapons, our Inter-Continental-Ballistic-Missile (ICBM) systems were already fully operational by the time the B-1 bomber came out.

Everyone knows that an ICBM is a much faster and efficient way to deliver a nuclear warhead than a plane. In addition, a plane can be easily shot down by surface-to-air missiles or other fighter planes, while there is no known effective defense against an ICBM.

What I’m saying is that if we ever wanted to vaporize two metropolitan civilian areas to intimidate a potential rival again, we’d have no trouble doing it without planes.

So how did Congress ever get duped into buying a multi-billion-dollar useless plane?

Well, it turns out that defense contractors spend quite a bit of money on political donations. From 1991 to 1997, defense contractors spent more on political contributions than the tobacco industry, $32.3 million vs. $26.9 million. I’m not saying these donations are related to purchasing useless expensive weapons by our politicians, I’m just saying is all.

Returning to the subject of nuclear weapons, the United States currently maintains an arsenal of eight thousand active warheads.

This is an expensive process. Dr. Korb estimates that the United States could save 15 billion per year by cutting down our arsenal to one thousand, but such a reduction will likely not happen.

I really don’t get this. How could we possibly need that many nuclear weapons? Do we, like, keep the second four thousand in reserve on the off chance that the first four thousand fail to do sufficient damage the target? Any potential nuclear exchange with nuke-possessing nation would result in mutually assured destruction.

There would be no winners in such an exchange, and having eight thousand bombs isn’t going to help us when we’re too vaporized to fire them.

Increasing military spending may give a sense of security, but it is a false sense. Current events and history have shown that even the most sophisticated technology can easily be trumped by the most basic methods.

Saddam Hussein made our smartest bombs useless by using human shields on his military bases so that we could not strike. The Serb army was able to down a one-billion dollar plane by hiding in the woods and using Soviet vacuum-tube technology.

Timothy McVeigh was able to bomb the Oklahoma government building using fertilizer, fuel oil and a van. Biological warfare could easily be instituted by one person, from within the United States or outside.

Meanwhile, 1.5 million American kids qualified for head start don’t get in due to lack of funds. One-third of our school buildings are in need of extensive repair or replacement.

Our national forests are being logged by the government for money. Politicians, like Bush, who pander to irrationality and Freudian complexes should be put in their place. Move our money, you fools.

Elton Wong is a junior in philosophy and biology from Ames.