By diverting social capital from productive to destructive purposes, war and the preparation for war deplete, rather than enhance, a nation’s strength. –Andrew J. Bacevich
By Paul Balles
Many industries that started in America have moved abroad under free trade (FTA) agreements to take advantage of cheap labour. Thus, Americans lose jobs at home to countries where labour costs less.
According to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the number of US jobs created by export expansion in relation to the number lost to the growth of foreign imports, because of NAFTA in its first ten years, resulted in a net loss of 879,280 jobs.
Other free trade agreements have had similarly disastrous results for employment in America. President Obama, while expressing concern and hopes for job creation, has been simultaneously pushing for additional FTAs.
The problem: high unemployment for Americans. The solution has been to develop industries in America that cannot be moved abroad. One in particular, the defence industry, keeps its secrets and employees at home.
Warning America at the end of his presidency, Dwight Eisenhower, US general and commander of forces in WWII said, “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”
According to the 2010 Department of Defence (DoD) Financial Report, DoD total budgetary resources for fiscal year 2010 were $1.2 trillion. Budgeted DoD expenditure for 2009 represented approximately 43% of all global military spending.
The US military budget doubled from 1998 to 2008 in the biggest explosion of military spending since the early 1950s – and now accounts for 56 percent of discretionary federal spending. Eisenhower’s warning has been ignored.
Anyone following the news recently would know that many states and local communities in America have been laying off police, firemen and other community services.
Meanwhile the federal government splurges on military spending. This reflects a terrible distortion of security needs. Local security has been sacrificed to the military industrial complex.
Investigative historian and journalist Gareth Porter says that we have completed “the process of creating a ‘Permanent War State’ — a set of institutions with the authority to wage largely secret wars across a vast expanse of the globe for the indefinite future.”
The defence industry also recruits foreign customers for military hardware. The DoD generates those by indulging in wars, occupations and building vast military industrial sales.
How many military installations does the US have around the world? 1000 as Hugh Gusterson said in “Empire of Bases”. MSNBC reported that America has military in 137 countries.
The US also benefits from sales of military hardware–often outmoded—around the world. Therefore America must also keep these other countries at war or under threats of war.
World military spending has now reached one trillion dollars, close to Cold War levels. Forty percent of arms sales are by America according to the Grimmett CRS Report for Congress.
Why does the US need all those bases in so many countries around the world? What are the excuses used by the US war machine for so many US military installations?
Recently, there’s been talk about reducing the cost of government in America. A few have even suggested reducing the military budget.
However, reducing defence expenditures would mean huge losses of jobs, income and spending in the US, bringing about another worldwide great depression. Therefore the US needs the “Permanent War State” that Gareth Porter says we have created.
America now has the paradoxical situation of needing to stimulate wars that kill people so economies can feed people to keep them alive.
Even when the US pretends to help others economically, there are strings attached. Much of the aid America gives is military aid. The aid recipients are pressured to buy American manufactured armaments. Egypt is a case in point.
The US has kept Mubarak in power—it gave his regime $1.5 billion in aid last year—mainly because he has supported America’s pro-Israel policies, especially by helping Israel maintain its stranglehold on Gaza.
Egypt has been the number two recipient (after Israel) of US foreign aid. In both 2009 and 2010, the economic aid amounted to 250 million dollars while the military aid reached 1.3 billion dollars.
US military aid to Egypt has been spent primarily on strengthening the regime’s domestic security and its ability to confront popular movements.
In a report for the Carnegie Foundation on US aid to Egypt, Ahmad Al-Sayed El-Naggar asks “Why don’t Egyptians notice the role of American aid to their country? The simple answer is that U.S. economic aid to Egypt, which amounted to $455 million in 2007, translated to only $6 per capita.”
It was even less in 2010 when the total economic aid of 200 million could provide less than $3 per capita income. The people have suffered in poverty while Mubarak supported his army and the US military industrial complex.
In Egypt, only Mubarak, his cronies and the army have benefitted while millions of Egyptians starve. Is it any wonder they have taken to the streets in protest?
In America, the major concern is keeping the defence industry alive and its employees well paid. The talk at the top is about “humanitarian” concerns. For 10 years of Mubarak’s 30-year rule, the talk has been the same for public consumption.
What they didn’t count on: the young in Egypt learned how to use social networking to organize protests.
Both Egyptian and American leaders are experts at selling the people short.
Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. He’s a weekly Op-Ed columnist for the Gulf Daily News. Dr. Balles is also Editorial Consultant for Red House Marketing and a regular contributor to Bahrain This Month. This article originally appeared in www.gulf-daily-news.com
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