David H. Hackworth
February 2, 1999
THE WAR BUSINESS
Do you ever yearn for the good old days of the Cold War when the war dance between "us and them" had become so choreographed, so predictable? Back then, we knew all the moves: the superpowers kept world order with their walls, curtains and intercontinental ballistic missiles. The rules were simple, easily understood even by school kids doing nuclear drills: cross the line and get fried and what's left will glow for 250,000 years.
And for the taxpayers, who paid the freight for all the Cold War toys and boys, the cost was constant, kind of like a car payment - about 18 cents of every tax dollar went to the Pentagon. Now with the Cold War over, we're still making that same Pentagon payment and soon the ante's getting kicked up. But just what is the Pentagon defending against these days? Well, there's the war with Iraq - - which makes no sense at all unless it's to keep our war machine running hot by testing new megabuck missiles and systems. A new war, declared last August by Bill Clinton against terrorism, is about to annually cost billions of bucks as well. Then there's the budding war in Kosovo, where members of our mercenary Army, Military Professional Resources Incorporated, CEOed by a former U.S. Army Chief of Staff, are laying the foundation for a costly military misadventure against Serbia which has about as much a chance of succeeding as our failed operations in Somalia and Haiti.
The Three Generals: General Dynamic, General Electric and General Motors, and all their weapon making cohorts, are thrilled, of course, by all these costly sorties. Witness how the prices of defense stocks have skyrocketed since the Cold War ended. And they'll climb higher. Clinton's just agreed to add another $107 billion to the Pentagon budget, which Republican Hawks already are complaining isn't enough. Back when the Cold War ended, the weapon makers worried that the American people would switch off the tube and ask a few hard questions. Like why is the Pentagon still buying Cold War gear such as attack subs or spending a trillion bucks on new fighters designed to fight the defunct Sovs? Why are our forces spread around the world in more than 150 countries? And the bottom-line question: Why are we-the-taxpayers still pumping all that dough into the Pentagon when there's no serious external threat to the USA? In the 1930's, a romping stomping Marine General asked similar questions. He even coined the label "War is a Racket" in a book bearing that name.
Smedley Butler wasn't just a hero who'd been awarded two Congressional Medals of Honor but a man of unusual street smarts and rare moral courage. Butler believed the war racket could only be stopped by taking the profit out of war. He recommended that all defense workers - from the CEOs who make millions of bucks a year to the lowly defense plant janitors and all the bankers, generals and admirals, politicians and government officials - be paid "a total monthly income not to exceed that paid to the soldiers in the trenches."
Butler also advocated that a vote be held to determine if a war should be declared. "A plebiscite not of all voters but merely of those who would be called upon to do the fighting and the dying." He wanted only those who would risk their lives to decide whether the nation should go to war. Not the well-heeled industrialists or the professional politicians whose real allegiance is not to protecting our warriors or our citizens, but rather to their defense contractors and their their pork. Or, for that matter, the switched-off citizens who can't get enough of the Bill & Monica Show. Incidentally, anyone know who voted for all the Clinton Wars since 1992? Congress hasn't. I haven't. Have you?
The third leg of the general's platform was that our military should stay home. He reckoned if it weren't flexing its military muscle around the globe, a lot of wars wouldn't happen. So, he concluded that our Army "should never leave the territorial limits of our nation." Butler's concepts should be revisited. No profit from war and no foreign entanglements are also in line with the thinking of our founding fathers.