Released January 18, 1999
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Clinton's $124 Billion Defense Increase Jeopardizes Social Security, Medicare

"Islamic terrorism" helps justify defense spending

Desperate to fend off the Republican led impeachment process, President Clinton has agreed to an $124 billion increase in defense spending over seven years, thereby, jeopardizing his earlier commitments to education, social security, medicare, and programs for the poor.

Measured in 1995 dollars, U.S. defense spending has declined from a Cold War high of around $375 billion in 1988 to around $265 billion in 1997, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Defense spending for the USSR was around $260 billion in 1988. With the break up of the USSR, Russia's defense spending has declined to around $30 billion annually. Nevertheless, U.S. military leaders warned that funds were needed to fill alarming gaps in military readiness.

"The scope of the problem was driven home," writes Bradley Graham (The Washington Post, Jan 14), after Clinton "listened to generals and admirals cite mounting pilot shortages, ships cruising without full crews, rising cannibalization of parts from inactive weapons to make active ones and cutbacks in Army training."

Others remain unconvinced of the need for defense spending increases.

"Here we go again," says Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, USN (Ret.), Deputy Director, Center for Defense Information. "The U.S. already spends substantially more for military forces than any other nation, with no significant threats to our national security. We're engaged in an arms race with ourselves."

"Americans don't need to spend more money for military security," says Admiral Carroll. "What we should do is to quit wasting money on forces and weapons we don't need to fight non-existent enemies abroad. Instead, we ought to use the same dollars to address pressing national needs such as improved education, medical care, housing and law enforcement right here at home."

Former U.S. presidential candidate Patrick J. Buchanan, writing in The American Cause (Jan 12) asks, "With the Cold War over, why invite terrorist attacks on our citizens and country, ultimately with biological, chemical or nuclear weapons? No nation threatens us."

Mr. Buchanan cites a paper by the Cato Institute's Ivan Eland, "Does U.S. Intervention Overseas Breed Terrorism? The Historical Record," which documents how attacks on the U.S., or on U.S. citizens, were a direct result of U.S. intervention. Mr. Buchanan's examples include Pearl Harbor, Viet Nam, Palestine, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, Saudi Arabia.

Says Mr. Buchanan, "America is the only nation on Earth to claim a right to intervene militarily in every region of the world. But this foreign policy is not America's tradition; it is an aberration. During our first 150 years, we renounced interventionism and threatened war on any foreign power that dared to intervene in our hemisphere."

But the Pentagon has resisted budget cuts for a decade.

Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara, and Lawrence J. Korb, an assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration, in their December 11, 1989 testimony before the Senate Budget Committee, stated that U.S. defense spending could safely be cut in half over the next five years.

Anxious to protect cold war levels of defense spending, the Pentagon manufactured the threat of Islamic fundamentalism (Leon T. Hadar, The Green Peril: Creating the Islamic Fundamentalist Threat), rogue states and nuclear outlaws (Michael Klare, Rogue States and Nuclear Outlaws).

While Russia's defense spending declined to about 15 percent of Cold War levels, U.S. defense spending declined to about the 70 percent level. The chart below, based on information from SIPRI, shows annual defense spending in billions (1995 $) for the U.S., its allies, and potential adversaries.

defense spending chart

The total defense spending of all the "rogue states," Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Syria, remains at about $15 billion annually. Iran and Iraq spent only $3.3 billion, and $1.2 billion in 1996.

The total defense spending of Russia, China, and India is about 50 percent that of U.S. allies the United Kingdom, Germany, and France, and less than 15 percent that of the U.S. plus its allies.

Scaling back defense spending, and restructuring U.S. spending to better meet the needs of the new millennium, a daunting task for any president, was within Mr. Clinton's grasp. But this immensely popular Democratic president, crippled by his private behavior, caved in to the Pentagon. Mr. Clinton squandered, what may have been his last chance, to leave a positive mark on history.

William Hartung, senior fellow of the World Policy Institute, claims "that a Monica-weakened Clinton bowed last fall to the Pentagon's demands for more funding (Milwaukee Sentinel & Journal, Jan 11)." Mr. Hartung contends "the arms industry has launched a concerted lobbying campaign aimed at increasing military spending and arms exports. These initiatives are driven by profit and pork barrel politics, not by the objective assessment of how best to defend the United States in a post-cold war period."

Mr. Clinton, having cut welfare spending by $55 billion over six years in 1996, is giving defense an $124 billion spending increase. The surplus which was to have been targeted for education, Social Security, Medicare, and for the poor will be used to fight U.S. provoked "terrorism."

Having bombed a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan and huts in Afghanistan to divert attention from Monica Lewinsky's testimony before the grand jury; having "flattened an agricultural school, damaged at least a dozen other schools and hospitals and knocked out water supplies for 300,000 people in Baghdad" (Reuters, Jan 6) at the start of the impeachment process, Mr. Clinton has now jeopardized the needs of the poor, the infirm, the middle class, to woo the Republicans during his trial in the U.S. Senate.

What would the defense department do without the "rogue states," and "Islamic terrorists" to keep the pork barrel full? What won't Mr. Clinton do to save himself?

["Under Boris Yeltsin, conventional forces bore the brunt of downsizing and shrinking budgets. Priority was given to the strategic nuclear force, which today is Russia's only real claim to status as a military power. Russia still has a standing force of 1.5 million troops, slightly larger than the one maintained by the United States, but the budget will be only $4 billion this year, compared with the Pentagon's $284 billion." -- Steven Lee Myers, "Russia Fights Stalinist Battles With American Tactics," New York Times, January 16, 2000]

["A privately launched spy satellite has revealed what American Intelligence has kept secret for years -- that North Korea's only operational missile test centre is a primitive facility consisting of a 'shed, a dirt road, a launch pad and a rice paddy.' Missile experts in the United States dismissed Washington's fears that the rogue nation now posed a serious threat to America's security." -- Michael Evans, "Spy Pictures Show Korea's Empty Threat," Times, January 12, 2000]

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