Login

What exactly is Defense?

During World War II there was a Department of War. It had been called that since 1789. War frightens people. Defense, protection, doesn’t. So, in a genius move, the War Department became the National Military Establishment for a couple of years until it morphed into the Defense Department. Defending you, the citizens of America, is a generous, good thing to do. It evokes protection, safety, security. And, in a sense, that’s what the Department of Defense was designed to do — partially in name only. In large part, under the cloak of coddling the public, the industrial military complex could really ramp up spending and profits.

The problem we’re faced with today is that Defense spending has gotten so big, so all-pervasive (politically and in employment numbers) that it cannot be halted. Take one small program, the F-35. Yes, the plane’s cost has been reduced to a paltry $85 million each from $110 million but that was done by an accounting procedure whereby amortization of fixing problems in the overly-complex machine were not affixed to each plane but to the overall project costs. The Secretary of the Navy, three years ago, in open testimony before Congress admitted that the overall cost of the F-35 program (planes, training, base and carrier modifications, airfields, spare parts, etc.) was perhaps $14 trillion over 10 years. And that’s one plane system, $1.4 trillion a year.

Now, listening to the news carefully, you may have heard that this administration has decided to create a Space Force. Well, since they kicked the Coast Guard out of Defense budgeting (never cutting Defense budgets!) and removing them from the Pentagon’s control — they are now part of Homeland Security— they want to find another program to feed the Industrial Military Complex. What have they come up with? Space Defense.

Breaking every single treaty signed since 1959 with every space exploration country on the planet, the USA has decided to develop and build a space-based missile defense system. Yes, they plan on arming space. Oh, no, sorry, they want to protect you from space. In the same way our cruisers, submarines and aircraft carriers protect you and never ever engage in offensive war, right? Putting weapons in space feeds the machine, yes. Could they be useful in early targeting of incoming missiles? Yes, but there are no real threats of incoming missiles, are there? Korea’s intercontinental missiles, so far, could reach U. S. islands but the weight of the warhead would be less of an explosion than a car bomb. So why do we need these space systems? And how can we justify the threat against us to make the cost of building space-based missiles worthwhile? Oh, simple! You pull out of all the treaties for missile deployment. Immediately you claim Russia and China are threatening us! Then you can spend the trillions (note: NOT billions) on new military hardware in “defense.”

While we all watch the three-card Monte media circus caused by this Administration, new programs, new war (oops, sorry, defense) systems are being authorized, planned and will be implemented. The sooner the media — on all sides — returns to watching for the real, lasting, dangerous war games and spending trends instead of the amusing/deluded/frightening bouncing orange ball, the better.

Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, N.Y., now lives in New Mexico.