The Pentagon: Where The Fat’s At

Jeremy Gantz

Will Obama have the guts and good sense to rein in this country's runaway military spending? In These Times Contributing Editor Frida Berrigan offers a great primer on this crucial topic over at TomDispatch.com. Here are the staggering stats:Eight years ago, as Bush prepared to enter the Oval Office, [annual] military spending totaled just over $300 billion. When Obama sets foot in that same office, military spending will total roughly $541 billion, including the Pentagon's basic budget and nuclear warhead work in the Department of Energy.And remember, that's before the Global War on Terror enters the picture. The Pentagon now estimates that military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost at least $170 billion in 2009, pushing total military spending for Obama's first year to about $711 billion (a number that is mind-bogglingly large and at the same time a relatively conservative estimate that does not, for example, include intelligence funding, veterans' care, or other security costs). And Berrigan's sensible counsel:To cut the military budget more deeply, however, means more than canceling useless, high-tech weapons systems. It means taking on something fundamental and far-reaching: America's place in the world. It means coming to grips with how we garrison the planet, with how we use our military to project influence and power anywhere in the world, with our attitudes towards international treaties and agreements, with our vast passels of real estate in foreign lands, and, of course, with our economic and political relationships with clients and competitors.As a candidate, Barack Obama stirred our imagination through his calls for a "new era of international cooperation." The United States cannot, however,…genuinely and effectively cooperate while spending more on what we like to call "security" than the next 45 nations combined. Despite today's official appointment of Robert Gates as defense secretary (both he and Obama agree that the Army and the Marines should be expanded), I still hope the "change" Obama will bring to Washington might reach the Pentagon and our bloated military-industrial complex. But I'm also completely prepared to be disappointed.

Jeremy Gantz is a contributing editor at the magazine. He is the editor of The Age of Inequality: Corporate America’s War on Working People (2017, Verso), and was the Web/​Associate Editor of In These Times from 2008 to 2012.

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