Prague Twin

Friday, February 03, 2006

Reduced Millitary

Regarding the reduced size of the millitary under Clinton, this link is definately worth reading.

My read tells me that major base reductions became a DOD priority as early as the last year of the Reagan administration. Planning continued, and closures were initiated under GHB, and the policy continued right up until the end of the Clinton administration.

In all, nearly a quater of all domestic bases were closed.

What struck me as interesting was the DOD focus on the development of new weapon systems with freed-up cash from base closures. Translation: Spend money on hi-tech gadgets and send a half a million hard-working men and women packing.

The report ends right at 2000 with a question mark. I'm assuming that as the hawkish Bush administration took the reigns they at least tried to maintain the same or greater troop strength, just not at home.


  • Sorry but your translation: "Spend money on hi-tech gadgets and send a half a million hard-working men and women packing" doesn’t take into account the jobs created by the procurement of "hi-tech gadgets" that comes in the form of R&D, manufacturing, overhead, etc., Not to mention the potential bleed over of invention into the civilian market. Never forget where Teflon pans came from.

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 3:26 PM  

  • This is a fair point. Some argue that the American private sector is overdependent on these weapons programs. What would happen to the weapons manufacturing sector if it was determined that these types of weapons were no longer needed in the quanities required in the past (say, during the cold war)? This is a very real structural problem in the US economic model that runs counter to Neo-liberal theory: dependence on Federal money.

    The question is wheter or not we need more hi-tech missle systems or if we need more men and women in uniform. This thread started with the suggestion that the Clinton administration had erred in reducing the man power of the millitary. The article you sent (thank you, by the way) was clear that the DOD recommended that troop size should be reduced (bases closed) to free up capital for these systems.

    So is this the wrong direction?

    I understand the benifits of having the military (and NASA) connected to the private sector. I have many friends and relitives who make their (very good) livings engineering for either the Army or NASA. The opportunity for them to develop their skills and innovate is unparalleled.

    But is this dependence on government contracts sustainable and is it consistent with Free Market theory?

    In my mind it is not.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 1:27 PM  

  • Indeed reliance on government contracts is not sustainable, and in fact shortly after the fall of the Iron curtain many defense workers found themselves in the unemployment line, but the beauty of the public sector/private sector marriage (found almost exclusively to be limited to military procurement) is this: The companies who employed said defense workers had to answer to the demands of the free market system (profit) and as such they were forced to reorganize (layoff workers) in order to meet those requirements. This allows them to remain economically viable; this is a good thing for the public sector as well, in that they will be able to continue to receive taxes from the remaining wage earners and reap additional taxes from future business growth.

    When institutions that are wholly public sector entities (S.S. Medicare, etc.) face the same situation the solution always seems to come in the form of a tax increase rather than reorganization, and as taxes ultimately come only from business large and small - largely in the form of wage earners – in a theoretical world the tax burden can become so great that the business/workers simply cant/wont continue to sustain the lost revenue. It's why any system of government that can’t live with the ebb and flow of the free market burns itself out and why we must link a small portion of S.S. to a narrowly defined section of the Free market

    But I digress, I don’t think it comes down to a simple choice of boots on ground or gadgets, but rather how we balance it out. Now if Ronald Regan were in the White House when there was ample opportunity to seize OBL we would not have needed all the boots on the ground intelligence that we really needed and need to this day. My only point in bringing up Clinton in this whole thing is that he took credit for reducing the size of government rather than the blame for reducing the military and while that ball was rolling before his watch, the media let him spin it to his favor all he wanted.

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 3:33 PM  

  • Yeah, but Teflon pans are going to be phased out by 2015 because of the toxicity levels found in long term users. Yes, that is another chemical introduced by the wonders of schience that causes poor health in the "civilized" world. Perhaps the question there should be: Why wait till 2015 to eliminate another carcinogen? Simply profit-maximization and business interests ahead of the public.

    And I'm going to leave it there, for a rant about the US military is a long and exhausting process that will lead to questions of imperialism, historical comparisons and evaluations, condemnation of the capitalist system, various aspects of democracy, and general over-all ANGER at the inability of the general public and leading class of the world - and specifically America - to think outside of their own specific interests and of the greater good. But I could write a book about that.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:59 PM  

  • Actually, I can't seem to leave it... lol... But at what expense are we getting all of these "great" inventions? 401 billion dollars on defense and 80 billion on education? So we can have Teflon pans?

    Let's think about all the people throughout the world that that suffer for the US's insistence on military might. The US government has a doctrine of sustaining its position as the lone superpower. This is done through creating fear by professing military strength and economic imperialism.

    Rich you are arguing for more troops and high military budgets, but again, what is the opportunity cost of such an endeavor? It is all cyclical. The less funding on education, the more easily influenced the public is. The less money spent on social programs the needier the public is. The more needy and impressionable the public is, the more likely they are to fall under the sway of those in power who's agenda is not worldwide development, but the development of various strategic interests.

    I'm not trying to say this is a conspiracy, because that would mean it was a pre-conceived plan. What I am saying is that it all comes back to the "system" that we live in. A socio-economic system that allows the taste of power to become so permanent and regenerative that the leaders of all aspects of worldly society - business, political, economic, etc. - couldn't stand to think of their world without this “power”.

    The US has followed a Realist foreign policy doctrine for the majority of this century and this avenue is not new to the Bush government. History shows us that from president to president it is just varying levels of American imperial arrogance. Some presidents were more overt about it, others less, but as a whole, the nation itself is a power-hungry proponent of the expropriation of the areas of the world that it can dominate. Which unfortunately for world development, includes the strategic resources in lands occupied by the more than 2 billion people that will not be adequately fed today.

    Let’s look beyond our own borders and see what is really happening to the world. We no longer measure our successes on personal happiness, and the sustained happiness of others (including others we don’t know), but on GDP growth. Europe is more productive per-capita than the US, but GDP growth is not as high. So “their economies are struggling”. No the just work less hours and don’t have as many kids. And that is just Europe; apply that level of measurement to the developing world. How can society truly gain when economic measurements ignore things like spirituality, culture, personal taste, and the like from economic equations because they are not “Quantifiable”? How does the current world quantify happiness? Through GDP growth. Nothing else matters.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:52 PM  

  • Well first of, there is no coming phase out of Teflon pans, what’s being phased out is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) a chemical commonly used in the manufacture of Teflon, and it is to be replaced by a non hazardous chemical by 2015. I introduced Teflon pans into the argument only to illustrate the relationship between government spending in the private sector and private sector advancements in science as they relate to consumer goods. Now I could have made an example using the advancements in photovoltalic panels as an example of how this government/private sector relationship has brought about things that are more ecologically sound, and how the relationship is not just simply about the fiscal bottom line. So hopefully you can now see that the relationship is more viral and complex and about more than just pots & pans.

    Now, as to why wait until 2015 to remove from the manufacturing process and chemical that has yet to be linked to human cancer and has to date only been proven to cause cancer in laboratory animals? (You’re not a PETA member are you?): Since business interests are also people interests (employees) it is necessary for the good of the work force to try and make the transition to the new chemical or manufacturing process as seamless as possible. How would you feel if you woke up one morning and were told you and 100,000 other tax- payers (more than likely this is a conservative figure if one is to take into consideration all the ancillary jobs that rely on the manufacturing of Teflon) no longer had a job because a rat got cancer? What economic ramifications do you think this would have on a community? Remember were not talking about DDT here, and as such, we can take the time to “ease out” of the situation. It is also important to remember that it’s quite possible that the technologies used to prove the harmful properties of perfluorooctanoic acid came from where? You guessed it: Government spending in the private sector.

    Now, lets think about the people throughout the world that suffer for the U.S.’s insistence on the use of military might: By this I assume you are talking about “Western” Europe and the South Koreans? It is important to remember that if you are going to have a discussion about anything, you must take into consideration all aspects of that topic. Now, lets assume that there was no American military might at the start of WWII. Is it not quite possible that we would be communicating in the German language? Or take for instance what was “Eastern” Europe. It has been surmised by many a person far more qualified to talk about this than myself that the Iron Curtain fell only due to sustained bolstering of the U.S. strategic and tactical readiness in that theater of operation – a readiness that the Soviets could not successfully sustain. It again in fact is possible that “Pragutwin” would not even be able to host this web log were it not for the insistence on the use of military might on the part of the Americans. An insistence that ultimately forced the Soviets to weaken its grip on what once was Czechoslovakia.

    Now I must agree with you on education (not in its funding but its importance) Your logic on this is correct (uneducated people are easily coaxed into poor decisions) But the numbers you provide only show a small part of the picture and do not take into account the education spending that comes from State and local funding (entities that by the way do not share in the burdens of defense spending) I suspect that many a fledgling teacher with good intentions discovers that “big education” (unions) is working furiously to make certain that their monopoly on “education” is never broken, and as you insinuate: The less the public is educated the more easily influenced they are to such Ponzi schemes as is the public “education” system in America.

    Yes of course we should look beyond our own borders to see how things may or may not work. But I must ask: When have the Americans (or anybody else for that matter) ever looked to the sustained happiness of others as a measure of their success? Perhaps we should be building nuclear reactors like the French have (52 reactors in France to 0 in the same time frame for America) so that we can be less dependent on foreign oil. Or perhaps we should have as high an unemployment rate as well? While you may think the European grass may be greener, having lived there I can tell you I for one don’t.

    At any rate, as Praguetwin said in his opening letter: No one is wrong, we are all learning, lets see what we can teach each other. Welcome to the fray of public debate.

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 1:56 AM  

  • Arch and Anon,

    Thank you both for your comments.

    Arch, getting back to the problem of dependence on government contracts, I think overdependence is a problem, but there are certain things that will always have to be centrally planned, largely the construction and maintenance of infrastructure, and of course, the military.

    I hear your point about the necessity of the military. In the case of WWII, and countless past wars, it is a key point to keep in mind. But if we assume for a moment that this marriage of the public and private sector that you speak of is desirable, why can't the same type of system exist for the construction of domestic infrastructure, or education?

    What I think we should be considering, is that we should re-think this dependence on military contracts to bolster the economy. Could this money be better spent, and still have the positive effects on the economy that the military spending does?


    I am skeptical about the real health risks associated with chemicals. I think some people are very sensitive to the toxic environment we live in. It is a price we pay to live with technology. If we start talking about chemicals, the first thing we should think about is the cars and the trucks and then the coal we are burning and breathing.

    I guess what I'm saying is I can't be bothered to worry about everything that might give me cancer. People used to cook with aluminum a lot for instance. Not the best idea, clearly, but most people survived. I don't mean to be insensitive to environmental dangers, but exploding battery factories are something I try to avoid. Teflon never really scared me that much. They should get the nasty chemical out, but not at the cost of a lot of peoples livelihoods. The word is out, and I don’t see people stopping the use of Teflon out of fear.

    Anyway, I agree with your assessment of the imperial nature of US foreign policy. I think the point has to be made that even if the Administrations policies were completely benevolent, why should the world believe us as a nation? When did we announce the end of "business as usual" and become the world’s keeper?

    When did we apologize for the mistakes of the past (the installation of a puppet regime in Iran comes to mind)? It seems our credibility on the use of military (save for the world wars) is in pretty bad shape.

    On your point about the quality of life, I think this is a key one. I think it does matter, and clearly, I am over here in Europe because I find it much more comfortable. There is less of a focus on material (at least in Eastern Europe). This is probably a result of the lack of it.

    One thing you can't argue with is that there is more opportunity to obtain wealth in the states, especially for the common man. When I visit, it never ceases to amaze me the level of material wealth of people in the states who have "regular jobs".

    So if it is money that you are after, the United States the place to be.

    But the point about GDP growth is a good one. Even during the Clinton boom, things didn't improve that much for the middle class and even less for the bottom fifth. This trend has continued in the Bush Administration where you have 3.5% growth all year (except the fourth quarter), but the standard of living for the working class is stagnant. Stagnant at a very high level, mind you.

    At least here, the situation for regular people is improving. People are buying property, many for the first time. Wages are increasing; the currency is strengthening giving the landowners more European capital. I suppose it is easy to improve when you are picking yourself up off the dirt.

    Which, Arch, brings me back to the military. I don't disagree with the assertion that the soviet collapse was induced by the military, but was this really the best thing that could have happened?

    I know that shaking off the Soviets was especially important for the Czechs, but the speed with which the changes came created its own problems. Rapid privatization led to vast land grabs and scams. Basically, anyone dishonest and clever enough was able to borrow what they wanted, buy property with a company, sell it to their cousin for peanuts and close the company.

    There are so many poor public works projects that were done in the early nineties, but they are probably STILL better than what the communists were doing in the eighties.

    Things are getting better, but the government sub-contractors in this country make the ones in the states look like saints.

    I just got back from Germany, however, and it worked great. Frankfurt is a clean, functional, city. It is safe, clean, and everything works great. They have a huge exposition center, which generates income for the city. The freeways were amazing. Speed limits are determined by the traffic conditions. The trains were clean and fast and quiet.

    It just goes to show you what could be.

    I think if the US spent as much money on infrastructure as they do on the military, the states could lead the world into the future.

    It seems to me we should be focusing more attention on developing a replacement for oil.

    I understand the necessity of the military, but I think it should be limited to what is necessary. What the pacifists are saying is that a gentler foreign policy would mitigate the necessity of the military, and resources could then be directed at infrastructure.

    I don't buy the argument about speaking German. I'm sure the world would be very different had we hypothetically not had a military, but I think that because of resistance, the Germans would have had a hard time maintaining their world empire. Scandinavian resistance during the war in the form of work slowdowns and bombing of railways was very effective. I like to think that Americans would resist all efforts at occupation and would maintain their place--in this hypothetical world--as a world player. Clearly, German would be dependent on US industrial production, but I guess your hypothetical world is one is which we had taken an isolationist, Jeffersonian route from the beginning.

    But we are all glad that that world is just in our imagination, and we came out on top. There is no question that a strong military is essential in this world.

    The question is not, "to military or not to military", but to what degree.

    I advocate a shifting of the emphasis back home. Not isolationism, just common sense investment in the most important thing: the people and the country itself.

    Perhaps these marriages of the public and private sector could be used in all areas where central planning is unavoidable.

    I don't like the idea in social security, however, because if benefits are tied to public sector performance, it is likely that the time when they are adversely affected by market conditions will be precisely the time when they are most needed. Lets not forget that social security was created after the stock market crash. It seems ironic that we should rely on stocks to fund it. If SS can be considered insurance against poverty, it should be independent of the market.

    But it seems clear that the public sector should be taking a larger role in education and domestic infrastructure.

    Not just the military.

    Thanks again both for your comments.


    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 3:35 PM  

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