Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 6, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

THE CHINA SYNDROME....Speaking of Esquire's profile of Adm. William Fallon, it also contains this fine little fragment about the tail wagging the dog:

When the Admiral took charge of Pacific Command in 2005, he immediately set about a military-to-military outreach to the Chinese armed forces, something that had plenty of people freaking out at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. The Chinese, after all, were scheduled to be our next war. What the hell was Fallon doing?

Contrary to some reports, though, Fallon says he initially had no trouble with then-secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld on the subject. "Early on, I talked to him. I said, Here's what I think. And I talked to the president, too."

It was only after the Pentagon and Congress started realizing that their favorite "programs of record" (i.e., weapons systems and major vehicle platforms) were threatened by such talks that the shit hit the fan. "I blew my stack," Fallon says. "I told Rumsfeld, Just look at this shit. I go up to the Hill and I get three or four guys grabbing me and jerking me out of the aisle, all because somebody came up and told them that the sky was going to cave in."

Ladies and gentlemen, your military-industrial complex at work.

Kevin Drum 2:16 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Comments

And it is here that I hold out hope for Obama. A sliver, only, yes. But there is not even a sliver of hope for the other two.

Posted by: jayackroyd on March 6, 2008 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

A Military-Industrial Complex is kin to an Oedipal Complex.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on March 6, 2008 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

I don't get it. How could weapons programs be threatened by commanders talking? I think the Chinese would have already heard about programs, and I would also think Fallon wouldn't be so stupid as to reveal secret programs.

???

Posted by: anonymous on March 6, 2008 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't get it. How could weapons programs be threatened by commanders talking? I think the Chinese would have already heard about programs, and I would also think Fallon wouldn't be so stupid as to reveal secret programs."

Basically, all that bridge-building is fucking up the defense contractors' sales pitches. It's somewhat impolite to be going around selling weapons systems aimed at our best buddies. It's like marketing an anti-Canadian defense system.

Posted by: wm on March 6, 2008 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

I still don't get it. Letting commanders communicate could help resolve military crises that could result in an accidental or preventable combat or even war. It's not to make friends. It's a healthy respect for the lives of both sides.

Posted by: anonymous on March 6, 2008 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Up on 'the hill,' huh? It really really really should be called the Military-Industrial-Congressional complex, just as Ike's speechwriters originally described it.

Posted by: buddy66 on March 6, 2008 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, anony, but one thing sometimes leads to another. The mere act of communicating could through a series of accidents lead to peace breaking out.

Posted by: Boronx on March 6, 2008 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

>"Ladies and gentlemen, your military-industrial complex at work."

More accurate reality:

Ladies and gentlemen, your military-industrial complex is running this country. In fact, it is running most of the world.

Posted by: buford on March 6, 2008 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

I don't get it either. Don't we just give away our military secrets as a facet of celebrating multiculturalism?

http://www.cnn.com/US/9905/25/cox.report.highlights/
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Over a 20-year period, China has stolen secret data on every weapon currently deployed in the U.S. nuclear arsenal and is most likely still doing so despite tighter security measures imposed at nuclear labs since last fall, a long-awaited congressional report said Tuesday.

Posted by: Luther on March 6, 2008 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Luther at 3:56 wrote:

"I don't get it either. Don't we just give away our military secrets as a facet of celebrating multiculturalism?"

You're either purposely trying to promote racism or you've seen too many movies, if you're implying that letting ethnically Chinese people work on nuclear weapons is the only reason secrets get stolen (if this has in fact happened in this case). You don't need to be the same ethnicity as someone to sell secrets to them, you just have to want money (or be vulnerable to blackmail, or extortion, or whatever).

The idea that we have to stop all ethnically Chinese or Muslims or whatever from doing anything is Republican scare-tactic bullshit. You don't need a foreign language to do espionage any more than you need a dry martini, a snappy suit, or a Walther PPK pistol. You think the Chinese don't have or can't get anybody who can speak English? Then how do they make treaties and deal with us?

Posted by: Swan on March 6, 2008 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

If peace breaks out is congress going to want to pay for all those fancy weapons systems? The Military/Industrial Complex is the mother of all jobs programs. If peace breaks out a lot of people are going to be out of work.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 6, 2008 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

If peace breaks out a lot of people are going to be out of work.
In case something terrible happened, such as peace breaking out, some alternative job programs could be:
> infrastructure repair
> mass transit development/improvment
> research into energy-saving technologies
One of the great fucking crimes of the last century is the way we've allowed our national culture, and our economy, to be hijacked by the arms industry at the expense of so much else.

Posted by: thersites on March 6, 2008 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

"I still don't get it. Letting commanders communicate could help resolve military crises that could result in an accidental or preventable combat or even war. It's not to make friends. It's a healthy respect for the lives of both sides. "

The bottom line is that defense companies don't make money when everyone is holding hands, and making love.
No, they make money when everyone is not talking, and shaking fists at each other.
Really, it's not that hard of a concept to grasp.
War has good profit margins, peace sucks the life out of war profiteers.

Posted by: sheerahkahn on March 6, 2008 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfowitz_Doctrine

Posted by: Jet on March 6, 2008 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

War is good business, so give your son.
I'd rather have my country die for me.
-- Jefferson Airplane, 1968

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 6, 2008 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

If wars were profitable our economy would be booming. It isnt.

The broken window theory of destruction being profitable is a fallacy. Wars create debt.

Posted by: Jet on March 6, 2008 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

When peace breaks out, Republicans in congress just have the country buy their cousins'/golf buddy's weapons anyway, to save 'em for the next war, or the weapons companies sell weapons to one of just about every other county in the world.

Posted by: Swan on March 6, 2008 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

Jet wrote: "If wars were profitable our economy would be booming. It isnt ... Wars create debt."

The economy is most certainly booming -- for the military contractors, and the oil corporations on whose behalf the war in Iraq (and the future war with China, which will be fought for control of the world's dwindling post-peak oil supplies) is being fought.

Yes, the war in Iraq is creating massive debt. The federal government is borrowing billions upon billions to finance the war. Where is that money being spent? It is going into the coffers of the military-industrial complex. It is going to protect the trillion-dollar profits of the oil corporations.

War enriches the few by impoverishing the many.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 6, 2008 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

buddy66: "It really really really should be called the Military-Industrial-Congressional complex"

Yes.

Queeny-the-lead-dog on bloated military spending is every congress-critter who must keep the gravy flowing into each congressional district, or increase the flow. There is NO chance that a congress-critter would ALLOW the "military-industrial complex" to cut a program or procurement even if it wanted to. THEN they pile on earmarks.

By the way, jayackroyd, Obama has called for INCREASED military spending so forget that. Repeat after me: There is NO HOPE.

Posted by: Don Bacon on March 6, 2008 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

"The Chinese, after all, were scheduled to be our next war."

The Chinese are the main suppliers of credit to keep the American Way of Life (TM) going, but yes, let's start a war with them. They also build almost everything we buy (whoops, say goodbye to Wal-Mart if we attack China).

Posted by: Speed on March 6, 2008 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

Though not unexpected given the pervasive influence of the Pseudo-Con mindset over U.S. budget priorities, the obsession with rising Chinese military power is ironic, given that:

1. the U.S. trade deficit with China at least partially funds their growing military budget

2. China's entire military budget is only about one-tenth that of the U.S. military budget

3. Since 2002, the U.S. has been spending more every year just in "off-budget" supplemental war funding appropriations than China and Russia combined spend on their entire military

Posted by: Elvis on March 6, 2008 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

This makes me angrier than anything else.

Posted by: James on March 6, 2008 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

Elvis, of course you know that facts don't matter and propaganda rules.

Now the Pentagon wants to get military spending up to four per cent of GDP, or about $800 billion. Four per cent is about right to these big thinkers, as if there were any justifiable correlation between GDP and necessary military spending. So the government, by war, and exporting manufacturing jobs, and deficit spending, and easy credit, and ARMs, has enabled Americans to spend 'til they drop, so what? What does this have to do with the bloated Pentagon budget when the US is not threatened by any military power?

Posted by: Don Bacon on March 6, 2008 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

How shortsighted of the weapons developers. They need only shift their focus. A truly diabolically brilliant approach would have been to encourage comity with China and surreptitiously turned attention toward Russia.

Peace isn't going to break out globally. Not until the Bonobos take over, anyway. It shows a lack of imagination to stake Armageddon on a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors instead of Chess.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on March 6, 2008 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

Peace breaking out

You may say that I'm a dreamer,
and you're probably fucking right
God-damn it all.

Posted by: thersites on March 6, 2008 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

The economic history class I took so many years ago taught that wars destroy economies. It usually takes a couple of generations to bring a country back to the level of economic output it had before a war.

Weapons designers are psychotic fucks.

Posted by: Brojobo on March 6, 2008 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

War enriches the few by impoverishing the many.

That might be true. But I'd rather say simply that Bush's philosophy of gov't & life is, roughly, that enriching the few is right and just and pretty much God's will.

He is a repulsive and puny man. I just hope that history does to him what he has done to the Constitution.

Posted by: mattski on March 6, 2008 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

This is not a little thing. This guy is admitting that our military leaders and politicians purposefully try to keep tensions high between us and potential allies.

WTF.

This shit has real consequences. People die, on a very large scale, because of shit like this.

If a liberal or Democrat went on a Sunday morning talking head show, and made accusations like that, he'd be completely dismissed as a conspiracy nut.

Instead, pundits and politicians, even if they wanted to mention it, would tut tut and say, "of course, no one is accusing anyone in our government of instigating conflict, blah blah"...

This shit is a big deal. Remember before we had Muslims for our two minute hate, the Republican presidential debates in 2000 featured politicians all trying to out-demagogue each other towards the "Red Chinese". I said at the time that Bush would try to start something with China. A few days later, our spy plane goes down on Hainan Island.

Oh, but for a watchdog media in the country, which would run this as a story.

Posted by: luci on March 6, 2008 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

Brojobo: The economic history class I took so many years ago taught that wars destroy economies.

Very true. Unfortunately the American experience has been somewhat different in this regard. We still have a collective memory of WWII saving us from the Depression. This one, though, will be different.

Posted by: thersites on March 6, 2008 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

I don't get it. Haven't we always been at war with Oceania?

Posted by: josef on March 7, 2008 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

We need to remember a more recent phenomenon: The "peace dividend" of the 90's. Yes, there was a tech stock bubble later on, but we got budget surpluses, record low unemployment rates, low inflation and more affordable housing than now. We are now in a late 60's inflationary Vietnam War spending redo leading us into yet another 70's stagflation scenario. It would do a lot of good to end the war now instead of prolonging it for another 5 years sparing us a redo of the 70's stagflation era.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on March 7, 2008 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

Brojobo writes:

Weapons designers are psychotic fucks.

Well, they also helped us win the Revolutionary War, beat the South, and destroy two fascist empires. Let's not get carried away. And Swan, you're right.

Posted by: Andy on March 7, 2008 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

Andy

Weapons are neutral. The minie rifle bullet could have cost the North the ACW-- it very nearly did, by the last year, it was conventional wisdom that if the other side had time to entrench/ build barricades, then attack was impossible-- hence the frantic winter of 1864-65. So could the machine gun, had it been invented 2-3 years earlier. Let alone barbed wire. Arguably the railroad and the telegraph did win the war for the North, but even that was not a dead cert. The ironclad warship was about neutral. A better naval torpedo (electric mine) might have denied Farragut his victory at New Orleans, but arguably Grant would still have taken Vicksburg. Submarines just weren't advanced enough.

Weapons can win wars, they can also lose them.

I'm not sure any weapon made a pivotal difference to the Revolutionary War. Courtesy of the French, eventually the colonials managed to have artillery almost as good as the British. The Kentucky long rifle is much famed, but given the low rate of fire, probably only peripheral. It wasn't until the Minie bullet (1840s) that a rifled musket could fire as fast as a smoothbore.

Posted by: Valuethinker on March 7, 2008 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't it already obvious that we no longer have an enemy which endangers us in such a way that we need to spend every $$$ we make on the military (including spy agencies and the like)?

Somebody needs to reveal the black budget outline, so the public will know just how much of their money is being wasted while we can be attacked by terrists with box-cutters and a few hundred thousand dollars.

We need to review our military needs and revise our spending accordingly.

Somebody tell the nitwits we aren't at war with the whole world.

Posted by: MarkH on March 7, 2008 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Let's not get carried away.

Weapons designers are the ones who have gotten carried away:

"We're still working on a buzzing sound that makes cranks like you swell up like a bag of diseased meat and explode."

Posted by: Brojo on March 8, 2008 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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