The "military-industrial complex" Eisenhower warned us about has become King Kong

For fifty years since former Supreme Allied Commander and President Eisenhower warned “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex,” that complex has grown and grown. It now gets everything it wants and more, even over the objections of the Secretary of Defense, who asks, “Is it a dire threat that by 2020 the United States will have only 20 times more advanced stealth fighters than China?”

Nicholas Kristof writes President Obama is throwing away, on wars and weapons, obscene piles of money that could be spent far more effectively:

President Obama… is now requesting 6.1 percent more in military spending than the peak of military spending under Mr. Bush. And it is Mr. Obama who has tripled the number of American troops in Afghanistan since he took office. (A bill providing $37 billion to continue financing America’s two wars was approved by the House on Tuesday and is awaiting his signature.)

Under Mr. Obama, we are now spending more money on the military, after adjusting for inflation, than in the peak of the cold war, Vietnam War or Korean War. Our battle fleet is larger than the next 13 navies combined…

an unbalanced focus on weapons alone is often counterproductive, creating a nationalist backlash against foreign “invaders.” Over all, education has a rather better record than military power in neutralizing foreign extremism. And the trade-offs are staggering: For the cost of just one soldier in Afghanistan for one year, we could start about 20 schools there.

…The American military has been eagerly reading “Three Cups of Tea” but hasn’t absorbed the central lesson: building schools is a better bet for peace than firing missiles (especially when one cruise missile costs about as much as building 11 schools).

Mr. Mortenson lamented to me that for the cost of just 246 soldiers posted for one year, America could pay for a higher education plan for all Afghanistan. That would help build an Afghan economy, civil society and future — all for one-quarter of 1 percent of our military spending in Afghanistan this year.

Posted by James on Thursday, July 29, 2010