US budget battles: defending defense amid cuts

US congressmen and Pentagon officials are debating how to trim the country's $55 trillion deficit.

­While President Barack Obama has already proposed cutting the massive defense budget by $78 billion, over the next five years, the Pentagon is making sure the cut does not come at the expense of America's ability to wage war.

And the hawks are really fighting to the very last: when non-essential programs are being slashed, the proposed budget will actually see the defense spending grow this year, something the ordinary Americans taxpayers are going to pay for, as the price of living in a warmongering country is getting dear.

RT America's report on the U.S. defense.

­The fact is that America’s defense spending doubled over the last decade, declared Laura Conley from the National Security Center for American Progress, and it is the high time to do the math and match US resources and priorities.

Anyway, “the people do not realize that the $78 billion reduction of the defense budget is not actually a cut of the budget; it is a proposed reduction in future levels of defense spending, in projected levels. Most of them won’t come into action until 2014 or 2015,” Conley explained, noting that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that no money can bring down the defense risks to zero.

“We need to fund the Pentagon at a level that allows us to meet our critical national security needs,” she said, rather than follow the policy since 2001 of “buying everything, doing everything.”

­Miriam Pemberton from the Institute for Policy Studies says that investments in the military sector are less beneficial for residents.

“What we need to do is shift savings that we can rarely make in a military budget into other forms of investment in our economy,”
she said. “They actually create more jobs. We committed a study a couple of years ago that showed that a billion dollars invested in a military creates about a 11,000 jobs, but if you put it, for example, mass transit, which the president wants to do, you create 17,000 jobs. Seventeen thousand jobs for mass transit, 11,000 jobs from military spending – so this investment in things we did that will actually improve the part activity of our economy as a whole is a better job creator than military spending.”

­The US war on terror in Afghanistan appears to be akin to killing a fly with a sledgehammer, argues Matthew Hoh of the Center for International Policy, because Al Qaeda is not present there, and instead there is more “a crime syndicate than a conventional military force.”

The case of Iraq differs from Afghanistan in many ways, because it has nothing to do with 9/11 and the war there was waged based on incorrect and misleading conclusions, like Saddam Hussein hiding weapons of mass destruction. What the US actually did in Iraq was not bringing democracy to the country, but provoking a civil war “by demonizing Sunnis in that country and by elevating Shiites to the positions of power,” Hoh said, and “this war still has repercussions throughout the Middle East.”

“Saddam Hussein had a brutal government, but most Iraqis would prefer to have that than to have the violence and the chaos and the insanity that marked the daily life in Iraq since 2003,” said Hoh, who spent about 20 months in Iraq as a Marine Corps captain.

­Political analyst Laicie Olson says that major cuts to the military budget – the $78 billion which Defense Secretary Robert Gates is talking about – are in fact not cuts at all.  

“It is a very, very large amount, and it is still increasing… In fact much of it actually comes from changes in economic assumptions – such as just changing around what the projected inflation rate is – so many of these cuts being talked about are not even cuts, and as a result the defense budget is still growing by a real increase, after inflation of about 3 percent,” he said.

­If the US wanted to secure a better future for Afghanistan, it wouldn’t be loading the country with weapons and surging, declared Kathy Kelly from Voices for Creative Non-Violence.

“The idea that the US is able to train and create small groups of armed militia in every single village [in Afghanistan]… is a prescription for civil war and ongoing violence,”
she warned.