By Richard Girard
Poverty in itself does not make men into a rabble; a rabble is created only when there is joined to poverty a disposition of mind, an inner indignation against the rich, against society, against the government.
Georg Hegel (1770-1831), German philosopher. The Philosophy of Right, "The State," Addition 149 (1821; tr. 1942).
One of the most interesting conclusions of the Warren Commission is that there is no way to absolutely protect the President against an individual (or a small group) who is willing to die to assassinate him. The grenade attack in the former Soviet republic of Georgia last year has demonstrated that this is still true.
Now, I am not in any way advocating the murder of President Bush. My point is this: If we cannot provide absolute protection to the President, how can we expect absolute protection against terrorist attacks for ourselves?
Now I will make another statement that is equally certain to be shocking: terrorists are not the most dangerous threat to our national security. The current state of affairs of our Federal Government, and its incestuous relationship with large multinational corporations, represent a far more dangerous threat to our nation's well being.
Let us look at the current state of the American military. It has been stretched to the point of breaking by the war in Iraq, especially our National Guard and Reserve units. Particularly the ground forces are not meeting recruitment goals. Billions of dollars of equipment are being worn out or destroyed faster than they can be replaced. Retention of commissioned and non-commissioned officers, vital for the future quality of the American military, is declining. Morale is in the toilet. All of the good that came out of the debacle in Vietnam (in terms of our armed forces capability) is being squandered at a precipitous rate.
An even more worrisome aspect is the current moribund state of our manufacturing sector. Len Deighton, master of the espionage/suspense novel, wrote of the difference in economic wherewithal for Great Britain between the First and Second World Wars in his non-fiction WWII history Blood, Toil and Folly. Great Britain had started the devolution from a manufacturing to a service economy around 1885. In the First World War, Great Britain still had the manufacturing base to be the Allies' arsenal, providing munitions for France, Russia, Italy and the United States. Sergeant Alvin York, for example, won his Medal of Honor using the British designed Lee-Enfield rifle, not the American Springfield.
By the time of the Second World War, British manufacturing had declined to the point that Great Britain was dependent on the United States for one-half of its tanks, plus airplanes, trucks, half-tracks, and other munitions. Without this aid, Great Britain would not have been able to hold on against Rommel's onslaught in North Africa, let alone hold off the U-boats in the North Atlantic.
The American manufacturing base has, over the last three decades, declined even further than Great Britain's had between the First and Second World Wars. Our machine tool capability has declined by at least fifty percent in the last quarter century. Many Americans have no idea about how to work an assembly line, or any of the other tools of mass production. Thousands of factories have been abandoned, stripped of their machinery, torn down, and millions of workers have suddenly found themselves without jobs.
In the event of a protracted war, we no longer have the capability to tool up create the machinery we need to turn out the hundreds of thousands of weapons required for a long, intense war like Vietnam or the Second World War, or the people to train them in less than three years. If you have any doubt about this, look up one of the stories on the web about the Pentagon having to buy ammunition from Israel and other friendly nations over the last two years.
Additionally, the incestuous relationship of the military-industrial complex threatens our current qualitative position in military affairs. Much of our current material quality is due not to the actions of the corporations and the Pentagon's procurement process, but to the late John R. Boyd (Colonel, USAF, ret.) and his "acolytes," derisively called "the Fighter Mafia" by the powers that be in the Pentagon (see the book Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, by Robert Coram for more on this story).
With the death and retirement of most of the "Fighter Mafia" from their Pentagon jobs, the military is returning to its previous unfortunate habits of "gold plating" and overdeveloping new weapons systems, and cost overruns. The B-2 bomber costs one billion dollars a copy; the F/A-22 fighter costs one quarter billion dollars a copy, making the loss of even one of these aircraft a budgetary disaster. Corporate mergers have left us ever fewer corporations competing for the Pentagon's money, reducing the competition that is supposed to improve program quality and hold down costs. The ease with which military decision makers move back and forth from the public to the private sector calls into doubt the objectivity of military procurement decisions.
Qualitatively, we may (currently) have better tanks, for example, than a potential enemy, such as Red China. However, we must remember that the Germans also had qualitatively superior, but difficult to produce, tanks during World War Two. Hordes of readily mass-produced Allied M-4 Sherman and T-34 tanks used sheer weight of numbers to overwhelm the qualitatively superior Nazi panzers and win the war. As Josef Stalin once observed, "Quantity has a quality all its own."
We face an even greater disadvantage in regards to our nation's economic weakness. The Roman orator Cicero observed twenty centuries ago that, "The sinews of war, [is] a limitless supply of money." Our spiraling national debt which George W. Bush has essentially doubled leaves us without a solid economic foundation with which to fight a war. I am reminded that the Lend-Lease program was created by the Roosevelt administration to compensate for Great Britain's glaring economic weakness, as well as her manufacturing deficiencies.
In 1941 Great Britain was broke. She was sending the last of her gold reserves to the United States as collateral for food, munitions, and other goods that the United Kingdom desperately needed. Lend-Lease was created to provide credit by the government of the United States to Great Britain in exchange for leasing British military bases around the world.
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