As a sign of the Bush administration's displeasure with France because of its opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the Pentagon is scaling back its presence at this year's Paris Air Show, the global defense industry's largest and oldest international showcase, which opens this weekend. But make no mistake, the show will go on.
No high-ranking U.S. government official or general military officer will be in attendance, and only six military aircraft -- all of them being flown in from Operation Iraqi Freedom -- will be on display, compared to the dozen or more usually on exhibit. And there will be no high-profile flight demonstration of U.S. military aircraft.
Still, officials at the show say that over 1,800 companies will be on hand, a number similar to the record level of companies in the 2001 exhibition. However, this time around, on the heels of Gulf War II, analysts are predicting a more somber tone than in the wake of past wars.
In June of 1991 the Paris Air Show was a celebration of sorts. U.S. defense contractors displaying the weapons of war stood side by side with the military personnel who had put them to use just a few months earlier in Operation Desert Storm. While troops told stories of flying, gunning, and driving the Iraqis out of Kuwait, company representatives were busy handing out posters, coffee mugs, tote bags, pins and other souvenirs adorned with their corporate logos to potential buyers.
The 1991 show had the usual displays and exhibitions by the nation's top weapons makers. But, for the first time, the U.S. Air Force, Army and Navy also had booths at the show. More than 150 U.S. military personnel were in attendance; along with military aircraft there was an added bonus for the industry: U.S. taxpayers picked up the tab.
Representative Pete Stark (D-Calif.), who in the past has introduced legislation to end the use of taxpayer money for the shows, found that the participation of U.S. aircraft and personnel at international weapons exhibits like the Paris Air Show cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $35 million a year. Prior to 1991, the federal government's approach to air shows had been to avoid direct military involvement. Organizing and promotional activities were handled by the Department of Commerce, which runs the U.S.-built pavilion at Le Bourget. Aircraft that were used for static displays on the tarmac or demonstration flights over the show were leased to U.S. companies by the Department of Defense, and taxpayer subsidies were kept to a minimum.
Beyond the issue of whether U.S. tax dollars should be used to subsidize the cost for the shows, a more fundamental question is whether uniformed U.S. military personnel should be used as virtual sales representatives for private weapons manufacturers. According to military analyst William D. Hartung, in 1991, public affairs officer Lt. Col. John Kirkwood said that then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney "felt it was appropriate" for the military services to participate in the show to further the favorable image of U.S. soldiers, weapons, and foreign policy in the aftermath of the first Gulf War.
Clearly, this time around the Bush administration is sending a different message. According to Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Michael Humm, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has decided that "in light of the press of other events and the pace of Department of Defense activities ... U.S. participation will be more limited than in previous years."
While the Pentagon has not made a direct connection between the lower profile and the French refusal to join the coalition of the willing, some members of Congress have been more forthcoming. The most vocal opposition to U.S. participation in the Paris Air Show has come from Representative Jim Saxton (R-NJ). Saxton introduced a resolution calling for an outright boycott of the Paris Air Show, saying, "The United States was there for France in the 20th century; we expect France to be there for the United States in the 21st."
U.S. defense contractors have a decidedly different view of Pentagon participation. They have argued that opting out of the show is a pretty expensive way to deliver a message to the French government. The Paris Air Show is regarded by the aerospace and defense industries as the networking event of the year. "It's a wonderful time to see customers and competitors," said James Fetig, a spokesman from defense contractor Raytheon.
The Pentagon's decision to scale back their participation was seen as a compromise designed to placate domestic critics like Saxton while still allowing U.S. arms makers to hawk their wares at Paris, the world's premiere arms bazaar.
All of the top U.S. weapons makers will be in attendance, and although their displays may not be as extravagant as in previous years, most company officials cite economic hardship as being the determining factor, not any intention to "send a message" to the French government or anyone else. As Vice Chairman Michael Sears of Boeing put it, "These events have been getting more expensive, and with the U.S. government cutting back its participation, this seemed like a good time for us to scale back too."
The 1991 Gulf War -- in which many of the major participants in the anti-Iraq coalition faced their own weapons which had been supplied to Saddam Hussein's forces prior to the conflict -- resulted in an outpouring of government promises to bring the arms trade under stricter international controls.
We still don't know whether Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat prior to Gulf War II, or whether he possessed usable weapons of mass destruction. We do know that the most dangerous weapons in his arsenal -- and in the arsenal of the next Saddam Hussein, whoever that may be -- came from, and will continue to come from, a handful of countries: the U.S., Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and occasionally Israel. If these major weapons-selling nations got together at Le Bourget and announced a plan to cut arms sales to tyrants and terrorists over the next ten years, that would be something worth celebrating.
Michelle Ciarrocca is a Senior Research Associate at the World Policy Institute in New York City.
The Bush administration has its foreign policy hands full with each nation in its "Axis of Evil." From the unsuccessful search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, to the appearance of negotiations with North Korea, and the push to declare Iran in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, President Bush is following through with his promise to make certain these "dangerous regimes and terrorists" can not threaten the U.S. with the world's most destructive weapons.
But he's going about it in a way that will actually increase the nuclear threat to the U.S. and the world.
Buried in the President's 2004 defense budget are two particularly troubling requests. The first seeks to repeal a 10-year-old ban on the development of smaller, lower-yield nuclear weapons, also known as mini-nukes. The second is a $15.5 million request to conduct research on a new bunker buster bomb called the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator. The Senate voted 51 to 43 to lift the ban on research and development of low-yield nuclear weapons. Actual production of the weapons would require the President to obtain congressional authorization. The House is expected to vote on the measure this week.
Administration officials contend they are not seeking to build new nuclear weapons, but only studying and researching the options. Speaking at a press conference, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld added, "Many of the things you study, you never pursue." Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a supporter of the ban, replied, "Does anyone really believe that?"
The Bush administration's desire to develop a low-yield nuclear weapon stems from the theory that a cold war nuclear weapon is so massive and destructive the U.S. would never actually use one. The thinking goes, a smaller, 5-kiloton nuclear weapon--about a third the size of the nuclear bomb used in Hiroshima--would be more useful in deterring nations such as North Korea. But as Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) rightly noted, "We're moving away from more than five decades of efforts to delegitimize the use of nuclear weapons."
As for research into a new bunker-buster nuclear weapon, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a fact sheet outlining the "troubling science" behind the proposed weapons. The scientists note that even a small, low-yield earth-penetrating weapon will create radioactive debris, there is no guarantee that the nuclear blast would successfully destroy chemical or biological weapons, and there are current conventional weapons that could be used as alternatives.
The Bush administration's Nuclear Posture Review, released in January 2002, was a foreshadowing of a new nuclear era in which the once-termed "weapon of last resort" has turned into a usable, necessary tool in the anti-terror arsenal.
As part of the Nuclear Posture Review, the Pentagon expanded the nuclear hit list to include a wide range of potential adversaries, such as North Korea, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, whether or not those nations possess nuclear weapons. The circumstances under which the use of nuclear weapons might be considered has also expanded beyond situations threatening the national survival of the United States to include retaliation for a North Korean attack on South Korea, or simply as a response to "surprising military developments." The review also sanctions the first use of nuclear weapons to "dissuade adversaries from undertaking military programs or operations that could threaten U.S. interests or those of allies and friends."
The Bush administration's nuclear doctrine represents an abrupt departure from the policies of prior administrations, Democratic and Republican alike. How likely are countries like Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya, Russia, and China--all of which have been targeted in Bush's new nuclear plan--to heed the administration's calls to reduce or renounce their own nuclear arsenals in the face of this new threat from the United States?
"I can't believe that I have witnessed in my time on Capitol Hill a more historic debate than what we are undertaking at this moment," said Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL). "We are literally talking about whether or not the United States will initiate a nuclear arms race again. Nothing that I can think of meets this in terms of gravity and its impact on the future of the world."
If President Bush were serious about reducing the threat posed by nuclear weapons he would focus on preventive measures, such as increasing funds for nonproliferation and threat reduction programs, while also reducing our own massive arsenal.
Nonproliferation programs receive about $1.8 billion annually. Compare that to the $41 billion budget for homeland defense, or the $79 billion supplemental for the war in Iraq. Representative John Spratt (D-SC) pointed out the disparity between funding saying the almost $10 billion "ballistic missile defense is a prime example of how the emphasis on counter-proliferation comes at the expense of nonproliferation."
The Russian parliament recently ratified the nuclear arms reduction treaty signed by Russian President Putin and President Bush last year. The U.S. Senate approved the treaty in March. The treaty reduces each nation's arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons by two-thirds, to fewer than 2,200 each over the next decade. While the treaty is a worthy and symbolic signal of a new relationship with Russia, much more can and should be done.
By taking ten years to make the proposed reductions, allowing both sides to keep thousands of their withdrawn warheads in "reserve" rather than destroying them, and giving either party the right to withdraw from the agreement on just 90 days notice, the Pentagon has preserved its ability to rapidly reverse the Bush administration's proposed reductions in the U.S. arsenal whenever it wants to, even as it continues to seek new types of nuclear weapons.
Deeper, verifiable cuts on both sides -- to as low as 200 to 500 strategic warheads each rather than the 1,700 to 2,200 allowed in the current proposal -- would give Washington and Moscow leverage to begin pressing nuclear-armed states like Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel to eliminate their own arsenals. This move toward multilateral reductions would also make it much easier to get states with nuclear capabilities to agree not to aid nations like Iraq, Iran, or North Korea to develop their own weapons of mass destruction.
Whereas Ronald Reagan left office saying that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought, two decades later, the word coming from the Bush administration is that nuclear weapons are here to stay. The recommendations contained in the Nuclear Posture Review and 2004 budget requests are steps backwards, and arguably violations of U.S. commitments to "pursue negotiations in good faith" for the reduction and eventual abolition of nuclear weapons under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The only way to protect the American people, and the people of the world, from the threat of nuclear weapons -- big and small -- is to take determined steps to get rid of them, once and for all.
Michelle Ciarrocca is a research associate at the World Policy Institute and writes regularly for Foreign Policy in Focus.
Just as his father did, George W. Bush is offering generous packages of aid and arms to nations that join his drive for war against Iraq. There is so much bargaining going on that arms analyst Ira Shorr has called the Administration's ad hoc alliance for war the "coalition of the wanting." According to former Secretary of State James Baker, winning support for the first Gulf War involved "cajoling, extracting, threatening and occasionally buying votes." This time there is far more buying and threatening than cajoling going on, and recruiting allies has been far more costly.
Would-be allies are driving harder bargains because Gulf War II is a much shakier proposition. As John Chipman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies has observed, "Then it was straightforward. Eject Iraq from Kuwait. Now it's 'regime change,' and that's ... hard for many to swallow." Bush officials are hoping that massive doses of U.S. aid will make unpopular anti-Iraq positions go down more easily. The Administration is weighing proposals for nearly $30 billion worth of grants and subsidized loans for allies concerned about the political and economic side-effects of a new Gulf conflict.
Recipients of Administration largesse fit into two categories: (1) countries in the region seeking to be reimbursed for the negative impacts of the war, and (2) countries whose support is sought as a way to legitimize the war in the eyes of a skeptical world. The biggest aid deal is being offered to one of the former -- Turkey. As this went to press, the Turkish Parliament was considering a U.S. offer of $15 billion in aid -- $5 billion in grants and $10 billion in guaranteed loans -- in exchange for Turkey's agreement to host 62,000 U.S. ground troops for an invasion of northern Iraq.
The Administration is also finalizing separate deals for Israel, Egypt and Jordan. Israel is seeking a multiyear deal involving $4 billion in new grants and $8 billion to $10 billion in U.S.-government guaranteed loans. Jordan is slated to receive an additional $1 billion in aid, and Egypt is seeking new aid beyond its current $1.3 billion, plus a free-trade deal similar to the one Jordan already has with the United States. In exchange for the increased aid, Jordan is hosting U.S. special forces and engaging in joint intelligence gathering. Israel has shared intelligence and helped train U.S. forces for urban combat, but the biggest "contribution" sought by the Administration is for the Sharon government to refrain from retaliating in the event of an Iraqi attack, to avoid regionalizing the conflict. Sharon has so far refused to make any such pledge. From Egypt, a key Arab ally whose population is overwhelmingly against the war, Washington is seeking a statement of political support and the use of some air bases.
Outside the Middle East, the most important battleground is the fifteen-member UN Security Council, where the United States is seeking a resolution justifying the use of force to oust Saddam Hussein. So far, Washington can count on support from the United Kingdom, Bulgaria and Spain. Bulgaria's support was secured by a U.S. pledge to see to it that Iraq pays its outstanding debts to Bulgaria in the post-Saddam period. The Administration's next objective is to win over "swing states" like Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan with a mix of promises and threats.
The United States is notorious for bullying nations over key Security Council votes. In 1990, when Yemen voted against authorizing war on Iraq, a U.S. diplomat told the Yemeni ambassador, "That was the most expensive no vote you ever cast." Three days later, all U.S. aid to Yemen was canceled. Last November, Mauritius recalled its UN ambassador and gave him a public scolding for failing to speak out forcefully enough insupport of U.S.-sponsored Security Council Resolution 1441 against Iraq. UN expert Phyllis Bennis notes that Mauritius made this move to avoid falling afoul of a provision of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which states that U.S. aid recipients should not "engage in activities contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests." The Administration will seek to exert similar leverage over Guinea and Cameroon, both of which are recipients of U.S. aid under AGOA.
A new report from the Institute for Policy Studies provides a detailed accounting of the military and economic levers the Administration is likely to use to round up votes at the UN. For Mexico, a vote against the United States could spark a backlash that would undermine aid and trade, a daunting prospect for a country that sends 80 percent of its exports to the U.S. market. A no vote by Chile could kill plans for granting it the same access to the U.S. market that Canada and Mexico now enjoy. Pakistan will have to weigh the costs of voting with the United States and antagonizing its strongly antiwar population against the costs of voting against Washington and risking cutbacks in the hundreds of millions in U.S. aid and loans it is receiving as a privileged ally in the "war on terrorism." For Angola, future U.S. loans for developing its critical oil industry may hang in the balance.
Leaders in Donald Rumsfeld's so-called New Europe who have spoken out in favor of the Administration's war policies are also hoping to receive increased U.S. assistance. As the Pentagon considers cutbacks in its presence in Germany to punish the Schröder government for its antiwar stance, prowar governments in Eastern and Central Europe may be courted to host new U.S. bases. In the process, they are likely to receive special favors like the recent $3.8 billion U.S.-government-subsidized loan to Poland to finance the purchase of Lockheed Martin F-16 combat aircraft. Don't be surprised if states like Hungary, which is hosting a U.S. training mission for Iraqi exiles, receive sweet deals for U.S. military equipment as a "thank you" for their support of the war in Iraq. These arms deals will no doubt be helped along by influential friends of the Administration like former Lockheed Martin vice president Bruce Jackson, who serves as chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a private, pro-intervention lobbying group launched last fall with the blessing of the White House. Jackson was involved in helping draft the widely publicized letter in support of Bush's Iraq policy by leaders of Eastern and Central European states.
Given the military and economic leverage the Administration can bring to bear, it's amazing that so many key governments have held out this long. If the global peace movement keeps the pressure on, there may be time to stop this war yet, despite the machinations of the President and his hard-line advisers.
President Bush's military budget increase and the war time "unity" on Capitol Hill have created an environment in which weapons makers can enjoy the best of both worlds -- continuing to make money on the weapons systems of the cold war while reaping the benefits of a war time bonanza of new defense contracts.
In order to replace weapons used in Afghanistan and in preparation for possible military action in Iraq, many U.S. weapons makers have increased production. Boeing added a second shift of workers to boost production of its Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) -- the most widely used smart bomb in the Afghan war. Raytheon, best known for its Tomahawk missile, added a third shift and announced that production for its laser-guided bomb has been accelerated by five months "to support the warfighter in the war on terrorism." Alliant Techsystems, the largest supplier of ammunition to the U.S. military, was awarded a $92 million contract to make 265 million rounds of small-caliber ammunition for the Army.
Additionally, with the new influx of money for homeland defense ($38 billion for FY 2003), virtually all of the big defense contractors -- Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon -- have adapted their marketing strategies and are repackaging their products for use in domestic security. Boeing is looking into how its sensors designed to track enemy missiles could be used to locate and identify hijacked planes. Lockheed is trying to adapt military simulators to train local emergency response teams. And Raytheon is pitching its hand-held thermal-imaging devices, designed for the military, as useful for fire fighters searching through collapsed buildings.
But it's not just the traditional military contractors who are fighting for a piece of the Pentagon pie. Smaller companies, too, are "dusting off old domestic security proposals and developing new ones in an attempt to cash in on what they hope will ultimately be hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending on homeland security," according to The Wall Street Journal. Air Structures is introducing fortified vinyl domes for quarantining infected communities in the aftermath of a potential bioterror attack, Visionics is looking into designing facial recognition technology, and PointSource Technologies is developing a sensor to detect biological agents in the air or water.
In July, the world's top defense contractors gathered in the United Kingdom for the Farnborough International Air Show, which convenes CEOs, generals, and heads of state every two years. At the last show $52 billion in orders were announced. Although contractors didn't anticipate that much this time around, they were keen to show off the latest developments in antiterror weapons and homeland defense.
Raytheon showcased its role in missile defense and precision strike munitions. Boeing exhibited its tried-and-true 767 tanker transport, its C-17 Globemaster, and its JDAM--all of which have been on display in Afghanistan. TRW, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing all focused on new approaches to developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), another star weapon of the Afghan war.
The big boost in the defense budget is good news for major Pentagon contractors, who were among the few companies to show increases in their stock prices when the market reopened after the September 11 attacks. Among the top gainers for the week of September 17-21, 2001, were military and space contractors like Raytheon (+37 percent), L-3 Communications (+35.8 percent), Alliant Techsystems (+23.5 percent), and Northrop Grumman (+21.2 percent).
As of May 1, 2002, Aviation Week's Aerospace 25-stock index had climbed past the level at which it was trading in May 2001 and compared favorably to the 5.4 percent decline for Standard & Poor's 500. Northrop, Boeing, and General Dynamics all reported better-than-anticipated earnings for the second quarter of 2002, due to increases in weapons spending and homeland security. And with expected annual increases in defense spending of 10 percent or more, most analysts are banking on a gradual, long-term boost for the defense industry. As Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute remarked: "The whole mind set of military spending changed on Sept. 11. The most fundamental thing about defense spending is that threats drive defense spending. It's now going to be easier to fund almost anything."
Problems with Current U.S. Policy
Despite a slowing economy and Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut, notions of fiscal conservatism have been brushed aside to fund the fight against terrorism. Boeing Vice Chairman Harry Stonecipher got to the heart of the matter when he told The Wall Street Journal that "the purse is now open," so the Pentagon will no longer have to make "hard choices" among competing weapons projects. Unfortunately, no hard choices were being made in the first place.
The highly anticipated Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), an assessment of the nation's defense needs mandated by Congress, was released September 30, 2001. But as Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) quickly noted, the QDR "seems to me to be full of decisions deferred." None of the weapons systems mentioned as a candidate for elimination during the Bush campaign was canceled. Instead, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld set the stage for major increases in military spending, arguing that "the loss of life and damage to our economy from the attack of September 11, 2001, should give us a new perspective on the question of what this country can afford for its defense."
Defense spending for FY 2002 totaled $343.2 billion, a $32.6 billion increase above 2001 levels. Congress is currently debating President Bush's $396 billion FY 2003 military budget request, a $52.8 billion increase. Long-term plans envision the national defense budget increasing to $469 billion in FY 2007, 11 percent higher than the cold war average.
The most widely used items in Afghanistan to date have been Raytheon's Tomahawks, Boeing's JDAMs, and Northrop Grumman's UAVs. But only about $3.2 billion in the president's budget request will go for more of these systems. Much of the new Pentagon funding will be used to bankroll longstanding pet projects of the military-industrial lobby. In fact, more than one-third of the Pentagon's FY 2003 $68 billion procurement budget will be allocated to big-ticket, cold war-era systems that have little or nothing to do with the war on terrorism.
Although many analysts had assumed that defending against long-range ballistic missiles might take a back seat to other more urgent defense priorities in the wake of September 11, the Bush administration has moved full speed ahead with missile defense. Spending on missile defense increased by 43 percent in FY 2002, and the Bush administration plans to spend at least $32.7 billion on the missile defense program between now and 2005. Total costs for the deployment and maintenance of a multitiered system could top $200 billion over the next two decades.
Despite campaign promises by President Bush to "skip a generation" in weapons procurement, all three of the Pentagon's advanced fighter plane programs are moving forward. This year alone, close to $12 billion will be allocated to the Air Force's F-22 Raptor, the Joint Strike Fighter/F-35, and the Navy's F-18E/F fighter plane. The F-22 has been described as a costly cold war relic designed for an enemy that no longer exists. The Super Hornet, as the F-18E/F is known, has not been able to meet key performance goals that were used to justify its development. The JSF (also called the F-35) was viewed as a likely program to be cut or scaled back, but within weeks of September 11 Lockheed Martin was awarded a $19 billion development contract, and international partners signed on.
The debate over the Crusader artillery system indicates just how difficult it is to cancel a weapons system. Both President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld criticized the $11 billion Crusader program for being outmoded, because it was designed to fight a land war with the Soviet Union. However, the Army -- and members of Congress from Oklahoma, Minnesota, and a dozen other states where parts of the Crusader would be built -- put up a tough fight. And for the moment, they seem to have won. Although the Pentagon did officially terminate the program in May, there's still $475 million in the 2003 budget for the Crusader system. As Congress puts the finishing touches on the defense bill, it is expected that the money will go to the Army to develop alternative artillery systems.
The failure of policymakers and defense officials to cancel unnecessary weapons programs is, in large part, due to the undue influence exerted by the top defense contractors. More than any administration in history, the Bush team has relied on the expertise of former weapons contractors to outline U.S. defense needs. Thirty-two major Bush appointees are former executives, consultants, or major shareholders of top weapons contractors. Seventeen administration appointees had ties to major defense contractors Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, or Raytheon prior to joining the Bush team. These include former Lockheed Chief Operating Officer Peter B. Teets, now undersecretary of the Air Force and director of the National Reconnaissance Office; Secretary of the Air Force James Roche, a former Northrop Grumman vice president; and Secretary of the Navy Gordon England, a former General Dynamics vice president. The theory behind Rumsfeld's reliance on former corporate executives is that they would be more willing to cut costs and try new approaches than the average Pentagon bureaucrat. However, that clearly has not been the case.
The geopolitical reach of the defense megafirms is reinforced by millions of dollars in campaign cash. In 2000 the top six military companies spent over $6.5 million in contributions to candidates and political parties. In addition to these hefty campaign donations, defense contractors spent an astonishing $60 million on lobbying in 2000, the most recent year for which full statistics are available.
Toward a New Foreign Policy
Instead of seizing the historic moment to establish new defense priorities after September 11, the Bush administration appears to be doing exactly what candidate Bush promised not to do -- funding two military strategies at once, one for the cold war and one for the future. A recent Defense News article noted: "Unfortunately, the Pentagon is still dominated by cold warriors, obsessed with big, expensive weapons programs. Congress is still addicted to the jobs and political contributions that can only come from defense contractors with massive hardware programs ... At the Pentagon, specific personnel changes are required, in particular closing the revolving door that rewards senior military leaders with the promise of future civilian employment if they 'play the game.'"
The potential for conflicts of interest involving former weapons industry executives and their former companies has been substantially increased as a result of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's corporate management style, which one Pentagon insider has described as "Department of Defense, Inc." These links between the Bush administration and arms manufacturers raises a critical question: If the majority of top policymakers have longstanding ties to the companies that will benefit from increases in military spending, who will represent the public interest? At a time when corporate scandals are making headlines, the administration's reliance on individuals with ties to the arms industry deserves far greater scrutiny than it has received to date.
Another logical approach to retooling the Pentagon would be to set some real priorities. Canceling systems like the costly F-22 fighter plane, the bulky Crusader artillery system, and the administration's fantastic missile defense program -- all of which seem largely irrelevant to dealing with low-tech threats like the September 11 attacks -- would be a good place to start. To do so means challenging not only Pentagon planners but also members of Congress who are wedded to their states' military projects. One senator who's been willing to do just that is Republican John McCain of Arizona. Year after year, McCain points out the billions of dollars of pork barrel projects tagged on to the defense bill. This year alone, the Defense Appropriations Bill includes $5.2 billion for 581 programs not requested by the president and unrelated to the war on terrorism. This vicious circle of pork barrel politics and special interest money has been a regular feature of defense budget politics for decades, resulting in higher levels of Pentagon spending than might be justified by an objective assessment of the security threats facing the United States. Unfortunately, few members of Congress have been willing to challenge the status quo like McCain.
Beyond the issue of whether it funds too many obsolete systems, the Bush administration's war budget raises a more fundamental question: Is the use of military force likely to solve the problem of terrorist violence? There needs to be a much more vigorous national debate about how best to protect Americans and prevent violence against civilians, both in the U.S. and around the world.
Washington's policies must promote, rather than undermine, human rights and democratic institutions abroad. The narrow, military focus of the Bush administration can be seen most vividly when comparing the FY 2003 military budget request of $396 billion to the $25 billion requested for international aid. The administration's unwillingness to increase spending on diplomacy or foreign economic aid underscores the extent to which it is treating the war on terrorism as primarily a military enterprise, in which the U.S. rounds up a series of ad hoc "posses" to go after the enemy of the moment. This go-it-alone attitude is at least as dangerous as the military buildup that is being justified in the name of fighting terrorism.
As former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright noted recently, foreign aid should be thought of not as a gift that the rich give to the poor but as something that enriches poor and rich nations alike. Foreign aid, she continued, should be retermed "national security support," recognizing how successful it could be at dismantling the real "axis of evil"-- poverty, desperation, and disease -- that is often a root cause of terrorism.
Michelle Ciarrocca is an analyst with the Arms Trade Resource Center who writes for Foreign Policy In Focus.