Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cut Military Spending!

or Learning to Love a Republican at DOD

For 40 years, I've believed that cutting the military budget would solve most major problems in the United States and a host of minor ones. "Cut military spending" has become a near-mantra for me. It soothes, it focuses, it rejuvenates.

Want to effectively oppose U.S. imperial adventures? Cut military spending.

Want to find the money to rebuild urban public school systems? Cut military spending.

Want to reduce government waste and reduce the influence of lobbyists? Cut military spending.

Too cold outside? Problems with regularity? Need a new computer? Cut, cut, cut military spending.

Clearly, I've been guided by my faith. But it is equally clear that my prayers generally have been falling on deaf ears.

So, it is with some astonishment that I read in today's Washington Post about Bob Gates, our Republican Secretary of Defense, who proposes to cut the military budget ("Gates Seeks Sharp Turn In Spending" and "Contracting Boom Could Fizzle Out"). Gates does not want to cut defense spending as much and as deeply as I do, I'm sure, but "the proposal by Gates amounts to a radical change in the way the Pentagon buys weapons."

I'm not one to believe in a thing just because the newspaper says it's so, but in a lifetime of voracious consumption of news, I can't recall ever seeing or hearing the phrase "radical change" conjoined with "Pentagon" in a corporate daily outside a readers-respond section.

Is this "Nixon Goes to China" or is it "Dewey Defeats Truman?" The answer remains to be seen, but Gates is reported to have said that some weapons programs are "truly in the exquisite category."

Such a statement may not reverberate for the average reader, but for me the words have the power to seduce. I am overwhelmed by the thought that I may have found a new muse.

Alas, much stands between me and the consummation I desire so devoutly. Count Sen. Joe Lieberman, Sen. Jon Kyl, Sen. Jim Inhofe, Sen. Pat Roberts, Rep. Ike Skelton, Rep. Jack Murtha, Rep. Norman Dicks and Rep.Todd Tiahrt among the enemies of true love (read about them in "Pentagon Chief Calls for Cuts; Congress Opens Fire"). These and other members of Congress have constituents whose jobs depend on maintaining spending that Gates proposes to cut.

There are plenty of political theories that would justify the regional chauvinism that motivates the political behavior of some elected officials (e.g., Harold Lasswell and "Who Gets What, When and How"), but the power that they wield together ought to inspire fierce opposition. We need a new caucus in the Capitol, say, Congress Opposed to Narrowly Defined Interests in Defense Budgeting; that would be CONDID-B, it sounds safely militaristic, like the name of a naval base in the Pacific, or something.

Falling in love or otherwise, I am willing to bet my future working with Bob Gates that we can create a good job and a half rebuilding bridges or building new public schools for every defense job we cut (see "Report Shows Increased Military Spending Slows Economy" or "Military Feast, Public Poverty" or The "Economics of Peace" Conference). If I am wrong, I don't deserve the Bob Gates of my dreams, but if I am right, and if Gates gets his way, I get to cross boundaries that have held me back for years. I get to love a Republican.

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