Running up the Score

According to Kaplan, after Robert Gates was confirmed as George W. Bush’s defense secretary in late 2006, he went around giving speeches about the reforms his successor should embrace to undertake necessary changes at the Pentagon – everything from weapons procurement to the rampant practice of hiring civilian contractors. Who knew his successor would be him.

It is important to remember that every defense dollar spent to over-insure against a remote or diminishing risk – or, in effect, to “run up the score” in a capability where the United States is already dominant – is a dollar not available to take care of our people, reset the force, win the wars we are in, and improve capabilities in areas where we are underinvested and potentially vulnerable.  That is a risk I will not take.

That’s from Gates’ press briefing yesterday on the 2010 defense budget. Read the list; it’s ambitious, and there will be a non-trivial amount of push back in Congress, where the bloated defense budget looks the way it looks for a reason. Look forward to all manner of scary talk about how vulnerable we will be, should we decide to throttle back on spending 10X+ more on defense (an abstract noun which has almost entirely force-projected itself beyond meaning) than the rest of the world combined.

Alas, out-sized military spending is one of the great barriers to reconfigured budgetary priorities. This is equal opposite to the so-called La Vie en Vert, and vulnerable to all manner of country-destroying rhetoric (how I hate irony so); this is the planning-for-an-eventuality we use to scare ourselves into conjure a future we wouldn’t want for anybody’s children but in which we are damned but to invest lavishly. If it is not reined in, military spending – like corrections – has the potential to eventually zero-out the budget. Then it becomes a game of what-kind-of-country-do-you-want, where an occupied (?) solar power is imagined vs. a country of free patriots under complete lockdown. All generally self-fulfilling, you might say. I guess we could say this about many things, but we’ve been reluctant to begin down the road Gates is on, though everything that is talked about and become generally recognizable as a sustainable future depends on specifically this.

At least when/if we get to planning-for-an-eventuality to conjure a different future, we’ll be used to it.