“The Pentagon Takes Over”
Tom Engelhardt has produced another superlative TomDispatch: “Entrenched, Embedded, and Here to Stay“, Frida Berrigan (27 May 2008) — “The Pentagon’s Expansion Will Be Bush’s Lasting Legacy”.
Berrigan describes Bush’s legacy, the massive growth in power and size of the Defense and Security departments. The expenditures dominate the budget. The activities encircle the globe — they are our foreign policy. The military is increasingly the face of America’s government as seen by the rest of the world. We have drifted into this with no thought, no plan — a grand strategy doomed to failure.
Berrigan describes seven specific aspects of the Pentagon’s growth. This post gives brief excerpts for each; I strongly recommend reading the full article.
The Budget-busting Pentagon
The Pentagon as Arms Dealer
The Pentagon as Diplomat
The Pentagon as Intelligence Analyst and Spy
The Pentagon as Domestic Disaster Manager
The Pentagon as Humanitarian Caregiver Abroad
The Pentagon as Global Viceroy and Ruler of the Heavens
I. The Budget-busting Pentagon
With the war added to the Pentagon’s core budget, the United States now spends nearly as much on military matters as the rest of the world combined. Military spending also throws all other parts of the federal budget into shadow, representing 58 cents of every dollar spent by the federal government on “discretionary programs” (those that Congress gets to vote up or down on an annual basis).
The total Pentagon budget represents more than our combined spending on education, environmental protection, justice administration, veteran’s benefits, housing assistance, transportation, job training, agriculture, energy, and economic development. No wonder, then, that, as it collects ever more money, the Pentagon is taking on (or taking over) ever more functions and roles.
II. The Pentagon as Diplomat
According to a 2006 Congressional report by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Embassies as Command Posts in the Anti-Terror Campaign, civilian personnel in many embassies now feel occupied by, outnumbered by, and subordinated to military personnel. They see themselves as the second team when it comes to decision-making. Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates is aware of the problem, noting as he did last November that there are “only about 6,600 professional Foreign Service officers — less than the manning for one aircraft carrier strike group.”
III. The Pentagon as Arms Dealer
By 2006 (the last year for which full data is available), the United States alone accounted for more than half the world’s trade in arms with $14 billion in sales. … U.S. arms sales for 2006 came in at roughly twice the level of any previous year of the Bush administration.
IV. The Pentagon as Intelligence Analyst and Spy
As a result, according to Tim Shorrock, investigative journalist and author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, the Pentagon now controls more than 80% of U.S. intelligence spending, which he estimated at about $60 billion in 2007.
The result is seen in this passage from Tim Weiner’s book Legacy of Ashes:
Bob Gates took over the Pentagon on December 18, 2006 — the only entry-level analyst ever to run the CIA and the only director ever to become secretary of defense. …
When Gates settled in at the Pentagon, he looked around at the American intelligence establishment and he saw stars: a general was running the CIA, a general was the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, a general was in charge of State Department’s counterterrorism programs, a lieutenant general was the Pentagon’s deputy undersecretary for intelligence, and a major general was running spies at the CIA. Every one of these jobs had been held by civilians, going back many years.
Gates saw a world in which the Pentagon had crushed the CIA, just as it had vowed to do sixty years before.
V. The Pentagon as Domestic Disaster Manager
In fact, in the Bush years, the Pentagon has become the official first responder of last resort in case of just about any disaster — from tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods to civil unrest, potential outbreaks of disease, or possible biological or chemical attacks. In 2002, in a telltale sign of Pentagon mission creep, President Bush established the first domestic military command since the civil war, the U.S. Northern Command (Northcom). Its mission: the “preparation for, prevention of, deterrence of, preemption of, defense against, and response to threats and aggression directed towards U.S. territory, sovereignty, domestic population, and infrastructure; as well as crisis management, consequence management, and other domestic civil support.”
The Pentagon as Humanitarian Caregiver Abroad: The U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department have traditionally been tasked with responding to disaster abroad; but, from Indonesia’s tsunami-ravaged shores to Myanmar after the recent cyclone, natural catastrophe has become another presidential opportunity to “send in the Marines” (so to speak). The Pentagon has increasingly taken up humanitarian planning, gaining an ever larger share of U.S. humanitarian missions abroad.
VI. The Pentagon as Humanitarian Caregiver Abroad
The U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department have traditionally been tasked with responding to disaster abroad; but, from Indonesia’s tsunami-ravaged shores to Myanmar after the recent cyclone, natural catastrophe has become another presidential opportunity to “send in the Marines” (so to speak). The Pentagon has increasingly taken up humanitarian planning, gaining an ever larger share of U.S. humanitarian missions abroad.
From Kenya to Afghanistan, from the Philippines to Peru, the U.S. military is also now regularly the one building schools and dental clinics, repairing roads and shoring up bridges, tending to sick children and doling out much needed cash and food stuffs, all civilian responsibilities once upon a time.
The Center for Global Development finds that the Pentagon’s share of “official development assistance” — think “winning hearts and minds” or “nation-building” – has increased from 6% to 22% between 2002 and 2005.
VII. The Pentagon as Global Viceroy and Ruler of the Heavens
In the Bush years, the Pentagon finished dividing the globe into military “commands,” which are functionally viceroyalties. True, even before 9/11, it was hard to imagine a place on the globe where the United States military was not, but until recently, the continent of Africa largely qualified.
Along with the creation of Northcom, however, the establishment of the U.S. Africa Command (Africom) in 2008 officially filled in the last Pentagon empty spot on the map. A key military document, the 2006 National Security Strategy for the United States, signaled the move, asserting that “Africa holds growing geo-strategic importance and is a high-priority of this administration.” (Think: oil and other key raw materials.)
… Meanwhile, should the Earth not be enough, there are always the heavens to control. In August 2006, building on earlier documents like the 1998 U.S. Space Command’s Vision for 2020 (which called for a policy of “full spectrum dominance”), the Bush administration unveiled its “national space policy.” It advocated establishing, defending, and enlarging U.S. control over space resources and argued for “unhindered” rights in space — unhindered, that is, by international agreements preventing the weaponization of space. The document also asserted that “freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power.”
As the document put it, “In the new century, those who effectively utilize space will enjoy added prosperity and security and will hold a substantial advantage over those who do not.” (The leaders of China, Russia, and other major states undoubtedly heard the loud slap of a gauntlet being thrown down.)
Frida Berrigan is a Senior Program Associate at the New America Foundation’s Arms and Security Initiative. She is a columnist for Foreign Policy in Focus and a contributing editor at In These Times magazine. She is the author of reports on the arms trade and human rights, U.S. nuclear weapons policy, and the domestic politics of U.S. missile defense and space weapons policies. She can be reached at berrigan at newamerica.net.
Note: Tom Engelhardt is the author of The End of Victory Culture — Cold War America and the Disillusioning of a Generation. Here are excerpts and reviews.
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