The National Cake & Defense

By Victor O'Reilly

August 20, 2006

© 2006 Victor O'Reilly.
Special to Defense and the National Interest

If Eisenhower could spend 10% of the National Cake on defense, why can’t we (while we still have a National Cake)?

Anecdotes of the National Cake: Part 1.

One of the commonest arguments heard from members of the Military Industrial Congressional Complex, or from their supporters, is that we should be spending more on defense.

“After all,” goes the mantra, delivered, all too often, in a self-righteous tone of voice, “we spent a greater percentage of our GDP on defense during WW II, and during the Cold War, so we can afford to; and we should, we must, because we are at war once again. It’s called The War on Terror – and yes, I know it’s a ridiculous term.”

GDP – Gross Domestic Product – is the totality of goods and services we produce, typically measured annually, so is a quick way of measuring the size of our economy, the National Cake, so we can decide how to slice it.

It’s attractive argument, especially if one is a beneficiary of defense expenditure, but it is based on a false premise. The issue is not whether we can afford to spend more on defense or not, but concerns the choices which best serve the American people.

A subtext is that we would be well advised to focus less on increasing our defense expenditure, and, instead, worry much more on how, where and why we utilize our existing resources (and who profits) - especially in the light of the fact that, as of right now, and for many years in the past, the Government Accountability Office has been unable to audit them. The latter point, expressed bluntly, is not a technical matter. It means we really, truly, and absolutely do not know where our hard earned taxpayer dollars are going.

“Shiver me timbers!” as one might say. Very polite under the circumstances.

But, choice is the issue, not affordability, though clearly all such decisions are constrained by the size of the National Cake (and what we do with the Defense Slice).

Economists who study this issue tend to call it The Guns or Butter debate, which is both dull and confusing.

Well, what can I say? They’re economists, not comedians; and words aren’t their thing. Most economists are number-crunchers at heart. Numbers, unlike people, are measurable, and give the illusion of order – though they juggle well, which is a thought worth contemplating.

Juggling, together with fiddling, and Musical Chairs – their version is called ‘The Revolving Door’ – are major preoccupations of our generals and other members of the Military Industrial Congressional Complex. Here, the tragedy is that they consider such self-serving careerism as normal. Well, why not? It is the way normal way business is done in Washington DC, the capital of this great Nation.

No, this is not an anti-war rant. I am decidedly not anti-war if it is absolutely necessary; and is then pursued with competence and vigor, and one would hope, every now and then, with brilliance.

No, this document is, instead, an expression of the deepest concern about how we are conducting both the necessary business of defending ourselves, and our overall direction as a nation.

Right now, I think we are in trouble; enormous trouble, if you want the heft of the thing. But let’s get back to cake and the years of The Greatest Generation.

During WW II, over 40% America’s GDP was spent on defense.

Effectively, the entire economy was put on a war footing so civilian life as we know it (and its conveniences) was put on hold for the duration.

New consumer goods were virtually unobtainable. Rationing was introduced. Gas was in exceedingly short supply. Only sex, alcohol and Glenn Miller music were allowed to relieve the tension. The U.S. Government borrowed like there was no tomorrow – though it borrowed internally from Americans, skinny people with cars but no gas in those days - a fundamental difference from the situation right now. Well, as far as gas availability is concerned, for the moment.

The whole thing worked because not only did we win, but we ended up in a unique economic position – hold that thought - which enabled us to structure much of the Free World’s economic system to our advantage and thus generate sufficient wealth, not only to keep us out of trouble, but to fund a U.S. economic boom.

Our unique economic position was based upon a number of factors including the dominant details that, for some time, we were just about the only nation in the world with enough productive capacity to supply global consumer demand; the global economic system was stacked in our favor; and the dollar was the world’s primary reserve currency (which mean everyone wanted it so it was strong – which made imports cheap). And the entire Free World believed in America in those days; which is important because money is no more than a symbol of confidence; and good will is handy too - or those damn foreigners will mug you.

In effect, we could sell all the goods we could produce, charge whatever we could get away with, finance the whole operation by lending our strong dollars at a profit, and negotiate the best trade deals possible because we were the biggest and strongest kid on the block, in the free world, and we had a lock on the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization which policed the global economy, such as it was at the time.

As a bonus, we could also pick up any talent, we were short of, from any free country in the world, because, in that period, we were able to pay the best salaries, and offer the best working conditions and quality of life. It was not hard. There was no competition. The rest of the world was mostly in ruins, whether they be financial, political or physical.

For a time, we had a near monopoly on productive affluence so that even after other countries started to recover, we still had momentum and the advantages of a dominant position and a head start, so our international corporations like Coca Cola, General Motors and Boeing were already in place ready to exploit the next phase.

It’s useful being a superpower when you want to make money. You can make countries, corporations and people offers they can’t refuse – and the U.S. did just that for many years to its singular financial advantage. Some remember our behavior less than kindly.

Other counties, who had also put their countries on a war footing, and which had borrowed heavily - such as Britain, France and Holland – to give but three examples – did not prosper, and not only lost their empires, but suffered severely for many years.

Whatever about slogans like: “We’re fighting for freedom,” there is scant justice in war – and scant freedom, even in free democracies, for that matter. It’s about raw power, so after WW II, all the Allies were not equal when it came to dividing up the economic spoils, and for them the underlying fact that wars normally drain a nation’s economy, to the great disadvantage of its citizenry, became self evident.

In short, unless very special circumstances exist, war is normally an absolute economic disaster for both the victor and the vanquished – at least insofar as the average citizen is concerned.

If he or she is not drafted to be killed or maimed or over-worked, then he or she is taxed into shell shock and hammered by inflation when the consequences of printing too much money catch up; and they always do. ‘Twas ever thus!

As U.S. Marine General Smedley Butler – he of no less than two Medals of Honor, so rightly remarked, “War is a racket.” And, typically, it benefits only certain special interests.

Feel free to write out “War is a racket,” five hundred times. The world would be a happier place if that message was engraved on everyone’s skull.

But if the U.S. did so well out of WW II, why can’t we do equally well out of The War on Terror?

“Frankly, it sounds like an excellent get-rich-quick business model, albeit it bears more than a passing resemblance to legalized (depending upon your point of view) armed robbery.”

Because circumstances have changed vastly – mostly to our great economic disadvantage.

Let me list some of them:

We no longer have a near monopoly of production in the world.

That’s what they call ‘a classic understatement.’ In fact, in relative terms, where production is concerned, we now are now outclassed by many other nations – most notably China, but you can add dozens of other global competitors who can out-compete us technologically, or in other ways, including (worryingly) innovation, productivity, quality, and design - and so now we import more than we export which means we can no longer trade our way out of trouble.

On the contrary, our balance of payments deficit is marching steadily towards a trillion dollars a year (such a large sum that few people comprehend its significance) which puts pressure on the dollar and could mean that foreigners will begin to ask for payment in other currencies; which will put more pressure on the dollar; which will raise interest rates; which could/will cause the mother of all recessions because of all our other economic weaknesses which are waiting in the wings ready to fall like a row of financial dominos.

What are those weaknesses? Inadequate education and training; corporate greed; a failing infrastructure; a structurally corrupt congress; a delusional president; a dysfunctional administration; excessively expensive health care; debt at every level; expensive wars that we should not be fighting; a looming energy crisis; and a pervasive ignorance of the issues that confront us.

But, on the plus side, optimism being the American way, we are building up vast stacks of empty 40 foot shipping containers close to every major port (because we have nothing to ship back to China, or wherever) which should make a modest contribution towards housing all those illegal Mexicans who are still waiting for their forged documents so they can crash the American dream. Of course, all those illegal immigrants may not be Mexican and may be more interested in creating an American Nightmare; but, what the heck, terrorists need housing too!

Knife edge #1.

We are particularly vulnerable where oil is concerned.

During WW II, we provided our own oil; a remarkably neat solution. Today, since we use more and produce less, we are highly dependent on unstable foreign suppliers who mostly hate us, and world markets where if you sneeze, the price goes up – and, just to optimize the precariousness of our situation – despite all those warnings, we are steadily increasing our consumption of the stuff.

Well, what can one say; Americans just love to drive because it sure beats thinking about the future.

Worse, our occupation of Iraq is having a measurable and negative impact on world supply. Americans just love to drive tanks, Bradleys, humvees trucks, helicopters and ships too – providing the taxpayer is footing the bill - and where would war be without the gas guzzling Air Force. And, of course, every war needs an enemy and, just to keep things fair, the insurgents also drive (albeit car bombs) and then they blow up the oil pipelines and steal what remains to finance more terrorism.

We might have failed at imposing democracy but they are acing us at capitalism.

Worse still, our entire economy has become oil dependent yet we have no energy policy – apart from the words. We’re teetering on the edge of catastrophe.

Arguably, it’s exciting in its way; talk about extreme sports! We’re all high on adrenalin.

But what will we do when the rush fades?

Knife edge #2.

We no longer have a near monopoly on global finance.

During and, for some time after WW II, if any nation or corporation needed to borrow large sums of money, we were just about the only option since the Soviet Union under Stalin was more interested in grabbing nations than getting into the loan shark business. That situation has now changed so dramatically that we are now primarily borrowing abroad to finance our own debt – and Americans, as whole, are no longer saving. We’re refinancing our houses instead; or we were. After all, if Uncle Sam thinks it’s ok to borrow, why not be patriotic and follow his example?

Apparently, we are very patriotic - when it comes to borrowing - to the extent that we are in hock up to our eyeballs at just about every level – big business, small business, federal, state, county and individual.

Have faith. It gets worse.

We’ve morphed from being a lean and sassy creditor nation into a fat and oblivious debtor nation which just hopes that the evil day of reckoning will never come; or The Rapture will arrive first. The second point is not entirely a joke. A truly alarming number of Americans believe in The Rapture. And judging by his behavior, the President may be one of them.

Charmingly, if one regards naiveté as charming, Americans seem to think that at a federal level, we are only borrowing enough to finance our little budget deficit, which at a projected $300 odd billion is less than was originally forecast (so everyone feels good as if $300 billion additional borrowings did not matter) but actually, when it comes to the cash flow we require, we are borrowing at the rate of about $2 billion a day – or over $700 billion a year – because the deficit we declare is not our real deficit; which is frightening – because the bad news just may not just stop there.

Interest on our borrowings alone in 2005 came to $327 billion which means at out current rate of increase in borrowing (George Bush’s contribution to the whole business – wars are expensive) we’ll soon be spending more on interest than on running the entire U.S. Government. But why not, given the way government runs!

Knife Edge #3 (Actually, we are over the edge but have not looked down so, for time being, everything is just peachy).

We are no longer the most attractive destination for talent; and we don’t produce enough of our own any more.

This talent shortfall, combined with our educational problems, undermines our technological edge and our ability to add value; and it is only by adding value that we can progress.

The mere size of our economy is meaningless in the context of generating prosperity. What matters is the added value element – known in business, more or less, as gross profit. True, there are still plenty of brilliant innovators in the U.S. still cranking out the Next Big Thing, but international competition is hotting up, and the trends are not encouraging.

This is less a Knife Edge than a Slippery Slope. Neither are good and Looming Problems (coming up) aren’t much fun either.

Read on.
Slippery Slope #1.

The Free World no longer likes us very much, and has certainly lost confidence in us.

The scale of this problem is very hard to assess because it tends to manifest itself indirectly, and not necessarily when one expects it. For instance, we may retain superficial credibility, and have people smile at us – though maybe not too warmly - for as long as our economy is seen to be growing, but all hell may break loose if our economic numbers start looking unattractive. In fact, they might even refuse to lend us money any more.

The worrying factor is that when the biggest, but much hated, kid on the block – the U.S. - begins to look vulnerable, his fall tends to be swift and painful, especially if the smaller kids have been bullied in the past and no longer have any faith in the big guy. Such is human nature. Such was the fate of the Soviet Union.

But is our economy vulnerable?

If you don’t know the depressing answer to that, you are on something; and it’s probably imported.
Looming Problem #1.

We are no longer retaining as much of the value which is generated within the U.S. as we did; or, at least, we’re not collecting the kinds of taxes on it that we used to.

There are a host of reasons for this, including the fact that so many major U.S. corporations now have tax-saving off-shore arrangements, and have more breaks than a football game, but the bottom line is that our tax take from corporations has been significantly eroded.

In 1945, corporate income taxes came to 35.4% of federal receipts – just over a third of the total take, which seems reasonable, one might think, give the importance of corporations in society.

Now sit down and take a deep breath. By 2003, before Bush’s tax break plans for business had been fully implemented, the corporate contribution towards federal income taxes had dropped to 7.4%.

In fact, more than 60% of U.S. corporations paid no federal taxes at all between 1996 and 2000.

What a country!

But it doesn’t stop there. We now have to factor in that the seriously rich have also been deluged with tax breaks under both the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations.

That leaves the Middle Class – in effect, most Americans who aren’t rich, and maybe not even comfortable - to pick up much of the slack; but, as luck would have it, the Middle Class, particularly hard hit by stagnant incomes, and rising health care, education, utility and gas costs, is in no mood to be squeezed even more.

In fact, for the first time ever recorded – according to a May 2006 study by the Center for American Progress (this is not a joke) household debt is now 108.4% of household income. Which I guess is progress of a kind.
The core reason for this unprecedented, and truly mind-boggling, level of debt may not be as simple as extravagance. Some economists think that many Americans have to borrow because real Middle class incomes have been stagnant for years. True, household incomes have gone up, but only because more adults per house are now working; and they are working longer hours.

It all adds up to the fact that we have been letting our tax base erode in a fashion which penalizes the average American – which does not augur well politically for a Federal income tax increase – because the average American is going bust.

Slippery Slope #2.

The social consensus within the U.S. has changed.

Attitudes have evolved to the point where the American public is highly unlikely to accept the sacrifices which were taken for granted in WW II. Clearly, if the threat was seen to be as severe as was perceived in WW II, the situation might be different, but terrorism is not seen to be in that league.

Sensible Attitude #1.

There are now many more demands upon the tax dollar.

It is highly unlikely that Americans would agree to give up the list of entitlements listed below even in time of war. The reason is that most of such benefits have to do with immediate personal survival. The lack of them could be even more dangerous than the more remote personal threats in war. Heart disease kills way more people than terrorism so seniors need their meds etc.. Actually, practically everything is more of a threat than that posed by terrorism – subject to some exceptions which you are statistically unlikely to encounter - though this Administration would have you think otherwise. After all, fanning people’s fears has won them a string of elections.

These entitlements include:

  • Medicare and Medicare

  • Pensions and pension support.

  • Educational support.

  • Environmental expenditure.

Summarized, all of this means that one cannot, to any meaningful extent, compare WW II circumstances with those which exist at present.

WW II happened over sixty years ago. We now have freeways, terrorists, color TV, phones without wires, think the draft is something that blows in through a crack, and regard a family meal as a trip to the Golden Arches. And most of the rest of the world hates us.

Times, standards, values, expectations and our level of global popularity have changed drastically.

Anecdotes of the National Cake: Part 2.

But the debate is not over.

The argument now moves on to consideration of a much more modest increase in defense expenditure – say from the current 4% of GDP to 5% of the National Cake, to quote a frequently expressed desire by members of the defense community.

Why not indeed?

Surely we can afford an insignificant 5% given that we spent double that, or close, throughout much of the Cold War? If the Eisenhower Administration could spend 10% of GDP, why can’t we as well. Certainly, the American public would support a tiny, weenie, little increase like that in order to ensure it is kept safe from terrorists?

Well, wouldn’t it?

A tiny, weenie, little increase, at 1% of a GDP of over $13 trillion is $130 billion, but let’s not get petty minded here.

Like all good sales pitches, the argument for an increase up to 5% of GDP sounds most plausible. Nonetheless, the arguments against it are formidable; or what a reasonable person might refer to as ‘decisive.’

Or that reasonable person might just go red in the face and raise his fists and scream: “Give these S.O.B.s even more taxpayers’ hard owned dollars to waste: Are you OUT OF YOUR !!! MIND!”

But, surprise, surprise! Thanks to smoke and mirrors, we are already spending more on defense at the federal level than most people think we are spending.

If all expenditures relating to National Security (the real Defense Budget in most people’s minds) are added to the official Pentagon originated Defense Budget – which conveniently fails to include War Supplementals, Department of Energy spend on nuclear matters, Homeland Security, the Veterans Administration, Black Budgets, and much else besides, then the true spend figure quickly climbs to about $750 billion, or about 5.5% of GDP; and that may be optimistic.

This widespread lack of awareness of the scale and significance of our true spend illustrates the point that this Administration, and the Department of Defense, are quite remarkably careless with the taxpayers’ money; and/or have a tendency to be less than honest with the American people.

So should we trust such an Administration with even more of our hard earned dollars? Most people would – quite rightly - think not.

There is abundant evidence that neither the Department of Defense in general, nor the individual services, can either manage or account for the funds they have already been given.

In fact the situation is so appalling that, according to the Controller General, over 3,000 different financial systems are in use, audits have been impossible for years, and the most recent Pentagon proposal gives 2016 as the nearest achievable date for an audit.

2016! Do not laugh (unless hysterically from shock); and please understand that I really did mean 2016, roughly the year that war with China is supposed to break out according to Pentagon planning. That date is neither a joke nor a misprint.

2016 is a neat date for the Department of Defense because by that time virtually all of those in charge when the problems were created will have retired or died, or otherwise vanished into the woodwork, so there will be absolutely no one around in the Pentagon, except the janitor – who will probably be a robot by then - to take the blame.

The Bush Administration’s target was 2007 but has been abandoned as everyone expected. Bushies tend to be all tease but no delivery. Or maybe they are just congenital liars.

We are not taking about a few clerical errors here and there. We are talking about decades of gross financial mismanagement and negligence – blended with large quantities of obfuscation, outright lying and malfeasance.

Using a weapons analogy to illustrate the scale of the Pentagon control problem, if the Enron scandal was a rifle – and it was still one of the largest corporate collapses in history - the Department of Defense’s criminal irresponsibility can be rated at nuclear bomb level; and think serious megatons.

It is that bad.

Faced with such financial management carnage – a truly perfect environment for corruption and fraud - it is hard to make any case at all for giving the DOD more money, but rather easy to make the argument for giving it less.

Any corporation, which was equally negligent, would have been closed down long ago – and its corporate officers jailed for criminal negligence or worse. As far as the Pentagon is concerned, it remains business as usual.

The United States of America currently spends more on defense than the rest of the world put together (and that figure is based upon the Pentagon budget alone).

A reasonable person might well argue that outspending the rest of the globe combined should suggest that something in our defense expenditure is amiss. After all, the U.S., with a population of about 300 million comprises less than 2% of the world population of over 6 billion. Surely 5.7 billion people living in 200 different nations would collectively need to spend more than 300 million Americans?

Apparently not – which is deeply worrying because somehow an imbalance like that just does not feel right. But not only is Congress not asking any questions, but it is upping the U.S. Defense budget every year, and throwing in Supplementals (expenditure not in the Defense Budget) for good measure.

This finding is particularly damning since even with all that money, the Armed Services are always complaining they are broke; and the record shows they are not that good at winning wars.

We drew in Korea; lost big time in Vietnam; scarcely shone in the Lebanon and Somalia; issued more medals than we had troops in Grenada; and grossly over-hyped our victory in the Gulf in 1991 against an enemy which had mostly fled – including the Republican Guard who we were supposed to destroy (because they kept Saddam in power). Now we are in seriously deep trouble in Iraq – with Afghanistan heading south as well.

Interesting that the poorer side, in virtually every case, seems to have done, or be doing , better than us. Could it be that our military have been given too much money and are so distracted by all these riches they have forgotten how to fight? Or how to think about how to fight?

The evidence would support that finding - at general officer level. The average American soldier, marine, sailor or aviator seems to be as courageous as ever. There is no shortage of good, ordinary Americans. The problems are with the leadership.

But what about Panama?

The invasion of Panama was so easy we could commute to it; literally. We already had bases there – and opposition was insignificant.

If Panama is the justification for the U.S. spending more on defense than the rest of the world put together we are in even deeper trouble than I think.

The argument is frequently made that, especially in time of war, the American people will always support giving the troops everything they need because, after all, they are fighting for us and their lives are on the line.

That is a viewpoint that superficially sounds entirely reasonable as a justification for additional expenditure, but – to be polite about it - it is a manipulative crock.

To be more precise, it is an emotional button-pushing argument deliberately designed to whip up support regardless of the underlying issues. It comes into the “Have you stopped beating your wife?” category of statements because it cannot be answered in a sound-bite without the wrong conclusion being drawn. In short it is an attempt to mislead, and thus, by implication, suspect.

As a practical matter, soldiers are never given everything they need, or think they need, because military equipment is expensive and resources, even if vast, are always limited in relation to the demand – and, anyway, generals like to control everything, though the record shows that they certainly don’t excel at determining what is needed except in the context of keeping defense contractors happy.

Well, the generals have to do that because that is where they, and their aides, retire to; though a few become lobbyists. But, mostly Congressmen and their staffs become lobbyists. As is no more than right and just, everyone is taken care of according to his rank and status. The military like orderly arrangements.

But what about the ordinary soldier, marine, sailor or airman?

Why, barring death, they become veterans and get the right to wear hats and badges; and lots of veterans are not unemployed or homeless or traumatized. Everyone has their place in the Great Scheme of Things.

A more serious consequence of this kind of emotional blackmail is that it tends to distort the equipping of soldiers in such a manner that it can work to their disadvantage (Get them killed). Perhaps the best recent example of this was the furore over American troops having to drive around in unarmored humvees while insurgents tried, with some success, to kill or maim them.

Billions of dollars were spent to mollify an indignant, and generally uninformed, public and media, but a better solution would have been to up-armor vehicles which the Army already had in storage by the thousand – such as the tried and true M113 which, being tracked, could absorb the weight of extra armor with ease because tracks, like snow shoes, spread weight.

This was not done because the Army generals have a procurement agenda which, up to now, has focused on new wheeled vehicles, so the last thing they wanted was for anyone to be reminded that existing tracked vehicles could be modified to do the job more than adequately.

They wanted new toys; the old and true would not do. Only new and expensive equipment could generate the money needed to provide for the generals when they embarked on their second careers. Only new and expensive equipment would meet the Chief of Staff of the Army’s vision.

In effect, the general’s careerist agendas blocked the use of existing, and readily available, armored vehicles which could have been speedily and economically up-armored to save hundreds of soldier and marine lives.  That is a classic example of just how corrupted the defense acquisition process has become; and how the integrity and competence of our generals has declined with results which can be readily seen in the conduct of the war in Iraq.

Of course, personal financial gain is not the only factor which induces such corrupt behavior by the generals. Ego plays no small role in such matters as well, and generates an obduracy and stupidity which would be hard to credit if one did not understand that integral to the culture of generals is the notion that generals are the font of all wisdom and cannot be wrong.

Accordingly, once the Army leadership makes its mind up about something, mere facts rarely change its course of action because prestige is now at stake. And this was the case in Iraq where the Army wanted its new wheeled Stryker vehicle to be the star of the show; and the tracked M113 to be quietly forgotten about.

Note: In fact, units in the field in Iraq, together with a few concerned citizens eventually made so much political noise that a percentage of M113s were up-armed in a rather limited way – and continue to perform with distinction – but as if to compensate, nearly a thousand M113s, in functional working order, were sent to be used as targets by Naval Aviation.

In short, during a war, while our troops in the field were screaming for more and better armored vehicles, the U.S. Army leadership knowingly and deliberately consigned a large number of such vehicles to destruction.

The painful truth about the HMMWV (humvee) is that it was never designed to carry armor, and that, whatever about its peacetime utility, this was the wrong vehicle for the Army to buy in such quantities in the first place. Certainly, some lives have been saved by up-armoring it, but all that weight is causing vehicles to degrade much faster, and most are still not armored sufficiently to withstand what they are up against.

A far better operational choice, which would also have been cheaper, in addition to utilizing all our available M113s, would have been to buy vehicles specifically designed to carry armor and withstand small arms and blast. This is now finally being done in small quantities, years after the requirement, and too late for the maimed and the dead. So far, that combined U.S. casualty figure – excluding contractors - as of August 2006, comes to over 22,000 – a high price to pay for general officer venality and incompetence.

At this point, one could ask why the Army leadership did not suspect that soldiers might be shot at – a predictable hazard for a soldier, one might think - but that might be getting to close to the notion that our generals are more focused on their careers and making money than fighting; and that most are not overly bright.

Fundamentally, way too much attention is given to the total amount allocated for defense – which is, almost certainly more than we need to spend - and way too little is given to analyzing how, and why, it is spent; though Congress devotes great attention to where such monies are spent since every member likes to have his or her share spent in her or her local district.

In fact, a comparison with other militaries – and particularly the Israeli – will quickly show that we get appalling value in terms of bang for the buck. If Congress ever did a line by line cost comparison between what the Israelis get for their shekels and we get for our dollars, I suspect it would put many members into a state of catatonic shock. Which might be no bad thing.

Current U.S. Defense Expenditure constitutes Grand Theft from the American People on a truly epic scale. As to the moral and financial corruption of so many of our top generals, only a house-cleaning, such as the one carried out by General George Marshall more than half a century ago, will begin to address the problem.

Such corrupt men will never reform themselves – and they do have the potential to do this nation terrible harm.

The occupation of Iraq is a perfect example of the culture of corruption and incompetence which currently prevails.

Report after report has identified waste, fraud and malfeasance to the tune of billions of dollars, on top of which we are spending $8 billion a month just to sit there, mostly in one of 14 super-bases, lie to the media, soak up the rays, eat four good meals a day (with lobster tails on Fridays), and lose the war.

Realize that most our troops stationed in Iraq never, or very rarely, go “outside the wire.” Those constantly re-run pictures of soldiers and marines patrolling give a misleading impression of relentless activity against a remorseless enemy. The reality is that only about 10% - at best - of our force of about 132,000 sallies forth every day, and many only do that to do convoy runs to keep themselves supplied – and make a point of being back for meals (not an exaggeration) . The issue is not that our troops are unwilling to fight. They always step up to the plate when ordered. The issue lies with how the senior generals are fighting, or failing to fight, the war.

The results, after nearly three and a half years, speak for themselves.

By the way, if one assumes that we have roughly 130,000 troops in theatre at any one time, that equates to nearly $62,000 per individual uniform per month – or $738,000 per individual per year.

No, I’m not kidding – and it remains a grotesque amount even if support troops in Kuwait, and so, on are factored in. Still, the thought does occur to me that U.S. taxpayers really might expect to win at that price.

Truly, if I am paraphrase Shakespeare, there is something rotten in the state of Iraq; and, more locally, within the Beltway better known to most as Washington D.C..

One would have to be either deranged, or seriously venal, or ignorant, to spend more on defense under these circumstances.

The issue of ‘Blowback.’

Blowback is a CIA term which refers to the consequences of actions which occur, without apparent context or justification, because the actions which provoked them were classified and thus unknown to the average American voter.

Is that surreal or what! And, yes, I am rather proud of that sentence.

9/11 was a perfect example of blowback resulting from our presence in Saudi Arabia and a series of other actions which were held to be hostile, self-seeking, provocative and unseemly. The point here is not to justify 9/11, but instead to explain that Bid Laden did not attack merely because he hated us. We provided him with reasons. Similarly, British Muslims hate us because of what we are doing to their co-religionists in Iraq.

We seem to be working hard to introduce a perpetual war cycle. Is that really a good idea?

The less-confusingly-secret civilian version of blowback – but with a longer name - is known as the Law of Unintended Consequences. Take your pick.

Defense expenditure, even where military action has not been initiated, generates blowback too because it makes our enemies feel vulnerable and therefore motivated to respond. Examples of this are legion, and stem from the supposed missile gap of the Kennedy era, to our current plan to militarize space - which is spurring the Chinese space program - to Iran’s determination to become a nuclear power because otherwise they think we might invade them.

Now, whatever gave them that idea?

We were players in all of these events, which is why it well behooves us to think twice before increasing our defense expenditure still further. Action and reaction, where weaponry is concerned, have a habit of spiraling into events beyond our control.

The issue of new competing financial priorities.

Defense hawks argue that since National Security is the first priority of government, it is only right that it gets the largest slice of the National Cake. Well, that sounds superficially reasonable, but with the qualifier that National Security, as far as the average U.S. citizen is concerned, has more to do with the overall wellbeing of one’s self, family and friends than with, for instance, maintaining American military bases throughout most of the known world. The former matters. The latter is provocative empire building which will do little but generate hostility.

Certainly, for a limited time, Americans can be fired up to believe that the military industrial complex should get the largest slice of the federal dollar – but the practical needs of day-to-day living eventually intervene; as they should because war is a thoroughly stupid activity which should be avoided at practically all costs.

That does not mean we should not have a strong military, and be alert and ready at all times (carry a big stick), but it does mean that the decision to use military force should be an absolutely last resort (walk softly). Also, as I have endeavored to emphasize earlier, war is ruinously expensive to all concerned. It’s expensive in people; it’s expensive in money; and its expensive in values.

War, even if deemed absolutely necessary – and most wars are not - corrupts everything it touches. There is a reason for the saying: Truth is the first casualty in war. Accordingly, most sane people know that there are better ways of allocating one’s fiscal resources than on either standing military forces, or fighting a war.

World War II is widely seen as an exception, a just war, and there is some truth to that, but close of examination of how it was fought, and what occurred during it, demonstrates that it, too, was largely human behavior at its worst.

But, Americans are different? We fight for the land of the free and the home of the brave, and democracy, and all that good stuff.

Not so. Scrape away the myths and propaganda, and the record shows that, no, we are not different - and are as brutalized by war as anyone else.

So what are the new, and not so new, competing financial priorities? And is Congress trustworthy when it comes to spending our tax dollars?

For the moment, I will focus on competing financial priorities and endeavor to define the main imperatives which we are facing. As to the latter point, I’ll let you laugh like a hyena and reach your own conclusions.

We need to plan and implement an energy strategy.

Giving tax breaks and subsidies to already rich energy corporations is not an Energy Strategy. It’s a form of legalized corruption. Instead, what we clearly need is an integrated set of policies which will wean us off our oil addiction, bring alternative energy sources into play, promote conservation and encourage energy efficiency at any, and all, levels. Such a program will need to incorporate land use planning and the extensive use of public transport. Here, it is worth pointing out that we currently subsidize the energy corporations by a reported $40 billion a year which they most certainly do not need. The issue is not whether we can afford an Energy Strategy, but, as so often, the choices we make.

Overall, an Energy Strategy, implemented with speed and vigor with specific targets in mind, could not only solve our energy problem, but solve our crying need for better paid jobs (subject to some changes in corporate behavior). Why? Because both energy creation and conservation add substantial value and so create a large enough margin to allow decent pay. And to satisfy our entrepreneurial streak, such a strategy has the potential to be highly profitable – with the money being retained in the U.S. and not being shipped to our enemies.

Can it be done? Of course it can be done (as if we had a choice). In fact, much of the developed world is already ahead of us in implementing one. However, it does assume some corporate reforms and changes in their underlying ethos. I’ll return to that topic.

We need to plan and implement an environmental strategy.

If Global Warming develops as advertised, then all of this may be academic because we’ll soon all be toast; or drowned by the melting Greenland icecap masquerading as Times Square; or eaten by a Polar Bear.

But, even if one does not believe in global warming, it is self evident that we are destroying the environment at a rate which is a demonstrable tribute to American productivity. In fact, since the Bush Administration installed itself, Americans have become even more productive at polluting the air they breathe, the water they drink, the land they grow their food in, and both the nation and the world they inhabit. And we’ve made a good start at polluting space – with over a million pieces of space junk already in place ready to bump into an intrepid space traveler at around 22,000 mph (according to the BBC).

That is, indeed, an Environmental Strategy, of a sort, just a remarkably bad one; but it is also a crime against humanity – as well as being the sort of behavior that would get a small child smacked.

Shame on this Nation for tolerating it. Nonetheless, I have great faith that Americans would rally to the environmental cause if given intelligent leadership. They are really pretty good people when they get around to thinking for themselves.

We need to plan and implement a food strategy.

The comedian and social commentator, Bill Maher, elegantly slim and a picture of health, regularly comments that American food is so bad that we are, in effect, poisoning ourselves. Mind you, this is a man who eats flax oil and the like, so who is he to lecture us on our diet?

I kid Bill Maher. He is exactly right, and if you don’t feel like reading Fast Food Nation or The Omnivore’s Dilemma or a truly formidable collection of reports that substantiate this statement, then just look around you and wonder why so many Americans look, and are, so grossly obese and unwell when other nationalities seem to be able to live the high life and look fine – except where they have started eating American food.

Subsidizing farmers so that high fructose corn syrup and soy – for example - are cheap enough to pad out virtually all processed foods, and Fast Foods, is not a Food Strategy. In the short term, it is corporate welfare because cheap food helps keep the cost of labor down, and profits up; but in the longer term, it’s a form of corporate implemented genocide – with the victims being Americans.

Call it state subsidized slaughter if you are so inclined. It’s an accurate sound-bite.

As every American knows, if you put polluted gas into an engine, it wrecks the engine. Why is so hard to understand that if Americans put polluted food into their bodies, it wrecks those bodies – which are, incidentally, the only ones we are likely to be issued with?

Where humans are concerned, wrecking a body is generally referred to as killing.

That makes the quality of our food not just a health issue, but a National Security issue. Certainly, the American Food Industry is killing many more Americans than terrorism is.

Maybe we are deploying our Armed Forces against the wrong enemy.

We need to plan and implement a health strategy.

It’s interesting that the U.S. currently spends roughly twice the UK amount on Health Care, and yet we end up, according to recent research, as being less healthy. In fact, that is a particularly telling comparison given the reality that the Brits drink and smoke to excess, have a dubious diet, and are looked after by the supposedly notorious National Health (which still covers every man, woman and child in the county with considerable efficiency and humor – and minimal paperwork).

Other international comparisons are equally damming unless we compare ourselves with the Russians whose penchant for vodka is killing them even faster than the Nazis could.

It gets worse.

Not only are over 40 million Americans – and climbing - not covered by Health Insurance, with at least the same number again being underinsured, but corporations are sprinting to opt out of providing health benefits, and cite health care as contributing to a general loss of competitive advantage. This is not so good when the solution to corporate health cost woes is perceived by them to be shipping American jobs abroad.

Stopping American citizens from buying cheap drugs from Canada is not a Health Strategy, though I guess one could argue that they should not be taking so many drugs in the first place.

We need to plan and implement an education strategy.

Fifteen years ago my publisher advised me to dumb down my books because that is the way things were going in America. Firstly, the education system was lousy; secondly, college was more about ticket punching than knowledge; thirdly, the corporates did not want too many bright people because less well informed ones were easier to keep in line; and, fourthly, advertisers preferred dumb people because they were easier to sell to. In fact, she continued, there could well be a trend away from books because tens of millions were functionally illiterate and many others, though they could technically read, lacked the context to extract meaning from the pages.

I nearly choked on my Grappa, yet now I live in the U.S. I am reluctantly forced to admit that what she said was, broadly speaking, true; and dumbing down continues. For proof, look at the U.S. Government in action, switch on your TV, listen to the radio, read the average local newspaper, or compare a current text book with one from a hundred years ago; or else read an endless series of reports which reach the same conclusions in a more academically acceptable way.

The No Child Left Behind Act is not an Education Strategy. It’s a costly disaster which has mainly educated the States in the fine art of compiling fraudulent test results. Instead go to Finland and see what they do to achieve some of the best educational results in the world; or go to almost any European or Far Eastern educational establishment and weep at how badly we are doing in comparison; or read the depressing statistics.

The bottom line is that if the U.S. is to survive and prosper in today’s knowledge based world, we need a population which is at least as well educated as the competition. Currently, that is nowhere near being the case.

We need to plan and implement an infrastructure strategy.

Our infrastructure – the hidden-in-plain-sight framework which supports much of our way of life - is something we just take for granted until something goes wrong.

The general notion is that roads and railway lines and bridges and pipelines and power grids and dams and sewers - and much else besides - are all someone else’s problem and therefore it’s pointless to think about them. They are just there doing their thing, hanging out there doing whatever infrastructure does. How cool is that!

Hmm! Such an attitude is eminently human and reasonable, but sadly it just won’t do. Why not? Because much of our infrastructure is in parlous state and if we don’t pound the table and get some action, then we’ll be in deep trouble as well. It’s awkward when a bridge suddenly collapses as you drive over it – or a dam breaks as you look up at it.

The reality is that all infrastructure is inherently entropic yet we, as a society, have underinvested in its maintenance and replacement – to the extent of trillions of dollars - for decades.

Why? Greed, carelessness and ignorance. Because nobody gives a monkey’s. Because America is an instant gratification society and scraping rust off a bridge support is not instant gratification compared with adding your maintenance budget to the bottom line. Who knows!

The American Society of Civil Engineers compiles an annual list of the scale of the problem and it is the one area whose figures seem commensurate with the staggering sums spent on defense.

Could it be, one has to ask, that we should have spent more money on infrastructure, over the years, and less on defense.

Yes, it could.

The U.S., as tends to be the case where technologically advanced countries are concerned, is highly dependent on its infrastructure, but what is particularly scary is that there is so little redundancy built in; and, currently, even a small glitch creates chaos.
Infrastructure is a National Security issue too.

We need to think about that.

We need to plan and implement an immigration strategy.

Border control is certainly a National Security issue so the logic of declaring a War On Terror while leaving one’s borders virtually open – for five years after 9/11, and counting - defeats me.

The logic of spending billions to secure our airlines (though we mostly do not check freight) while allowing virtual free access through our land bound boundaries also defeats me. Infiltrators are coming in by the millions. Certainly, we need legal immigrants (I happen to be one) but this kind of illegal invasion, and the sheer scale of it, is another matter entirely - and of course can be used to facilitate the entry of significant numbers of terrorists.

The logic of incurring massive costs to pretend to be doing something about our borders, while at the same time refusing to prosecute those who hire illegal aliens, leads to the conclusion that our government is being run by a deeply cynical and corrupt Administration whose primary motive is greed.

We need to plan and implement a more equitable taxation structure.

Those who work in the Defense Establishment – National Security, if you will – tend to treat the defense world as if was an entity in itself, an elite world bestowing special powers and privileges on its members. Well, some of that is true, though scarcely unique to defense, but it is a dangerous mindset because defense is, and should be, no more than another service provided by government for the wellbeing of its citizens. And ‘service’ means that citizens should – must -– retain control, and that the servants be held fully accountable; and, of course, that is only possible if citizens have full knowledge of the actions of their servants.

Pause for wild laughter.

Yes, I know it is hard to think of defense that way, because we are conditioned from birth through slogans, flags, glamorous uniforms and ceremonies to think otherwise, but it is true nonetheless.

In that context, we need to give much more thought than we do to balancing the welfare of the citizen and his family with the needs of the nation. And, certainly, we should not undermine the security of that citizen by taking some of his resources away – the act of taxation - unless this is done in an equitable fashion for the best of reasons with the citizen being kept informed at all times of what is being done with his hard earned money; and agreeing through the ballot box.

Well, those are the standards that are embodied in the Constitution though right now we are about as far from that common sense ideal as one can imagine.

Or maybe the Framers had a sense of humor.

We are particularly far from having equity when it comes to taxation. Currently, those who are less well off frequently pay more in percentage terms; and corporations, as I have shown elsewhere, are protected from substantial tax burdens by a truly mind-boggling array of tax breaks, subsidies, tax shelters, and other concessions.

Such arrangements not only degrade the resources which are available to pay for National Security – and other services – but they also undermine the social cohesion which is so essential if a nation is at war; or, indeed, if a nation is to do anything with maximum vigor.

Defense reform, which current circumstances are demonstrating is long overdue, should be underpinned by tax reform. American should not feel they are being stabbed in the back – metaphorically speaking – by their own government. Corporations should not aspire to the psychopathic role model (through it seems a natural fit).

We need to redefine the Corporation and overhaul the instruments which underpin much of our economic prosperity.

The Corporation is a wonderful idea because it provides a highly flexible legal structure for human enterprise, while at the same time limiting risk to one’s investment.

Very clever! In fact, so clever that we owe a great deal of our current prosperity – fragile though it is - to the concept.

That stated, it must also be said that we also owe many of the current ills of our society to corporations as well. The list includes massive damage to the environment; irresponsible credit policies; overcharging for drugs; energy inefficient cars, and so on, and on, and on...

Human nature, with all its flaws and weaknesses, never changes, so corporate abuse is as old as corporations, but there was a time when major corporations thought it appropriate to pay attention to the needs of their shareholders, their workers and their community – and to trade, or profess to trade, with some sense of social responsibility. In addition, they identified with their country of origin, even if they traded worldwide. Such behavior was expected and, in that context, it made good business sense. In fact, lauding their prowess in the marketplace, whether it be national or global, and associating such achievements with the national interest, was a technique used to good effect with Congress.

But times, interests and values change, and, as the rest of the world has grown richer, it has become evident that are great advantages to playing one country off against another, in terms of grants, subsidies, tax breaks, labor costs and so on, while actually having loyalty to none; or being accountable to any government to any serious extent, because one could always threaten to move one’s headquarters or set up a new plant elsewhere.

As a logical progression, it was soon found that this approach could be used to equally good effect within a country by playing one state or region off against another. Our brave new world definitely favored the rise and ever increasing prosperity of the un-accountable globalized corporation.

Legislators could have hindered these tendencies, of course, and, perhaps, halted them, but the corporates quickly realized that if such people’s financial interests were looked after, and their egos massaged, their global shell game could continue to be operated without more than cosmetic supervision. In fact, they soon found that lawmakers could be bought surprisingly cheaply (in terms of return on investment, if not absolute dollars) because, of course, the lawmakers were not spending their own money when they granted the corporations sundry favors. And, mostly, the American (or other) taxpayer, who was funding all this, did not know anything about it. He had delegated that oversight responsibility to his elected representative because that is the American way, as laid down in the Constitution.

Legislators, and their staffs, loved this ever increasing corporate money flow because it meant they were less dependent on extracting money from hordes of individual voters, and they could also become lobbyists themselves, in turn. Then they could get paid very large sums of money for talking to people they already knew and had access to – and no longer had to worry about getting re-elected. And they could also retire with the campaign funds they had, quite legally, accumulated with the help pf lobbyists; which pleasing prospect made accommodating lobbyists a much less onerous task.

If one ignores the minor details of conflicts of interest, moral corruption, and abdication of one’s sworn responsibilities towards the electorate, all of this amounted to a rather sweet deal for the politicians and their lobbyists.

I have only been able to touch on a few of the issues which have corrupted corporate governance, but the fact remains that over the last 25 years or so, many (though not all) major corporations seem to have evolved to an ethos which, in essence, states that anything goes -– providing it makes a profit; and that the only loyalty that senior corporate executives have is to themselves and, if they have no choice in the matter, to their shareholders.

The most frequently stated excuse for both their demands and their egregiously bad treatment of their workers in all too many cases is: “International competition,” and, as with most excuses, there is some validity to it. Nonetheless, it does not justify a pattern of entirely unscrupulous behavior, the abdication of concern for employees, a complete indifference to the nation that chartered them in the first place, and an unhealthy focus on securing special concessions and tax breaks from Congress.

The irony, where Congress is concerned, is well demonstrated by corporate interests preaching the importance of a completely free and unhindered market on the one hand; while seeking to stack the deck through government legislation when ever possible on the other.

Would that such behavior stopped at hypocrisy.

What is interesting is that there is no particular reason why corporations, as such, have to be so riven with greed, so socially irresponsible and so out of control. In fact the record shows that profit is not incompatible with good corporate citizenship; and that being environmentally conscious can actually help the bottom line; and that depriving one’s employees of pensions and poisoning one’s customers may not be in the longer term corporate interest.

Further, there are a wide variety of U.S. legal entities, which are somewhat different in legal structure to the classic corporation, which are thriving; and which demonstrate that a corporation does not have to act like as psychopath (as described in the documentary The Corporation) to be highly successful.

Overall, there is the strongest possible case for corporate reform in the U.S. because if we don’t have it, the wellbeing of the average American, as I have said before, a pretty decent human being, by an large – upon which our entire economy depends - is going to take a nose-dive and The War on Terror will be the least of his, or her, worries.

In fact it would be fair to say that, first and foremost, America is defended by a strong and socially responsible business sector – not by the Department of Defense. But a strong and socially responsible business sector requires an active and vibrant democracy to whom corporate interests must be accountable, or we are going to end up with a de-facto alliance between government power and corporate power which used to be called ‘Fascism.’

Interestingly, Fascist leaders seemed to thrive best when they could capitalize on the fears of their citizens, though the record shows that they were better at starting wars than finishing them.

A confession, and the conclusion.

Clearly, the above list does not cover everything, but if Congressmen and women, chastened and replete with good intentions, got through that little lot satisfactorily, in eight years – one Presidential reign or so – America would be in much better shape. And pigs would probably be flying, if they could figure out a way to do it without aviation fuel, given the way costs are going…

Contrary to what you may think after reading this piece, I confess that I have long been a supporter of the military and a believer in an adequate defense budget – subject to full oversight and accountability. In fact, I still am. However, events, research over the last five years, together with some insider knowledge of the workings of both Congress and the Pentagon (known as ‘The Building’ by those who consider themselves members of the Military industrial Complex) have made me wonder if the whole U.S. Defense Establishment is not both substantially out of control, and as much a threat to the American People as its protector.

What we have actually got, in the current U.S. Defense Establishment, is an unaccountable, dishonest, secretive, self-serving, rather dumb, but cunning and greedy monster, whose actions, as often as not, provoke the very threats they are meant to dissuade. And it’s not very good at fighting wars, both because of these rather fundamental flaws, and because our enemies – whose intelligence should not be underestimated - refuse to fight by our rules or be hindered by such idiocy.

What a surprise!

Either way, the situation has been made immeasurably worse by a Commander-in-chief who clearly lacks the character and intellect required for the job, an Administration which defines the word ‘incompetent,’ a neocon ideology whose proponents should be locked up in a cold shower, and a polarized, lobbyist dominated Congress which is so rarely in session that it scarcely has the time to devote to oversight - even if it was minded to, or capable of.

And we are trying to peddle this Saturday Night Live skit to the Arabs as freedom and democracy!

What chutzpa!

Of course, my condemnation of the Defense Establishment, as currently constituted, does not mean there are not many good men and women working within it – doing their best as they see it (I may go and get a pick-ax and a miner’s lamp so I can explore and check on that politically correct statement) – but the overarching point is that the structure is rotten, and needs to be totally re-thought and re-organized, probably from its hidden foundations up.

As to the leadership, unless there is some accountability one of these days, with generals and senior civil servants, congressmen and senators, being imprisoned and fired, or otherwise punished in an appropriate manner, then America’s hold on democracy will become even more a façade than it is now.

If referring to our democracy, as, at least partially, a façade seems an excessive comment, reflect on the observable fact that we have now reached a stage where corporate interests, the rich, and the religious right (whether they be rich or poor, oddly enough) now have such a lock on all branches of government that the wishes of the average American are no longer represented by their elected officials.

Instead the voting public is kept under control through all the standard tools of political obfuscation, which have been in use since the Garden of Eden, plus highly sophisticated media manipulation made all the easier by the fact that virtually all our media – there are exceptions - is now owned by corporate interests of the kind which do not reflect the greater good. Indeed, all too much of America’s media is either afraid of reporting the truth for fear advertising revenue will be damaged, or is engaged in appealing to the lowest instincts and fears of their audiences by distorting the news and by rabble rousing though slogans of smear and hate which in fact are little more than propaganda designed to distract voters from the pillaging of the public purse that is currently going on.

The measurable reality is that the majority of Americans are losing ground and going deeper and deeper into debt while a small group is getting richer and richer.

In essence, the Constitution is being worked as if it was a corrupt business model focused solely on profit for the few. It has become, in effect, cover for a continental sized protection racket, designed to benefit only a privileged elite, together with those they pay – including the Defense Establishment - to keep the rest of us in line.

That is scarcely what the Founding Fathers had in mind; nor is it, if the best interests of the average voter are not being truly represented, representative democracy.

One would have to call that conclusion common sense.

What I have learned through researching and thinking about these issues is that there is much more to National Security than what we typically think of as Defense; and that if we don’t start to think of the issues holistically and pay more attention to such matters, the U.S. is going to defeat itself without any help from Al Qaeda – which is what, I believe, they are counting on.

No, in case you are still wondering, there is no case to be made for increasing the current defense share of GDP; and Eisenhower, if we managed to re-incarnate him, or clone him from his DNA, would most emphatically agree.

Remember, President Eisenhower forecast this Military Industrial Congressional Complex – which is how he originally referred to it – and the disastrous consequences if it was left unchecked.

How right he was.

He made the speech in January 1961 just before leaving office and by choosing to focus on that topic, at such a time, demonstrated that it was clearly an issue that concerned him greatly.

Let me close by quoting him. He did not pull his punches. The italics are mine.

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction...

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.

In the penultimate draft of the address, Eisenhower initially used the term ‘Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex," indicating the essential role that the U.S. Congress plays in propagating the military industry. But, it is said, that the president chose to strike the word congressional in order to avoid offending members of the legislative branch of the federal government. The author of the term was Eisenhower's speech-writer Malcolm Moos. Source:

Currently, American citizenry is neither alert nor knowledgeable and if that situation is not changed fast, the United States of America, as we know it, will decline and fall and fade away; and Columbus will have to do the whole damn thing all over again.

Victor O'Reilly is a New York Times Best Selling author who, for over four decades, has both studied and experienced, at first hand, terrorism, counter-terrorism and the military world. He has advised both Congress and the Pentagon and is the author of two major reports: 'Stryker & the Reality of War,' and, 'Preventable Deaths.' An Anglo-Irishman, with a Masters (Economics, English & History) from Trinity College, Dublin, and the father of five children, he emigrated to the U.S. in 2001 and currently lives in Virginia. His web site is at  and his e-mail is   He has given numerous media interviews and was the keynote speaker at the U.S. Marine Corps Intelligence Association in 2004.