Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The wrong kind of victory

John Hayes
One often hears of the fact that the US spends more on its military than most other nations combined. This is usually presented as evidence that the US is more powerful militarily—perhaps so powerful that it could take on the rest of the planet, and prevail. I find this attitude highly questionable. If we look at what sort of “defense” the US actually spends money on, and what it gets in return in terms of military capabilities, an entirely different picture emerges: of a corruption-riddled blundering leviathan that is thwarting its own purpose at every turn.

To start with, assessing relative military strength based on relative levels of military spending is a lot like betting on a race horse based on how much the horse eats. Sure, horses have to eat, but a horse that eats ten times more than all the other horses is probably not going to come out ahead because there is something seriously wrong with it.

Then consider the fact that a dollar spent on the US military in the US is not directly comparable to a dollar's worth of rubles or yuan spent on in Russia or China; in terms of purchasing parity, the ratios can be 5 to 1, or even 10 to 1. If Russia gets 10 times the bang for the buck, there goes the assumption of supposed US military superiority based on how much the US military eats.

Also, let's not lose track of the fact that the US military has different objectives from the rest of the world's militaries: its goal is primarily offensive rather than defensive. The US military strives to dominate and subjugate the entire planet; everyone else simply tries to defend their territory, while a few countries also try to thwart the US military in its ambition to dominate and subjugate the entire planet.

In general, if the objective is unrealistic, it doesn't matter how much money is wasted in trying to achieve it. More specifically, it's a lot cheaper to break something than to make something work, and the US military, no matter how much money is spent on it, remains quite cheap to neutralize. For instance, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier costs somewhere around $5 billion, while a Russian Kaliber missile that can be launched from a fishing boat from 1200 km away and destroy it is competitively priced at $1.2 million apiece. To put these numbers in perspective, Russia can wipe out the entire US aircraft carrier fleet without exceeding its military training budget for the year.

But all of this matters only if the US actually spends money in trying to achieve some actual military objective. If the US military establishment mostly wastes its money on vanity projects and expensive technological albatrosses, then none of this matters at all, and this may very well be the case. Just look at what the US actually spends its defense dollars on:

• It spends it on military bases around the world—hundreds of them. What purpose do they serve? What does their presence achieve? Nobody knows. It's all part of US military “activity”: assessing and responding to “threats,” most of which are purely theoretical. It seems to have an irrational compulsion to not leave any spots on the planet without a US military base. This is mostly just a waste of resources.

• It spends it on a bunch of aircraft carrier groups. These are very useful for launching attacks on defenseless countries. But it is very important to keep these aircraft carriers outside of conflict zones that may involve China or Russia, or even Iran, because each of these countries has several cost-effective ways to destroy an aircraft carrier: ballistic missiles, supersonic cruise missiles and supersonic torpedoes. The entire aircraft carrier fleet is obsolete, and is another huge waste of money.

• It spends it on the Aegis integrated naval combat system, which is considered state-of-the-art and has been installed on a number of cruisers and destroyers. There is just one problem: it is trivial to shut down, as Russia has demonstrated. A jet fighter equipped with a basket of electronic countermeasures equipment called Khibiny was used to shut down Aegis. The jet (which was otherwise unarmed) then performed a dozen bombing runs on the defenseless US navy vessel.

• It spends it on disastrous development programs of various kinds. A classic example is Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, a.k.a. “Star Wars”: it never resulted in anything strategically useful. Another good example is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which cost over a trillion dollars to develop. It is supposed to be useful for a lot of different missions, but has turned out to be ineffective for all of them.

This list can be continued virtually ad infinitum, but just these examples make clear a basic principle: spending money on things that don't work does not make the US any stronger militarily.

Next, look at the manner in which the US spends money on defense. It spends it by paying military contractors, which are public companies—highly profitable ones. These defense contractors are not primarily interested in delivering value in terms of defense spending; they are interested in generating profits for their shareholders. This is the stated prime directive of all public companies. Therefore, it is safe to write off a good third of all defense spending which goes toward profits: this money may feather a lot of nests, but none of that is military-related.

Also, keep in mind that much of the money is actually just pretty much stolen. The Pentagon has not been audited in decades, and sums unaccounted for run into the billions of dollars. A great deal of defense-related spending is recycled using a variety of schemes into campaign contributions for members of US Congress, whose members then unfailingly vote for increased defense spending. There is also the scheme where defense contractors pay exorbitant consulting fees to retired officers in what is really a form of deferred compensation: the officers work for the defense contractors throughout their careers, but are only paid after they retire. Nobody knows what fraction of defense spending gets siphoned off using these or any number of other corrupt schemes, but it seems likely that the US military establishment is the single largest den of corruption that this planet has ever seen.

The little bit of money that might eventually get spent on developing useful defense systems runs into a truly insurmountable problem: lack of brains. You see, for generations now the US has been falling behind in science and math, along with almost everything else. There are some excellent universities and institutes in the US that graduate top-notch technical specialists, but they mostly graduate foreigners. At the graduate level in science and engineering, US nationals are a small minority.

Now, this doesn't matter in many technical fields, where it is common practice in the US to hire foreign-born specialists. But defense is special: it requires native talent, or the allegiance, and the morale for doing superior work, simply isn't there. And so the defense contractors end up being staffed by native-born knuckle-draggers who couldn't get a job that wasn't defense-related. In turn, the Department of Defense is staffed by similarly dim bulbs: highly caffeinated fitness freaks who run around looking busy, waiting for their next promotion, never criticizing their superiors, never questioning their orders no matter how idiotic they are, and never thinking too hard. What can a system like that achieve? Disasters, that's what.

And so that's what we see: a long sequence of unmitigated military disasters. The US has been involved in a long series of military campaigns against very weak adversaries, in which it proved itself capable of destruction, with staggering levels of collateral damage, and some very impressive unintended consequences such as the emergence of ISIS/Daesh/Islamic Caliphate, but not much else.

Critically, it has turned out to be utterly incapable of winning the peace. The ultimate objective of all military missions is cessation of hostilities on favorable terms. If this objective cannot be achieved, then the military mission is worse than useless. Has the US military been able to achieve cessation of hostilities on favorable terms in any of the countries in which it intervened militarily—Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, the Ukraine? No, it certainly hasn't.

The US defense establishment can be considered victorious in one sense only: it has conquered and subdued the people of the United States, and is extracting a plentiful tribute from them. It is a pure parasite, serving no useful purpose. It should be disbanded. As far as standing up to the neighbors, the Texas National Guard should be a good match to Mexico's Federales in case Mexico decides to stage a military-style reconquista, which is unlikely, since the de facto demographic reconquista is going so well. On the other hand, the northern border requires no protection it all, since it is inconceivable that Canada would ever pose any sort of military threat.

Of course, there is an alternative to voluntarily disbanding the US military: a resounding, humiliating military defeat at the hands of clever, cost-conscious adversaries. However, this plan is fraught with the danger of triggering a nuclear exchange, and highly placed Americans who are concerned that a nuclear explosion might interfere with their personal longevity plans should give the voluntary approach a good think.

P.S. Some people might find my criticism and suggestions “unpatriotic” because we should all “support our troops.” Rest assured, this has nothing to do with the troops: they do not get to make procurement decisions, and they do not get to choose their missions. As far as as patriotism is concerned, it is the sworn patriotic duty of the troops to serve and protect the people, not the other way around. But if you wish to be a patriot, then you too can serve and protect the people, the troops in particular (because, don't you forget, they are people too) by bringing them home and giving them civilian jobs doing something useful, or at least something that isn't harmful to the world at large or to the country's finances, environment, health, reputation or security.


Karl K said...

This youtube video is titled "funny." And I am not a military expert, but I wonder if any real experts care to comment?


It does remind me of James Howard Kunstler's Too Much Magic.

krautsky said...

Unit cost‎: ‎T-14 $3,700,000
Abrams M1: Estimated in 2012 as US$ 8.58 million
Unit cost T-50: US$50+ million PAK FA
The F-35: $90 million. (present day estimate)and it still not combat worthy

Robert Magill said...

Graphic evidence of the sheer waste we our military leaves behind.


Patrick said...

Perceptive essay. James Howard Kunstler calls the building of suburbs the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. Certainly, the money spent on the U. S. military building the American Empire and fighting the Cold War rivals it!

I hate those "Support Our Troops" bumper stickers and the cloyingly obsequious "Thank you for your service" remarks to anyone unfortunate enough to have been a human component of that ignoble institution—as if they've been at the borders fighting off a vicious invading army.

Steve Carrow said...

"personal longevity plans" Hah! Thanks for that one. Seriously, where does one find the most current fallout pattern maps? We have supercomputers that can tell me to the hour when it will rain next week, but where are the updated fallout maps? I suppose it's moot, as I've set roots, but I might be induced to buy some duct tape and plastic per the recent updated version of duck and cover.

Ekkar said...

To pick an arbitrary point to begin; I feel that WW1 was the beginning of the end of industrial global society. That seems when we (most countries) dove head first into a giant pool of petrol. We then began to fight and jostle for position. To use the cliche once that particular pandora box was open WWII, etc, etc, right up until wherever the hell the current mess leads, follows...One could say humanity made a deal with the devil. Problem was that we were (are(is)) the devil.

Jayhawk said...

The only issue I might have is with the part of your analogy that reads, "betting on a race horse based on how much the horse eats." It would be more appropriate to say, "betting on a race horse based on how much money is spent on food for the horse," because much of the food purchased is never eaten by the horse. As you go one to describe very eloquently, much of the money spent on defense in this nation never comes anywhere near the military.

Helix said...

That is a brilliant and eloquently written piece.

I know you told us you would be sailing off for parts unknown at some not-too-far-off date, but I think you should reconsider. The status quo looks unassailable at present, but I believe I detect a stirring in the underbrush. People have felt for some time now that our country is on the wrong tack, but they're now beginning to realize that it is up to them personally to do something about it. They know that what we have now is not only unsustainable, but, even worse, is unjust. I sense that the day is not far off when the torpor that has enveloped our society will be thrown off and a demand for action will take its place.

The problem is, they don't have a banner to rally around. They need a valid critique of the problems we face, a set of just principles to supplant the current corrupt system, and above all, a vision of a better alternative that people can commit themselves to and strive for. And they need leaders who are similarly committed and are in it for the long haul.

I believe that you, Dmitry, by virtue of your multicultural background and the perspective that gives you on what's needed to create a just world, can play a pivotal role in this. I know you hold American society in some disdain. And it's true that we can be self-absorbed, smug, willfully ignorant, easily distracted, and contemptuous of other countries. But I'm here to tell you that most Americans I know are also kind people with a keen sense of fairness and capable of great energy when committed to a cause. What is lacking is leaders who can define that cause and create organizations to give that cause political support.

As has been obvious for some time now, the fight against evil never ends. There are bad men (and women) in the world and every generation must strive to keep them in check. You have shown quite clearly that you understand the dimensions of the battle. Don't abandon the field.

don said...

I kept thinking of the medical system in the US as I read the essay. We spend more than any other country on medical care, yet our health and longevity are mediocre compared to other countries who spend far less per capita.

Stage6 said...

Everything in the pit is garbage.
Alive or dead, garbage.
Whole or in pieces, garbage.
They said: " It's noble,heroic ".
They said: " It's a place of honor. "
It is a wasteland, a land of waste,
And you are garbage.
Decay and rot betray you,
Day and night betray you.
The helpless healers
With their platitudes and pills
Betray you.
Choose: unrelenting anguish
Or the peace of death.
Bullet or Rope.

" Thank you for your service " ?
" Fuck you "

Kaz M said...

reintroducing draft for all men, particularly sons or politicians or themselves would help curtain military adventures.

at the w.w.1, about 90% of ivy league students enlisted voluntarily, the number dropped to 50% at w.w.ii, and near 0% since the vietnam war. suggests, morality/ mentality of elites had deteriorated. or, all gain but no pain.

Helix said...

@Kaz M: Really? The Vietnam War? I would have to say that 0% voluntarily enlisting indicates their morality and mentality were INcreasing rather than DEcreasing.

Clark said...

What to do?

A Militay Repatriation Corps.

*To effect an orderly redeployment home of all our troops worldwide.

*To effect an orderly relinquishing of empire.

*To dismantle the foreign war machine.

We don't want to have an abruptly unemployed bunch of former soldiers. So we initially staff it with the current armed forces. But we also do a lot of hiring-- there's plenty of work to do for a long time, and new and different expertise will be needed at all levels.

horizonstar said...

Kaz, I think you should re-think your support of a universal draft.

We should reserve the privilege of fighting wars for the sons and daughters of the elites just as it was during the Crusades. Offspring of billionaires should lead--- man the front lines. Offspring of mere millionaires could stand behind them with rifles to make sure they don't abandon their posts.

stevelaudig@gmail.com said...

The only "purpose" of the war budget is for campaign contributors to get their ROI. All the US "needs" is a border patrol and a coast guard.

Marro said...

Missing Trillions
Rumsfeld Buries Admission of Missing 2+ Trillion Dollars in 9/10/01 Press Conference

On September 10, 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld held a press conference to disclose that over $2,000,000,000,000 in Pentagon funds could not be accounted for. Rumsfeld stated: "According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions." According to a report by the Inspector General, the Pentagon cannot account for 25 percent of what it spends. 1 2

Such a disclosure normally might have sparked a huge scandal. However, the commencement of the attack on New York City and Washington in the morning would assure that the story remained buried. To the trillions already missing from the coffers, an obedient Congress terrorized by anthrax attacks would add billions more in appropriations to fight the "War on Terror."

The Comptroller of the Pentagon at the time of the attack was Dov Zakheim, who was appointed in May of 2001. Before becoming the Pentagon's money-manager, he was an executive at System Planning Corporation, a defense contractor specializing in electronic warfare technologies including remote-controlled aircraft systems. 3 4 Zakheim is a member of the Project for a New American Century and participated in the creation of its 2000 position paper Rebuilding America's Defenses which called for "a New Pearl Harbor." 5

Estimates of the sums of money missing vary wildly. A 2003 report put the amount missing at "more than a trillion dollars." 6

Esn said...

I thought the main purpose of the worldwide US military presence was to control the world's trade routes, thereby ensuring that the US dollar remains the world's reserve currency and that the US government can continue borrowing money from others while controlling the interest rate at which it's paid back (thus imitating a process that, under other historical circumstances, was known as "imperial tribute").

Jamie Mason said...

Mr. Orlov,

I am a long-time reader and admirer of your work. I am also an active duty member of the defense acquisition corps. I couldn't agree with you more on the wide-scale overuse of the US military for empire-building, but you did get a few details wrong that I would like to give you an insider's view on.

First, I want you to know that corruption isn't as bad as you think. You would not believe the amount of time we spend on ethics training, and for the most part, we would be afraid to do anything that could remotely appear to be unethical (I'm referring to the handling of government funds here, no one inside publically considers us to be empire building and we certainly don't discuss the ethics of that). There are plenty of scandals out there, but those are the exception more than the rule. There are always going to be misbehavers, and an operation as large as the US DoD is going to have it's proportional share. Most acquisition program managers really are trying to do the right thing to get as much capability to the troops for the lowest possible cost. They are burdened by an insane about of bureaucracy, however, and they are also micromanaged by the congressional authorizations and appropriations committees, which do often appropriate funds that weren't asked for to beef up spending in certain districts. Acquisition program managers hate that but live with it as a fact of life.

Second, I'm surprised that you think the Pentagon isn't audited or can't account for spending. Except for the black budget (and I won't defend the intelligence community which has a sizable portion of it), our numbers are very public. Program managers all have to go to the Hill and defend their budgets every year. You can watch it on C-Span or go on the pentagon's website and download the budget packages that detail every budget line item to defend the presidents budget to congress. The GAO, which is part of the legislative branch, audits DoD frequently. We also have a lot of internal audits by the Office of Management and Budget and various Inspectors General, and they are real. Program managers are extremely careful to spend money in accordance with the law and department policy.

to be continued!

Jamie Mason said...

Third, defense contracts don't have nearly the margin you think. Their profit (or "fee") is negotiated on every contract. Big defense contractors get the best margins, but even those rarely exceed 12%. Most are under 10%, many as little as 5%. We have an agency call the Defense Contracts Audit Agency (DCAA) which audits the contractors' financial systems to make sure we're not being over-charged. The burdened labor rates are a bit padded in my opinion and do support more management bureaucracy than I would want, but they need the extra bureaucracy to deal with our bureaucracy. Bidding on government contracts is very expensive, and a given company won't win many of their bids. Many former service members and government employees do go to work for government contractors, but only the rare misbehaver would steer contracts to a company to get hired. In general, they're in high demand because they know the people that work in the program offices and how the system works so they would go work for whichever contractor offers the most. No malfeasance required to get good offers.

Finally, the military, government employees, and contractors aren't as dumb as you imply. Most of the people I work with are highly intelligent and reasonable, nice people. The problem is that the system as a whole is a huge lumbering bureaucracy and ultimately controlled by congress, which seems to care more about getting money in their individual districts than anything else.

In summary, my assessment is that the politicians are corrupt, but the military itself, for the most part, is not. It is, however, bought in to the "America, F yeah" narrative and doesn't see the harm we cause everywhere. Obviously, I don't see everything, but I haven't witnessed any corruption personally. I've seen some incompetence, but those people are usually put in a corner and told to color (since it really is hard to fire people). Just my view.

R.J.Cavazos said...

Jamie Mason,

A nation could say develop an immense program of digging gigantic holes in the ground to employ thousands of people. Among them would be all manner of engineers, accountants, program managers, communications experts, an IT department. All of the workers would have background checks and cleared and constantly trained in Ethics. It would all be audited and the expenditures would all be approved by GAO and OMB Still, the whole enterprise while meeting bureaucratic and administrative niceties would be immensely idiotic, useless and damaging.

Dmitry Orlov said...

Jamie -

It surprises me that you can be a long-time reader of this blog and yet go ahead with your damaging work without experiencing any cognitive dissonance. I could carefully parse what you wrote and throw away half of it as either deluded or fake, but the lack of cognitive dissonance on your parts tells me that you probably see my work as comedy. In which case, I take what you wrote in the same vein. LOL and out.

alex carter said...

My IQ has been measured in the low 160's, and the USA has no use for me. In my parents' generation, there were no end of factories that put ads in the popular magazines (if Popular Mechanics was ever popular) enticing people like myself to work for them.

Now there is nothing.

I put a fair amount of time into learning which end of a soldering iron to pick up and what an operational amplifier is good for, and it's all useless now. Employers will hire an H1B for $50k a year, while I make $10k a year and am lucky to do so.

You have Mother Russia; maybe it's time we all get back to where we once belonged.

alex carter said...

BTW you might be tickled to hear, Dmitry, that you're the last man standing. Druid Dude's site has gone dark. Now, I like the Druid Dude, and will miss his weekly missives very much. But the fact that you've chosen a "mobile" way to live as opposed to being in a fixed location, no doubt very easy for gov't or other forces to pinpoint, means that you're still here and Druid Dude is not.

RIP Druid Dude and ... keep on traipsing Dmitry.

Dmitry Orlov said...

Alex -

I believe JMG is on vacation. And I think you are exaggerating: nobody really cares too much about druids and cruising sailors.

NJGuy73 said...

Alex, if it helps, Jim Kunstler still has his site going. Still ripping apart our Cheez-Doodle-gobbling, NASCAR-worshipping, bad-architecture-having, tattoo-sporting, clown-pants-wearing, resource-misallocating suburban wasteland of a pseudo-country.

big fat fred said...

Thought-provoking Dmitry, as ever. However I believe the US Military has succeeded beyond all expectations in it's primary role of enriching the USA establishment and in destabilizing the world to ensure future, continued enrichment of said group.

Mike said...

If your starting point is that America isn't a country, it's a racket, then it follows that defense spending is a long con on a nation of suckers.

My heart goes out to Jamie Mason. He sounds like a sane, good person whose respect for the facts compels him to believe only in the visible, whereas the rot needs to be sniffed out with other senses, especially a feel for the fraudulent, the fatuous, and the idiotic. And here Dmitry has very few equals.

Jon said...

Dmitry, I think Jamie was writing in good faith. He gave us an honest take on his experience and should be taken seriously. He has something to say. I liked your article and would have recommended it to service personnel I know except for one thing. The picture you posted along with it. A pig in uniform isn't going to gain much traction with military types. You don't get a sympathetic audiance with insults. Who are you appealing to with that graphic?

I once worked for a defense contractor in southeastern Connecticut that built ships that sink. We were good at it. Not a one afloat amoungum! The people I worked with were decent people. Peace loving people, even. When I was there, about 30 years ago, many of them were veterans of WWII or Viet Nam. Some were young people like me who were glad to have a job. We knew the system was rigged and the Admiral Rickovers of the world pulled the strings, but, hey. Our family's stomachs were full and the bed was warm at night. And we were doing a good job at what we thought was ultimately an important mission. All wins all around!

I don't feel that way today. I wish our outstanding engineering and draftsmanship had been used to build solar houses and hydroponic gardens. I'm not naive enough to want cities on the moon, but livable conditions with dignity on earth would be fine along with good relations with our global neighbors.

I think people in the military and those who worked for military contractors should feel cheated. Cheated and incensed at how we were used for profit and jingoism. Our hard labor sunk in lies and kingdom building. I know it's cliche but the grunts in the field don't make policy. But that doesn't make them bad grunts.


Michael Hart said...

AS the english would like to say: Hear! Hear! Interesting to consider these issues and your succinct analysis and humour.

I can only add the following observations to reinforce the assessment. Bombing anything was discovered not to work in WW1 and confirmed by the almost useless carnage of allied bombing in Europe in WW2. The US has a huge amount of money and effort tied up in bombing stuff.

The AEGIS system proves that again the US has gone for a technological solution to every problem that does not exist. Any first year aeronautical engineering student or pilot could tell the US Air Force the F35 would be a dog, they tried it in Vietnam and failed and have never given up looking for the military one thing to do all things. Every former MIG pilot I have ever know and worked with confirms what I have always suspected Russian aircraft designs are superior and their flybility is superb and the operational service is generally very good as well. The F35 is now over $200 million per airframe, their has been no operational testing because of SNAFU's and the cost keeps rising. Maintenance costs are expected to be in the vicinity of some 1000 man ground hours for each flying hour. They will cost a fortune to fix. As the designer of the F16 said, they are a dog. The above all demonstrate as with all technological pipe dreams the costs are just massive because a lot of nerds a dreamers not engineers, and well they always forget something.

I believe if you crunched the numbers on all the equipment (everything from ships to heaters) the US Military uses and how much they use it, their consumption of energy (oil and kerosene) must be prodigous if not crippling, the logistics of keeping this stuff supplied must consume vasts US resources.

Aircraft carriers were realised to be useless as warships along with Battleships in WW2 but they remain very useful as a mobile airfield so long as your adversary does not have missiles and submarines.

Long range missiles carrying multiple nuclear warheads made most offensive military equipment obsolete excepting against non nuclear powers.

Finally, American elites think Russians and Chinese are stupid, clever but stupid. If you think other humans are inferior because they are ethnically stupid then you already a defeated country.

Very enjoyable piece Dimitri.

Mutant Swarm said...

The F-35 is the world's most expensive WW II fighter ever built.

And meanwhile, they talk of shitcanning the A-10.

pdxr13 said...

"The Pentagon has not been audited in decades, and sums unaccounted for run into the billions of dollars."

Trillions of Dolloros, maybe dozens of trillions, but what does it matter? WTC 7 was dropped to conceal a mere couple of trillions of mis-allocated operating funds. No worries, E-4's still get barely enough to survive without foodstamps.

bogbeagle said...

I'm disappointed that you chose to give a "free pass" to all the minions ... all the "order-followers" who actually DO all the evil.

Obama never murdered anyone ... the murdering was done by ordinary Americans, stuffed full of obedience and devoid of personal ethics.

pdxr13 said...

"American elites think Russians and Chinese are stupid, clever but stupid." -Michael Hart said

The Chinese and Russians have long-term plans to ensure the survival of their peoples and nation-States. I can't see in the list of national efforts any significant attempt at building a global empire of oppression (some leaning on bordering nations, and there as "buffer zones" not colonies). Defense IS cheaper than offense, generally between 1/3 and 1/10th as costly, with surplus useful for re-use/re-sale when the threat has passed. War Dep., Office of Civil Defense is an old dream, with collectible memorabilia, replaced by FEMA trap-camps/stacked nesting plastic group coffins (to encapsulate and dispose of mass casualties following scheduled depopulation). Hubris is expensive, but there is the issue who pays.

There are plenty of ways to pad billions onto a 12% fixed-profit contract, especially by using high-cost "sub-contractors" to do "impossible" no-bid "emergency" things like deliver fuel to FOB's in Afghanistan. Fuel is $79/gallon +12% markup: awesome! Not that simple, of course.

steve said...

I used to have a link to a long, multi-chapter account of the philosophy behind Russian military hardware - building for resilience and ease of repair, modularity and interchangeability of parts, etc.

But my computer deleted it when I wasn't looking. If anyone thinks they know where to find it, please speak up!

Extinction Radio said...

There is a classic science fiction story by, of all people, Isaac Asimov in which a technologically superior star fleet is defeated by a more primitive planet because all the improvements in technology were still under development. The money being spent on newer technology required the old proven technology to be scrapped. Most of the new technology was still being tweaked. Kind of like the 1.5 trillion dollar all purpose fighter that sill doesn't work


Extinction Radio said...

In my last post I mistakenly ascribed the story superiority to Isaac Asimov. It was actually written by Arthur C Clark

Augustine said...

A friend's neighbor was a Navy officer. For months, he said, she had been negotiating, which probably means brown-nosing and covering someone's crimes... err, scratching someone's back, to go to one of the many combat zones, which do not really need to be under combat, in order to get combat pay an get closer to the next stripes and salary bump. Eventually, all her whoring... err, selfless volunteering paid off and she was sent to a desk job in Afghanistan, a landlocked country.

So, to say that troops do not get to make procurement decisions, as if they weren't called to assist anyone higher up, and that they do not get to choose their missions, is utterly false.

Moreover, not only are the willing parasitical troops part of the problem, 1 in 5 families have relatives in the military. They benefit from the trillions of $$$ wasted in endless wars when they call their representative about procurement decision and the missions that their relatives are sent to.

All of them, the officers, the troops and their families make up the problem whose corrupt epicenter is the Pentagon.

Augustine said...

The DoD is the largest employer in the world (v. http://bit.ly/13CMHsX), even before counting contractors. Each and everyone of them is busy with an unproductive activity. Whereas the resources used to build a commercial truck end up adding value to the economy, like the transportation of goods to consumers, a military truck just transports death and then is blown up or left to rust in some forsaken corner of the world, abroad or stateside. Every member of the US military, from contractor craftsmen to career generals, are accomplices in defrauding the American people wholesale, not to mention in the war crimes the world over.

Johnny said...

Read something old, for a new perspective. look up Major-General Smedly Butler. The book he wrote, 'War is a Racket' is only the beginning. He joined the Marines at 15 years of age and was made a 2ed lieutenant progressed up the ranks, three CMHs but wouldn't accept but two of them. Lot's more to read about what he experienced in two other book about him.

Larkin said...

The Pentagon owns and operates 240 golf courses for exclusive use by the US military on bases around the world..
Source, Goggle, Chalmers Johnson

Disinterested Observer said...


Re: Smedley Butler. One is very mistaken to count the awards given to Smedley with the MOH's given to the combat soldiers of WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam (we won't talk about what they have been doing for Iraq/Afghanistan). At the time he received his awards the MOH was routinely given for very minor acts of heroism and in many cases for almost no reason at all - in the Civil War it was the only award for heroism there was btw. To wit: his second award was for leading a company in 20 mins of 'hand-to-hand' combat in which the only injury to an American was 2 lost teeth from getting hit in the face by a thrown rock yet all 51 of the enemy were killed - that is not a MOH battle. His first MOH would not have resulted in any kind of award beyond maybe a bronze star in WWII or other modern conflicts as all it was given for was commanding troops in a few days of fighting - and not bad fighting at that. He never served in any significant combat in his entire career. His DSC was awarded for duties of an entirely non-combat nature.

These exaggerations of heroism that are a staple of American life do us no good and much harm. People are not hero's just for serving or for being some kind of first responder. It takes a lot more than that. BTW I served 21 years.