Thursday, February 22, 2007

Star Wars Redux (02/22/07)

Dubya's thus-far tragic presidential administration began with an emphasis on missile defense at the expense of funding the less-visible elements of fighting terrorism such as the development of human-source contacts and other elements of counter insurgency.

And from all appearances thus far, it may end the same way.

This story describes how our government seeks to deploy a radar system in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland as part of our latest crack at a missile defense shield (and the predictable outcry from Russia in particular, which should not have been unexpected).

I know it’s kind of a “water wet, sky blue” observation to point out that this doesn’t have as much to do with fighting terror as it does with lining the pockets of Bushco’s corporate benefactors (and further, as noted here)…

As we move past the half trillion mark in defense spending, perhaps (we) will begin the vital discussion about tradeoffs within the defense budget. Maybe now we can move past that old political trap of "guns versus butter" and get on with the "guns versus guns" debate. In budget item terms, this is the fight over military resources dedicated to technology versus human beings. Maybe, with counter insurgency's comeback and the recognition that all the techno gadgets in the world can't find a political solution for Iraq--the human resources issues within the military will get a boost.

This reality does not make the defense industry happy, however.

The flying sprocket lobby has a lot invested in the status quo. Last year (2005) saw $32 billion in mergers and acquisitions in the global aerospace, defense and information technology sectors. And they are moving into new markets. Monday's Washington Post included an article about the firms competing for border security contracts. The American firms--Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing-- were offering up mostly high-tech super expensive gadgets (UAVs, blimps and drones) Meanwhile, the Swedish firm Ericsson put its pitch in for human-centric relatively low tech communications system, off the shelf type personal digital assistants. Let's see who wins this one. Will it be the ones who have become experts in post Cold War peacekeeping OR the ones who are learning a devastating lesson about the limits of democracy by force?
And the eternal Molly Ivins reminded us of the following three years ago (and I sincerely doubt that much has changed in this scenario between then and now, except the overall cost)…

Speaking of both radar and stupid government, for a truly pathological example of how ideological fixations and denying reality can cost us dearly, to the $200 billion for the disaster in Iraq add at least $150 billion to deploy the unproven and unworkable missile-defense system, nee Star Wars. Since Star Wars was a pet scheme of Ronald Reagan's, Republicans insist on trying to carry out this nutty idea, the equivalent of hitting a bullet with a bullet. Ye olde military-defense complex also has a rather large stake in keeping this dog of a program going.
Of course, I’d feel better if I knew that we were devoting as much time, money and effort on the legitimate global war on terror, such as the spread of radical Islam in Northern Africa (actually, I’d feel considerably better if we would pare down the whole missile defense idea to a size “where you could drown it in a bathtub,” as someone once said).

(Oh, and by the way, speaking of human sources funding terrorism...).

Bushco and the Repugs know that political battles have to be fought by winning hearts and minds, so to speak, on a local level before success can be achieved on a national level. How sadly ironic that they refuse to learn this lesson regarding actual battles of considerably greater significance.

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