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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Quote du jour

I'm always amazed by the way we kid ourselves about the influence of the Military-Industrial Complex in our society. We use euphemisms like supply-side economics or the Laffer Curve. We never say: We're artificially making work. If the WPA [Works Progress Administration of the Great Depression] was often called a dig-holes-and-fill-em-up-again project, now we're making things that blow up and we sell them to people.
-- Chalmers Johnson, in an interview at TomDispatch.

More from Johnson:
So what kind of empire is ours? The unit is not the colony, it's the military base. This is not quite as unusual as defenders of the concept of empire often assume. That is to say, we can easily calculate the main military bases of the Roman Empire in the Middle East, and it turns out to be about the same number it takes to garrison the region today. You need about 38 major bases. You can plot them out in Roman times and you can plot them out today.

An empire of bases -- that's the concept that best explains the logic of the 700 or more military bases around the world acknowledged by the Department of Defense. Now, we're just kidding ourselves that this is to provide security for Americans. In most cases, it's true that we first occupied these bases with some strategic purpose in mind in one of our wars. Then the war ends and we never give them up. We discovered that it's part of the game; it's the perk for the people who fought the war. The Marines to this day believe they deserve to be in Okinawa because of the losses they had in the bloodiest and last big battle of World War II.
Militarily, we've got an incoherent, not very intelligent budget. It becomes less incoherent only when you realize the ways it's being used to fund our industries or that one of the few things we still manufacture reasonably effectively is weapons. It's a huge export business, run not by the companies but by foreign military sales within the Pentagon.

This is not, of course, free enterprise. Four huge manufacturers with only one major customer. This is state socialism and it's keeping the economy running not in the way it's taught in any economics course in any American university.