War Is Our Business

August 11, 2010

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Our country has been involved in quite a few wars in the last 100 years.  World War I seemed to be more or less justified, although some can claim that we timed things just right to place ourselves as the heroes riding in to save the day.  Diplomatic mistakes and overbearing surrender conditions created the perfect conditions for Hitler’s rise to power.  That lead us to World War II.  World War II was certainly justified.  Regardless of the overwhelming public sentiment in 1939 to remain neutral, the atrocities of the Nazis had to be stopped and probably wouldn’t have been stopped without American intervention. 

I won’t argue the pros and cons of the two biggst post-WWII wars, Vietnam and Korea here but it is hard to argue against the statement that they weren’t as “justified” as World War II.  During WWII, the massive industrial effort of the United States combined with the near absolute destruction of the German and Japanese industrial infrastructure set up the US to be a dominant industrial power for at least the next few decades.  American cars rolled off the lines.  American military products became the rage in nearly every country to field an army.  American companies were on a roll from the post-war boom.  A new industry practically exploded in size – defense contractors. 

War is a huge industry.  It can be easily argued that World War II was precisely what this country needed to get us out of the great depression.  World War II quickly blended into the cold war which saw active conflicts such as the Korean War, The Vietnam War, The invasion of Grenada, the invasion of Panama and many other smaller military actions.  Except for a few years in the 70’s and the 2000s (when the George W. Bush administration didn’t include the 2 wars on the budget) the percentage of US discretionary spending on military matters has been over 50%.  We have bridges falling, a sub-par electrical infrastructure, and weak public transit compared to nearly every other industrialized nation on the planet and yet we’re spending half our optional money on the military.  Diseases still run unchecked, half our population is overweight, and yet we currently have a navy that’s bigger than the next 13 navies combined – and 11 of those 13 are considered allies.  Consider that the US Navy has dramatically decreased in size since the 80’s, too.

What’s a bigger threat to the US – a massive, coordinated attack on our information infrastructure or a massive, coordinated attack by troops, planes, and ships?  War should always be the last possible option, yet major political decisions are made every day to spend money on war before spending money on citizens.

The F22 program is a perfect example of how the defense industry has a stranglehold on US politics.  Originally designed as a successor to the aging F15 fighter, the F22 won a competition between two massive teams of defense contractors.  In addition, the final product is a joint venture between dozens of different companies, with major components designed and manufactured in dozens of different states and countries.  When it was proven that the F22 was far too expensive for the results it produced, this “shotgun” style approach to manufacturing almost gave it a too-big-to-fail style argument against killing it.  The defense industry didn’t even need lobbyists in this case; almost every politician with a stake in the program argued to keep it active, despite the massive bill it was ringing up with proven flaws and extra expenses.

It might be a painful transition, but it’s time to start thinking about better peacetime expenditures.  F22s, aircraft carriers, and tanks are not going to stop terrorists.  A healthy, smart, well-equipped population with transparency in defense lobbying will be the best deterrent of all as we move forward in this new century.

The Attack

November 13, 2009

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This was a losing entry in last Friday’s fiction contest at One Minute Writer..Cool site – check it out.

Roger Fox consulted his watch by the light of the waxing moon. It was nearly time for the rendezvous. His brothers – Travis, Peter, and Zamphir – would be approaching from the other three directions. Roger girded up his loins and prepared for the battle.

The odds were against the Fox brothers. The fort was defended by eighty five members of the enemy platoon. For this reason, the attack had been planned for 1:17 AM – a time at which few creatures within the enemy camp would be stirring.

Roger’s ear picked up a sound wafting through the air. It was the musical whistle of his brother Zamphir. The time had come. The battle had been joined.

Roger raced quickly and stealthily toward the west flank of the fortress. A sentry was on duty, as had been predicted by the advanced scouting party. Roger attacked quickly, leaving the bloody corpse on the ground. He heard sounds of struggle to his left, right, and straight ahead. His brothers were dispatching the other sentries with similar ease. None of the sentries had raised the alarm. The camp was oblivious that the imminent attack.

Roger burst through a window, sending glass flying in all directions. Travis, Peter, and Zamphir came flying in from the other three directions and landed near him in the middle of the fortress. The enemy began to awake, aware that something was very wrong in their protected environment.

The Fox brothers quickly attacked and scored kills on enemy soldiers. Within minutes, seventeen of the enemy lay dead on the floor. At that point, the battle became much more difficult. Feathers began to fly, obscuring the vision of the Fox brothers. The hens began to fix back, scratching gashes into the Foxes with their sharp claws and drawing blood with their beaks. The battle had begun in earnest.

Roger and his brothers fought back with their weapons of choice – their razor sharp teeth. This was turning into a battle to the death – kill or be killed. Roger jumped onto the back of one hen and sank his teeth into its juicy neck. He ripped a chunk of flesh from the hen and consumed the meat as the hen dropped to the floor.

Fifteen minutes later, the bloodbath was complete. A handful of the hens had climbed out the small windows and had flown, haltingly, away from the battle in the henhouse. Those hens formed themselves into a circle to provide common defense.

The Fox brothers would not be seeking any further conflict on this night, however. The four Foxes had killed seventy four members of the hated hen clan. Each of the brothers had suffered significant wounds at the hands of their enemies, and the group would retreat to their den in recuperate and ready themselves for the next attack.