by Tahir Mustafa (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 46, No. 2, Rajab, 1438)
Donald Trump has announced an increase of $54 billion in US military spending taking its total to $654 billion. That is more than the combined military budget of the next 10 countries.
The day before Donald Trump was to deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress on February 28, the White House announced an increase of $54 billion in military budget. This takes US military spending to more than $650 billion annually. Not surprisingly, the announcement received thunderous applause from the warlords that make up the US establishment.
The corporate media also heaped voluminous praise on Trump’s congressional address. He sounded ‘presidential’, they declared almost unanimously. More importantly from their point of view, he did not go off the script or make any gaffes in one hour of reading from the teleprompter. This was quite an achievement for a man whose reading skills are comparable to that of a fourth grade student. Trump deserves full praise!
It is, however, his military budget increase that needs closer scrutiny. In a White House meeting with state governors on February 27, Trump described his forthcoming budget proposal as “a public safety and national security budget.” How $54 billion—or any amount for that matter—would increase “public safety and national security” was not immediately clear. After all, the US military spending at $600 billion (2015 figures) is already not only the largest in the world but equals the military budget of the next nine big spenders including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, Britain, France and Germany combined. With the proposed increase, the US military budget would exceed the next 10 countries.
If Congress were to approve Trump’s proposed increase—and there is no reason why it won’t since both houses of Congress are controlled by the Republicans and almost all of them are in the pocket of weapons manufacturers—the US military budget would account for nearly 40 percent of all global military spending in fiscal year 2017-2018. Its nearest rival China’s military budget at $215 billion is one-third of the US while China’s population is four times and its armed forces personnel far larger than the US.
Even Russia’s military budget, that the US establishment insists on projecting as evil incarnate, is a puny $66.4 billion. The US thus outspends Russia by 9 to 1 yet Moscow is seen as an existential threat to the US. What is it that scares the Washington warlords so much? If $600 billion and an estimated 10,000 nuclear warheads cannot guarantee security, why would another $54 billion matter?
During the election campaign, Trump had criticized bloated weapons contracts. He was particularly critical of the F-35 fighter jet deal and said he would scrap it. Since the F-35 was first inducted into service on December 15, 2006, 200 of these fighter planes have been delivered. The US plans to buy 2,457 aircraft at a total cost of $1.508 trillion.
Would Trump really scrap the deal? The plane manufacturers—Lockheed Martin—need not worry because the new president has also promised to make the US “strong again” although his scheme so far involves building 70 new warships and increasing the number of troops in the Army to the same high level as during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Purchases of fighter planes have not been ruled out either.
Despite his announcement to cut the overall cost of wars in the Muslim East (aka the Middle East) and promised to spend the savings on building the crumbling infrastructure at home, his actions contradict his words. He seems to have been persuaded by hardcore warmongers dominating his cabinet to change his mind. Additional troops are being sent to Syria to augment the more than 300 US Special Forces already operating there, illegally one might add, because Damascus has not given its approval. Further, Trump and his minions have escalated their war rhetoric against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Such actions are deeply worrying and point to a person suffering from delusions of grandeur, not to mention megalomania.
Trump’s nuclear pronouncements are even more unsettling. It is not clear whether he even understands the gravity of his statements. On numerous occasions during the presidential campaign, he said he would not rule out the use of nuclear weapons. He went so far as to say that if you have nuclear weapons, you should use them. He says he wants to “greatly expand” US nuclear weapons capabilities. This means he may even surpass the $1 trillion modernization program Obama started that was already widely criticized by budget critics as unaffordable.
How many more nuclear warheads do the American generals need to feel secure? Is there a threshold beyond which they feel they are no longer threatened? And where would the money come from for such outlays?
Some observers have speculated that Trump plans to get the tribal regimes on the Western shores of the Persian Gulf to pay for his massive weapons purchases as well as building US infrastructure. If this is so, then his belligerent policy towards Islamic Iran makes sense. He wants to scare these already frightened rulers even more into coughing up additional ten of billions so that Trump can realize his ambitious but ultimately futile plans.
The impression being created at home is, according to what CNN reported that the White House was planning dramatic cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and foreign aid budgets. Neither would yield the $54 billion extra needed by Trump for the military.
What Trump’s belligerent pronouncements have done is to force China to increase its own military budget. Beijing announced a 7 percent increase in its defence budget for next year because of heightened new security risks. Without mentioning the US by name, the implication was clear although Chinese defence outlays remain far smaller than what the US has been doing even without the latest increases.
Are American generals really so scared or they are part of a cynical game to benefit their weapons manufacturing bosses? Tens of billions of additional dollars are be spent on purchasing weapons out of which some would end up in the pockets of the generals since many of them act (those that have retired) as consultants for arms manufacturers.