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Problems with Current U.S. Policy.

Key Problems

* Bush administration defense planning overstates military threats and ignores real security issues.

* It accelerates the development of new higher-tech weaponry, despite the overwhelming superiority of existing U.S. technology. The U.S. is in an arms race with itself.

* National Missile Defense will be extremely costly, may not work, and will likely create new national security threats.

Although the Pentagon wants to dramatically increase its budget, during the past decade the external threats to U.S. security--especially the threats that Washington can address with such weapons as bombs, jet fighters, and aircraft carriers--have drastically decreased. Since 1991, the Soviet military budget has declined by 90% to $45 billion, and its military is in a shambles. The combined military budgets of all the countries whose "threat" is used to justify increased Pentagon spending--Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Cuba, Sudan, and Syria--total $14.4 billion, 4.6% of the current U.S. military budget of $310 billion. China, considered a potential military threat by some, has a military budget of $39 billion, and its weaponry is decades behind U.S. technologies. So Bush's proposed $324 billion Pentagon budget is more than three times that of Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Cuba, Sudan, Syria, China and Russia combined.

The reality is that with the end of the cold war, the U.S. faces an entirely different set of threats: the use or threatened use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists; nuclear proliferation, especially between India and Pakistan; instability created by failed states. Actually, today most conflicts are not between states but are rather social, ethnic, and political conflicts within states, such as Somalia, Haiti, Cambodia, and Bosnia. Most of these states are severely impoverished; face soil erosion, water scarcity, and other environmental disasters; and are unable to develop the social cohesion, political structures, and economic resources needed to maintain stability.

None of these threats calls for a new generation of highly sophisticated cold war weapons. In fact, Dr. Lawrence Korb, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower, Reserve Affairs, and Logistics under the Reagan administration and a leading critic of the two-war scenario, maintains that in purchasing these weapons, the U.S. ends up in an arms race with itself, because U.S. weapons are already so much better than anything else the world has, and the gap is getting wider all the time.

For instance, in early 2001 the Pentagon was in the process of purchasing three different kinds of fighter jets, even though our existing 4,727 fighters are already by far the best in the world and cost far less money than the newer models. For comparison's sake, the huge, multiyear, $321 billion price tag for these new jet fighters could instead repair and modernize every deteriorated school in the U.S., construct enough schools to meet rising enrollments, provide those schools with modern telecommunications technology, and fund professional development for teachers.

The Pentagon is asking for close to $300 billion in other cold war weapons in the near future as well, including 30 new Virginia-class attack submarines (even though existing U.S. subs are far superior to any other submarine, and the U.S. faces no real naval threat); numerous Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, 57 more destroyers, and several accident-prone V-22 Comanche helicopters. And weapons costs could skyrocket even more if President Bush decides to skip the existing generation of weapons, as he has proposed, and buys an even more sophisticated, more expensive new generation of "smart," accurate, lightweight, and maneuverable weapons in the future.

In addition, the Pentagon continues to spend $29 billion a year on nuclear weapons. The U.S. currently has 8,000 nuclear weapons with the firepower of 80,000 Hiroshima bombs. A strategic arsenal of 1,000 warheads is more than enough to deter any nation contemplating using weapons of mass destruction. The nuclear weapons budget is more than twice what it would cost to provide health care to every uninsured child in the United States.

Finally, National Missile Defense (NMD) could cost over a hundred billion dollars and provide the U.S. with less, not more, security. This mini-version of Ronald Reagan's Star Wars has already cost tax-payers $95 billion on Ballistic Missile Defense and $44 billion on NMD alone, with no success. NMD is currently planned as protection against a few dozen warheads from North Korea, Iran, or Iraq. However, of these three countries, only North Korea has a long-range missile testing program, and it froze that program in 1999 while pursuing talks with the United States. New Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is expected to spend far more than the $60-120 billion projected under Clinton on his version of NMD, even though it wouldn't hinder someone who decided to sneak a bomb across the border in a suitcase. In addition, arms control leaders fear that in response to the U.S. deploying NMD, other countries, especially China and Russia, will seek to strengthen their own nuclear capabilities.
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Article Details
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Author:Speeter, Greg
Publication:Foreign Policy in Focus
Date:Apr 1, 2001
Words:828
Previous Article:Redefining National Security.
Next Article:Toward a New Foreign Policy.


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