Casey: Thoughts on the Forever War
By Doug Casey - The Daily Reckoning
I hope I'm totally wrong on this, but I've got a feeling what's brewing is the biggest thing since at least World War II. The historical clock looks to me like it's at about 1936. Straws in the wind are starting to signal a brewing hurricane. How much of the following were you aware of? Excuse the editorial content if you disagree with my interpretation; I take this seriously.
The current U.S. military budget is $396 billion, and it's expanding rapidly. That's roughly $5000 for every household in the U.S. But what's more relevant is how it stacks up relative to other countries in the world with militaries. And the fact is that it's significantly more than the combined budgets of every other country in the world, which is even more bizarre when you consider that the U.S. has only 4% of the world's population.
For your reference, here are the next largest military budgets: Russia $60 billion; China $42 billion; Japan $40.4 billion; United Kingdom $34 billion; Saudi Arabia $27.2; France $25.3 billion; Germany $21 billion; Brazil $17.9 billion; India $15.6 billion; Italy $15.5 billion; South Korea $11.8 billion; Iran $9 billion; Israel $9 billion; Taiwan $8.2 billion.
These numbers give a lie to the whole U.S. war on terror. Israel, which is actually surrounded by enemy states while
simultaneously fighting a guerrilla war within its borders, only spends $9 billion. France and Britain, which have close historical connections to scores of ex-colonies who are a constant tribulation (e.g., the Ivory Coast), together only spend a fraction of the US budget. Where does the money go? I don't think anybody has actually figured it out. But 75% of it would be totally unnecessary if the U.S. government recalled the troops from well over 100 countries around the world where they're antagonizing the natives.
The U.S. is, in effect, in an arms race against itself. And the problem of having a powerful military is similar to that of having a big hammer: pretty soon, everything starts looking like a nail.
Of course, not all U.S. military spending goes directly to the U.S. military.
The U.S. gave $1 billion in aid to Somalia before its disastrous "peace-keeping" mission in 1991 - including $154 million in weapons. It's estimated that the U.S. Government gave the Taliban and other Afghan rebels about $3 billion in military aid to fight the Soviets. And you certainly won't hear Bush admitting that in 2001 alone, before the 911 attacks made the Afghans the Devil of the Month, the U.S. government gave the Afghan regime $125 million in aid. I haven't seen the numbers for the amount of support to Saddam while Iraq fought the Iranians during the 80s. But the Iranians were armed almost exclusively with American weapons left over from the Shah's regime. It might be called "the boomerang effect."
Passing out weapons to repressive regimes on the principle that "my enemy's enemy must be my friend" is a proven formula for disaster.
"In the war against terrorism," said Bush, "we're going to hunt down these evil-doers wherever they are, no matter how long it takes."
Of course, if the war is really against terrorism, Bush needn't send the military to the worlds nether regions to find miscreants at huge risk and expense. He could start right here in the U.S.:
General Jose Guillermo Garcia has lived in Florida since the 1990s. He was head of El Salvador's military during the 1980s when death squads closely linked to the army murdered thousands of people.
General Prosper Avril, the Haitian dictator, liked to display the bloodied victims of his torture on television. When he was overthrown, he was flown to Florida by the U.S. government.
Thiounn Prasith, Pol Pot's henchman and apologist at the U.N., lives in Mount Vernon, NY.
General Mansour Moharari, who ran the Shah of Iran's notorious prisons, is wanted in Iran, but is untroubled in the U.S.
General Pervez Musharraf, the current dictator of Pakistan, who overthrew a democratically elected government, might easily join that list if he's ever deposed by a coup. Maybe at some point soon, considering that Islamicist parties dominated the county's recent parliamentary elections.
If charity starts at home, one thing the U.S. might do (even before trying to close down al Qaeda training camps) is to close down the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, which has trained about 60,000 Latin American police and soldiers. It's well known that among the techniques recommended for use against insurgents in its manuals are blackmail, torture, execution and the arrest of the suspect's relatives. Those techniques would be called "terror" if they weren't exercised by U.S. "allies."
The Washington Post ran an interesting article about something called The Expeditionary Task Force, a 1,500-man unit of former Bolivian soldiers that is totally funded, fed, clothed and armed by the U.S. Embassy in that country. This is a first in the War on Drugs, even though it's taken a back seat to the War on Terror. The U.S. is paying the soldiers about $100 a month, which is 50% more than they got in the army; make a note in case you want your own private army. These guys go running around the jungle destroying the crops of the local farmers, and occasionally torturing, maiming, and murdering a few. The indigenes don't like it, are well aware of who's putting the Task Force up to it, and have long memories. You can bet a real guerrilla war will, at some point, blossom in Bolivia as a result. On the bright side, though, hiring local soldiers is a lot cheaper, and much lower profile, than using Americans. And you don't really have to care who gets killed.
I presume you've heard of the Ashcroft Justice Departments TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System) program, a part of the larger Bush "Citizen Corps" initiative. The Citizen Corps is something of a volksturm for busybodies who are too alt, lame, or chicken to hunt al Qaeda members personally in Afghanistan, or wherever. TIPS is a scheme asking Americans (particularly those like mail carriers, cable guys, truckers, utility workers - but anybody can enroll at their website at www.citizencorps.gov/tips.html) to sign up to report "suspicious activities" on the part of others. My understanding is that the program was supposed to go into effect in August, but has been shelved (largely due to the vigilance of the ACLU), despite having already recruited over a million wannabe snitches.
Ultimately, TIPS was, or is, supposed to have 12 million members turning in their observations via a hotline to a network of intelligence "reporting centers". Press reports I read seemed to indicate that it was an "overwhelmingly popular concept" among the hysterical hoi polloi, at least as far as a London Telegraph reporter could determine. oobus americanus made comments like (I kid you not):
"I think the critics are making a big mistake. I would be happy to do some spying. I would love to do something to help America," Wilma Silva, postwoman.
"Yes, I sure would join this operation. I would be very happy to keep an eye on suspicious activities and suspicious people, and I would not feel uncomfortable about it at all." Douglas Hannah, Coca-Cola truck driver.
"We need to do this. We need to watch for them, watch for anything out of the ordinary. And you know what? If you have done nothing wrong, you don't have to worry about being spied on." Arpad Dozzy, FedEx delivery man.
Americans have often wondered where the Germans were able to recruit all the people who staffed the Gestapo and the SS. The fact is, however, that sociopaths, sociopath sympathizers, the weak-kneed, and the easily-led form a standard distribution across all societies, in all times. We have just as many in America now as the Germans did in the 1930s. Maybe even more, since Americans have been corrupted by welfare and programmed by the public schools and the mass media for several generations more than were the Germans of that time. Your local TIPS snitch might report that you "fail to display sufficient respect for authority." Or maybe he'll write down that you "laugh upon hearing the phrase 'homeland security'." Think I'm kidding? Try making a joke in an airport.
The popular response to the TIPS program is proof that the time is now right for the creepy-crawlies to emerge from under their rocks. That neighbor who's got a kid, and a dog, and plays ball of a Saturday may have exactly the same dark side as the German who always politely shopped at a Jewish deli, but then broke its windows when Kristalnacht came.
One scary and hysterical government measure that hasn't been shelved was the activation of 300 Army National Guard tank battalions as part of a homeland defense force, as part of a strategy calling for the domestic use of U.S. military forces. Reuters reported that, in his July 20 speech, Bush said that tank battalions "will serve in the homeland defense role within the United States." I'd like to know how, exactly, tanks will be employed within the U.S.
Possibly worse, Bush activated about 1,000 Special Forces units for possible deployment around the country to assist in searches for suspicious people "in supPORT 68,104,226,153,131,58
Baby Bush regime is underlined by the creation of a Department of Homeland Security. And that...entirely apart from the fact that its $37 billion budget will compete with the FBI, CIA, NSA and other bloated and dangerous bureaucracies as Praetorian Guard wannabees.
P.S. Just for the record, look at the Cabinet level departments created over the last 40 years. Why should Homeland Security be any different from any of these disasters - except that it's got a lot more power, and its employees carry guns:
1965, Housing and Urban Development, budget $31 billion, which is mainly responsible for the creation of vertical ghettos, and the destruction of the inner cities in general...
1966, Transportation, budget $61 billion, the bane of the transportation industry...
1977, Energy, budget $19 billion, which has never produced a barrel of oil...
1979, Education, budget $48 billion, the running dog of the corrupt NEA trade union, whose creation coincides with a collapse in the education system...
1988, Veterans Affairs, budget $52 billion, the agency every veteran I've ever met would like to launch an air strike against...
P.P.S. I know some pundits are saying this is already the longest bear market in history - which is nonsense. And I'm
not just talking about the 12 year Japanese bear market. Entirely apart from that, bear markets historically tend to linger for about half the length of the proceeding bull, which was 18 years in this case.
The explosive 1000 point rallies we see are evidence there's actually still a lot of bullish sentiment out there. I don't think it's going to be over until we see 6-8% dividend yields everywhere, a great decline in the number of mutual funds, and low trading volumes. And not only won't there be bullish articles in McPaper [USAToday], there won't even be bearish articles. There won't be any articles on stocks, because nobody is going to want to hear about stocks at all.
People's attention is likely to be much more focused on news from the latest front in The Forever War.
Editor's note: International Speculator Doug Casey has been seeking and finding incredible opportunities around the world for 25 years. Mr. Casey is the author of the best-sellers Crisis Investing and Crisis Investing for the Rest of the 90's, and is one of the more opinionated contributor's to the Daily Reckoning. If you're interested in additional insights from Doug, please see The International Speculator