Why Military Spending Remains Untouchable

In defense circles, “cutting” the Pentagon budget has once again become a topic of conversation.  Americans should not confuse that talk with reality.  Any cuts exacted will at most reduce the rate of growth.  The essential facts remain: U.S. military outlays today equal that of every other nation on the planet combined, a situation without precedent in modern history.  The Pentagon presently spends more in constant dollars than it did at any time during the Cold War — this despite the absence of anything remotely approximating what national security experts like to call a “peer competitor.”  Evil Empire?  It exists only in the fevered imaginations of those who quiver at the prospect of China adding a rust-bucket Russian aircraft carrier to its fleet or who take seriously the ravings of radical Islamists promising from deep inside their caves to unite the Umma in a new caliphate. What are Americans getting […]

Rising Commodity Prices and Extreme Weather Events Threaten Global Stability

Get ready for a rocky year.  From now on, rising prices, powerful storms, severe droughts and floods, and other unexpected events are likely to play havoc with the fabric of global society, producing chaos and political unrest. Start with a simple fact: the prices of basic food staples are already approaching or exceeding their 2008 peaks, that year when deadly riots erupted in dozens of countries around the world. It’s not surprising then that food and energy experts are beginning to warn that 2011 could be the year of living dangerously — and so could 2012, 2013, and on into the future.  Add to the soaring cost of the grains that keep so many impoverished people alive a comparable rise in oil prices — again nearing levels not seen since the peak months of 2008 — and you can already hear the first rumblings about the tenuous economic recovery being […]


“Slowly a humped shape rose out of the pit, and the ghost of a beam of light seemed to flicker out from it.  Forthwith flashes of actual flame, a bright glare leaping from one to another, sprang from the scattered group of men.  It was as if some invisible jet impinged upon them and flashed into white flame.  It was as if each man were suddenly and momentarily turned to fire. “Then, by the light of their own destruction, I saw them staggering and falling, and their supporters turning to run…” That, as H.G. Wells imagined it in 1898, was first contact with a technologically superior and implacable alien race from space, five years before humanity took to the air in anything but balloons.  And that was how the Martians, landing in their “cylinders,” those spaceships from a dying planet, ready to take over ours, responded to a delegation of […]

A Modest Proposal for the Immodest Brotherhood of Big Men

Looking for a way out of Afghanistan?  Maybe it’s time to try something entirely new and totally different.  So how about putting into action, for the first time in recorded history, the most enlightened edict ever passed by the United Nations Security Council: Resolution 1325? Passed on October 31, 2000, more than a decade ago, that “landmark” resolution was hailed worldwide as a great “victory” for women and international peace and security. In a nutshell, SCR 1325 calls for women to participate equally and fully at decision-making levels in all processes of conflict resolution, peacemaking, and reconstruction.  Without the active participation of women in peacemaking every step of the way, the Security Council concluded, no just and durable peace could be achieved anywhere. “Durable” was the key word.  Keep it in mind. Most hot wars of recent memory, little and big, have been resolved or nudged into remission through what is […]

Does the Pentagon Really Have 1,180 Foreign Bases?

The United States has 460 bases overseas!  It has 507 permanent bases!  What is the U.S doing with more than 560 foreign bases?  Why does it have 662 bases abroad?  Does the United States really have more than 1,000 military bases across the globe? In a world of statistics and precision, a world in which “accountability” is now a Washington buzzword, a world where all information is available at the click of a mouse, there’s one number no American knows.  Not the president.  Not the Pentagon.  Not the experts.  No one.  The man who wrote the definitive book on it didn’t know for sure.  The Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist didn’t even come close.  Yours truly has written numerous articles on U.S. military bases and even part of a book on the subject, but failed like the rest.  There are more than 1,000 U.S. military bases dotting the globe.  To be […]

Washington’s 30-Year High

If, as 2011 begins, you want to peer into the future, enter my time machine, strap yourself in, and head for the past, that laboratory for all developments of our moment and beyond. Just as 2010 ended, the American military’s urge to surge resurfaced in a significant way.  It seems that “leaders” in the Obama administration and “senior American military commanders” in Afghanistan were acting as a veritable WikiLeaks machine.  They slipped information to New York Times reporters Mark Mazzetti and Dexter Filkins about secret planning to increase pressure in the Pakistani tribal borderlands, possibly on the tinderbox province of Baluchistan, and undoubtedly on the Pakistani government and military via cross-border raids by U.S. Special Operations forces in the new year. In the front-page story those two reporters produced, you could practically slice with a dull knife American military frustration over a war going terribly wrong, over an enemy (shades of Vietnam!) with “sanctuaries” for rest, recuperation, and rearming […]