Why Washington DC is the War Capital of the World

Ultimately, there is no mystery as to why the Forever Wars go on endlessly. Or why at a time when Uncle Sam is hemorrhaging red ink a large bipartisan majority saw fit to authorize $95 billion of foreign aid boondoggles that do absolutely nothing for America’s homeland security.

To wit, Washington has morphed into a freak of world history—a planetary War Capital dominated by a panoptic complex of arms merchants, paladins of foreign intervention and adventure and Warfare State nomenklatura. Never before has there been assembled and concentrated under a single state authority a hegemonic force possessing such unprecedented levels of economic resources, advanced technology and military wherewithal.

Not surprisingly, the world’s War Capital is Orwellian to the core. Its endless pursuit of war is always and everywhere described as the promotion of peace. Its jackboot of global hegemony is gussied-up in the form of alliances and treaties ostensibly designed to promote a “rules-based order” and collective security for the benefit of mankind, not simply the proper goals of peace, liberty, safety and prosperity within America’s homeland.

Unfortunately, the whole intellectual foundation of the enterprise is false. The planet is not crawling with all-powerful would-be aggressors and empire-builders who must be stopped cold at their own borders, lest they devour the freedom of all their neighbors near and far.

Nor is the DNA of nations infected with incipient butchers and tyrants like Hitler and Stalin. They were one-time accidents of history and fully distinguishable from the standard run of everyday tinpots which actually do arise periodically. But the latter mainly disturb the equipoise of their immediate neighborhoods, not the peace of the planet.

So America’s homeland security does not depend upon a far-flung array of alliances, treaties, military bases and foreign influence operations. In today’s world there are no Hitler’s, actual or latent, to stop. The whole framework of Pax Americana and the Washington based promotion and enforcement of a “rules-based” international order is an epochal blunder.

In that regard, the founding fathers got it right more than 200 years ago during the infancy of the Republic. As Brian McGlinchey recently noted,

Let’s review some key excerpts of Washington’s foreign policy guidance, starting with the principle he put above all others:

“Nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated.”

With this guidance, Washington echoed the wisdom of other American founders. Thomas Jefferson urged “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”

John Quincy Adams approvingly said, “[America] has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings…She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

Needless to say, peaceful commerce is invariably far more beneficial to nations large and small than meddling, interventionism and military engagement. In today’s world it would be the default state of play on the international chessboard, save for the Great Hegemon on the banks of the Potomac. That is to say, the main disturbance of the peace in today is invariably fostered by the self-appointed peacemaker, who, ironically, is inherently the least threatened large nation on the entire planet.

That is to say, the United States is essentially invulnerable to conventional military invasion and occupation. On the North American continent its $28 trillion GDP towers over the combined $3.8 trillion GDP of its Mexican and Canadian neighbors by more than 7X.

And on either shore arise the vast Atlantic and Pacific moats, which are even greater barriers to foreign military assault in the 21st century than they so successfully proved to be in the 19th century. That’s because today’s advanced surveillance technology and anti-ship missiles would consign an enemy armada to Davy Jones’ Locker nearly as soon as it steamed out of its own territorial waters.

The fact is, in an age when the sky is flush with high tech surveillance assets a massive conventional force armada couldn’t possibly be secretly built, tested and mustered for surprise attack without being noticed in Washington. There can be no repeat of the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, Shokaku and Zuikaku strike force steaming across the Pacific toward Pearl Harbor sight unseen.

As a practical matter, even America’s ostensible “enemies” have no offensive or invasionary capacity at all. Russia has only one aircraft carrier—a 1980s era vessel which has been in dry-dock for repairs since 2017 and is equipped with neither a phalanx of escort ships nor a suite of attack and fighter aircraft—and at the moment not even an active crew.

Likewise, China has just three aircraft carriers—two of which are refurbished rust buckets purchased from the remnants of the old Soviet Union, and which carriers do not even have modern catapults for launching their strike aircraft.

Indeed, invasion of the American homeland would require a massive conventional armada of land, air and sea-based forces many, many times larger than the military behemoth that is now funded by Washington’s $900 billion defense budget. The logistical infrastructure that would be needed to control the vast Atlantic and Pacific Ocean moats surrounding North America and to sustain an invasion and occupation force of the US mainland is so mind-mindbogglingly vast as to be scarcely imaginable.

For want of doubt, the graphic below compares Washington’s 11 carrier battle groups, which cost about $25 billion each including their escort ships, suites of aircraft and electronic and missile capabilities. But self-evidently, none of the non-NATO countries shown in the red area of the graphic—China, India, Russia or Thailand—will be steaming their tiny 3, 2 and 1 carrier battle groups toward the shores of either California or New New Jersey any time soon. An invasionary force that had any chance at all of surviving a US fortress defense of cruise missiles, drones, jet fighters, attack submarines and electronics warfare would need to be 100X larger.

Yet there is no GDP in the world—$2 trillion for Russia, $3.5 trillion for India or $18 trillion for China—that is even remotely close in size to the $50 to $100 trillion GDP that would be needed to support such an invasionary force without capsizing the home economy.

At the same time, the 11 US carrier battle groups, which will cost upwards of $1.2 trillion over the next decade, would have no role in a continental Fortress America defense at all. They would be sitting ducks in the blue waters, and far less effective than aircraft and missile defenses based in the North American interior.

In short, these massively expensive forces have no purpose other than global power projection and the conduct of wars of invasion and occupation abroad. That is, they are military accoutrements of the War Capital, not even remotely relevant to a proper Fortress America defense.

In today’s world the only theoretical military threat to America’s homeland security is the possibility of nuclear blackmail. That is to say, a First Strike capacity so overwhelming, lethal and effective that an enemy could simply call out checkmate and demand Washington’s surrender.

Yet there is no nation on earth that has anything close to the First Strike force that would be needed to totally overwhelm America’s triad nuclear deterrent, and thereby avoid a retaliatory annihilation of its own country and people if it attempted to strike first. After all, the US has 3,700 active nuclear warheads, of which about 1,770 are operational at any point in time. In turn, these are spread under the sea, in hardened silos and among a bomber fleet of 66 B-2 and B-52s—all beyond the detection or reach of any other nuclear power.

For instance, the Ohio class nuclear submarines each have 20 missile tubes, with each missile carrying an average of four-to-five warheads. That’s 90 independently targetable warheads per boat. At any given time 12 of the 14 Ohio class nuclear subs are actively deployed, and spread around the oceans of the planet within a firing range of 4,000 miles.

So at the point of attack that’s 1,080 deep-sea nuclear warheads to identify, locate and neutralize before any would be blackmailer even gets started. Indeed, with respect to the “Where’s Waldo?” aspect of it, the sea-based nuclear force alone is a powerful guarantor of America’s homeland security.

And then there are the roughly 300 nukes aboard the 66 strategic bombers, which also are not sitting on a single airfield Pearl Harbor style waiting to be obliterated, but are constantly rotating in the air and on the move. Likewise, the 400 Minutemen III missiles are spread out in extremely hardened silos deep underground. Each missile currently carries one nuclear warhead in compliance with the Start Treaty, which would also need to be taken out by would be blackmailers.

Needless to say, there is no way, shape or form that America’s nuclear deterrent can be neutralized by a blackmailer. And the best thing is that according to the most recent CBO estimates the nuclear triad will cost only about $75 billion per year to maintain over the next decade, including allowances for periodic weapons upgrades.

As shown below, therefore, the heart of America’s military security requires only 7% of today’s massive military budget. Indeed, the heart of the nuclear deterrent—sea-based ballistic missiles—is estimated to cost just $188 billion over the next decade, or 1.9% of the $10 trillion national defense baseline.

10-Year Cost Of US Strategic Nuclear Deterrent Per CBO Estimates, 2023 to 2032

Here’s the thing. The actual cost of the national security budget is $1.3 trillion per year. Yet if you allow an ample $250 billion per year for a Fortress America continental defense and $75 billion for the triad strategic deterrent, the question recurs. Where does all the rest—$975 billion—go?

As we will amplify in Part 2, it goes to the War Capital’s pursuit of global military and political hegemony and to fund the deferred cost of past overseas policing operations, neither of which were and are necessary for America’s homeland security. And beyond that, tens of billions more slop-over into pure budgetary self-promotion. That is, military contractor lobbying and bribes, think tank studies and advocacy programs and NGO and national security agency propaganda and influence operations all around the planet.

Still, just consider the implications of the chart below. About $346 billion of the $1.3 trillion national security budget is for veterans compensation, medical care and other benefits. These programs serve upwards of 6.2 million disabled veterans and dependents and 9.2 million enrollees in the Veterans health care system.

Yet absent all the unnecessary wars that have occurred since the Cold War attained full force in 1948-1949, the US would have only 60,000 veterans of foreign wars today, of which just 11,448 are currently receiving disability benefits. Even when you add in their dependents, the total of WWII era vets receiving disability compensation is just 34,265 or 0.6% of the total beneficiary roll of 6.159 million.

At average compensation and medical care cost of $35,000 per beneficiary, the total cost would be $1.2 billion currently and barely $10 million per year by 2035 when only 311 WWII vets are projected to remain.

That’s right. The FY 2024 cost of veterans benefits owing to unnecessary wars, such as the 1.385 million Vietnam vets on disability and the 3.37 million Gulf War vets receiving disability payments and VA health care, is $345 billion.

And that deferred cost figure for the Forever Wars amounts to 116% of China’s current $298 billion defense budget, 425% of India’s $81 billion, 480% of Russia’s $72 billion (pre-Ukraine), 595% of Germany’s $58 billion and 690% of South Korea’s $50 billion military budget, notwithstanding the madman who rules across the DMZ.

Yet it only gets worse from there. By the end of the 10-year budget window, the $550 billion baseline cost of veterans benefits will amount to 55,000 times more than what a Fortress America homeland security policy would have generated over the past seven decades.

Needless to say, that begs the question, why in the world has Washington become the War Capital of the World, generating hideously excessive costs that the taxpayers of America neither benefit from nor can remotely afford?

Reprinted with permission from David Stockman’s Contra Corner.

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