Page 29


1.010.11611 OISSIMI “1””‘ CA INS el. 41101 PA 010101611.101 Dan Hubig BOOKS & THE CULTURE The Shark That Never Sleeps An Arms Race with Ourselves BY GEOFF RIPS FORTRESS AMERICA: The American Military and the Consequences of Peace. By William Greider. 202 pages. $22.00. emember the peace dividend? Are you still looking for yours? Don’t wait up. The American military estab lishment which William. Greider defines as the “interlocking structure of armed forces, industrial interests and political alliances” endured a little downtime after the fall of the Communist bloc. But at no time was the U.S. not fully mobilized for war; and at no time was the military budget below what we spent two decades ago, when we were staring down the Soviet bear. Now military spending is back in all its glory, with Clinton asking for a $112 billion increase over six years, and militaryindustrial types saying the proposed increase is too small and is compromising national security. It’s funny what a couple of defiant dictators halfway across the world will do for a military budget. What a difference a year makes. When Greider was writing Fortress America in 1998, he could say, “America could decide, of course, to reverse direction and begin pumping up its defense budgets again. This turn of events appears most unlikely…. It also begs the question of purpose: to what end? If the world is at peace, why should America now have to remobilize?… To justify the significant budget increases that might rescue the military from its dilemma of competing obligations, political leaders will first have to find convincing dangers a rising threat of actual war, and on a very large scale.” Greider goes on to say that military experts claim we have to be ready to fight two goodsized wars in two theaters at once. Well, here we almost are in the Balkans and in Iraq. No one would suggest that bombing Iraq and Belgrade within the same fiscal year is simply a way to justify a proposed defense budget increase. But it sure must help. If you’ve ever worked inside a government of any size, you find out that a good many of the large decisions are simply the best guesses of fallible human beings who are themselves a compendium of sometimes conflicting beliefs, agendas, ambitions, interests, philosophies, and psychological imprints. These human beings are pressed on all sides by advisors and people with various types of access who don’t have to make the final decisions and, therefore, function as representatives of particular interests and agendas. Concerning foreign policy, among these are: think tankers with foreign policy theorems, weapons producers, Pentagon or foreign intelligence functionaries, human rights advocates, businesses and industries operating in global markets. What part among many parts, then, is our current policy in Kosovo a function of lessons from the Holocaust, a function of lessons from Vietnam, a function of the new military-industrial complex that now hopes to define the vacuum left by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989? In Fortress America, William Greider tries to help us understand the last part of this calculation how all the king’s horses and men are trying to define the new U.S. military role in the world. He is not operating with a pacifist purpose; rather he is bent on figuring out what keeps us, at this important juncture, from creating an effective, efficient military operation that is in tune with our domestic, economic, and social needs, and responsive to new geopolitical realities. Why are we sustaining this behemoth created during more than four decades of Cold War, and at what cost? “This book,” Greider writes, “assembles evidence for a single proposition that underlies all other questions: the U.S. military-industrial complex, as we have known 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 28, 1999