The socio-economic cost of Pax Americana

The U.S. is currently engaged in wars around the world; some big and about to get bigger; some small; some covert; some on the drawing board. They all flow from the Bush administration’s “National Energy Policy” and its “National Security Strategy.” Jay Bookman, the deputy editorial editor of the Atlantic Journal Constitution, wrote recently that the wars are “intended to mark the official emergence of the United States as a full-fledged global empire, seizing sole responsibility and authority as planetary policeman.”

The war in Afghanistan continues at a cost of approximately $1 billion a month and involves the proliferation of U.S. military garrisons in the oil-rich Caspian basin, charged with defending the interests of a new Caspian Pipeline Consortium.

The war to transform the entire Middle East, beginning with the “regime change” in Iraq (estimated to cost between $100 billion and $200 billion), is clearly moving forward.

And the cost of securing the world’s oil resources could increase substantially, depending on developments in Colombia, Venezuela, West Africa and Indonesia.

The fiscal implications of the new Bush doctrine of preemption will be significant, particularly when the task of offensive wars is to preserve “free markets and free trade,” a “free flow of capital,” “pro-legal and regulatory policies that encourage business investment, innovation and entrepreneurial activity” and “low-marginal tax rates.”

This “agenda,” writes Gary Chapman, the director of the 21st Century Project at the Lyndon Baines Johnson School, will “launch defense spending literally through the roof – by funding what the Pentagon calls ‘full spectrum dominance,’ or war everywhere in the world, waged by soldiers and sailors all over the globe, by bombers and fighters in the air and by weapons in space.”

It is impossible to calculate the cost of the explicit commitment laid out in the Bush Doctrine to prevent potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States. It is equally impossible to calculate the costs of the administration’s nuclear war-fighting doctrine now being advanced through the combination of the U.S. Space Command, the National Missile Defense Program and the U.S. Strategic Command.

Just how the Bush administration is going to pay for what Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) calls “21st Century American Imperialism” is not in question. Now that federal budget deficits have reached Reaganesque proportions ($160 billion) and tax cuts for the wealthy have kicked in, with a stagnant economy, and city and state budgets around the country deep in the red ($60 billion in state deficits predicted for this fiscal year), Bush fully intends to target the most vulnerable. A recent editorial in the Berkshire Eagle warns:

“The most recent threats to the economic survival of working Americans had come in the form of deep cuts in Medicaid payments to the states, which, with their own tax revenues down sharply, are then forced to yank health-insurance coverage out from under the unemployed and those low-wage workers not covered by their employers. ...

“Depriving the unemployed of a health-care safety net is especially wrenching, because with the economy fraying, there are so many of them – 2.3 million more than there were a year and a half earlier. The cuts hit children especially hard. Oklahoma recently eliminated all children from Medicaid except those at or near the poverty line. Next in the Bush administration’s queue to be deprived are the elderly; under a new Bush medicare proposal, severe reductions in outpatient services for the elderly would come just as cost-conscious heath practitioners have found ways to treat many heart and cancer patients without hospitalization. ...

“With their health care in jeopardy, the working poor fare no better in housing. Again, the administration wants cutbacks in federal housing programs even as the cost of shelter escalates. ...

“Americans unable to survive in this meat-grinder economy had better not look to traditional welfare programs for help. The 1996 Welfare-Reform Law, which reduced rolls by over 60 percent, expires Monday, and the administration is pushing a plan which would shove another 70 percent of recipients off the client lists by 2007.”

To fight international terrorism the Bush approach resorts to terrorizing the domestic casualties of war-induced fiscal austerity.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org