Toward a New Foreign Policy

Article excerpt

Instead of seizing the historic moment to establish new defense priorities after September 11, the Bush administration appears to be doing exactly what candidate Bush promised not to do--funding two military strategies at once, one for the cold war and one for the future. A recent Defense News article noted: "Unfortunately, the Pentagon is still dominated by cold warriors, obsessed with big, expensive weapons programs. Congress is still addicted to the jobs and political contributions that can only come from defense contractors with massive hardware programs ... At the Pentagon, specific personnel changes are required, in particular closing the revolving door that rewards senior military leaders with the promise of future civilian employment if they `play the game.'"

The potential for conflicts of interest involving former weapons industry executives and their former companies has been substantially increased as a result of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's corporate management style, which one Pentagon insider has described as "Department of Defense, Inc." These links between the Bush administration and arms manufacturers raises a critical question: If the majority of top policymakers have longstanding ties to the companies that will benefit from increases in military spending, who will represent the public interest? At a time when corporate scandals are making headlines, the administration's reliance on individuals with ties to the arms industry deserves far greater scrutiny than it has received to date.

Another logical approach to retooling the Pentagon would be to set some real priorities. Canceling systems like the costly F-22 fighter plane, the bulky Crusader artillery system, and the administration's fantastic missile defense program--all of which seem largely irrelevant to dealing with low-tech threats like the September 11 attacks--would be a good place to start. To do so means challenging not only Pentagon planners but also members of Congress who are wedded to their states' military projects: One senator who's been willing to do just that is Republican John McCain of Arizona. Year after year, McCain points out the billions of dollars of pork barrel projects tagged on to the defense bill. This year alone, the Defense Appropriations Bill includes $5.2 billion for 581 programs not requested by the president and unrelated to the war on terrorism. This vicious circle of pork barrel politics and special interest money has been a regular feature of defense budget politics for decades, resulting in higher levels of Pentagon spending than might be justified by an objective assessment of the security threats facing the United States. …