Repeating Hi$tory

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MARINA DI RAGUSA, Sicily — Almost 23 years ago, I wrote a short pamphlet, Defense Power Games.

My aim then (as it is now) was to explain why the end of the Cold War would not produce a peace dividend in the form of reduced defense budgets that were substantially lower that those averaged during America’s Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Take a quick scan of Defense Power Games…now watch this 25-minute video — America’s War Games — just released by Al Jazeera for its People and Power segment.

The video explains why the end of the War on Terror will not, like the end of the Cold War did not, result in a peace dividend

Santayana wrote that those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it.  After watching America’s War Games,  ask yourself two simple questions:

1. “What has changed since the Defense Power Games pamphlet was published in 1990?”

2. “Will the end of the War on Terror produce a dividend?”

I submit the answers are self-evident: (1) “Nothing” and (2) “No”.

But one thing that has changed: our economy is in far greater trouble today than it was in 1990 (although the seeds for the current disaster were being merrily planted during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, as well as in the 1990s, not to mention the first decade of the 21st Century).

This time around, it ought to be clear that continuing to assign grossly excessive amounts of scarce resources (capital and skilled labor) to defense spending will make America’s current economic problems worse.

So, how can we reduce the defense budget to free up the funds needed by both the private and public sectors to reinvigorate our economy?

Clearly, President Obama’s most recent budget provides no answer — he has placed defense off limits.  Moreover, the President and Congress are clearly maneuvering to neuter the effects of the budget sequester on the Pentagon’s weapons boondoggles by focusing on furloughing people, cutting back on training, reducing spare parts purchases, etc.

Over the years (since the 1970s), my colleagues and I have written extensive diagnoses of the Pentagon’s institutional problems, together with many recommendations about how to correct its dysfunctional behavior.

Over time, our central conclusion has remained the same: it is not only possible to reduce the defense budget, but budget reductions are a necessary step in reforming the Defense Department’s wasteful management practices to produce a more effective military

If that notion resonates with you, here’s a roadmap of how to do it.