Just say no to more tanks

Just when everything seems pretty dire, with all the sequester talk, and budget cutback woes, comes the kind of news that stops you in your tracks, with the force, say, of walking into an armored tank. Followed by a bruising headache.

While most people are aware of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1961 speech about the rise of the military-industrial complex, it unfortunately seems to have served as a blueprint, rather than a dire warning.

In the latest, most blatant example, the Associated Press this week reported that lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams tank, despite senior Army officials repeatedly saying they don’t need or want it. Nevertheless, there’s a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed, AP reports.

But what the Army says doesn’t matter; don’t let the facts get in the way of the tank-building business. It turns out the nation’s only tank plant is in Lima, Ohio. AP reports: “So it’s no coincidence that the champions for more tanks are Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Rob Portman, two of Capitol’s Hill most prominent deficit hawks, as well as Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. They said their support is rooted in protecting national security, not in pork-barrel politics.”

Of course their support is really rooted in the good-paying jobs associated with tank building, an economy created through the intertwining of industry, and federal and local governments. To wit: The facility is owned by the federal government but operated by the land systems division of General Dynamics, a major defense contractor that spent close to $11 million last year on lobbying, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, AP reports.

Here’s part of what Gen. Eisenhower said in 1961: “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

At the very least then, when the Army’s experts say they don’t need another million-dollar tank, let’s believe them.

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