COMMENTARY: Can America Really Afford Peace? The Unspoken Question

By Joseph J. Honick
Joseph J. Honick
Joseph J. Honick
Editor's note: This column originally ran on Aug. 16, 2011. The author 
 suggested re-running this column, in light of sequestration and the hypocrisy of the right: the antigovernment bunch really lives off government spending, and the more the merrier despite all the right-wing bitching!

  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.  -- President Dwight D. Eisenhower, farewell address, Jan. 17, 1961

While we listen to all the chatter about troop withdrawals, deficits and all kind of political back and forth accusations about our economy, no one is asking if we can afford to have peace anytime soon.

 Tough question, right?  Appropriate also!


1.     we are still in a war mode in Afghanistan and lurching toward more in the Middle East;

2.     all that requires sustained defense industry production and employment;

3.     we nevertheless are awash in unemployment, debt and unpaid bills;


So….can we really afford the economic impact of something that looks like peace?

No one wants to deal with what will happen if almost the whole war-based industrial and military complex comes to a screeching halt. 

The subject is not even quietly asked in the Halls of Congress and in the campaign offices of those almost clownishly demanding attention for their candidates at all levels,

But think about it because not many responsible people are :  Tens of thousands of men and women, including their highly paid bosses, are operating in the defense industries whose daily contracts from the Department of Defense are at least in the hundreds of millions.  Not quite as conspicuous are the tens of thousands of civilian contractors operating in the various war zones and who actually outnumber our military personnel at least in Afghanistan!

Though we and others have raised the issue of the One- Trillion- and- Counting cost of these ever increasingly expensive wars we cannot win or even end, only recently did the New York Times suddenly make that “investment” a front page story.  Even then, their reporter omitted the more than One- Billion- and- counting the governments of Messrs Bush and Obama have “invested” in paying private PR and advertising firms to keep “selling” Americans and the world that we not only were doing something necessary but actually winning.

Imagine: having to sell wars supposedly intended to keep the nation free of bad people and their assaults!

Think again for a moment:

1. Despite the President’s declared intention to “draw down” thousands of troops in 2012, the Department of Defense has major contracts on the books for billions of dollars to do work projected for the next several years just inside Afghanistan.

2. A recent 36-page report by the Congressional Research Service not only shows the number of defense contractor personnel right in Afghanistan substantially exceeds our military forces, but includes admissions by Secretary of Defense Gates of not all that long ago that we have not had very efficient management of those contractors and their contracts.  See CRS Report titled:  DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE CONTRACTORS IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ: BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS, dated May 13, 2011;

3. There has yet to be much of any media attention to those defense contractor personnel living in Afghanistan, what facilities they have residentially, recreationally etc and who is paying for all that.  You can be sure they do not live the same tough lives of our military personnel.

4. No one has yet even tried to answer questions I raised some months ago as to why the most powerful forces in the world cannot defeat something called “insurgents”, but we cannot even find and destroy their channels of supply, financing, training and recruitment.

Are there answers to these points?  Well there are certainly places to begin.

First, there needs to be a Congressional probe of why we have failed to negotiate any kind of payback from the Iraqi government we helped top install in return for our sacrifice of men, women, money and a lot more.  Why has not one Congressional unit even raised the question of our helping the Iraqis merely auction off the oil fields we helped put back in action without getting a dime participation in the  profits that will roll in?

Second,  it has already been adduced that some major defense industry contractors have hugely overcharged for products and services.  It would be a measure of public confidence building if our government would make a larger issue of this fact and demonstrate what actions are being taken to recover those taxpayer investments.

Third, if the Congress cannot handle researching these and other concerns, it would be useful if citizen groups organize to raise these important questions.

It should not have been lost on the American voters that even the Republican contenders for the presidency who chatted amiably with each other in New Hampshire  and Iowa   were virtually in agreement regarding the terrible and questionable state of affairs in Afghanistan where even that nation’s head of state has said we Americans are “occupiers.”

Solution:  citizens should demand that our communications media ask these questions and insist on answers.

After all this done, if any is, we will still be saddled with the reality that a return to any kind of peace will result not only in withdrawal of troops and their equipment, but the removal of all those civilian contractors whose corporations have been doing well on the American taxpayer.  Apparently no strategies have been put in place  to figure out how to handle such major job displacement.

In one small area of such concerns, even if we create something called peace in the Afghan and Iraqi theaters of questionable wars, we have already inserted ourselves in what has come to be known as the “Arab Spring” where major PR firms are finding wonderfully new and suddenly well financed clients among so called “rebel” operations whose leadership may or may not be to our liking or benefit.

So I repeat the question:  can America really afford peace?

                                        * * *     Joseph J. Honick is an international consultant to business and government and writes for many publications, including   //
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