Another brand mark of Empire is: "Ascendancy of the military mind, to such a point at last that the civilian mind is intimidated."
This we shall see.
The great symbol of the American military mind is the Pentagon in Washington with its seventeen and one half miles of corridor, in which admirals and generals sometimes get lost; its twenty-eight thousand people at desks, eight thousand automobiles parked outside—the largest indoor city in the world. It was built at a cost of seventy million dollars during World War II, not as temporary housing such as was built during World War I, but as a dwelling for Mars. What it represents is a forethought of perpetual war.
There global strategy is conceived; there, nobody knows how, the estimates of what it will cost are arrived at; and surrounding it is our own iron curtain.
The information that comes from the inner side is only such as the military authorities are willing to divulge, or have a reason for imparting to the people. All the rest is stamped "classified" or "restricted," in the name of national security, and Congress itself cannot get it.
That is as it must be of course; the most important secrets of Empire are military secrets. Even information that is without any intrinsic military value may be classified, on the ground that if it got out it might give rise to popular criticism of the military establishment and cause bad public relations.
If you want to know how and when it happened that this nation was legally converted into a garrison state for perpetual war, and with what anxiety the civilian mind made that surrender to the military mind, you may read the story in the Congressional Record, numbers 167,168 and 170 (September 10,11 and 13,1951), where the closing debate takes place on "Department of Defense Appropriations, 1952."
The amount of money to be appropriated in that one bill was sixty-one billion dollars. But that was not all. Other appropriations would raise the total to roughly eighty-five billion.
Everybody knew that here was more money than the Department of Defense could spend in a year. Moreover, it had on hand large unexpended balances from old appropriations. The Pentagon people said yes, that was true; they couldn't spend all that money in a year. But they wanted to have it on hand because they could make better long-term contracts if the suppliers knew for sure the cash would be there when the goods were delivered.
That was all of that.
Everybody knew the figures were miraculous. Billions could be invented on the Pentagon desks with pencil and scratch pad. It was so like doodling that a few billions could get lost when the papers were shuffled. One day when the Senate was struggling with a discrepancy in the printed figures—the difference between thirty-seven and forty-four billions—the Pentagon called on the telephone to say it had made an error of seven billion dollars. Sorry. "And," said Senator Wherry, "we go on the theory that we know what we are talking about."
The Pentagon's revised figures were accepted.
All the secretaries and chiefs of staff had appeared before committees of Congress to say that their estimates had been reduced to the very granite of necessity.
If Congress cut them the Department of Defense could not be held answerable for the nation's security. If the worst happened, the wrath of the people would be terrible. Let the Congress beware.
Senator Taft indulged the skeptical side of his nature. Only eighteen months before, in March, 1950 (that was three months before the beginning of the Korean war) the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Bradley, had said to the Senate: "Yes, thirteen billion dollars a year is sufficient to provide for the security of the United States. If I recommended as much as thirty billion a year for the Armed Forces I ought to be dismissed as Chief of Staff." But now in one year they were asking for sixty-one billion. What had happened in the meantime? That was Mr. Taft's point. The Korean war had happened. But so far as the defense of the United States was concerned, nothing else had happened.
Senator Taft went on to say: "I do not know how long this program is going to continue. My impression is that we shall have new weapons and new kinds of airplanes, and that we are embarked on expenditures of this kind for ten, fifteen, or twenty years, as one of the generals stated; and if that is so, I think it means an end of progress and the end of the freedom of the people of the United States We simply cannot keep the country in readiness to fight an all-out war unless we are willing to turn our country into a garrison state and abandon all the ideals of freedom upon which this nation has been erected. It is impossible to have such a thing in this world as absolute security. . . . I think we should appoint a commission to survey the military policy of the United States, to sit down with the military authorities and find out what we are trying to do, and to determine what is the proper scope of military activity in the United States."
Nevertheless, in the end he found himself unable to vote against the bill.
Everybody knew that a great deal of the money would be spent wastefully. The Senate had before it a report from the staff director of its own Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments, saying: "This is a frank admission that waste, extravagance and duplicate services presently exist in the Army, Navy and Air Force."
To this the Pentagon people said: "You know very well that war is wasteful. Don't be stupid."
Senator Douglas rose. He dreaded what he was about to do. He dreaded it because he knew how quick the Department of Defense had always been to say that those who criticized its figures were trying to impair the military efficiency of the United States. That was the last thing he had in mind. He was for more preparedness, not less. "But," he continued, "unless we are to give up a representative democracy it is the function of Congress to scrutinize these expenditures.
When we cease to scrutinize them, when we appropriate implicity every dollar that is asked of us, then we shall have passed from being a representative democracy into being a militarized nation in which the General Staff makes the decisions."
He proposed to confine his scrutiny to the fringes.
What he undertook to do, single-handed, was to squeeze out some of the bulging waste. He had served as an officer in the Marine Corps during World War II. He knew what he was talking about when he spoke of excess personnel, service plush and gravy trains. One by one his innocent amendments were resisted by Senator O'Mahoney, who was in charge of the bill, and who kept repeating the argument of the Department of Defense: "We cannot take every dollar of waste out of this bill. Waste is inherent in war and preparation for war."
Then at last, with the suavity of ice, Senator O'Mahoney rose to say that he should not like the galleries (where Russian correspondents might be listening), or the people, or the members of Congress, to understand the Senator from Illinois to be saying that our men in uniform were low in character, patriotism or devotion, because he was sure the Senator from Illinois did not mean to say that—not really.
(This from the record):
Mr. Douglas: Of course I did not mean that.
Mr. O'Mahoney: If the Senator will permit me Mr. Douglas: And neither do I wish——
Mr. O'Mahoney: The Senator will please permit me to continue.
With that, Senator Douglas was so overcome by a sense of hopeless frustration that he ran screaming from the Senate chamber.
Three days later he voted for the bill, waste and all.
Senator Flanders moved to send the bill back to the Committee on Appropriations with instructions to cut six billion out of it. He was not thinking so much about saving the money; he was thinking that—"Unless we can set limits to the demands of the Defense Establishment it will continue to solidify its present control over our economy, over our standard of living and over our personal lives. There is no logical limit to the demands of a conscientious and patriotic Defense Establishment in times like these. No provision of arms and armament is enough. No expenditures are too great. This must be so in the nature of the case to those who by training and experience place their full faith in armed strength."
Senator O'Mahoney, speaking for the Committee on Appropriations, said: "Our committee will not know how to make these cuts. We shall have to call in the military again. We could not substitute our judgment for the judgment of the military men whom we have trained to do this job."
Senator Flanders' motion was defeated.
He voted for the bill.
Senator Wherry said: "It is very difficult for any Senator to vote against a defense bill. But I believe the American people should know what we are getting into. This program and these appropriations will not stop this year or next year. The impact will be terrific and terrible upon the entire country."
He did not vote against the bill.
Senator Langer moved to send the bill back to the Committee on Appropriations with instructions to put a fifty-six billion dollar ceiling on it.
Senator Dirksen supported the motion, saying: "There is a lot of guesswork in these figures. There is nothing sacred about a military figure. There is no staff, no expert accountant, nor anyone else, who is able to indicate firmly and precisely whether or not the estimates are reliable. Are we going to put the United States in a strait jacket?"
Senator Langer's motion was voted down. Later both he and Senator Dirksen voted for the bill.
Senator Case said: "There is one responsibility that rests upon every member of Congress, and that is to determine how much of the national income shall be taken in taxes or mortgaged and applied to any particular purpose. We have the responsibility of saying how much of the national income shall go to the national defense."
Senator O'Mahoney said: "Who am I to question the judgment of an admiral?"
When it came to a final vote the entire Senate said in effect: "Who are we to question the judgment of the military mind?"
Not a single vote was cast against the bill.
The intimidation of the civilian mind was complete, and the Pentagon got its billions.
Only a few days before that the Congress had passed a bill authorizing nearly six billion dollars for a military construction project—the largest bill of its kind ever passed in peace or war. One billion was for secret overseas bases within striking distance of Russia. Of these secret bases Senator Russell, of the Armed Forces Committee, said: "These projects are highly classified. The committee inquired into them as best we could and concluded that in the light of the evidence submitted to us they were justified."
What a phrase from the Armed Services Committee of the United States Senate!—"as best we could."
There obviously the civilian mind no longer governs.
Representative Richard B. Wigglesworth, of the House Appropriations Committee, said: "Time and time again, no breakdown is available, fundamental information is not forthcoming from the military, and witnesses are unprepared to supply simple and essential facts."
Senator Francis Case said: "The moment anyone ventures a word of criticism or doubt about the amount of money any branch of the military services requests, the easy defense is to imply that he is in some way giving comfort and aid to the enemy."
In its report dated November 13,1951, the Preparedness Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said: "One of the more alarming trends in military organization during the past few years has been the increasing administrative topheaviness of our Armed Forces."
But it was General MacArthur himself who uttered these devastating words: "Talk of imminent threat to our national security through the application of external force is pure nonsense.... Indeed, it is a part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear. While such an economy may produce a sense of seeming prosperity for the moment, it rests on an illusionary foundation of complete unreliability and renders among our political leaders almost a greater fear of peace than is their fear of war." (Italics supplied.)
The bald interpretation of General MacArthur's words is this. War becomes an instrument of domestic policy. Among the control mechanisms on the government's panel board now is a dial marked War. It may be set to increase or decrease the tempo of military expenditures, as the planners decide that what the economy needs is a little more inflation or a little less — but of course never any deflation. And whereas it was foreseen that when Executive Government is resolved to control the economy it will come to have a vested interest in the power of inflation, so now we may perceive that it will come also to have a kind of proprietary interest in the institution of perpetual war.
Yet in the very nature of Empire, the military mind must keep its secrets. A Republic may put its armor on and off. War is an interlude. When war comes it is a civilian business, conducted under the advice of military experts. Both in peace and war military experts are excluded from civilian decisions. But with Empire it is different; Empire must wear its armor. Its life is in the hands of the General Staff and war is supremely a military business, requiring of the civilian only acquiescence, exertion and loyalty.
RISE OF EMPIRE: PROPERTIES OF EMPIRE: IV
RISE OF EMPIRE: THE ANCIENT DESIGN: II
RISE OF EMPIRE: THE ANCIENT DESIGN: II