In hard times we all have to weigh priorities, and while I applaud Rep. Rob Bishop and Sen. Orrin Hatch for their entirely predictable defense of the F-22 and their anger at the cutting of funding for another seven of the things, I think a bit of perspective is in order.
Bishop and Hatch had to defend the F-22. They represent a state, and a district, with thousands of Air Force members and workers. Voting against the F-22′s continued funding would be like voting against mom, apple pie AND the girl they left behind, all at once, and I don’t think either of those gentlemen has that sort of intestinal fortitude.
It would take intestinal fortitude because I am taking Hatch and Bishop at their previous words when they have railed, long and loud, at excess government spending, wasteful government spending, pork and all that. It is always someone else’s pork they rail against, of course — it’s easy to criticize when it is Nevada’s boondoggle, not Utah’s.
But, seriously folks, we’re talking $1.7 billion in a military spending bill of more than $660 billion. Are we really to believe that if the military really, really needed those extra planes it couldn’t find the funds somewhere? Is every dollar we spend in the military absolutely critical? Every single base? Every single program?
Of course not. Like any government agency, the military has waste, fraud and abuse. It’s just that, when your constituents all work for the military, you don’t say that out loud.
The F-22 got made into a symbol — the Administration made it a symbol of excess spending, defenders made it a symbol of keeping jobs, keeping the nation safe, and so on. The truth may be in there somewhere, but I doubt it. I refuse to believe that increasing the force of available F-22s by 4 percent or so will make a difference in the strategic balance, and I refuse to believe that cutting $1.7 billion will make a difference in a milti-trillion dollar budget.
We end up wasting a lot of money playing these games. Keep in mind, at one time not so long ago the Navy defended, and spent huge amounts of money on, reviving and launching the battleship New Jersey, which sailed up and down the Lebanese Coast during the Reagan administration as civil war and terrorism tore that country apart, including the deaths of more than 200 Marines.
Like the F-22, It was a hugely expensive weapon designed for a previous war about which people at the time were happy to invent dozens of scenarios that it could prove critical in. Unfortunately, none of those things ever happened, because stuff never happens the way you plan for it to. That’s why our army found itself in Iraq with billions of dollars of expensive weapons when what the guys on the ground really needed was armor for their humvees.
The New Jersey was a world shaker. It had the ability to throw tons upon tons of explosives anywhere within 20 miles of the coastline, and it achieved, in that new-style war, absolutely nothing. Terrorists could stand on shore and moon it, and some probably did.
After serving as an admiralty playtoy for a few more years the last battleship was sent back to the mothballs.
I loved NYTimes columnist Gail Collins take on things today. Check it out: (click!)