Fortress America

Fortress America by William Greider

This book contains useful facts and analysis, but I doubt it’s moved many people to action. (Of course the policies it advocates have not been adopted by the Bush II regime.)

People like me who would like to see our military drastically reduced and who have little faith in the good intentions of anyone involved in it are likely to be turned off by Greider’s more middle of the road views and what appears to be his reluctance to express some of the anti-military views he does hold.

People who long for an ever bigger military are unlikely to be converted by this book.

I think Greider wanted to avoid preaching to a choir, but walking down the middle, or pretending to, has found him fewer readers than his information and ideas deserve. He ought to have passionately argued a case (a moral case, not a strategic or economic one) for radical change. Those inclined to agree would have been more likely to get their hands on the book, and those inclined to disagree would have ended up picking it up too in order to know their opponent. Some would have been persuaded.

On page 10, Greider predicts a decrease in military (“defense”) spending because this is what the public wants. On page 172 Greider points out a yawning chasm between what the public wants and what happens. This is illustrative of a gradual shift. The book starts out sounding like an article in the Washington Post and concludes sounding like one in the Nation.

The corruption analyzed along the way is not terribly new to readers of the Nation, but it’s useful to have these facts and anecdotes in one place. The fact that a single aircraft carrier costs $5 billion, the same price as a proposed National Housing Trust Fund, is the sort of thing that cannot be restated enough.

What we could have used much more than this book was a plan for tying opposition to military waste into campaigns for positive public spending. We have for too long desperately needed to transform tax-and-spend proposals into axe-the-military-and-spend proposals.

We NEED to work out the politics of proposing and fighting a grassroots campaign for specific public school or Medicaid improvements tied to specific eliminations of military pork.

And quit calling it “defense” for godsake!