The bad news about more destroyers for BIW

We got some terrible news this week, a revelation made all the more disturbing by the fact Maine’s mainstream press covered it as if it were wonderful news.

On Monday, the Department of Defense announced plans to spend more than $6 billion to add nine more destroyers to a naval fleet that already includes more than 60 destroyers. Five of the new warships will be built in Mississippi, and four will be built at General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works shipyard here in Maine.

The announcement is a terrifying reminder that while we put our children to bed at night comforted by the notion our nation is at peace, the Pentagon is preparing for nothing short of World War III.

Who is the enemy this time? That’s a very good and very important question that politicians and reporters are loathe to even ask, much less attempt to answer, but I’ll give it a try. The enemy is certainly not the Islamic extremists we’re fighting in the ongoing Global War on Terror. Destroyers are not effective weapons against suicide bombers or cyber-attacks.

Iran? North Korea? I’m not an expert on the military capabilities of those countries, but one doesn’t have to be a defense analyst to say with confidence that the United States is not nine destroyers short of being safe from the threat those nations pose.

The only credible threat that could justify the construction of nine more destroyers must come from a country that also has significant naval power. And assuming we’re not preparing to fight the Japanese, the Brits or the French, that leaves the country with the second-largest navy, Russia, and the country with the third-largest, China. Granted, the size of our navy dwarfs that of both those nations combined, but if we stopped building new warships today, they could conceivably catch up by 2030 or so.

As the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, our leaders are shifting focus not toward peace but toward the Pacific, where we are now being told we must maintain a strong military presence to keep the Chinese in check.

How about a reality check, instead?

In this era of unprecedented world peace, prosperity, communication and cooperation, it’s almost inconceivable that the leaders of China or Russia would consider it to be in their nation’s best interest to start an unprovoked war with the United States. But it’s even harder to imagine that conflict playing out as a clash of conventional forces, with battleships trading fire a la Old Ironsides. World War III would be a nuclear war, and it would be both catastrophic and short. Within hours of a Chinese missile attack on Los Angeles, I have no doubt that Beijing would be reduced to a swirling cloud of radioactive ash. Game over, with civilization not far behind.

The U.S. is way beyond bankrupt. Our federal government is something like $16 trillion in the hole, and our states and cities are struggling to pay teachers, fix bridges and provide other basic services. Yet we greet news of BIW’s $2.4 billion taxpayer-funded contract as though it were manna from heaven, rather than paving stones for the road to hell.

I don’t begrudge the fact that thousands of BIW workers and subcontractors have some job security for a few more years thanks to this contract. I object to the fact that this contract is worse than unnecessary — it’s unethical. This spending is fueling a new global arms race that heightens international tensions and makes war more likely, not less.

The press releases put out by our congressional delegation don’t name the enemy these destroyers are intended to destroy. Instead, both Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said we need to “fight” with our fellow Americans to spend more money, so BIW can build a fifth destroyer. Independent Sen. Angus King’s release said essentially the same thing, minus the fighting words.

Reporters covering the contract for both the BDN and the Portland Press Herald apparently did not deem it appropriate to get a quote from even one peace activist or critic of Pentagon spending. This blind military boosterism is morally deplorable.

I’m scared all right, but not by Russia or China, whose citizens value peace as much as we do. I’m afraid that our country is led by politicians of every political stripe who pay lip service to peace while spending fortunes we can’t afford for war. And I’m angry that warmongers like Pingree, Collins and King are aided and abetted by a spineless media that frames the issue to make those who object to this absurdity seem like the crazy ones. Shame on all of you.

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Chris Busby

About Chris Busby

Chris Busby is editor and publisher of The Bollard, a monthly magazine about Portland. He writes a weekly column for the BDN.