I read Mark Thompson’s analysis in Time Magazine (2-28-13) of the F-35, our latest lethal flying machine. It reminds me of the last days of my father. I revere his extraordinary generous and productive life. However, his concluding 95th and 96th years were quite askew. An invasive dementia took its toll, prompting some novel and counter-productive activity; planting vegetable seeds in the winter and watering his lawn after every rain.
However, my father’s beleaguered behavior in his advanced years appears nearly rational compared to the amassed mess the Pentagon has directed in its effort to maintain a U.S. dominance of the skies.
At $100 million a crack, the few F-35 built has cost a subsequent $8 billion in repairs. These repairs were caused by pushing production before design; even though the design has been in progress for a decade. This F-35 is already out-of-date since the past decade has seen the unmanned airplane (drones) as the military aircraft of choice. The recent sequester cuts to the military budget by $500 billion over the next decade, makes this flying dinosaur even more outrageous. The Pentagon plans to spend $400 billion for 2,457 F-35 jets — the most expensive weaponry ever known to humankind.
With 20,000 components, high tech engineers see the F-35 as the most complicated human fabrication of all time. It has 9.5 million lines of computer code in each aircraft; six times that of the Navy’s F-18
Those not quite so immersed in military might as the primary protector of America, see our national deficit as being a far greater threat than war. As a nation acclimated to perpetual war, war with all its ghastly deaths and debts appears less threatening than the impending monetary collapse of America.
The target of promoting peace and prosperity in the world by a mighty military has been sorely missed; in fact evidence abounds that this military excellence is a catalytic agent for fermenting an arms race and more international strife. If but a portion of America’s $711 billion defense budget (2012), along with the world’s $1.7 trillion annual military expenditure, were directed to relief of human poverty, peace and goodwill would abound. In the world today, there are one billion hungry people (one out of seven) and 29,000 children under the age of 5 dying daily from preventable causes. Reflecting this alarming status of the world, investment in helping not killing is overwhelming and morally compelling. As history and our present experience dictates, escalation of arms fuels escalation of arms; as evidenced with North Korea, Iran, China and Russia.
Protecting ourselves stands preeminently as America’s No. 1 concern and investment. We need to be safe and protected.
However, could we not be self-consuming and world-destructive in our military prioritizing? Is not wretched excess written all over the F-35 and the likes thereof, deafening our ears to the cry of the poor of the world?
The Rev. John Burkhart Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and professor of psychology
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