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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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SOME 10 days ago, foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides raised expectations by announcing the possibility of a deal with Turkey for the opening of the fenced off area of Famagusta, for the return of its inhabitants. In exchange the Cyprus government would agree to the opening of Tymbou airport to direct flights. ...
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By George Psyllides PRIVATE auditors have expressed doubt the electricity authority (EAC) could be considered a going concern and have asked its board to draft a credible plan to tackle the problem, according to the auditor-general’s 2012 report on the semi-state company. Among other issues, ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Bombing the US budget ]

Bombing the US budget

AS THE United States and the world mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, debates are raging about the consequences – for Iraq, the Middle East, and America’s standing in the world. But the Iraq war’s domestic impact – the Pentagon’s ever mushrooming budget and its long-term influence on the US economy – may turn out to be its most lasting consequence.

The US Defence Department’s request for $515.4 billion in the 2009 fiscal year dwarfs every other military budget in the world. And this huge sum – a 5 per cent increase over the 2008 military budget – is to be spent only on the US military’s normal operations, thus excluding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since he took office in 2001, President George W. Bush has increased America’s regular military budget by 30 per cent, again not taking into account the cost of the wars he launched. Last year, America’s entire military and counterterrorism expenditures topped $600 billion. One can assume that next year’s total spending on military affairs will be even bigger. Adjusted for inflation, US military spending has reached its highest level since World War II.

Is there any limit to this spending boom? The US is allocating more money for defence today than it did during the war against Hitler or the Cold War. The Bush administration seems to think that today’s military threats are graver. Talk about the so-called “peace dividend” that was supposed to come with the fall of the Berlin Wall has been silenced.

Of course, because the US economy has grown faster than military spending, the share of GDP dedicated to military expenditures has fallen over the years. The US spent 14 per cent of its GDP on the military during the Korean War (1950-1953, the Cold War’s peak), 9 per cent during the Vietnam War and only 4 per cent nowadays.

Yet, given the sheer scale of military spending today, one can wonder if it is rational. The US economy is probably in recession, clouds are gathering over its pension and health-care systems, and its military budget may not make sense even in strategic terms. America alone accounts for around 50 per cent of the world’s military expenditures, which is historically unprecedented for a single country. Most other countries don’t come anywhere close.

Indeed, the second-ranked country in terms of total annual military spending, the United Kingdom, lags far behind, at $55 billion, followed by France ($45 billion), Japan ($41 billion), and Germany ($35 billion). China and Russia, which can be considered strategic rivals of the US, spend $35 billion and $24 billion, respectively (though these figures probably underestimate expenditure, the true amount is certainly still far below the US level). Iran, depicted by the Bush administration as a major threat, is a military dwarf, spending $6.6 billion on its military.

Some voices in America are calling for even bigger increases. Indeed, the Pentagon wants to enlarge the Marine Corps and Special Operations forces. Since it is increasingly difficult to recruit and retain soldiers, to do so will probably require raising their wages and improving their quality of life. Disabled soldiers also will cost a lot of money, even if the Pentagon won’t automatically pay everything for them.

But fulfilling the ostensible rationale for this seemingly interminable spending orgy – success in the so-called “war on terror” – does not seem anywhere within reach. Mike McConnell, America’s Director of National Intelligence, recently admitted to a US Senate panel that al Qaeda is gaining strength and steadily improving its ability to recruit, train, and even attack the US.

That assessment is stunning, yet few American leaders – Democrats and Republicans alike – appear to be wondering if military power is the best answer to security issues. Indeed, by relying mainly on military solutions to political problems, the US seems to be increasing rather than reducing the threats it faces.

After all, the dangers that America faces today do not come from nation states, but from non-states actors against whom nuclear weapons and aircraft carriers are useless. It would be less expensive and more fruitful for America to tackle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, return to a multilateral approach, and respect the moral principles that it recommends to others. Likewise, only by adopting such a strategy can the US start to compress the Pentagon’s inflated budget and begin to address its many domestic woes.

n Pascal Boniface is Director of the Institute for International and Strategic relations, Paris (IRIS). His most recent book is Football et Mondialisation (Football and Globalisation).

© Project Syndicate

(Source: Cyprus Mail)

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