Bayard & Holmes
Cillit Bang — The Mechanic
Since Fahd ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Āl Sa’ūd ascended to the throne of Saudi Arabia in 1982, relations between the West and Saudi Arabia have been fairly stable, if somewhat complicated.
The Saudi government has remained consistently willing to maintain close diplomatic, business, and military ties with the US and other Western nations. At the same time, it has supported Wahhabi religious leaders in maintaining extremely conservative Sunni religious dominance over Saudi citizens. While the West enabled technological and business modernizations in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government to a great extent allowed the Wahhabi religious leaders to define culture in their country.
Saudi Arabia’s dichotomy of petroleum-fueled modernization versus conservative Wahhabi cultural control has been somewhat baffling to Westerners from democratic nations.
In spite of these constantly conflicting forces, King Fahd managed to maintain a stable balance. From the US point of view, the Saudi Arabian government was one of two allies in the region, Israel being the other. Yet while relations between Riyadh and Washington remained warm, not all Saudis felt that warmth toward the US or the West. In fact, Saudi Arabia, thanks to Wahhabi influence, remained a breeding ground for violent jihadism.
Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 attackers hailed from Saudi Arabia, and wealthy Saudi Arabians have consistently been a leading source for terrorist funding. Yet the oil flowed to the West while Western cash fueled the extended Royal family’s lavish lifestyle. That oil wealth also fueled vast social programs and a bloated civil government that makes our US government seem almost efficient by comparison.
In 1993, King Fahd sent shockwaves through Saudi society when he instituted a sixty person consultative council.
All the members of the council were picked by him. It was nothing like “elected representation,” but by Saudi standards, but it was a huge step forward for Saudi society. Two years later, twenty women were allowed to attend the consultative council. To Westerners, it might seem like a miniscule token step toward liberalization, but to the Wahhabi religious leaders, it was wild heresy.
King Fahd suffered a major stroke in 1995. His brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, acted as his regent and unofficial prime minister. When Fahd died in 2005, Abdullah ascended the throne and continued the balancing act.
Like his predecessors, Abdullah was willing to use the Wahhabi establishment to maintain order and enforce their version of Sharia law in his Kingdom, but like every Saudi King, he was leery of their power. He continued to use oil wealth to further drive modernization and hold up vast social welfare programs while simultaneously struggling with the domestic terror issues caused by the radical Wahhabi influence.
Gradually, King Abdullah implemented small steps toward liberalizing Saudi society.
In 2007, he banned the infamous religious police from making arrests and began to institute major judicial reforms. Two years later, Abdullah pushed ahead with reforms and fired most of the senior judges and leaders of the religious police system.
In 2011 the Arab Spring swept across North Africa and the Mid-East. When it reached Saudi Arabia, it was quickly stifled by police action.
To outsiders, it may have appeared to be simple oppression, but inside the kingdom, there was genuine fear that Al Qaeda and their many clones would hijack any Arab Spring. There was also concern that Iranian-backed Shia minorities in Saudi Arabia would agitate on behalf of the Iranian Ayatollahs. King Abdullah responded by announcing increases in social welfare programs in the hope of appeasing many of the potential “Springers.”
In September of 2011, King Abdullah announced that women would be allowed to vote in municipal elections and run for office. While Saudi women were quietly celebrating their newfound empowerment, the Saudi courts sentenced a woman to ten lashes for driving a car. King Abdullah overturned the verdict.
In 2013, while Saudi Arabia continued to struggle to control domestic terrorism by homegrown jihadists, King Abdullah appointed thirty women to the consultative council.
The following year, fearful of Iranian-backed insurgents in Yemen and the simmering unrest of the Shia-backed majority in Bahrain, King Abdullah did an about face in policy and introduced strict anti-terror laws.
The new laws give the police the power to arrest anyone that protests against or speaks against the Saudi government or the Wahhabi religious establishment. The law even prohibits “thoughts” against the government or Wahhabi Islam.
When King Abdullah died in January of 2015, his brother, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, ascended the throne.
Though Salman had supported King Abdullah’s reforms he was already eighty years old and in declining health. Instead of appointing one of his aging brothers as his acting regent, he appointed his thirty year old son, Mohammed bin Salman al Saud, as deputy crown prince and defense minister. The choice may prove to be an exceptionally bad one.
Unlike his father and uncles, Mohammed bin Salman was educated in Saudi Arabia rather than in the US, and he is not well travelled. He has a reputation for arrogance and ruthlessness.
Salman and his son face the same challenges that King Abdullah faced, but they lack one important resource that King Abdullah and his predecessors always relied on . . . They lack the cash. Oil prices have been down for the last couple of years, and that has forced the Saudi government to reduce the allowances of the extended royal family and to reverse the increases in social welfare programs that helped calm the attempted Saudi Arabian Spring.
The fear in the house of Saud is showing.
The new anti-terrorism laws are being rigorously enforced. Executions are at a two-decade high. There were 150 public beheadings in 2015. In the first week of 2016 alone, there were 47 executions by beheading or firing squad.
In addition, popular blogger, Raif Badawi, who urged Saudi society to be more liberal and secular, was imprisoned in 2013 and sentenced to 10 years and 1000 lashes. His lawyer, Wahleed Abu al-Khair, was imprisoned in 2014. Now, Samar Badawi – Raif Badawi’s sister and al-Khair’s former wife – was arrested on January 12, 2016, along with her 2-year-old daughter. A long time human rights advocate, Samar Badawi’s crime was running a Twitter account to raise awareness of al-Khair’s situation. At this rate, the Saudis might have to use any money left over from their campaign in Yemen and their weapons acquisitions to fund new prison construction.
On top of the domestic strain, on January 2, 2016, the Saudi execution of a prominent Shiite cleric led to an Iranian mob storming the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. Iran and Saudi Arabia then severed diplomatic ties.
The current generation of Saudi leaders is under pressure, and it shows.
The growing influence of Iran in the new Shia government in Iraq, the Iranian-backed rebellion in Yemen, the rise of ISIL in Syria, the increased Russian military presence in Syria, all combine to present what the young Saudis likely perceive to be a menace to their rule and their physical survival. When they add to that the American and Western “accord” with Iran, they may see themselves as being isolated while facing unrest at home and increasing threats by Iran.
So where will the young Royals take Saudi Arabia?
Mohammed bin Salman is planning major economic reforms. He will have to implement those reforms while dealing with Saudi Arabia’s expensive support for Sunni (non-ISIL) rebels in Yemen, the war in Yemen, and the brewing opposition at home.
In 1928, King Ibn Saud came to power on the back of a fierce Wahhabi tiger. The house of Saud has never been able to completely dismount from that tiger. Since 1928, governing in Saudi Arabia has required an acrobatic balance of Wahhabi interests versus Saudi national interests. The future of Saudi Arabia depends on how well Mohammed bin Salman can ride that tiger.
When the crucible of reality proves political ideals to be harmful to the people, political leaders have two choices: they can own up to the issues, or they can suppress evidence in a bid to maintain their power. When leaders choose the latter, the dysfunction inevitably seeps through the cracks of the propaganda containment efforts, and when it does, the political leaders need someone to throw under the bus. In Germany, that “someone” is the German people.
German Chancellor Merkel’s willkommenskultur open door policy resulted in 1.1 million North African and Arab refugees flooding into Germany in 2015 – over five times the number anticipated.
Overall, 72% of the migrants are men, 13% are women, and 15% are children. Germany admits it has already lost track of half of these refugees, and that many of them are not Syrian at all. This flood of humanity is not receding with the turn of the calendar year, and the Gatestone Institute predicts that, with family reunifications, the number of migrants in Germany could swell to as many as 7 million.
When we consider the fact that European countries haven’t even integrated with each other over the past thousand years, it’s no surprise that Germany and the rest of Europe are now in the grip of a culture clash. One of the nastiest elements of that culture clash is the spike in crime in the German refugee camps and surrounding areas, particularly in sexual assault rates.
While German officials and media have made frantic efforts to hide this crack in the practical applicability of their ideals, the dark truth came to a head on New Year’s Eve.
Organized groups of predatory “North African and Arab” men surrounded German women and men in New Year’s Eve crowds and sexually assaulted them in a practice known as “taḥarrush gamāʿī,” or taharrush gamea. This “sex game” is an Arab phenomenon first given a name in Egypt in 2004, and it is similar to what is known in the West as a gang rape.
While police recorded refugee-perpetrated sexual assaults and robberies throughout German cities on New Year’s Eve, 1,049 of those reports came from the city of Cologne. (For full police list see Revealed: Full List of 1,049 Victims, Crimes Committed During Cologne New Year’s Sex Assaults.) Over 359 women reported being sexually assaulted in every way from groping, to hands up their skirts and down their pants, to fingers shoved inside them, to all out rape.
The following has been the official response of the German government to the sexual attacks:
And from other quarters . . .
The New Year’s Eve attacks are not the first indication that Merkel’s open door policy is creating unforeseen trauma for the German public.
Rather than face the fact that the overnight influx of 1.1 million North Africans and Arabs has created severe social problems for Germany, German officials are continuing their narrative that the refugees are no different from Germans, and that suggesting they are is both “racist” and “counter to European values.” By insisting that it is inappropriate to imply that diverse African and Middle Eastern cultures might actually be diverse, having different values, mores, and norms from Europeans that would potentially make them incompatible, German officials are missing a few points.
Germany is not alone in excusing and covering evidence of crimes committed by North African and Arab migrants.*
Taharrush gamea attacks were first reported in Sweden at the 2014 We Are Sthlm music festival. At that time, Stockholm police were instructed not to reveal the ethnicity or nationality of the attackers for fear of being seen as “racists.” It’s worth noting that Sweden has now changed its open door policy for refugees as of November of 2015, reverting to EU minimum requirements.
Government suppression of evidence of the clash between European and migrant cultural practices and norms not only fails to address the needs of the migrants, but risks creating a severe backlash from citizens of the host countries.
The only hope the West has of successfully assimilating this massive flow of North African and Arab refugees is to demand that the migrants accede to their host countries’ customs and laws without exception. Migrants that break the laws of the host countries must be dealt with swiftly and unapologetically with the protection of citizens being the utmost priority. Social contract demands this from those who govern, but that is only possible when those who govern are willing to be flexible and resourceful enough in modifying their ideals to meet the demands of reality.
Unless Germany develops an open door policy for reality, either the people will turn on the migrants, turn on those whom they elected to provide common security, or both.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
*The practice of taharrush gamea reached Finland in 2015 after that country took in a record 32,000 refugees, giving Finland the fourth highest number of refugees per capita in the EU.
According to the deputy chief of police in Helsinki, Ilkka Koskimaki, sexual assault was unknown in Finland prior to the influx of immigrants, making the 14 sexual assaults in 2015 a record year. In response, unarmed groups calling themselves the “Sons of Odin” now patrol the streets in many towns where refugees are housed.
This past New Year’s Eve, staff at the asylum reception centers tipped off police about planned taharrush gamea attacks. In spite of the “massive” police presence sent to control approximately 1000 Iraqi refugees who had gathered in the tunnels around the central railway, security personnel reported unprecedented widespread sexual harassment. Thus far, Finland, unlike many European governments, does not appear to be attempting to cover up the ethnicities or nationalities of the perpetrators.
A Few of Our Sources:
1. “Germany Registers Record 1.1 Million Asylum Seekers in 2015” http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2016/1/6/refugees-germany-more-than-1million.html
2. “Germany: Migrant Crime Wave, Police Capitulate” http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/6668/germany-migrant-crime-wave
3. “Taharrush gamea” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taharrush_gamea
4. “Revealed: Full List of 1,049 Victims, Crimes Committed During Cologne New Year’s Sex Assaults” http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/01/21/revealed-full-list-of-1049-victims-crimes-committed-during-cologne-new-years-eve-sex-assaults/
5. “Cologne Mayor: Women Should Be More Careful After Migrant Mass Rapes, Promises ‘Guidance” So They Can “Prepare'” http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/01/05/cologne-mayor-women-careful-migrant-mass-rapes-promises-guidance-can-prepare/
6. “Germans Battle Refugee Sex Assaults with Signs, Cartoons” http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/01/22/germans-battle-refugee-sex-assaults-with-signs-cartoons.html
7. “Cologne Assault: Cultural Difference Is No Excuse for Rape” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/12087780/Cologne-assault-Cultural-difference-is-no-excuse-for-rape.html
8. “Cologne Sexual Assault Victim Called a Rapist and Harassed After Identifying Her Attackers” http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/01/13/2770829/
9. “Muslim Cleric Says Cologne Sex Attacks Were the Victims’ Fault Because They Wore Perfume” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3408033/Muslim-cleric-says-Cologne-sex-attacks-victims-fault-wore-PERFUME.html
10. “Migrant Crisis: Women Sold for Sex for €10 in German Refugee Camps” http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/migrant-crisis-women-sold-sex-10-german-refugee-camps-1524515
11. “Inside the ‘Refugee Centers:’ A Worker Speaks” http://newobserveronline.com/inside-the-refugee-centers-a-worker-speaks/
12. “Horror as Christian Migrant ‘Brutally Beaten with Baton in Refugee Camp'” http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/613479/Migrant-Refugee-Germany-Camp-Attack-Afghan-Iranian-Christianity-Koran-Syrian-Hamburg
13. “A Refugee Riot Puts a German Town on Edge” https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/a-refugee-riot-puts-a-german-town-on-edge/2015/10/01/fa9075bc-65f5-11e5-bdb6-6861f4521205_story.html
14. “Hamburg to Seize Empty Commercial Properties for Migrant Housing” http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/10/02/hamburg-to-seize-empty-commercial-properties-for-migrant-housing/
15. “Empathy and Angst in a German City Transformed by Refugees” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/12/world/europe/empathy-and-angst-in-a-german-city-transformed-by-migrants.html?_r=1
16. “Child Refugee Brides as Young as Twelve Ordered to Stay with Men They Were Forced to Marry” http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/614083/Fatema-Alkasem-Child-Refugee-Brides-Netherlands-Paedophilia-EU-European-Union
17. “Fears Rise Over Child Bride Epidemic as Young Girls Go Missing in Europe” http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/10/22/syrian-child-brides-seeking-asylum-open-new-front-european-migrant-crisis/
18. “Germans Stock Up on Weapons for Self Defense” http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/7088/germany-weapons
19. “Refugee Crime Driving Germans to Buy Guns” http://www.shtfplan.com/headline-news/refugee-crime-driving-germans-to-buy-guns-huge-influx-of-foreigners-has-frightened-many-people_12212015
20. “Case Study on Middle East & North Africa. Women’s Property Rights in the MENA Region” http://internationalpropertyrightsindex.org/MENA
21. “It’s Not Only Germany that Covers Up Mass Sex Attacks by Men…Sweden’s Record is Shameful” http://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/01/its-not-only-germany-that-covers-up-mass-sex-attacks-by-migrant-men-swedens-record-is-shameful/
22. “Sweden Slams Shut Its Open Door Policy Toward Refugees” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/24/sweden-asylum-seekers-refugees-policy-reversal
23. “Unprecedented Sex Harassment in Helsinki at New Year, Finnish Police Report” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/finland/12088332/Unprecedented-sex-harassment-in-Helsinki-at-New-Year-Finnish-police-report.html
1. “Germany: Migrants’ Rape Epidemic” http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/6527/migrants-rape-germany
2. “Suspects in Cologne Sex Attacks ‘Claimed to be Syrian Refugees'” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/12086473/Suspects-in-Cologne-sex-attacks-claimed-to-be-Syrian-refugees.html
3. “Germany Shuts Its Open Door to Refugees” http://observer.com/2015/11/germany-shuts-its-open-door-to-refugees/
4. “Is the Refugee Crisis Creating a European Rape Crisis?” http://www.dailywire.com/news/1120/refugee-crisis-creating-european-rape-crisis-aaron-bandler
Video Wednesday features cool videos that Piper finds in her travels around the web.
On January 16, 2016, Taiwan held national elections. The results were clear. Dr. Tsai Ing-wen, the Democratic Progressive Party (“DPP”) chairperson and presidential candidate, won a landslide victory with 56.1% of the votes. Eric Chu of the Kuomintang Party (“KMT”) garnered 30.1% percent of the votes.
In the same elections, the DPP achieved a clear majority in the legislature, winning 68 of 110 seats. That is enough for the DPP to legally overcome any opposition in the legislature. Whenever a national election results in a landslide, usually at least one of two things is true – either the elections are the single candidate, North Korean style farce, or the voters are unhappy with the status quo. In the case of Taiwan, it is the latter, but there is more to it than that.
Prior to the elections, the Taiwanese public had made it clear that they were tired of the corruption and economic mismanagement that their government had inflicted on them. On January 16, they were largely voting for change.
At the same time, a significant portion of previously steadfast KMT loyalists had lost faith in their party because the KMT had shifted toward overt cooperation with the communist regime in Beijing. The KMT had bet heavily on the benefits of economic cooperation with Communist China. That bet did not pay off.
It is a mystery why the Kuomintang Party ignored the pathetic examples many Western nations have set by trusting Communist China in business and diplomatic dealings. A glance at the last thirty years of US history would have let them know what to expect. They either never took that glance, or they were serving interests other than those of the people of Taiwan.
Communist China’s reactionary response to the DPP’s victory was swift and predictable. The regime in Beijing publicly warned Taiwan that any attempt at declaring independence will result in an immediate, crushing military defeat by the Red Army.
To Westerners, this response might sound a bit severe and childishly undiplomatic, but nobody in Taiwan was surprised. The communists have been demanding the “return” of Taiwan to Communist China since the Chinese Nationalist Army retreated to that island in 1949. Since then, “obey our rule or die” has been Beijing’s standard mantra toward Taiwan.
One might wonder why, since the Maoist regime in Beijing was so easily able to invade and occupy Tibet, wouldn’t they do the same with Taiwan?
The answer is water – about 110 miles of it. That’s the distance from the mainland shores to the beaches in Taiwan. The Red Army did not require a navy to invade and occupy Tibet. Invading Taiwan, on the other hand, would require a strong enough navy, and China does not quite have that yet. They are working on it. For decades, Communist China has consistently declared its intent to “reunite” Taiwan “by force, if necessary.” So far, the threats have not caused the Taiwanese to surrender their freedom to Beijing. When the KMT decided to move closer to the communist regime the Taiwanese voters threw them out.
So what do the election results mean for Taiwan’s Western Pacific neighbors?
For South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Viet Nam and Brunei, it’s good news. All of them have grown weary of Communist China’s increasingly aggressive policy. Taiwan’s increasing acquiescence to Beijing had been a worrying development for them.
What does it mean for the United States of America?
For the moment, the reaction in the US has been quiet relief. In diplomatic terms, here is the official US response:
“We share with the Taiwan people a profound interest in the continuation of cross-Strait peace and stability. We look forward to working with Dr. Tsai and Taiwan’s leaders of all parties to advance our many common interests and further strengthen the unofficial relationship between the United States and the people of Taiwan.”
Leave it to the folks at Foggy Bottom to simultaneously use the terms “profound” and “unofficial” when taking a “stand.” Or would that be a “non-stand?”
Diplomatic ambiguity aside, US leaders, albeit at the pace of a disabled snail, have come to realize that China has, in fact, been telling the truth for the last sixty-six years concerning its aggressive intentions, and that even the government in Beijing occasionally speaks the truth.
Hard core Beijing-lovers in Washington have fallen on hard times. Their cash is still welcome, but they are as out-of-fashion as integrity inside the Washington Beltway. In practical terms, the US government will continue to pretend to believe that fair and friendly cooperation with Communist China is possible. In the meantime, the US will allow a dribble of military aid to flow to Taiwan and the Philippines. Relations with Viet Nam will improve, and the US will send that country token military aid. The cost of the PR photo shoots in Viet Nam heralding in the new cooperation will be greater than the value of the equipment we send them.
In my view, the election results in Taiwan are good news. Let us hope that for the sake of the people of Taiwan, and for the sake of everyone in the Western Pacific, the DPP will use its power to truly represent the democratic will of the people of Taiwan.
On January 17, 1961, US President Dwight D Eisenhower delivered his farewell speech. The retired five star general had served two presidential terms and was being replaced by his fellow military veteran, the newly elected John F. Kennedy.
In that farewell address, Eisenhower warned, “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex.”
Left-wing radicals are always quick to oppose military spending, but Eisenhower could hardly be accused of being anything like a left-wing radical. At the peak of his long military career, he skillfully commanded the allied forces in Operation Torch, which was the 1943 Allied invasion of Northwest Africa, as well as the 1944 D-Day invasion of Normandy and the Western Offensive against Nazi Germany and the European Axis powers.
After WW2, Eisenhower served as US Army Chief of Staff and then as Supreme Commander of European Forces. Few Americans could claim to have anything close to Eisenhower’s military experience or expertise.
Eisenhower was no “dove.”
He took the threat of Soviet expansion seriously. As US President, he oversaw the conclusion of the war in Korea in 1953 and approved funding for fledgling US space and satellite programs. Eisenhower also approved expensive Navy projects, such as the nuclear submarine program and the construction of the nuclear carrier, the USS Enterprise. He presided over the growth of expensive jet aircraft in the young US Air Force, and he approved funding for expensive new air defense systems for the US Army.
In spite of the large military budgets that President Eisenhower approved, some military and defense industry leaders saw him as being too frugal. Conversely, Eisenhower and his supporters felt that increasing military budgets threatened the economic health of the US.
Fifty-five years later, the arguments over defense spending continue.
Unlike during Eisenhower’s time, the arguments are now conducted against a backdrop of a frightening budget deficit and an eighteen trillion dollar national debt. The consequences of all government spending have a serious impact on the quality of life for the average American and on national security.
In Eisenhower’s time, the real threat posed by the Soviet Union impacted defense spending. Today, the Soviet Union is gone, but US and European citizens are justifiably concerned by threats from various radical Islamic groups, the increasingly nuclear-equipped North Korean despot Kim, a rapidly growing communist Chinese military capability, and a resurgent and belligerent Russia.
At a glance, it might seem as though a stable status quo has been in effect in military budgets.
In some senses, similar dynamics have remained in force. In 1961, Eisenhower was unable to convince Western allies to commit to adequate defense spending. The allies seemed happy to let the US military and taxpayers carry more than their fair share of the responsibility for the defense of Western Civilization. In 2016, that dynamic continues. US President Obama listens to nations like France, Canada, and the UK proclaim their increased commitment to defeating Islamic radicals, but then he watches as they reduce their defense programs. Eisenhower would recognize his frustration in dealing with NATO partners.
We might be tempted to assume that US defense spending itself is proportionate to what it was in 1961. Let us make some comparisons.
In 1961, US military personnel were badly underpaid. In 2016 this remains true. In 1961, the US defense budget was close to 10% of GDP. Today it is below 5% of GDP. In terms of GDP, the defense budget seems reasonable enough. But let us compare some specific defense project costs.
In 1961, the new Enterprise class nuclear aircraft carrier cost $451 million to build. Due to the escalated cost of construction, the additional three carriers of that class were cancelled. Today the new Ford class nuclear aircraft carrier is, so far, costing the taxpayers $12.8 billion to build, with an additional $4.7 billion in research costs. If we compare the two ships in inflation adjusted costs, then in today’s dollars, the Enterprise would have cost $3.4 billion to build. Where did the other $9.4 billion go?
When the Enterprise was built, it included many state of the art features, but its air defense system had been scaled back to save money. The Gerald Ford class carrier includes state of the art equipment and features, but the overall economics of the two programs are completely out of scale.
My question is simple. What national defense value are we receiving for the disproportionately high cost of the USS Gerald Ford?
We could make similar comparisons with nuclear submarine programs, but let us instead apply the scrutiny to a broader defense project, the F-35 fighter program. The F-35 was developed as a low cost alternative to the F-22 Raptor. So what does “low cost alternative” mean in the defense industry?
The F-22 cost a frightening $150 million per plane. No wonder we wanted a “low cost alternative.” The F-35, so far, cost between $100 million for the basic model and $104 million for the VSTOL version. I’m grateful that we decided to pursue a “low cost” fighter plane.
Let’s compare the F-35 to the infamously expensive Republic F-105D fighter. In 1960, the year before Eisenhower’s farewell speech, the outlandishly expensive F-105D cost $2.1 million each. In 1960, it was the state of the art fighter, and it incorporated many new technologies. It was plagued by cost overruns, and its development was every bit as contentious as the F-35 development has become. In 2016 dollars the F-105D cost $17 million apiece. As with the Gerald Ford Carrier, the cost of the F-35 has wildly outpaced inflation.
What defense benefit are we getting for the additional $80 million per each F-35? Is the F-35 going to bring us more security today than the F-105D brought us in 1960? I don’t see it.
The defense industry would counter my concerns with comforting catch phrases. They tell us that it is “stealth,” and that it employs more “net centric ability” than previously imagined. For less than $100 my house is “net centric.” So how does the marvelous net centric ability account for the cost of the F-35? From my point of view, it doesn’t.
Defense contractor PR players would likely question my patriotism. Am I not aware of all the real threats in the world? Do I not want the best possible defense for my family’s safety? In fact, I am very much aware of the many threats to our national security, and I do want the best possible defense capabilities for our nation. That’s precisely why I question our $100+ million fighters and our $13 billion aircraft carriers.
Every dollar wasted or overpaid is a dollar that does not help our national defense. At the same time, high costs work to erode our national defense by damaging our economy.
The F-35 and the Ford Carrier are only two of many defense projects that beg closer scrutiny. These high cost programs are being funded at the same time the US Marine Corps is undergoing a 30,000-man reduction in force. The Pentagon and the White House tell us that we are more committed than ever to fighting the increasing terrorist threats, so how is it that we justify large cuts in our premier expeditionary force? The numbers just don’t add up. In some cases, they don’t come close to adding up.
President Eisenhower’s words are even more appropriate today than they were in 1961. Think twice before you quietly accept every extravagant defense expenditure. Let your congressmen know you are watching.