The Pentagon is girding for mid-century wars.

by Michael Klare, Tom Dispatch

Why is the Pentagon budget so high?

On March 13th, the Biden administration unveiled its $842 billion military budget request for 2024, the largest ask (in today’s dollars) since the peaks of the Afghan and Iraq wars. And mind you, that’s before the hawks in Congress get their hands on it. Last year, they added $35 billion to the administration’s request and, this year, their add-on is likely to prove at least that big. Given that American forces aren’t even officially at war right now (if you don’t count those engaged in counter-terror operations in Africa and elsewhere), what explains so much military spending?

The answer offered by senior Pentagon officials and echoed in mainstream Washington media coverage is that this country faces a growing risk of war with Russia or China (or both of them at once) and that the lesson of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine is the need to stockpile vast numbers of bombs, missiles, and other munitions. “Pentagon, Juggling Russia, China, Seeks Billions for Long-Range Weapons” was a typical headline in the Washington Post about that 2024 budget request. Military leaders are overwhelmingly focused on a potential future conflict with either or both of those powers and are convinced that a lot more money should be spent now to prepare for such an outcome, which means buying extra tanks, ships, and planes, along with all the bombs, shells, and missiles they carry.

The missiles are aimed at the sky at sunset. Nuclear bomb, chemical weapons, missile defense, a system of salvo fire.

Even a quick look at the briefing materials for that future budget confirms such an assessment. Many of the billions of dollars being tacked onto it are intended to procure exactly the items you would expect to use in a war with those powers in the late 2020s or 2030s. Aside from personnel costs and operating expenses, the largest share of the proposed budget — $170 billion or 20% — is allocated for purchasing just such hardware.

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