The Flying Dogs of War

From Common Dreams. A B52 in current configuration.

Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quarter’d with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:
And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth                                                                 With carrion men, groaning for burial.

(from Julius Caesar, spoken by Marc Anthony)

We don’t exactly have ‘dogs of war’ these days–the brutish, illiterate pikemen and men-at-arms of the Elizabethan era have been replaced by the technologists of the modern US military. The lowliest Spec 4 can rain destruction down on any enemy with a call to artillery support, which will provide lethal withering death within minutes. And the B52’s can deliver plenty of lethality within a few minutes. The Sack of Magdeburg, fought with the weapons and tactics of Shakespeare’s time during the Thirty Year’s war, lead to the slaughter of some  25,000 civilians (mostly put to the sword) over a few days’ time.  A single B52 loaded with up to 35 tons of conventional weapons (including napalm) could accomplish the same in a few minute’s time. Never mind what a B52 loaded with B61 bombs could do–the top yields from a single warhead  are upwards of 340 kilotons, or 23 times what the Hiroshima bomb put out.

And we’re discussing this because the Trump administration has decided to resume the 24 hour alerts of B52’s that were largely ended back in the 1990’s during the dissolution of the USSR. They’re back. And (just in time), we’re using that Obama era trillion-dollar modernization of our nuclear forces to augment these bombers with cruise missiles. So the B52’s will have the ability to deliver ‘stand-off’ nuclear destruction outside the range of enemy fighters. 

And to make clear we’re not fooling, Trump has now signed an Executive order to draft some 1,000 retired Air Force pilots back into active duty to cover a big shortage in pilots capable of flying such missions. The Air Force has had a staffing problem for several years, but having this order follow so quickly on the decision to resume B52 alert status makes a bunch of people nervous. Because, face it, we don’t need any of this extra firepower to threaten North Korea. And as for nuclear weapons, the ostensible reason Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a ‘F*cking Moron’ is that Trump had demanded (in a recent meeting) a ten-fold increase in US nuclear weapons. And (from the GQ article on same) why is this stupid? So there are a bunch of reasons why that’s dumb. One, we have one of the biggest nuclear stockpiles on Earth. Two, it’s prohibited because of international treaties the U.S. has signed. Three, because of points one and two, such an increase wouldn’t be seen as a deterrent so much as a troubling sign that the U.S. is even more destabilized than the world thought and could lead to other countries also increasing their stockpiles. To put it simply, it’s the definition of a “fucking moron.” And it was apparently after Trump had left this meeting that Rex Tillerson made the most accurate call of his time as secretary of state.

Why is Trump gunning so hard for a war? 

I’m worried that this is not about real military threats. It’s about a recognition that the economy is not getting better and CANNOT get better. Forget the Dow Jones–thanks to deregulation, corporate America can make money on Wall Street even when no one is buying their products. The stock market’s new highs are occurring in lockstep with stories of decline of demand for products–everything from lack of demand for consumer products to lack of demand for oil. The recent hurricanes that ravaged Houston and the Gulf Coast put a big hit on oil production. But there didn’t seem to be any effect from that on productivity. Why? Because Americans don’t have discretionary income anymore. That’s why the only retail entity growing in the US is Dollar stores, which have even been outpacing Walmart. We are still in a structural depression. Over the last decade, our once solid middle class has shifted to some 40% of households.

Trump can’t fix that. His tax cuts will not bring new investment in American jobs, and the off-shoring in China and India is falling by the wayside as well–both countries are looking at stagnant growth or even decline. In short, we have an economy that cannot be rescued through conventional nostrums of ‘austerity’ and paying down deficits. It would need real stimulus. Even then, thanks to Global Warming issues, growth is not guaranteed. The total bill for the Storms that hit the US this year is arguably better than a third of a Trillion Dollars. That’s money that will do some stimulus, but it won’t rescue us from the kind of economy we had at the tail-end of the Great Depression. Only one thing did.

Pearl Harbor.

I’m being somewhat facetious here, but not by much. Some economists of note are saying there’s simply no way to justify the spending needed to lift us out of malaise except for war spending on the level of WWII. Is that what’s driving Trump to put boots on the ground (or nuclear weapons in the air)? I’m becoming increasingly nervous about this result of disaster. The dogs of war are now in hundreds of bases around the world, waiting for their orders from The Donald.

UPDATE: Vice News is now reporting that the order for return to alert status HAS NOT BEEN GIVEN. To me this sounds like a non-denial-denial . The Air Force is admitting that facilities are being upgraded for future alert status (including augmenting maintenance crews for said deployments, new facilities for crews to wait on-base for alerts, etc.). A quote from the article: “This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said, according to Defense One. “I look at it more as not planning for any specific event, but more for the reality of the global situation we find ourselves in and how we ensure we’re prepared going forward.”

In other words, this is happening but not quite yet. And anyone paying attention would note, we don’t need B52’s armed with nuclear weapons to be on alert to deal with North Korea. What are the JCOS and Trump talking about? 

 

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