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September 25, 2008

Financial Meltdown and Our National Security
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Obviously the economic component of the financial crisis gets top billing in the media, and rightly so. But the ramifications are wider than just lost wages and confidence on Wall Street and threatened livelihoods on Main Street. There is an international strategic component for America's national security.

Our strategic relations abroad, now and in the future, and how America can act on the world stage are greatly effected. It's not just that global markets have lost confidence in America, but also the fact that essential national security operations are expensive, and that doesn't even include the billions of dollars being spent in Iraq (money which would be more wisely spent elsewhere either at home or abroad) and Afghanistan. NSN today held a conference call to explore this under-examined nuance with Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and Rudy deLeon, Senior Vice President of National Security and International Policy at Center for American Progress Action Fund. The audio is here, and some quotes from the experts are below:

Dean Baker
Part of the status of the U.S. financial markets, their high standing was based on the fact that they were really considered to be the gold standard. You had markets of questionable quality in countries like India or other developing countries that you weren’t always sure that you were dealing with trustworthy characters…The embarrassing part of this story is that it turns out the U.S. is very much in that category of not being a trustworthy financial market. That much of the story is that there was a real breakdown of trust, that the bond ratings turned out to be very questionable…This is a very serious problem going forward, that the credibility that takes a very very long time to build up has been torn down and going forward I suspect the U.S. financial markets are going to pay a very very big price for their conduct, the conduct of the U.S. financial firms over the past 6,7,8 years.
Rudy deLeon

One of that great challenges, particularly with our country engaged in two ongoing wars is to provide for the readiness of our troops and to provide for the future one of the great challenges is really the mountain of deficit the mountain of debt the next secretary of defense, the next administration will encounter. When Truman and his team put together the Marshall Plan half century ago, it was founded in this grand expectation in the strength of the American economy at home and overseas was going to be one of the stabilizing elements of the global economy in the future. So that, the stability of our financial institutions and then American leadership in the national security area. We’ve gone through a 20th century where indeed America was indispensible.  So the real challenge with both America really going it alone in the national security side and now the instability among our financial institutions, how we get back on track, let alone deal with ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the other tension points, that’s going to be a real challenge.



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...but also the fact that essential national security operations are expensive, and that doesn't even include the billions of dollars being spent in Iraq (money which would be more wisely spent elsewhere either at home or abroad) and Afghanistan.

Perhaps then this is a good time for the folks at NSN to produce a careful list of our ongoing national security operations and enterprises, and identify precisely which ones are "essential" and which one aren't. Then I suggest you get out a bright red pen and start making some proposed cuts - let's say 20%. And I'm not just talking about Iraq. Surely it is clearer now more than than ever that it is time for divestiture and consolidation in our overly elaborate national security infrastructure. We need to shift some of that money into more productive investments. It's time to break up the dinosaur US global military-security conglomerate that was built for the world of 1950, keep the pieces we need, sell off some pieces to others, and look for more imaginative and cost-effective ways of partnering with foreign states to meet collective security needs.

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