For those who remember former Nixon appointee Leon Panetta as a moderate Democrat, his current transformation is a sad disappointment. With his recent speeches in Monterey, Panetta's makeover has become complete.
Panetta's role in the CIA and as secretary of defense ushers in a new phase of using the military to enforce the policy of corporate America, which requires the complacency of foreign governments to back up its economic supremacy. Panetta's makeover includes his characterization of the all-volunteer army as the core of American democracy. Paying people to carry guns has nothing to do with democracy. Recruiting poor high school kids from small, rural towns who need jobs and education, or immigrants who receive citizenship in return for service, is more akin to a paying job than a democratic approach to national defense.
Panetta defends the military budget that Mother Jones estimates at $1.2 trillion a year, including hidden costs. The U.S. war budget equals the rest of the world's combined. Almost 5 percent of U.S. GDP goes to the military, and Panetta claims the country will suffer if the military is cut.
Panetta is an even greater disappointment when he tells us that the job of the military is to protect the American dream—making a better world for our children. The American dream is already destroyed. The rapid increase in globalization, the de-industrialization of the United States, the destruction of labor unions, the monopolization of the U.S. economy, the rise of corporate power and the precipitous increase in wealth disparity marks the end of the middle class. This is the first time in American history that children can expect a lower standard of living than their parents.
America has lost its greatness and joined the historic ranks of empires that rely on military power to retain their might. It's a sad day for the country, while Leon Panetta does his best to adapt the country to a completely new path.
Don Monkerud is an Aptos, California-based writer who follows cultural issues and politics and writes occasional satire.