There's really no cure for economic recession quite like war. It's fast, simple and it works. Both the Second World War and the Vietnam debacle helped pull North America and Western Europe out of severe economic slumps. Now it seems the administration of U.S. President Jimmy Carter is intent on priming the American war machine once again in order to jolt the U.S.'s comatose economy.
In the midst of an election campaign with tub-thumping politicians howling over the Iranian hostage fiasco and the Soviet's blunt, aggressive march into Afghanistan, the Carter government's sabre-rattling may find a receptive electorate.
The last six months have seen a rapid about-face in the President's previous public stance of 'moral suasion' in foreign policy. The new 'Carter Doctrine' actively defines the Persian Gulf as a ,vital interest' of the United States and opens the door to possible military intervention overseas. This possibility has been underlined by Carter's bungled attempt to rescue the American hostages held in Iran, and further threats of armed intervention. In addition, Carter has announced his intention to reinstitute the, draft, a move intended to signal to the American public and U.S. allies the new war footing. The anti-draft forces were quick to respond, with protesters turning out in massive demonstrations - 30,000 in Washington alone.
But the draft is only the most visible result of Carter's swing towards renewed militarism. Significantly, like Britain, Canada, and other NATO countries, the U.S. military budget has emerged unscathed from a long list of proposed cutbacks. The administration wants a 1981 Defense budget of $161-billion, a five and one-half per cent real growth over inflation. Part of the money will go to sustain a Rapid Deployment Force of 100,000 troops that can be transported to intervene anywhere around the globe in a matter of days. Almost $5-billion will go to create more sophisticated and more deadly missiles, including the Cruise and the MX missile systems.
Critics point out that more money in the pockets of the Pentagon will mean increased taxes, fewer new jobs and more cuts in health and education programmes. Senate hawks, the vast arms industry and Pentagon potentates may be rubbing their hands in anticipation over Carter's conversion to a 'cold warrior', but whether the change in direction is soon enough to force an economic turn-around is doubtful.