It does not take much to get the average American – particularly men – excited about military spending. That is why in the midst of a pitched three-month battle over a $90 billion/year piece of health care legislation Congress was able to pass a $700 billion dollar Pentagon budget with not one iota of public debate. And that's for 12 months. And that's not even close to enough, of course, and we'll be treated to numerous "emergency" and "supplemental" expenditures throughout the year. You can never have too many armor-piercing, bunker-busting, laser-guided doodads. Just think of all the great gun camera footage we can look forward to this season on The Military Channel.
I've got an idea. It will require about 0.001% of the military budget and, unlike the rest of it, might actually provide some benefits in the long run.
So, Haiti. Tens of thousands dead, and all of the nation's hospitals destroyed. The international aid agencies, specifically Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross, are out of supplies. Both the port and the airport in Port-au-Prince are destroyed, hampering any effort to bring in more. The Pentagon, like the iPhone, has an app for this.
Here is a piece of military hardware to get Ed all worked up: the USNS Comfort. It is a hospital ship with a helipad so it can serve areas without ports or airstrips. It is as large as a supercarrier and has the facilities to rival any hospital on Earth. Beds for 1000 patients. 12 fully equipped operating rooms. Four distilleries to make 300,000 gallons of drinking water per day. A complete pharmacy and radiology lab. Complete labs for dental, optometry, and trauma patients. Two oxygen-producing plants.
Oh my, I'm getting a little excited.
Not pictured: shit gettin' blowed up
Stationed in Baltimore, the Comfort can be ready to sail in five days and it'll take a couple more to reach Haiti. A lot of people who could have been saved will have died in the interim. So here's my idea. Let's build five of them. Staff them with medical students and military doctors, distribute them around the world (Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asia, etc.) and have them on duty 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Make calls in poor countries and provide medical care for people who have nothing. When disasters happen, the ships can be there in hours, not a week. You know, doing stuff that might make people around the world less likely to hate us. If we can maintain military bases in 30 different countries around the world we can afford a handful of ships. But without any guns, it would be a hard sell on both Congress and the public.
Isn't the military always going on and on about that "winning the hearts and minds" shit after they turn some nation into rubble? That might work – one of these decades. Or we could spend a tiny fraction of our obscene military budget on, you know, helping people. But that doesn't interest us. We want to do as we please and then find some way to make people like us afterward. It worked well in Vietnam and Iraq, so why change now?