What Happens When You Devote Your Economy and Society to Endless Warfare

Posted on December 3, 2010

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Its seriously crazy to think that even with a three plus billion dollar a year subsidy, courtesy of the mostly broke US taxpayer, Israel is still short on the basics.

In 2006, Israel ran out of money to fight forest fires. Did they take measures to make sure that wouldn’t happen again? Nope, they invaded Gaza in Operation Cast Lead, and blew out 590 million dollars in a three week orgy of murder. What is the cost of proper firefighting air support? About 250 million annually for a country the size of the US–yes, that was two and a half years worth of specialized aircraft and firefighting foam, gone in a fortnight’s binge, with nothing but a moral hangover to show for it.

Now, they’re completely unprepared for another natural disaster.

Committees of inquiry, the state comptroller and the fire department have repeatedly warned that a lack of funding has undermined firefighters’ ability to do their jobs, but little has changed.

The fire service continues to suffer severe shortages in manpower, vehicles and equipment. Moreover, there are not enough hydrants and sufficient water supply in general to counter large blazes, as yesterday proved.

One of the biggest problems hampering firefighters is the lack of special aircraft. The firefighters call in aircraft owned by the company Kim-Nir in emergencies, but these planes are for spraying agricultural fields or private flights and small cargo. They are not capable of carrying large quantities of water or fire-retardant materials.

Moreover, they lack the proper lights to fly at night and they risk colliding with power cables. Because they are not part of the fire service, the aircraft are not on constant alert, and it takes time to get them ready for action.

“It’s very hard to control such a large fire with firefighting aircraft, and certainly not without them,” said the deputy commander of the Fire and Rescue Service, Haim Tamam. He said his boss had been asking for funds to buy firefighting aircraft, but he was turned down.

Don’t get me wrong. Israel’s not broke. They have plenty more money. But the problems is that Israel’s budget is “existential threat” driven. That means its specifically reserved for not-as-yet-or-perhaps-never-existent-threats. That’s why they are buying  jets they don’t need to fight threats, that by definition, don’t exist. This Borges-esque theory of budget allocation works fine, until you run into something like massive blazing, relentlessly real fire– a threat that even the most primitive cave-man most likely observed by the dawn of the Quaternary period is not so much existential as it is imminent. Just like extended economic depressions and social security outlays. There’s a fable in there somewhere, America.

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