The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

U.S. military power: When is enough enough?

-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

The numbers tell the story of a superpower addicted to overwhelming military might: the United States accounts for five percent of the world's population, around 23 percent of its economic output and more than 40 percent of its military spending. America spends as much on its soldiers and weapons as the next 18 countries put together.

Why such a huge margin? The question is rarely asked although there is spirited debate over specific big-ticket weapons systems whose conception dates back to the days when the United States was not the only superpower and large-scale conventional war against the other superpower, the Soviet Union, was an ever-present possibility. Those days are over.

Now, the U.S., deep in deficit and grappling with the aftermath of the worst recession since the 1930s, is reaching a point where the only way the country can maintain its role as the world's towering military giant is to borrow money from the country many military planners see as a potential future adversary - China. "Obviously, this is not a tenable arrangement over the long run," says Loren Thompson, CEO of the Lexington Institute, a think tank with close ties to defense contractors.