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

By Bernd Debusmann
February 5, 2010

– 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.

The Pentagon, he says, must wean itself from the idea that the American military can go anywhere and do anything equally well.

Whether that weaning process will ever happen is open to doubt. “America’s interests and role in the world require Armed Forces with unmatched capabilities,” according to the just-published Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), a report required by Congress on the future of U.S. national security strategy.

“Unmatched” is one thing, dwarfing the rest of the world is another. The U.S., for example, has 11 aircraft carriers in service; the rest of the world has eight. China is building one but analysts say it won’t be completed before 2015. “The United States,” notes the QDR, “remains the only nation to project and sustain large-scale operations over extended distances.”

That it can do so is largely thanks to weapons systems developed during and for the Cold War, from aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines to long-range bombers. During his campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama frequently pledged to reform the defence budget “so that we are not paying for Cold War era weapons systems that we don’t use.” He repeated that pledge in his first State of the Union message.

But his defence budget, released in the same week as the QDR, shows no distinct departure from the spending habits perpetuated in the budgets of his predecessor, George W. Bush. It allotted more funds for special forces, helicopters, missile-launching drones and other equipment for the “asymmetric wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq but it also provided for a new aircraft carrier and attack submarines.

If they are not Cold War era weapons meant for conventional conflict, what is?

IMBALANCE BETWEEN HARD AND SOFT POWER

In the eyes of Miriam Pemberton of the Institute for Policy Analysis, a liberal Washington think tank, Obama’s budget provides for add-ons rather than hard choices and actually widens the huge imbalance between military spending and spending on non-military foreign engagement.

Also known as soft power, the term embraces concepts from diplomacy to foreign aid and some of the most eloquent warnings about the perils of the imbalance have come from the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, the only Bush cabinet member kept on by Obama.

In 2007, Gates startled the military establishment by calling for increased funding for the State Department and pointing out that the entire American diplomatic corps numbered fewer people than the staffing of an aircraft carrier group. Diplomatic posts have been added since then but according to the Institute for Policy Analysis, the military to non-military imbalance has grown from 11:1 to 12:1.

“U.S. militarism has long been a core part of the American Way,” writes Steven Hill in a just-published book, Europe’s Promise, that compares the United States and Europe. Militarism does “triple duty as a formidable foreign policy tool, a powerful stimulus to the economy, and a usurper of tax dollars that could be spent on other budget priorities.”

Health care, say, or education, or the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. As it is, according to a study by a peace lobby, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, military spending and the cost of past wars have been swallowing up more than 40 percent of federal tax dollars, health care 20 percent, science, energy and environment 2.5 percent and education just over 2.

There is little grumbling over such lop-sided allocations largely because most Americans equate military spending with security. But having the world’s strongest Armed Forces, by far, did not guard America against the September 11, 2001, attacks, nor does it guarantee victory against enemies using such primitive weapons as roadside bombs and suicide vests.

39 comments

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It will never be enough. Americans will continue to refuse being the “sleeping giant” that we were when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. We’ll never forget the feeling we had of being powerless against an enemy. Sooner than later, we may lose our superpower status in the world, but I promise it won’t be because some country decided to invade us. Our only enemy is ourselves, and as Americans I believe we’re fine with that. There isn’t a nation on Earth which would dare challenge our sovereignty. That’s a good thing, and I don’t see any reason why we should change it. The United States will remain free for our grandchildren and so on, thanks to the strength and size of our advanced military. If we ever tried to change this, China would have boots on the ground in California the second we lost our military advantage. Make no mistake, America will defend it’s citizens until the end. I support our military, and pray we stay on course for the sake of future generations.

Posted by danielsanchez06 | Report as abusive

Does anyone remember what defeated the Soviet Union??? Did tanks roll onto their sovereign territory? Did F-16′s thunder through their skies? NO… It was simple.. Too much spending on the military, and not enough spending on it’s people and crumbling infrastructure.. Now we are doing the same thing, and I am afraid that we will meet the same end…. and soon….
General Dwight Eisenhower once warned us of the Military-Industrial Complex. We have to have a military – YES. We have to have a proper defense – YES. But we could cut our defense budget by 25% and still have enough nukes to protect us from everyone else (let me repeat that – EVERYONE else) on the planet.

From a retired US Army Officer and combat veteran….

Posted by edgyinchina | Report as abusive

No one is suggesting the United States weakens itself so as to put its citizens in danger. This is not a black and white thing. Reducing spending may lessen our military prowess by some small fraction, but it could also better other parts of our society to a greater degree. Imagine how much better our schools could be with 50% more funding! A 4% reduction on military spending doesn’t seem so impossible, and I highly doubt it would diminish the significant advantage the United States has militarily.

Posted by Roinator | Report as abusive

“danielsanchez06″ you are complete wrong. Read what “edgyinchina” is saying!!! If we will not decrease military spending we will end up very bad! Nobody will attack us as long we have the nukes and willing to use them in case of need!!! Hopefully the American people will be enough intelligent to change that – to elect smarter presidents and smarter politicians…

Posted by Christian67 | Report as abusive

As a member of the US Navy at a joint command, I both agree and disagree. I have seen the US military become the prime example of human corruption. It has been filled with pet projects of politicians on Capital Hill, mainly to get investment to their constituency, becoming a huge, deranged, political pet force. I am a senior enlisted member, and day in and day out, I have to play political games so much, I can barely train my junior members to the level they need to be at. The main cause of the problem, is too many civilians have been emplaced, I wouldn’t doubt that there are more civilians in the Department of Defense than active military members. I believe the only civilian members in the DoD should be the service Secretaries and the Secretary of Defense with his Undersecretaries (you will see a positive difference, trust me). As for the size military-wise, our size is right, but the organization of it is not, that’s where you see the problem. The Air Force has lost its relevence, most missions it used to have during the Cold War were never updated even though they needed to be, and were taken over be the Navy, Army, and Marines. The Air Force has the largest amount of pork barrel spending in the DoD, why? As for the point of aircraft carriers (I was stationed on one in Japan), it’s all about power projection. America is an island, a big one, but it’s an island. Our ability to influence world events is our ability to project the full force of our fleets, anywhere, anytime. Having less than 11 carriers will push the mental and emotional abilities of our crewmembers and their families. The USS Carl Vinson deployment to post-quake Haiti for MEDEVACS and medical care is a prime example of peacetime uses of a floating airfield. As for our smaller ships, do I need to bring up the issue of the Somali pirates attacking ships almost halfway across the Indian Ocean? Even we are struggling with that.

The other reason we have an enourmous military, even though we are an all volunteer force, is what it transforms those of us who join into. You see someone like me who is from the mountains of western Pennsylvania, to a kid who was in a gang in south central Los Angeles. We have a lot of people in the military because our country has a lot of people. Most of us don’t join for the pay (not much), or to spread democracy around the world (such a cheesy line), but for our neighbor, our kids, or someone from the other side of the country we may not even know if we didn’t.

We are big because we have become the only military superpower (inadvertently). The world has always had at least one. It is not the easiest job in the world.

Posted by watchman24 | Report as abusive

‘I have found the enemy and the enemy is us’
It breaks my hart to witness the greatest world power ever to exist, destroying it’s self from within! Headlong eyes blinded by greed and pride; There princes have acted ruinously by sheer foolishness!
As Aristotle wrote; Men reach and fall reach and fall!
“The Bible foretold these days”

Posted by BrianOmdahl | Report as abusive

Brian your absolutely right. If you look at the Chinese expandtion in to South America Africa and the building of oil pipelines in Iran, Irag and Central Asia you see a pattern of Oil dominance in the Central Stan north of Afganistan. This will be the American choke hold along with the 2.5 trillion loan to us. The Chinese are buying our backyard and will control these puppet nations. America WAKE UP for I think it’s already in the end bible days.

Posted by goody426 | Report as abusive

Again you have the democrats and republicans commenting, while the republican feel that the US never has enough weapons and be as big as it can be in order to “protect” their sovereignty then you have the democrats with a moderate more cerebral comments that while the US had the biggest weapon arsenal in the world they still got hit with 9/11. That is refreshing to hear that there are still Americans which are re questioning the value of being big when you are as vulnerable as any country in the world. Remember a twisted mind would hit the US with biologic and chemical weapons from inside the country, having 11 carriers won’t help……

Posted by Jerri | Report as abusive

Smoke another joint Brian, it’ll all be ok.

Posted by RandyWill2 | Report as abusive

Jerri, go get high with Brian and make up a new conspiracy story

Posted by RandyWill2 | Report as abusive

http://www.usdebtclock.org/
-
Hi Randy
If ignorance is bliss, then you must be very happy!
Check out the debt clock, and then tell me how long America can keep up its erection.

Posted by BrianOmdahl | Report as abusive

“edgyinchina”…so you think the Soviet Union fell because of it’s military spending? Think again, pal. The Soviet Union fell because it was communist. Get your facts straight.

Posted by danielsanchez06 | Report as abusive

And let me add…I love it when people bring up 9/11 like it was a nuclear strike on our soil. 3,000 people were killed on 9/11. No disrespect to those who lost their lives, for they’ll always be remembered. However, 9/11 isn’t proof our military couldn’t protect us. There’s almost 400 million in the United States, and I’m feeling pretty safe right now. A couple of suicide bombers are nothing compared to what China or North Korea could do to us if our military is weakened. Americans don’t like terrorists, but we’re hardly scared of what they’ll do to us. It’s like a flea on a dog…bothersome, but not enough to make us run for the hills.

Posted by danielsanchez06 | Report as abusive

I’m an Australian, and we are a very large continent with a relatively small population. The USA is a very close friend of Australia and it has always been that way. Personally, I am very pleased that America has such a strong and powerful military, particularly when I look at the way China is currently strutting about on the international stage. I would infinitely prefer to be a close friend of the USA, than a vassal state of China if they would ever (heaven forbid) become the world’s dominate player. Peking doesn’t understand that human rights, freedom of speech and democracy, are very important to Westerners.

Posted by VR_Sparks | Report as abusive

danielsanchez06 is obviously someone who knows nothing of the world outside the US other than what he sees on TV.

The US has every right to have the military it wants but conjuring up random, sometimes non-existent threats to justify the spend isn’t really fair to the rest of the world.

1) since the collapse of the USSR it has been clear the USSR never had any intention to invade the US. It wanted to protect its interests and if had invaded anywhere it would have been Europe for regional reasons.
2) China’s 2000 yrs of history has shown China has not tried to invade countries outside its immediate sphere of influence. note Mongols are not Chinese. Invading the USA is a preposterous as it comes.

The fact of the matter is, no country in the world would be bothered with invading the USA. They got much bigger problems at home and if they wanted to invade anywhere it would be their neighbours not the USA.

Also note:
1) Al Qaeda attacked New York because they believed USA has been attacking them in their countries for decades. This fact seems to continuously escape Americans even.
2) North Korea is only interested in attacking America when it sees America as threatening their regime or interfering in their region with South Korea
3) In the unlikely even China did do anything, it would be because it sees America as interfering in its Taiwan issue or similar.

The only appropriate argument for the current military spend is it allows America to do what it wants elsewhere in the world because it has the biggest stick. And America has every right to want to do that. If thats what u want, then Enough is relative to what others can spend.

This article is really about how sustainable the current spending is given the given “others” are wanting to catch up.

So the question to the danielsanchezs of the world is, should the US spend itself into the poor house or try other ways to achieve security which don’t cost so much. If you are one of the 10% unemployed and don’t want to join the military, are you going to care about that new attack sub?

Posted by tommy6 | Report as abusive

Cut the waste and you would save enough to put more money into infrastructure. As long as the Pentagon and the rest of the Gov’t continue to waste our tax dollars we will continue to bleed money we can not afford to waste.

Posted by Sonnyjc9 | Report as abusive

I don’t understand why you think a reduction in the spending will mean a smaller military, or for that matter, a less powerful one.

The military budged is huge, and not all of it is spent on things that actually benefit the military what so ever. There are airfields with hundreds upon hundreds of planes, which we bought and never used, and will never use.

There are plenty of projects that the military can go without. Also, a good military is one that adopts. In today’s world, it’s not about how big you are, but how tactical and flexible you are. More money can be spent on training soldiers, and recruiting soldiers. Or spent on thing that are used day-to-day by our soldiers in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and will be used in future conflicts.

Also, 9/11 was brought in this conversation because it was an attack at America, on American soil. The prevention of such events is the soul justification used by the US Military about its spending. And the fact that it didn’t register in your book as a legitimate attack, is somewhat shameful. Yet, you bring Pearl Harbor as a reason why America should not stop spending the amount it does on its military. The only reason Pearl Harbor ever occurred was because the US military was so cocky of itself, that they denied the fact that any nation would dare to attack them, something that resonates with your first post.

Posted by Davidfd | Report as abusive

Lets not forget, throughout history superpower has come and gone. Some held power for centuries and others not so long. We should do whatever it takes to continue our dominance. Complacency can lead one’s down fall as it did for many others in the past. We as Americans should not let history repeat itself, rather make history. GOD BLESS AMERICA!!

Posted by Zia-Islam | Report as abusive

As the saying goes, to gain peace you must prepare for war.

An enemy will only attack you when they feel that:
-They can win,
-They can avoid punishment, or
-They can lose and survive.

Remove these outcomes and the enemy will not attack you.

That is what America needs to ensure safety in for the west. An army that is:
1. Powerful enough to destroy an enemy.
2. Mobile enough to retaliate against any enemy, no matter the distance and
3. Never allows an enemy to attack without retaliation.

As Dr. Strangelove said:
“Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy a fear of attacking you.”

Posted by Anon86 | Report as abusive

I am an Irish citizen which I think gives me a fairly objective point of view – we are a small neutral country, we have no history of colonisation, we are still a member of the EU and historically we have always enjoyed a special relationship with the US.
In terms of the argument of military versus diplomatic spending – 20 years ago the IRA would have been considered one of the most dangerous and ruthless terrorist groups in the world. This week their modern day diplomats (including previous members of the IRA) have sat down with their unionist opponents and hammered out the final details of a deal to assume control of the police forces of Northern Ireland continuing on from the Good Friday process begun in 1998. This is a concept that was unthinkable only 20 years ago and yet peace has been achieved here due in no small part to the diplomatic efforts and participation of the US. Certainly one can not apply a similar timeline to solutions in the most outstanding current conflicts of the world – Israel/Palestine, East Africa, Afghanistan etc. But the point is a diplomatic solution can be possible.
With regards to bugets overall, I suspect Obama is budgeting for another aircraft carrier and submarine to continue the US’s ability to project power globally. Hardly something one could criticise him for. However, any informed and balanced review of military spending in the modern world must recognise that the days of huge rolling armies have now (thankfully) past and the successful modern armies of the future will need to adapt to the new realities. The US military will need to become more efficient and more effective at adapting to this new world order – the ability to deal with urban warfare and post conflict peacekeeping duties are good examples and the US military’s inexperience in these areas has been exposed over the last decade.
I find it refreshing that some of the most informed and useful comments submitted on this thread are by those with active or previous experience in the military.

Posted by Shodaar | Report as abusive

It’s exactly this thinking that ultimately compels God to act.
As the prophet Jeremiah aptly stated:
I well know, O God, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his own steps.

Posted by BrianOmdahl | Report as abusive

“America spends as much on its soldiers and weapons as the next 18 countries put together…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”

we are quite obviously a nation of idiots!

and as we fall, into something less than a ‘super power’, we will forget what promise we once had and what could have been accomplished (expansion outward to the moon and mars). before long our debt ridden lives under the boot heel of the corporate aristocracy will seem just normal. our children’s children will have no more dream than just to survive. haiti serves us well as a model of things to come.

as for me, i lived well during our peak (late 50s to early 00s) and i’m glad i’m old enough not to have to see much of what’s coming!

Posted by jborrow | Report as abusive

I don’t really get it. Anyone that has been in combat should know that Deities are conspicuously absent when people kill each other. Drones have brought another dimension. When I did active service, my life was insured for $10 000, the proceeds would have gone to my mother, along with the dog-tags. I suppose a drone costs a bit more, so the economies of scale baffles me, maybe because life is worthless in occupied countries. I have also thought about his whole superpower thing and it makes no sense. Why would the US systematically implode on itself ? My only conclusion is that it is being bankrolled by its allies. The Arab World does it all the time, why can’t Christians do it ?

I agree, I don’ think anybody has the time and the inclination to occupy the US. As far as World Wars are concerned, don’t provoke or be provoked, why go and sell weapons to Taiwan on the one hand, and visit the Dalai Lama on the other hand ? One thing is for sure, the US has an image of being a bully that fights at a distance with not much of a soul.

‘Now I am the father of death, the destroyer of worlds’ – Google it and see what pops out.

I wish all this money would go to cancer research and treatment. That is really the silent killer and causes immense suffering and it is going to get worse fast.

Posted by Ghandiolfini | Report as abusive

Flawed communism brought down the Soviet Union not military spending. The U.S.A. should not cut back on 1 cent of defense spending. We should reign in all of our troops in Iraq, Afganistan, and Pakistan and realocate the money being wasted there on rebuilding America’s infrastructure. Why we are wasting resources overseas in worthless wars is beyond me. Push it all off onto the “brilliant minds” running the United Nations.

Posted by Chicles | Report as abusive

What really costs much is the personnel. Replace them with remotely controlled (better yet, fully automatic), relatively cheap drones – preferably so cheap they can be considered expendable; and the cost of fighting wars overseas will not be as prohibitive as it is now. As long as we don’t intend to colonize the country (case in point – Afghanistan) we need no boots on the ground.
The drawback would be that the drone operator can’t see things as clearly as an infantry man on the ground. So there inevitably will be more errors and more collateral damage. But cost cutting, and especially defense cost cutting, has its own costs, and the aforementioned collateral damage would be just some of these costs.
Can we live with the idea of causing collateral damage halfway across the globe? Probably yes. After all nobody complained 65 years ago when American bombers reduced Dresden and Hiroshima to rubble. Nor anyone complains now about today’s drone strikes on Taliban in Pakistan, even though usually the families and neighbors of the militants are getting hit as well.
Somebody would have then to manufacture the drones. Hopefully this kind of manufacturing will not be outsourced to China, so there will be quality jobs here in the USA.
As for China, screw them. Whatever we do, they can only make angry face but not much more than that. If they move to destroy the dollar, they’ll do it to their own detriment. It will be ugly here for a while, with prices for oil, its derivatives (chiefly fuel) and luxury items – things bought outside China – going through the roof. But it will be uglier for China, with their reserves losing much of the value, and their manufacturing losing the single most important market. If we stop buying Chinese, there will be a fair shot for manufacturing here in the USA to get back into relevance. The Chinese know that, and will never let it happen. So, as much as I don’t generally like what BHO is doing, both decisions to sell weapons to ROC and to meet Dalai Lama are the right ones.

Posted by An0nym0us | Report as abusive

Yes Crude Media implant. Nobody complained because they were vaporised and radiated into submission, to avoid Russia occupying Japan, amongst others. Which bank financed The Enola Gay and its payload ? As the one mission pilot said, “it was necessary at the time, but should never happen again”. Signed: Tsar Bomba.

Posted by Ghandiolfini | Report as abusive

There is no doubt that waste is significant in such a large bureaucracy. There is little doubt that great good has also been achieved (Bosnia, Haiti, Pakistan earthquake, Kurdish relief, liberation of Europe, liberation of Kuwait, etc.). The question is determining what the country can afford. I fear that we cannot afford what we could at one time. In particular, can we continue to be the policeman who keeps radical Islam from destroying the world? The Europeans who complain about U.S. military power now will need to step up and handle the destabilized countries that impact their energy supplies, immigration, security and economies. They may come to miss that superpower. Spain should start thinking about a new name for the city of “Matamores.”

Posted by fireant | Report as abusive

“America spends as much on its soldiers and weapons as the next 18 countries put together” = only half the story.

There’s the fortune spent on outsourced paramilitary and so-called support presence. Then there’s the unspecified amount spent on bribes and double-agent espionage in previously destabilized countries. Then there’s the amount spent on destabilization of future theatres of war. Then there’s the amount spent on American WMD that don’t work, serious money practically given away to companies that by themselves couldn’t stay in business if it weren’t for the spectre of perpetual war. Then there’s the amount spent hiding the pork from the Government Accounting Office, and the amount consumed by lobbyists and their media puppets who make war seem inevitable and palatable to the docile taxpaying public. Then there’s legal fees and spin funds for keeping the war criminals conveniently, if only by a hair, out of reach of legitimate prosecution. Then there’s the waste, destruction and starvation which are logical results of warfare, costs to be borne by the victims of America’s illegal vanity wars everywhere.

Not to mention the American economy being leeched dry by so-called Defense spending, with little or nothing left to spend on peaceful and productive activities.

How much is too much? I’ll tell you how much. The whole goddamn thing is too much. Militarism will be the downfall of America. And you know what else? The people who make it their business to make money by contrivance of warfare do not actually care what happens to the countries they ruin in the process, America included.

So it’s either war, or America. In the long run, the two are mutually exclusive.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive

The trick is to avoid the 1.2 billion Muslims congregating in one dipole at any moment in time-/lines. There are too many factions and large sects and infighting. Once oil has run out, say by 2050, the Mid-East will implode on itself. The Crusaders will always maintain the balance and push back. Muslims are scared people, like us all. I prefer ‘The-rest-of-religions’ brainwashing, my personal favourite Hinduism, they have better pictures than the rest.

Posted by Ghandiolfini | Report as abusive

I think Americains should stop worrying about the the size of their military and start slowing down their rate of material consumption. Theres not enough fossil fuels on the globe to back up infinte growth that capitaliism requires.
Infinite growth v finite energy = Bye bye
USA and the collaspe of a 100 year old pridine into a new era. Money it seems has finally come up against somthing more powerful than it; Natrual resources

China will never be allowed to become a superpower. Mark my words,in less than ten years that nation wouldve been brokern into seperate confilicting states by western subdifuge, and western compaines will no doubt be falling over each other to access the free markets created there.
That will propbably bring a return to growth but it will only be a quick fix it all comes down to the end to simple physics.
Our future will poorer matrialisticly but i belive it will be a revolution in our hearts and minds that will get us through the transiton period into a more responsible world.

Posted by Liquid | Report as abusive

No need to be a genius to understand that this can’t be continued for too long…

We have to acknowledge that prosperity in US is a result of millions of serious unjust and unethical actions made by companies and high level politics. Well, “lawyers & money” can prove that 2+2 isn’t necessarily equals to 4.

Shareholders of biggest corporations have most US control buttons under their possession and Mr. Obama can’t do much…

The main problem of power owners is the endless “greediness”.

Posted by tidav | Report as abusive

Thank you for this article, Mr. Debudsmann. I’d like to see more media attention to the global problems created by the weapons trade. How can the U.S. conscience its claim to any moral high ground when its prosperity is based on this?

Also, I’d like to see more attention paid to the ways that the U.S. (and global) economy is controlled by a financial oligarchy, rather than by politicians.

And also, why do commentators and analysts shy away from discussion of the non-sustainability of population growth?

These three factors could well spell the annihilation of life on the planet.

Posted by SeaScapes | Report as abusive

“NO… It was simple.. Too much spending on the military, and not enough spending on it’s people and crumbling infrastructure.. Now we are doing the same thing, and I am afraid that we will meet the same end…. and soon….”

As another military veteran I’ve got to agree with Edgy. Without a strong economy you can not have a strong military or at least not for very long. Just take a look at the the economic data that is contantly coming out. Huge government budget deficits, high unemployment rates, government funded massive entitlement programs, along with a massive government funded military etc. The United States used to be the biggest creditor nation. Now, its the biggest debtor nation. All of this sounds very much like how the Soviet Union ran things.

Posted by Metty | Report as abusive

War = profit.

The military-industrial nexus grows stronger by the decade.

The military is in effect an alternative form of social welfare, since soldiers are overwhelmingly non-college and come from have-not families. Without the draft, it is in the interest of the military of this nation to keep a large portion of our population poor, because that leads to easy recruitment.

Social inequality feeds both the military and the market.

A shy point; it hasn’t even touched the word exploitation.

No such shyness at Left Blog.

Posted by reverse_cloud | Report as abusive

War = profit.

Posted by reverse_cloud | Report as abusive

War is a racket. The MIC is insatiable. It’s ravenous nature must remain unfettered !

Posted by Miltdog | Report as abusive

i see waste at the dod everyday,say something and you are gone.each post needs a strict GAO accounting, and i would venture to say that each post good produce the GDP of the state that they are in.i tried to ask to purchase a minimal exspensive item and i was told we are buying the most expensive one.In the minds of the military if you are fiscally responsible ,your budget will get cut, therefore the tax payer is getting hosed on a 24hr basis.you have people contracting that do not know what they are buying,throwing money over both shoulders, to appease someone who will retire and get a cush job with the contracted firm,just look at the boards of the contractors if you need proof, you’ll see more stars than the taxpayer does.invest in ky-jelly more of this is to come

Posted by iceberg | Report as abusive

Dear Mr. Debusmann – why are you so consistently against Israel in all of your columns? I am yet to see a single one that is even neutral towards Israel. Would you like Israel to be erased off the map? Take a number.

Posted by DDL | Report as abusive

There have been many arguments thus far that seem to promote an idea of one vs. the other…that too much military investment is taking away precious resources that could otherwise be used for other needs such as infrastructure. The biggest problem with this approach is that it fails to acknowledge that at the highest strategic levels, these issues are often interrelated.

It doesn’t have to be a “one vs the other” proposition. The military is only one of several instruments of national security, but for some reason we as Americans have a tendency to think that military exclusively equals national security. For those of you who want to win over the “hawks”, you can’t just make it a “military vs infrastructure/education/etc” issue, because with this simplistic dichotomy, the furthest you will ever get with the “hawks” is a stalemate. You have to bring it up to the strategic level. For instance, investing in civilian infrastructure can actually go a long way toward supporting the security of our nation and our allies.

There have been numerous historical precedents. Take for instance the Civil War; the railroad and telegram were two infrastructure projects that gave the Union the upper hand in re-supply and command/control against an enemy that was significantly more adept at tactical warfare. Another example is WWII; a significant factor in our success was our industrial might. Or the Cold War, which gave birth to our space program (with lots of spinoff benefits to society, like GPS) and even the Internet (which takes root from DARPA’s ARPANET).

Yes, Eisenhower warned of a military-industrial complex…but this didn’t mean he totally opposed investing in dual-use capabilities…capabilities that had significant civilian benefit as well as military application. His concern (correct me if I am wrong) was military arms development become the major impetus for decisions by policymakers. We need to present the case for prioritizing investments in infrastructure, etc, not only because of the domestic and economic benefits, but also in terms of how they ultimately actually support better security for our nation and our partners.

Posted by skyhaz31 | Report as abusive