09-07-2010, 03:47 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Southern California
Peace Dividend after $3-trillion war, or more addiction to military spending?
on ridiculous defense spending by Republican deficit hawks and Democrat fellow-travelers, including the President:
Unfortunately for America and its many admirers and dependents, this postwar dividend was absent from Obama's Iraq speech. For now it seems that as far as its exorbitant price tag in concerned, Obama's defense policy will be much the same as his predecessor's.
The Iraq campaign's political benefits remain debatable. Not its cost. Even if one doubts the price tag at which Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard budgeting expert Linda Bilmes arrived two years ago in their book "The Three Trillion Dollar War," the American taxpayer clearly paid hundreds of billions for it, and hopes that a resurrected Iraqi oil industry would foot the war's bills proved naive.
Faced with this, America would be mad to sustain a defense budget that ballooned to $700 billion, roughly 7 times that of the next biggest spender, China, and more than 12 times as much that of the next potential rival to U.S. interests - Russia.
Even before one probes the utility of current American military activity, and regardless of the pressures on the U.S. economy, such spending levels mean that fiscally speaking the U.S. never acknowledged that the Cold War had ended.
Since 2000, U.S. defense spending has grown an average 9% a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and is now close to a quarter of overall federal spending. That's what happens when the navy deploys 11 aircraft carriers around the globe, the air force flies B-2 bombers that cost $2 billion apiece, and the standing army's 1.4 million soldiers are volunteers whose salaries must be competitive in the labor market.
Only part of this is due to the fact that military hardware is becoming ever more sophisticated and expensive. The rest stems from the failure to adapt to a changing geopolitical setting.
Keeping 28,500 American troops in South Korea makes sense, considering the threat to this American ally from its northern neighbor. But deploying more than 100,000 troops in Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.K. does not make sense, unless one is still fighting the Cold War.
Yes, the U.S. is following in the footsteps of the USSR, whose addiction to military spending led it to economic ruin and political extinction. First, Washington failed to cut military spending after the Cold War ended, and then, responding to Islamist terror, it boosted defense spending. Fortunately, the U.S. is not the terminally ill patient the USSR was in its last years. It just badly needs fiscal surgery.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has recently pledged to shed 50 of the armed forces' 990 generals and admirals and to close down one command. Sounds brave, but that's hardly a fraction of what others are doing.
Germany, for instance, is slashing its military by a third, to 165,000 soldiers from 250,000, Spain and Italy are trimming a tenth of their armies, and Britain's new government is expected to decide this fall to shave its military spending by as much as a fifth....
U.S. defense spending today is nearly half the entire world's.
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