The Military Budget Must Be Cut

With the United States national debt approaching 16 trillion dollars, debt reduction has been a major issue in President Obama’s administration. Since he entered office, he has been clashing with Republicans over how to cut the national debt, with Obama typically favoring higher taxes for the rich and reduced military spending and Republicans typically favoring reduced spending in entitlement and other domestic economic programs. Now, major spending cuts and tax increases are set to take effect at the beginning of 2013, unless Congress can agree on another budget. One of the most controversial aspects of this debt reduction plan involves $500 billion dollar, across the board defense cuts. Many people, especially conservatives, are not surprisingly criticizing these proposed cuts. Well, in my view, these critics are partly right and partly wrong. Generally speaking, mechanical, automatic, across the board cuts are ill advised. Budget cuts need to be well thought out, concentrated, and methodical. Hence, budget cuts effecting body armor and veterans’ benefits should be opposed. However, I would be remiss if I did not point out that the GOP is not in the best position to criticize liberals for failing our veterans. In a culture where we’ve been trained to believe that honoring our soldiers and veterans means supporting every war, standing for and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and criminalizing flag desecration, conservative politicians come off looking very good. But when we look at the far more pertinent issue of providing proper care and benefits for soldiers and veterans, Republicans often fall short. In 2006, Disabled American Veterans gave a very revealing rating to members of the House and Senate. The three politicians to get the lowest ratings, 20%, were Larry Craig, Mike Crapo, and John McCain, all Republicans. Senators Ted Kennedy and Barack Obama got ratings of 80%, while Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi scored 100%. Still, across the board cuts are wrong. We ought not to balance the budget on the backs of those who have and do serve in the military. However, much of our massive military spending involves amassing unnecessary weapons and other expenditures that do not involve the well being of our troops. Certainly, all of the money we have spent on Afghanistan was not beneficial to the U.S. military. In fact, in some of the areas where spending is important—veterans’ health care, body armor for soldiers—it would not have been necessary to spend as much if we had not started an unnecessary war in Afghanistan. By the rationale we used to go to war in Afghanistan—that the nation was working with Osama bin Laden—we would have had to go to war with ourselves, since the United States had at one time allied itself with bin Laden. No compelling evidence has ever been put forward that the Afghan government played any role in 9/11. In fact, 9/11 was largely the result of the United States angering bin Laden by intervening in the first Gulf War. And why, pray tell, did we enter that little quagmire? Was it to preserve freedom in Kuwait? Kuwait, the country where homosexuality between consenting adults can result in seven years in prison and where, at the time of the war, women were not permitted to vote? Not hardly. The reason we intervened in Kuwait, setting off a series of chain events that led to 9/11 and the disastrous 21st century wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was to protect the oil supply. This brings me to my next point. The so-called “defense budget” is no such thing. The United States leads the world in military spending. According to George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, we also spend more on military matters than all the next fourteen biggest spending countries combined. Are we really so hated and have such deadly enemies that we have to such a staggering amount in this area? Defenders of massive military spending will claim that these expenditures are a necessity as a result of Islamic terrorists. This brings to mind an old Calvin and Hobbes strip. The strip begins with Calvin frantically running by and exclaiming to Hobbes, “Run for your life, there’s a million angry hornets coming! They’re insane with rage! They’ll sting anything in their path!” Hobbes, somewhat perplexed, asks, “What are they mad about?” Calvin replies, “I’ve been throwing rocks at their nest all morning.” The strip ends with Calvin hanging in a tree by his underwear and complaining, “A real friend wouldn’t take their side!” While I do not want to see the United States in a similar position to Calvin in the last panel, I think that the strip provides a great analogy. The United States metaphorically throws rocks at the hornet’s nest by needlessly intervening militarily in wars and sending troops into countries that have not attacked us. Then the government claims that the public must pay more money for a bigger defense budget to guard against the threat created by these reckless foreign policy decisions. In my view, out of control military spending became a constant in American politics during World War II. It had certainly been a problem in World War I, but it had tapered off after the war ended. One might have expected it to taper off again once World War II ended, but the United States shifted its attention to the Soviet Union. Like most of our enemies during after World War II, the Soviet Union had a terrible human rights record (about as bad as ours in the 1940s-1950s) but did not pose a direct threat to the United States. The Soviet Union had lost a much larger percentage of its population to the war than the United States had and, unlike the United States, had not experienced a massive wartime economic boom. Yet the United States justified massive military spending by pointing to the alleged threat posed by the Soviet Union. The United States military budget does not look like a defense budget. It looks like the budget of a country that wants to be ready to take over the world. This has to change, unless we want the national debt to hit the quadrillion mark.

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