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Posted by on Dec 4, 2012 in Economy, War | 9 comments

The Military Mission and Budget Talks

CV-74-USS-Stennis and CV-HMS-Illustrious

A couple of days ago I lamented that cuts in the Defense Budget seemed to be absent in the budget discussions.  But it goes much deeper than that.  What we really need is a discussion of foreign policy goals and the mission of military.  While I never approved of the United States being the World’s policeman it should be obvious to anyone not living in a bubble we can no longer afford it.  Is a heavy U.S. presence in the Middle East in the national interest?  And by that I mean is it in the interest of the majority of the American citizens not multi-national corporations.  The answer is no!  The people of the Middle East hate us because we have been messing in their affairs for years supporting tyrants and dictators who supported corporations.  Osama bin Laden himself said 911 was because the U.S. had a military presence in Saudi Arabia.  The United States spends more money on the military than the other top 13 countries comnbined and for what?

Ed Kilgore:

What with the entire national political debate being perpetually centered on fiscal priorities, it’s truly striking how little attention is being devoted (outside a few left-wing or libertarian precincts) to the option of a significant retrenchment of U.S. defense commitments. Yes, there’s plenty of talk, mostly from Republicans, about the deflationary impact of letting the scheduled defense spending sequestration go through (on this subject they are quite happy to be Keynesians). But after all, if there was a consensus that the country’s mammoth military advantage over all adversaries potential and actual was sufficiently safe (particularly at a time when other countries are struggling to make ends meet as well) to allow for a different strategy, we could happily fight over whether to devote the “hegemony dividend” to deficit reduction, domestic spending or tax cuts. And it’s worth remembering that it’s defense spending cuts without significant changes in the Pentagon’s missions or force structure that run the risk of underfunding actual security needs.

I think it is time we look at significant changes to the Pentagon’s mission.  We can no longer afford to be the World’s policeman and we really haven’t done a very good job of it anyway.

Charles Kenny:

Yet even China currently has but one aircraft carrier, which doesn’t have any aircraft stationed on it. It’s a third-hand boat, a hand-me-down from the Soviet Union to the Ukraine, which China picked up at a yard sale in 1998. Meanwhile, the U.S. has 20 carriers—all of which come with actual planes.


As Tufts professor Michael Beckley points out, the U.S. now “formally guarantees the security of more than 50 countries,” which means the U.S. has more allies in the world than at any time in its history. More broadly, war between nation states has been incredibly rare since 1945. Europe is the most obvious beneficiary of Pax Americana: Before today, the last time the Rhine had gone this long without being crossed by armies with hostile intent was more than 2,000 years ago, according to economic historian Brad DeLong. The painful and often violent process of building independent nation states out of colonies was often stoked into civil war by the competing powers of the Cold War. But with the decline of that global struggle, and the growing legitimacy of the new countries, even civil wars are on the wane.

It’s not just land wars that are relics of the 20th century. There’s little incentive for the Chinese to block sea lanes in Asia, for instance, since much of the traffic going through is on the way to or from China itself—the world’s largest exporting nation. Similarly, blocking the Straits of Hormuz would be economic suicide for the Iranians—if they could even manage it. That leaves pirates, operating off rubber dinghies using knockoff AK-47s off the coast of Somalia. How many new $7 billion guided missile stealth-destroyers does the U.S. need to take them out?

We simply can’t afford to do this anymore.  We need to do some nation building alright but here in the United States.  If cutting defense spending will have a negative impact on the economy why won’t not spending on infrastructure here have the same negative impact.  If we can’t afford to help senior citizens in this country we can’t afford to guarantee the security of other countries.  If we can’t afford to repair our infrastructure we can’t afford to make the world safe for multi-national corporations most of which pay no taxes.

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  • slamfu

    All valid points and despite it being the largest item on the federal budget, I am also completely at a loss as to why this topic never really came up during the election.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    It sure did, Slamfu. Romney/Republicans claimed that Obama/Democrats were decimating the military and would continue to do so.

  • slamfu

    I’m sure it was in the list of made up GOP talking points, wedged in between “Obama is a socialist” and “We’re pretty sure he said you didn’t build that”, but I don’t recall it getting much play in the stump speeches or while they are on the road. Then again, I don’t live in a swing state so it was almost like the election passed me by.

  • dduck

    The economic crunch and the horrendous national debt and the $1 million plus annual deficit (for the foreseeable future)should cause us all, even our elected officials to choke up and say .., this can’t continue. Well, as the saying goes: “Chaos in the world brings uneasiness, but it also allows the opportunity for creativity and growth.”
    This chaos should bring all departments and agencies to full focus on budgets and expenses. There are always some marginal programs, services, and toys that have to be slashed, these are the lean years. The mission may be somewhat compromised but the ship needs to float without extra drainage holes.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Talking about “budget talks,” this “just in”:

    … the Senate on Tuesday passed the $631 billion defense authorization bill, moving it one big step closer to getting signed into law.

    It even was passed unanimously, 98-0.

    Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said it was only the second time in 51 years that the bill received a unanimous Senate vote, a sign that the bill did not have any overarching divisive policy issues that would move lawmakers to vote against the bill.


    The $631 billion bill clocked in at $230 million less than President Obama’s budget request, and the Senate’s bill is about $3 billion under the House version.

  • Well that’s a start!

  • EEllis

    What is being left out is the cost of not having a military presence in the middle east. Personally I would prefer not to be the worlds policeman but the UN is totally ineffective and who do we think will take up the mantle if we refuse? I do think we have stopped, contained and prevented quite a bit of violence and disturbance by our presence. Not from pure goodwill, tho I would like to believe there is at least a bit of that in there, but because of the effect on the US economy if such things happen. Now the cost benefit equation is something I don’t know but lets not pretend there is not a benefit and ignore the possible results of the massive vacuum of power that would occur if we quit “policing” the world.

  • clarkma5


    This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

    In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

    We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. – President Dwight D. Eisenhower

  • slamfu

    <---- Likes Ike

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