Economics

The Invincible Military-Industrial Complex

Leon Panetta's dream is Eisenhower's nightmare.

|

During his 1961 farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned the American people that one of the greatest threats to freedom came not from enemies abroad but from "the conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry," which over time would lose sight of defending the United States and become devoted only to its own perpetuation. "In the councils of government," said the man who had commanded the Allied forces in Europe during World War II, "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."

Today we are living Ike's nightmare.  Defense spending is not just one of the most sacrosanct parts of the budget but also one of the largest and most inscrutable. Adjusting for inflation, military spending has grown for an unprecedented 13 consecutive years and is now higher than at any time since World War II. Even excluding war costs, the military baseline budget has grown by about 50 percent during the last decade. 

Yet the faintest suggestion of a plan to reduce the rate of the defense budget's growth inevitably triggers dire warnings that Americans will soon be speaking Russian, Chinese, Arabic, or the mother tongue of whoever is deemed the most powerful adversary of the moment. Consider the Pentagon's reaction to the recent threat of defense spending reductions following the failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (popularly known as the "supercommittee") to find deficit savings of $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The lack of a deal triggered an alternative path to those savings: a sequestration that would cut projected overall spending by $1.2 trillion between 2013 and 2021. Half of those savings are to come from the defense budget—an annual hit of about $54 billion compared to current administration plans.

But don't confuse that $54 billion with reductions from current spending levels. In August 2011, the Congressional Budget Office projected that discretionary national defense spending (96 percent of all military spending), excluding the wars, would cost $5.3 trillion between 2013 and 2021. After sequestration, that spending will instead total $4.8 trillion, or $500 billion less. That's 10 percent less than otherwise projected (see the chart) but still 10 percent higher than current defense spending.

How did apologists for the military-industrial complex react to the possibility of an increase of just 10 percent rather than 18 percent? Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in a November letter to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), warned that if "maximum sequestration" goes into effect in 2013, "these cuts would be devastating for the Department." One of Panetta's deputies colorfully described the cuts as a form of "self-castration." Former Defense Secretary William Cohen characterized the possible cuts as "draconian" and "calamitous," Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz fretted that his branch "may not be able to overcome dire consequences," and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) declared that trimming the rate of military spending growth would do nothing less than "destroy the Department of Defense."

There is no basis in reality for such hyperbole. Adjusting for inflation, sequester cuts would freeze the military's budget at its level in 2007—a year in which America was ably defended, and plenty of cash flowed to the armed forces. 

All these numbers underestimate the growth of defense spending. The data for 2013­­–21 exclude war spending, which will add roughly $400 billion during that period, even if the withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan proceed as planned. It also excludes mandatory spending, which adds another $6 billion a year on things like military retirement benefits. 

When U.S. defense spending is placed in a global context, flipping out over "cuts" becomes even stranger. A country's defense budget should be a function of its security needs—the cost to guard against the threats it faces. Secretary Panetta has noted that "threats to national security would not be reduced" in the face of budget cuts. But it's far from clear that current spending is commensurate with the dangers the U.S. faces.

Data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's military expenditure database show that the United States spent $728 billion on its military in 2010, or about 45 percent of the world's $1.6 trillion total, more than the next 14 largest military spenders combined and nearly six times more than the next biggest spender, China. Most of the other countries at the top of the list are American allies. With or without the automatic cuts to defense from the Budget Control Act of 2011, the United States will remain the biggest global military power for at least a generation.

Defense hawks may have some legitimate gripes about sequestration: Since 42 percent of the cuts in the budget deal come from military spending, defense, which accounts for about 20 percent of annual spending, is being targeted disproportionately. Furthermore, Cato Institute research fellow Benjamin Friedman argues that sequestration is an inefficient method for resizing government. When it comes to military spending, the process doesn't allow for prioritization—cutting less important missions and programs to fully fund more critical ones. As written, the law applies equally to all military accounts. The president can choose to exclude only personnel spending.

Overreliance on across-the-board defense cuts was meant to maximize the pain of sequestration. The idea was to encourage each side of the supercommittee to sacrifice in order to reach a deal, meaning tax increases for Republicans and domestic spending cuts for Democrats. The committee's failure doesn't end those negotiations; it broadens and extends them.

Defense hawks, however, should be careful what they wish for. Unless Congress changes current law, New Year's Day 2013 will bring both sequestration cuts and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, two outcomes Republicans wish to avoid. By exaggerating the impact of defense "cuts," conservatives are giving President Obama important leverage to win revenue increases in exchange for overturning sequestration.

It doesn't have to be this way, Friedman notes. Rather than bellyaching about a somewhat smaller spending increase, Panetta could offer an alternative that allows the Pentagon to choose more wisely among its priorities while bringing spending levels down to a level compatible with adequate national defense. That option would relieve pressure for tax increases while allowing the American people to enjoy the dividends from winding down two expensive wars. But if Eisenhower was right about the military-industrial complex's insatiable need to keep increasing its budget, size, and influence, it is foolish to expect any defense secretary to propose wiser spending, let alone agree to spend less. 

Contributing Editor Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

NEXT: The President of Guatemala Wants to Legalize Drugs, the President of El Salvador is Okay With Talking About It

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Pfft, another cowardly French person poo-pooing the military.

    What if the EU and the Global Caliphate and China all decide to team up and invade us? Where will we be then? Up shit creek without a paddle, that’s where!

    It’s like you want the terrorists to win.

    1. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Veronique is a agent provocatuer for the French Army? “Soften up their military bugnet and then we’ll attack.”

      1. *throws down weapon, raises hands*

        1. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends, and break all bonds of fellowship; but it is not this day! An hour of woe, and shattered shields, when the Age of Men comes crashing down; but it is not this day!

    2. What if the EU and the Global Caliphate and China all decide to team up and invade us?

      “We have NOTHING but PEACEFUL intentions in Kamchatka….”

      1. I’ve always held a special place in my heart for Irkutsk and Yakutsk. Not for their strategic values of course, but for the great defensive dice I seemed to have when holding those territories.

        1. I want to make a Risk movie where the Anzacs take over the world because they start off in Australia.

          1. The Aussie-Siamese strategy is definitely an option.

            1. Taking those Bastard Blue Colored European Territories always gives me a fucking headache!

              Why the fuck is it easier to take all of Green Asia than them?

              1. Why the fuck is it easier to take all of Green Asia than them?

                Because you’re playing with idiots?

                1. That’s probably PART of the reason but my “go to” pincer move utilizing parts of North Africa and Australia usually hands me Asia within 10 turns.

                  It seems like everybody is too busy pumping each others dicks over North America and Europe to realize what I’m up too and whoever manages to get their hands on one or the other ends up being the entrenched little shit I have to deal with last!

      2. “We have NOTHING but PEACEFUL intentions in Kamchatka….”

        I know you do, because Sarah Palin is watching you.

        1. I’ll give her something to WATCH while I conquer her frozen hell hole from Alberta!

          1. WAIT!

            That didn’t come out right…

    3. America has enough Nukes to blow up the whole world about 20 times over. No other country has a Navy that can cover the globe. America will die from within not without.

    4. Gojira, I hope this comment was written with tongue firmly in cheek. Obviously no one possessing even the slightest hint of intelligence believes that maintaining a global empire while bankrupting our country will prevent an invasion, even allowing for the tiniest possibility of such an absurdity.

      That last sentence really makes me wonder though: “want the terrorists to win”. Win what, specifically? If you’re referring to the objective of destroying our freedom – buddy, that ship has long sailed.

      Wake up and recognize the growing police state all around you.

    5. LOL – like the fanatical Muslims will ally with the anti-religious Chinese and the EU? I suppose your comment is a poor attempt at being ironic.

  2. While we should be alarmed by the inexorable growth of the military, the fact is that no one wants to see their own budget cut.

    I’ve worked in companies before (a long time ago, granted) and when management said that we would have less money this year, there is no end of bellyaching over it. I worked in an engineering department where 3 guys threatened to quit because they weren’t going to be able to buy a new computer that year.

    I think in any bureaucracy, the idea of budget cuts makes those in the department feel unimportant and unneccesary.

    That all said, the way to cut the budget is to ignore all the noise and do it. Then tell them that they can either figure out a way to squeeze by on a fortune or they can leave and let someone else figure it out.

    1. ^^this^^

      It’s exactly what those of us who survived in the auto industry have done.

      “ZOMG WE’LL NEVER MAKE IT IF WE CUT THOSE DOLLARS/PEOPLE/ADVERTISING/INVESTMENT/ETC!!!!!”

      “STFU or get the fuck out. That’s what you get – you get paid a lot to figure it out…do so or we’ll find someone who can.”

      And, amazingly, we’ve all figured it out! And continued to run BETTER with fewer people and things.

      Amazing what you can do when you just fucking do it…

    2. The military hasn’t grown in terms of personnel or equipment since the 80’s (other than some temporary stuff for deployments). The active component is about half the personnel it was in 1990.

      Cost has grown due to wars and expensive political programs like the F-35.

      1. Apart from that army of highly paid defense contractors that has overrun Northern Virginia, you mean. Good thing they’re not part of the defense budget…

      2. The procurement of the F-35 is only 1% of the total defense budget, though it is odd that the cost of the program is more than either the carrier replacement program or the acquisition of the new virignia class submarines.

        Research in new technologies and procurement of new equipment amounts to 32% of the budget. Payment of soldiers and the cost of operations accounts for 63% of the budeget, with most of that being in the operations section. While our military size is smaller than it was in the 80s we demand a lot more from them. Simply reassesing our strategic imperatives and realizing that whether or not some third rate country has dictator we like would do wonders for the budget.

    3. I think in any bureaucracy, the idea of budget cuts makes those in the department feel unimportant and unneccesary.

      Pretty much. Whether it’s the military, a corporation, or a college administration, the respective members of those institutions always seem to think that this should never happen to them, even though it inevitably does:

      http://www.oftwominds.com/blog…..e5-11.html

    4. Hard budgets cause manage by budget. Apple does not use this method.

    5. I agree – ignore them and slash their budget. It’s the only way to ensure my budget (which is reduced by the force of government) isn’t cut more and more until I no longer have one.

  3. Alt-text: “Magma”

    1. + one MILLLLLLLLION….

  4. “I am invincible!”

    That’s what that one computer geek guy in that one James Bond movie said…right before he was PWNED and got dead.

    So – be careful, ‘murca

  5. The problem is that TEAM RED has successfully conditioned their base to scream “teh terrorists are gonna killz us all” at even the mention of cutting the military, just like TEAM BLUE did with conditioning their base to scream “old peoplez and childrenz will die in the street” if anyone even thinks about cutting entitlements. So nothing gets cut, ever.

    1. Well, except for Jewish penises.

      1. Jimbo, stop trying to derail this thread into a circumcision argument, you child mutilating scumbag.

        “They took all my pork and they de-circumcised me and they gave me the cowboy hat! Mazeltoff, I’m dang Jewish now.”

        1. I don’t have to derail anything; all conversations that I participate in are implicitly about circumcision.

          1. You’re a madman, Wong Burger! This dick-ship will never fly!

            1. Are you sure they’re not…dicking around?

              No, they’re professionals. They crave dick…as we all do.

              1. You think, uh, maybe I could, uh, get my dick back? Oh, wait, you know what, maybe you should keep my dick…so you could, uh, hump yourself.

                1. Close the dick gate!

    2. ….well, ALMOST nothing….

    3. What about me?

    4. That, right there, is the source of all our budget problems, and the reason they won’t ever get fixed.

  6. Alt text: Panetta pantomimes the dreaded double bunny Foo Foo scenario.

  7. Leon Panetta – Barney Frank’s other evil identity.

    1. I think Leon has a little more baby-bomber in him than Barney does.

      1. So Leon and Barney are both catchers?

  8. “more than the next 14 largest military spenders combined and nearly six times more than the next biggest spender, China”

    This is the kicker to me. When a libertarian, liberal or liberaltarian criticizes defense spending a right-winger will take only a few seconds to say “Well, that’s a Constitutional or core function of government” as if that ends the argument. It might end the argument if someone were advocating NO defense spending, but no one I know is. They are advocating some figure much less than “more than the next 14 largest military spenders combined.”

    The Dems have been tepid on cutting defense, usually offering cuts in projected growth at best. But the GOP, man, the GOP, well, we know what they want to hear, because their #1 pitch man Willard has vowed to not only not cut projected spending but to actually raise projected spending.

    More than the other 14 is not enough, what if Skrulls attack us?

    1. Tepid on cutting defense? How ’bout ice cold?

      1. They love cutting military spending in other people’s districts, not so much in their own. Ask Chris Dodd (Colt).

        1. No kidding–one just has to look at any of the post-BRAC wrangling as evidence.

    2. MNG|2.14.12 @ 7:34PM|#
      “more than the next 14 largest military spenders combined and nearly six times more than the next biggest spender, China”.

      Strongly suggest “Post War” (Judt).
      At the end of WWII, Europe was pretty wiped out and the ‘governments’ (mostly French; De Gaulle was terrified) weren’t willing to demand their populations bear the cost of their actions. And anyone who argues the French got other than what they deserved is going to have to work pretty hard.
      The result was US largess to Europe, including ‘protection’, and like free-riders everywhere, the Euros decided they liked free stuff. And do to this day.
      I’m in favor of cutting the US military budget by, oh, 75% or so, and letting the Euros stare-down the bear and anyone else with designs on Europe.
      I’m tired of paying to protect those who won’t protect themselves.

      1. Oh, and cutting defense by 75% won’t mean a thing; entitlements will eat the savings in a year or so.

    3. Alright, MNG. I am here and on your side. Military spending for Defense.

    4. Amazingly, I agree 100% with a MNG post.

      2012 is truly the apocalypse!

      … Hobbit

    5. The Dems have been tepid on cutting defense, usually offering cuts in projected growth at best. But the GOP, man, the GOP

      You have incorrectly cast spending on defense as a partisan issue. Both parties like to spend on defense and for good political reasons, the main one being that most American voters, regardless of party, want America to have a dominant military. There are a small number of loud liberal peaceniks who constantly whine about cutting defense and always try to link decreased defense spending with increases in entitlements. The Dems rhetorically pander to those clowns, but, at the end of the day, the Dems, the Repubs and the national security establishment are all on the same page.

      Obama is going to take a major political hit from his leaked plans to consider dramatic, below treaty level cuts to the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The American people can probably be sold on reductions in defense by shifting some of the responsibility for defense back to some of America’s allies, but a dramatic reduction in nukes combined with a reduction in conventional forces without any verifiable treaty guarantees will make Obama look like he supports unilateral disarmament. That will definitely feed the narrative that Obama is an America-hating radical bent on wrecking the country.

      1. Good. That means we can get rid of both him and some of the excess spending.

      2. The sad thing is, cutting the nuclear arsenal doesn’t seem like it should be the highest priority. Cutting our foreign military commitments would make a lot more sense. The nuclear arsenal serves a useful deterrent purpose (though we can debate on how much is necessary).

        1. I am one of those Americans that would be ambivalent at best about cutting certain defense items, mainly in the development of new military technologies. I want our military to have the best, not just because I get to watch them blow shit up on the history channel, but because in the eventuallity, and there will always be another war, we do fight wars I want to minimize American casualties. But I recognize that our current foreign policy of sending our military to every third rate nation is not in our interst and only serves to make the world more unstable.

    6. I’ve lamented for years that that is a, perhaps the, major aspect of this problem. If defense is the primary thing gov’t is for, then the expansion of the rest of the nat’l budget is a great excuse to expand this to keep pace. Otherwise it’s like saying gov’t should be mostly for non-defense purposes.

  9. onetime I plucked out all my eyebrows and put them in a Sucrets tin.

  10. You can reduce spending quite a bit if you pay soldiers what they were paid in the 1950s, arm them with M1 Garands and steel helmets, equip the armored cavalry with Pershing tanks, and put the Air Force F-86 Sabres.

    I will readily agree that our government spends more on the military than it needs to. But comparing spending now to spending in the 1950s is silly. We’re a fabulously rich, modern, industrialized nation. It’s not koo-koo bananas to expect our soldiers to have holo sights and Kevlar.

    1. “It’s not koo-koo bananas to expect our soldiers to have holo sights and Kevlar.”
      OK, but don’t you see it as strange that the US has to spend X to do so, while everyone else seems to find X/20 does the same job?

      1. don’t you see it as strange that the US has to spend X to do so, while everyone else seems to find X/20 does the same job?

        Who is “everyone else” and what is “the same job”? The U.S. military does things that no other military can.

        You get what you pay for. Military procurement is extremely inefficient, probably in just about every society that is not facing an imminent existential threat. Unless common goals are created by the threat of everyone getting killed, politics and self-interest breed waste and corruption.

        On a positive note, chasing advanced military technology with oodles of money does produce some nifty spinoffs.

        1. “Who is “everyone else” and what is “the same job”?”
          Well, pretty much everyone in the world; who else is there?
          If the “same job” is self defense, most claim to do so.

          “The U.S. military does things that no other military can.”
          Yes, and I see no reason they should and no reason we should pay for it.

          “On a positive note, chasing advanced military technology with oodles of money does produce some nifty spinoffs.”
          Oh. Well in that case….

          1. I was merely making the point that you are wrong to say that the U.S. spends many times more to do the same job. The U.S. does not do the same job. Apples and oranges. As to what the U.S. should be doing with its military … well, that’s another matter.

            1. I don’t see it as a problem that America spends x times more than other nations, to me its irrelevant, its spending relative to what we need is what I care about. The US is one of three nations with a true blue water navy, and in fact the other two navies don’t even come close to our capabilities. I am perfectly content with a military that can project force around the world at a moments notice and secure our sea lanes. What I object to is the frequent misuse of that power as I see that as a waste of money, resources, and lives. I don’t want our spending to be on par with other nations, especially some spend dramatically less because of our defense umbrella. Return us to Pre Iraq and Afgahnistan levels, adjusted for inflation, and I’m fine.

        2. “The U.S. military does things that no other military can.”

          Agreed. Nobody bombs women and children quite like you ‘mercans.

          1. Look around the world, moron. Civilians die in war during military actions as a result of government actions. America didn’t invent the concept. Try to rein in your America-hate. It’s really unbecoming.

            1. Is it really “America hating” to suggest that our military should be used for defense purposes only, not for galavanting around the globe looking for the next enemy to fight?

            2. Americans may not have invented it, but no one else spreads the death and destruction globally for all to enjoy. Most just inflict it on their own citizens and neighbors.

            3. Americans may not have invented it, but no one else spreads the death and destruction globally for all to enjoy. Most just inflict it on their own citizens and neighbors.

    2. I think we should have the best-equipped military in the world. One that isn’t based all over the world at outrageous cost, and one that doesn’t get used in every Third World pissing match that isn’t any of our business.

      1. By and large I argree. I don’t give two shits about the third world and what they do. I do think we need some bases around the world for our navy, but 197 or something like that is pretty fucking excessive.

  11. One shouldn’t forget to take the full meaning of Eisenhower’s speech in context–reading the whole thing, you get the sense of a man who’s realized that the technocratic society which sprung up in the late 40s and early 50s would likely spin completely out of control. It’s about as conservative a speech as you could get in that era, and I can’t imagine anyone from either Team making it today, because it’s a direct rebuke to the messianic view of the philosophy that technology and planning can solve whatever plagues humanity.

    Consider:

    Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research — these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.

    But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs — balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage — balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.

    Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

    And here’s the money shot:
    As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage.

    1. Great excerpt.

    2. I always liked Eisenhower, though I admit he wasn’t the most liberterian of presidents. The last paragraph makes me like him even more.

      1. The sad thing is that he comes off like the most wild-eyed libertarian in the world compared to the current crop of Republicrats.

        He was a very smart man and clearly foresaw what was coming.

  12. What’s called for is a serious restructuring.

    The army should be dramatically smaller, essentially to provide training cadre if we ever need to ramp up to a full(er) mobilization. A large standing army is a temptation few nations have ever resisted the temptation to use. Cycle non-career rank-and-file types through on shorter rotations, so you have a reserve that will work if you need to mobilize. I’m thinking you would have what you needed to fight a serious war in time to fight it, if you had to, but not enough of a standing army to go adventuring.

    Probably cut the current army by at least a half or more. When we do have to cut it after the fiscal crash, I hope this is the model they use.

    1. The counter-argument is that modern weapons systems are long-term development projects, and there’s a validity to that argument.
      But even if that’s true, how come the US has to spend what it does while others threatened at least as much as the US can get along with far less?
      Either we’re spending too much, or they’re spending too little, or a combination.
      I’m guessing the latter, but let’s cut our spending (and adventures) until the others start covering their defense.

      1. All for cutting the adventures. And it is true. The average new aircraft takes 20 years to field. And 2+ years to train a pilot. Spinning up a military just prior to a war is a thing of the distant past.

        how come the US has to spend what it does while others threatened at least as much as the US can get along with far less?

        Because they know we will fight their battles for them.

        NATO spends NOTHING on defense because WE are willing to spend it for them.

        1. “The average new aircraft takes 20 years to field.”
          I’m afraid you’re fighting the last war here. If that’s true, which adversary is spending the cost for 20 years of development to oppose the US?
          Defense is never a given; it’s a method of defending against a presumed adversary. Who is that adversary, and why does it cost us 20X what they spend to oppose them?

          “NATO spends NOTHING on defense because WE are willing to spend it for them.”
          Couldn’t agree more. The exact reason we need to cut defense spending to the bone.

          1. In the case of China, it would be six times, not 20. And it’s not a matter of identifying the current threat. It’s a matter of identifying/predicting a future threat. If it takes 20 years to field a new piece of equipment, the piece you currently have needs to be good enough to defeat any threat an adversary can field for the next 20 years. AND the Russians and the Chinese are designing 5th gen weapons with capabilities similar to our own. You can never stagnate or you’ll be surpassed.

            NOW, that said, there is no reason we can’t adopt a national strategy that would allow for a greatly reduced footprint.

            With military cuts, the devil is in the details. There’s plenty to cut, but if you cut the wrong things you can really shoot yourself in the foot down the road.

            I persoanlly think RP has the right idea. It costs a shitload to be able to project force throughout the world. You can save a significant amount of money by not requiring your military to sustain the capability to poke everyone else in the chest. Bring them home. Use them for defensive purposes. But keep the capability to deploy when necessary and keep the technological advantage.

            1. I persoanlly think RP has the right idea. It costs a shitload to be able to project force throughout the world. You can save a significant amount of money by not requiring your military to sustain the capability to poke everyone else in the chest. Bring them home. Use them for defensive purposes. But keep the capability to deploy when necessary and keep the technological advantage.

              This. 100% agreement. The only change I would add is the one on projecting force. Projecting force, while still expensive, doesn’t have to be as expensive as it is if we limit our selves to a few key installations to support naval logistics. There isn’t really a reason why we should have bases in the fucking middle of the Eurasian contentinent as it has almost nothing to do with us. Limit our precense to a few of the smaller island nations, and when I mean presence I simply mean base that is nothing more than a glorified refueling station.

              1. I also feel compelled to mention Ron Pauls repsonse to a paticular reporter who asked him what he would do if say the Suez or Panama Canal were siezed by a hostile foreign power.

                His response:

                “I would take time to assess the situation and if I felt it was a threat to our interests and security I would then petition congress for the authorization to declare war, get in, and get it over with.”

                I wish Ron Paul would spend more time using specific examples like these since it makes him seem nothing like an isolationist or unwilling to defend Americas interest. It makes it sound like there would still be an America that could project force in the world but do so more carefully and thats what he needs to stress. The neo-cons aren’t entirely wrong when they mention Americas hegemonic capabilities as a stabilizing influence. Yes, the ability for one nation to keep the seaways open and defend its allies does have that effect. The problem now is the way we use it appears so irrational. We pick and choose nations to support without really thinking about the long term consequences. Sure signing a military treaty with Japan and the UK probably won’t have any negative consequences 50 years later. But then you have nations like Iraq, Iran, Egypt, or groups like the mujahadeen.

  13. The left loves to talk about the “military industrial complex”, but anytime tax dollars are disbursed, no matter what the program, a feed back loop gets created – the recipients inject some of their handouts back into the political system in order to keep the money coming. I worry more about money spent on foreign aid than the MIC. There is something distasteful about U.S. tax dollars being used to subvert U.S. sovereignty and influence U.S. foreign policy.

    1. “I worry more about money spent on foreign aid than the MIC. There is something distasteful about U.S. tax dollars being used to subvert U.S. sovereignty and influence U.S. foreign policy.”

      I’ll agree that foreign aid is largely a waste, but it’s even smaller than the savings we’d get by cutting the defense budget; ~1% if we eliminated it entirely.
      But, yes, cut it entirely; at best it pays both sides to fight each other.

      1. The size of the foreign aid budget relative to the defense budget is not the problem. The problem is that if the U.S. gives another country say a billion dollars and that country launders 10% of that billion back into the U.S. political system, it can dramatically affect elections and policy. In effect, the foreign aid can be leveraged by the recipient country to manipulate the U.S., with its big, expensive military, into fighting wars.

        There are times when handing out a little dough just makes sense, for instance, to encourage a dictator to step down into a comfortable retirement rather than letting a country disintegrate into an ugly and regionally destabilizing civil war, but shelling out billions and billions year after year is a really bad idea.

        1. “I worry more about money spent on foreign aid than the MIC. ”

          Straight out of the Republitard talking book. Jeebus, some of you people are fkn retarded. Foreign aid is a fraction of a fraction of a FRACTION of your military spending.
          Fkn Retards. No wonder your country is insolvent.

          1. Don’t bother to read and understand what I wrote, fool. And don’t be so proud of whatever it is your country does. From the sounds of it, you are equating foreign aid with humanitarian aid and puffing yourself up with pride that your country hands out a few coins in humanitarian aid, but whatever it disburses, it is dwarfed by the humanitarian aid handed out by the U.S. government and by private U.S. citizens. If you would like to disclose your nationality, perhaps we can discuss the solvency of your country’s government.

            Incidentally, worrying about foreign aid is not a Republican Party talking point so maybe you should also learn something about U.S. politics before blessing the internet with your insight.

  14. When U.S. defense spending is placed in a global context, flipping out over “cuts” becomes even stranger. A country’s defense budget should be a function of its security needs?the cost to guard against the threats it faces.

    The second sentence is the kicker. The U.S. doesn’t spend merely to guard against direct threats. It spends to be the world’s policeman and to manage regional balances of power. The proper role of the U.S. in promoting or not promoting global stability is where the real debate should focus. Wildeyed harrumphing about the dollar amounts spent by the U.S. compared to other countries is silly and simplistic.

    1. “The proper role of the U.S. in promoting or not promoting global stability is where the real debate should focus.”
      Yes, and I can see no reason the US should adopt that role’.

      “Wildeyed harrumphing about the dollar amounts spent by the U.S. compared to other countries is silly and simplistic.”
      What’s “wildeyed” about seeing 20 to 30 times others’ budgets?

      1. Yes, and I can see no reason the US should adopt that role’.

        That is a position that should be asked and debated thoroughly.

        What’s “wildeyed” about seeing 20 to 30 times others’ budgets?

        It is not reasonable to make the comparison. Apples and oranges.

        Certainly, it is reasonable to ask what would be the effect of cutting the U.S. military budget by a factor of 10, but incorporated into that calculation would have to be the effect on the world. You can’t just look at the budget bottom line in isolation. Doing so is simplistic to the point of being meaningless. It’s much like comparing the per capita healthcare expenditures in Britain versus the U.S. – the systems are so different that comparing costs alone is meaningless.

  15. Nuke the Mofos

  16. I can’t listen to a “military-industrial complex-give-peace-a-chance” argument without thinking of a certain bumper sticker slogan:

    It’ll be a great day when education gets all the money it wants and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers.

    It just serves to remind me that I have no hope of understanding how certain people think. That’s really the nicest thing I can say about people who don’t think national defense has the greatest consequences of any government endeavor. There seems to be such a stark difference in mindsets between defense and anti-defense types that debate is utterly pointless.

  17. “The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.”
    George Orwell

  18. The Department of Defense routinely signs the US taxpayer up to procurement contracts with weapons makers that put us on the hook to pay them $1.10 for every $1.00 they spend designing and developing new weapons. Then we wonder why weapons take so long and cost so much to develop. Wouldn’t you like to find someone with really deep pockets that would give you $1.10 for every dollar you spent on, oh, anything? What a great scam that would be, right? Money for nothing. But apparently this method of doing business is just great for you taxpaying idiots, because they do this in plain sight. They’re done it for several decades now, and no one’s said a thing.

  19. You need to know there is the view of Ike has having been very disingeuous, dishonest, hypocritical, and cowardly in his farewell address about the military industrial complex. He fathered the CIA and approved of the murderous coups it sponsored and enabled. And as president he preside over the complex did he not?

    Gary Brumback

  20. I know you needed to sound reasonable and all, but “defense…is being targeted disproportionately” is not a legitimate gripe when we outspend the rest of the world on “defense.” Prioritized cuts would be better than across the board cuts but overall, opponents have no leg to stand on.

  21. I could cut the Dept. of Defense (I prefer the Dept. of Indiscriminate Slaughter) by $500 billion the first YEAR and that includes what those arrested adolescents fight their wars with.

  22. We are a warlike people. At war through our history more often than at peace, always searching for our next enemy. We have no real threats, except, perhaps, our own Department of Defense.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.