Election 2016

Would Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, or Bernie Sanders Stop America From Being World Police?

U.S. military spending dwarfs that of every other country. And we're pledged to defend 25% of humanity.

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Washington Post

As New Hampshire voters cast their ballots in the nation's first 2016 presidential primary, here's a question worth asking of the candidates from either party: Which ones, if any, would definitely reduce military spending? The short answer: maybe Bernie Sanders but probably not even him.

Among the Republicans, there is only talk of increasing spending on defense. Indeed, Tea Party faves Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio even pushed a spending measure that would increase the Pentagon's budget without offsetting spending anywhere else. When it comes to rockets' red glare, they're all in, as is the rest of the GOP field, with the exception of Donald Trump (who recently announced that he would keep hold spending constant but increase efficiency and reduce waste).

Washington Post

Hillary Cinton is a well-known hawk who is very much committed to keeping America "strong," by which she (and all pols) mean lining the pockets of the military-industrial complex. Even Bernie Sanders, the least hawkish of the remaining candidates and a vocal critic of 21st-century American wars, hedges his commitment to cutting defense spending this way: "Bernie firmly rejects any increase to defense spending at the cost of cuts to domestic social spending" [emphasis added].

Regardless of the massive amounts of dollars already being spent by the United States, expect the drumbeat for ever-larger defense expenditures to pick up going forward.

Despite the end of active engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, the IISS Military Balance, a report that looks at global defense-related trends, states,

Contrasted with rising powers, defense budgets in Europe clearly seemed to be stagnating if not dropping. Britain saw its defense budget drop from $62 billion to $56.2 billion, for example, despite still relevant threats like the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Just four out of 26 European partners of NATO now meet the agreed spending aim of 2 percent of GDP, leaving a gap of almost $100 billion to reach the target.

More here.

That sound that you're hearing is the sound of cash registers ringing in defense contractors' offices all throughout the Beltway and beyond. The pitch for America to step up now to save the planet practically writes itself.

HT: Chris Preble's Twitter feed.

On top of the sheer amount of money being spent, the United States is committed via treaties and other security agreements to come to the defense of a huge chunk of the globe's population. From The Washington Post:

69 countries have some form of defense pact with the United States, and…they make up around 75 percent of the world's economic output…. The combined population of these countries and the United States itself is in excess of 2 billion.

More on that here.

If foreign policy motivates you in your voting, it's worth figuring out which if any candidate expresses your views on the matter.

Last month, Reason TV talked with David Vine, an American University anthropologist whose new book, Base Nation, looks at the costs and consequences of the U.S. military maintaining 800 bases around the globe outside the United States. The cost just for those operations comes in around $150 billion per year which is, as Vine notes, "huge." More than that, though, he argues that having so many personnel in so many places actually makes us less safe by stretching resources and increasing the odds of small events blowing up into international incidents. Take a look now:

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  1. What was it George Washington said as he was leaving office? Something about “always get involved in as many entangling alliances as possible”? The exact quote escapes me.

    1. Well, one of the Founders warned about the dangers of a standing army. Which means we need to spend more every year so they have places to sit and lie down.

  2. Among the Republicans, there is only talk of increasing spending on defense.

    Now that Rand Paul has taken his ball and gone home.

    1. Why, just yesterday there was a post on Trump promising to freeze military spending.

    2. Nope. Rand Paul was going to increase military spending. Good thing he took that ball and went home.

      1. He said at least twice in the debates that he was the only fiscal conservative running, because he would cut military spending along with everything else. Which cost him the votes of many cowardly, bloodthirsty Republican primary voters.

        1. He can say what he wants. His actions say differently…he proposed a budget amendment that would increase military spending by 16%.

  3. “Bernie firmly rejects any increase to defense spending at the cost of cuts to domestic social spending”

    Translation: We can always just keep printing more money!

    I thought Bernie would be better than that at least on defense spending.

    1. Just more proof that Bernie doesn’t know what the f*** he’ stalking about most of the time. Part of me wants him to win, because his economic plan will never get through, but he would be less likely to be a hawk and a drug warrior. But who knows.

      1. “t he would be less likely to be a hawk and a drug warrior. But who knows.”

        This pretends that policies like the Drug War are dictated from on high in the executive branch, and that national defense isn’t largely in the hands of the Pentagon and merely rubber stamped by the CinC

  4. the United States is committed via treaties and other security agreements to come to the defense of a huge chunk of the globe’s population

    Hahahahaha!

    Like the US Gov is committed to following the constitution, and remaining a federal government of specifically delegated and enumerated powers?

    1. Wasn’t there something in the deal where the Ukraine gave it’s nukes to Russia, while we were “committed” to defending Ukraine’s territorial integrity from Russian aggression?

      How’d that work out in Crimea?

      I’m interested in seeing just what NATO will be “committed” to do should things really heat up between Russia and Turkey. My guess – not much.

      1. World War I started because countries made commitments to defend each other. Really need to stop committing.

      2. Clinton signed a piece of paper but he never got Congress to sign off on it so it was worthless

    2. “Like the US Gov is committed to following the constitution…”

      The return is nil for that team of wicked fucks who exist to design and control societies for any number of reasons from moral to financial.

  5. The gloomy tears of untold millionaires would flood Washington up to the toes of Lincoln’s memorial if you forced defense/security/law enforcement contractors to adhere to a strict cash diet.

    …sort of like a baby trying to chew the head off of a living lion.

  6. “Would Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, or Bernie Sanders Stop America From Being World Police?”

    No. We aren’t the world’s police just for the hell of it. We are protecting our commercial interests.

    1. Making the world safe for more Walmarts, McDonalds and Call Centers.

    2. And by “commercial interests” you mean the commerce of such American firms as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Boeing.

      1. and Chevron, ADM, GoldmanSachs, and pretty much everyone listed on the NYSE and AMEX.

  7. Given the runners up in terms of military are run by communists and by a dictator, both of which have shown they’re not just going to sit at home, I’m kinda okay with our place as #1.

    1. ” I’m kinda okay with our place as #1″

      Depends on how one quantifies being #1. The mystery of military budgeting could be solved without the fucking defense industry whining like the creepy shits they morph into under the illumination of important discussions on efficiency and stewardship.

      The US military squanders innumerable billions and has wasted trillions in Iraq. Not a fucking fantastic record for an el numero uno.

    2. I don’t mind outspending Russia and China on a raw dollar basis either. That said, I’d much prefer it be spent on domestic military bases and R&D than standing armies abroad and active wars. I think if you focus on the first two then you can shave off a lot of deficit spending with little impact on the safety of Americans.

  8. Expect larger defense spending going forward? Yeah, Nick, even if the guy you would have voted for was still in it.

    “In an olive branch to defense hawks hell-bent on curtailing his White House ambitions, the libertarian Senator (Rand Paul) introduced a budget amendment late Wednesday calling for a nearly $190 billion infusion to the defense budget over the next two years?a roughly 16 percent increase.”

    At least Sanders doesn’t advocate increasing military spending. And he is the one candidate left who actually advocates not taking actions that make us the “world’s policeman.” And it’s interventions that make us that, not necessarily dollars alone.

    Being the cop to the world concerns you? Guess you’ll vote for Sanders.

    1. Spending for defense is directly related to the threat encountered – a threat that reached right into the heartland of San Berdoo.

  9. Would Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, or Bernie Sanders Stop America From Being World Police?

    No, because ultimately they’re facing down a Congress who actually votes for or against whatever we’re calling a budget these days, and, in most cases, if you’re a member of Congress you either have a base or two in your district, you’ve got a military contractor providing a bunch of jobs in your district, and/or you don’t want to appear soft on defense. Besides, the minute Congress actually finds the stones to even reduce the increase in defense spending (which they’ll call a cut to appear fiscally responsible) some jihadi will throw a grenade in a mall or Vlad will decide he may as well have the rest of Ukraine and the Congresscritters will be falling all over themselves to vote for an emergency budget increase.

    Fact is, nobody, Sanders included, is really serious about cutting military spending. The Dem version is what they call “smart” power, which just means shuffling off proportionately more money to defense contractors for R&D, but it’s still money. Rand Paul was the closest in the current race, and even he wasn’t proposing an absolute cut to defense spending, IIRC.

    1. No, Paul actually proposed increasing the military budget.

      1. Well, from your link, he offsets it with a $212 billion cut elsewhere, but what I’m getting at (and what isn’t made clear in the article) is whether or not the increase proposed in the bill is less than the scheduled increase which was already in effect.

        A classic trick practiced by both politicians and the media is to refer to changes in scheduled budget increases one way or another in order to make political hay. For instance, let’s say something is slated to be given $20 as an initial budget, with a $15 dollar increase over three years. A Congressperson can vote for an amendment reducing the increase to, say, $13, and then say with something like a straight face that he or she voted for a budget increase AND reduced spending.

        1. Fair enough, and your overriding point is true anyway. Regardless of the position of any of these candidates, it matters what Congress decides, and they aren’t cutting military spending.

          Although, there is always hope…see the sequester.

          Which everyone sadly wants to go away.

  10. i think the biggest problem with government spending is the idea that it has to go up, or services go down. everyone knows there is waste fraud and abuse. everyone knows there are massive inefficiencies. everyone knows we could do more, with less money, if we eliminated the mess. while i generally hate trump, this is one thing he has said that makes sense. every business in America has proven they can cut costs, while maintaining output….. been a trend for decades. the military is so mismanaged, there is an entire industry set up to use what they throw away.

    1. Yeah, but the problem with the whole Trump-as-CEO-in-Chief strategy is that you still don’t solve the fundamental problem of government, which is that they’re playing with house money.

  11. FIGHTER JETZ!

  12. Looking at that map, why the heck does the US have such high spending on “defense”? We are one of 3 (large) countries in N America and Canada sure as heck isn’t going to invade!

    As for any who whine about Mexican immigration, remember that there are still mechanisms for the states to “defend” themselves, either through the “national” guard or the militia…

    Smedley Butler was right.

    1. “Canada sure as heck isn’t going to invade!”

      We’ll see if you care so much about your fiscal restraint when the hoards of Polar-bear-riding-Commie-Canucks come down on us!! Do you want your children speaking French and force-fed maple syrup at every meal?!

      1. Well, to be fair, in order to come down from Canada, they’d have to come through me first. Not terribly likely.

        Not that the Canadians north of me speak French anyhow.

  13. That $598 Billion is only really a portion of our real Defense Budget. Our government splits the real cost into parcels so we, the taxpayers never really know what that massive total is. That ‘Defense Budget’ should be renamed to what it really is “Our present Military Preparedness Budget”. This is only the cost to remain militarily prepared. You may remember that when we really go to war, we have to run up extra costs, such as the $3 Trillion for the two Bush wars.

    What’s left out of ‘Defense Spending” (or parceled into other budgets) are the following: VA costs, FBI, CIA, NSA, DHS, TSA, Foreign Aid (foreign bribes in essence), Military aid to foreign countries, Military use of NASA, etc, etc, and of course the pro-rata interest on all the above, which contributes to our national debt. (Unlike Social Security for example, there is no FICA on your paycheck to fund all of the aforementioned.)

    A couple of years ago, I did a back of napkin calculation and came up with $1.3 Trillion per year. Others that are more in the know than I have calculated the costs to the US taxpayer as being between $1.5 and $1.7 Trillion per year. That’s an absurd amount.

    1. Does the phrase “Better to have a gun and not need it, than to need a gun and not have it”, sound familiar?
      We live in a time where guns are being pointed at us from all directions, and yet many want us to unilaterally disarm.
      That was a prescription for World Peace 40 years ago, and it didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.
      Remember:
      AN ARMED SOCIETY IS A POLITE SOCIETY!
      But, first you have to be armed.

  14. Why is our defense budget so much larger than anyone else’s?
    Perhaps for the same reason that a Gates, Getty, et al, had higher walls around their properties:
    They’ve got so much more to protect.

    1. The real reason is because a large portion of the country is insanely paranoid and doesn’t mind government waste one bit. They don’t mind stealing other people’s money to ease their unwarranted fears.

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