Donald Trump

Trump's Military Budget Is Not NATO's Fault

Trump leaves the impression that Americans shoulder an unnecessarily large military burden because some NATO members underfund their military establishments. But that's nonsense.

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ROBERT GHEMENT/EPA/Newscom

President Trump's budget proposal would increase military spending $54 billion, not quite a 10 percent increase over the current level. According to Quartz, the increase alone is more than all but two countries—China and Saudi Arabia—spend on their militaries. (China spends $145 billion, Saudi Arabia $57 billion, Russia $47 billion, and Iran $16 billion, the International Institute for Strategic Studies reports.)

Meanwhile, Trump implies that NATO members take advantage of America by not paying enough for own defense. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Washington recently, Trump tweeted: "Germany owes … vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!"

As we've come to expect, Trump gets it wrong. NATO members don't pay dues to NATO, and they don't pay the United States for defense. However, NATO requires members to budget at least 2 percent of their GDP for their own militaries. Some members haven't spent that much, but that has changed in recent years.

Trump leaves the impression that Americans shoulder an unnecessarily large military burden because some NATO members underfund their military establishments. But that's nonsense because that's not how things work in Washington. Americans don't pay more because Germans Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese, and Norwegians pay less.

At other times Trump seems to acknowledge this. In his campaign he never said the U.S. military budget would be smaller if NATO members paid up. Rather, he said he wanted to make America "strong again"—so strong that no one would dare "mess with us." His budget message said, "In these dangerous times, this public safety and national security Budget Blueprint is a message to the world—a message of American strength, security, and resolve." His address to a joint session of Congress also did not justify greater military spending by pointing to how little the allies spend. It was all about making America "great again."

In other words, Trump's proposed increase is "signaling"—the American military is already powerful beyond imagination—and this signaling has little to do with NATO members' spending. We have no reason to think his Pentagon budget would be smaller if suddenly other NATO members hiked their military budgets.

Signaling is not the only driver of military spending. The U.S. government maintains an empire, and empires are bloody expensive. They also generate their own need for greater resources. For example, the so-called war on terror, especially the repeated bombing of noncombatants, provokes a desire for vengeance against Americans, which in turn functions as a justification for greater military spending. And so it goes.

Moreover, the Pentagon, as a bureaucracy, exhibits the well-known internal dynamic for expansion. Civilian and military administrators have a natural desire to enlarge their domains and enhance their prestige. Similarly, those who wish to sell products and services to the government—The Complex—have an interest in the growth of the military budget and can be counted on to lobby for it. Finally, members of Congress can advance their careers by maintaining and bringing jobs and military facilities to their states and districts. When the budget sequester was pending, a leading Democratic and progressive member of Congress, Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, opposed limits on the growth of military spending because they might reduce jobs in his district. We've all heard stories about legislators authorizing weapons that the Pentagon did not want because of the supposed economic stimulus in their states. Military Keynesian is as mistaken as other Keynesianism: if the government doesn't spend the money, private individuals will spend or invest it.

Trump may think that the American military is not powerful enough because its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have dragged on for more than a decade and other wars, such as those in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, show no signs of success. Trump's mistake is in believing that such failure indicates weakness, but in fact it shows that those wars by nature are unwinnable, short of nuking the countries and killing everyone—in which case new conflicts would be provoked.

Instead of increasing the military budget, we ought to be debating the imperial mission the budget finances. We can't afford the empire—both in terms of the money it costs and the enemies it creates.

This piece was originally published by The Libertarian Institute.

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  1. Why not a budget of say about 50% more than your nearest competitor as a starting place?

  2. From Flanders and Swann:

    “The Germans are German; the Russians are red,
    And the Greeks and Italians eat garlic in bed!”

  3. As we’ve come to expect, Trump gets it wrong. NATO members don’t pay dues to NATO, and they don’t pay the United States for defense.

    Trump thinks Germany owes the United States money. Surprise! Trump doesn’t know how NATO works. So the “outsider” who was going to bring a “fresh” perspective to government and “drain the swamp” while “making America great again” turns out to be a slogan-slinging ignoramus who is hopelessly out of his depth in both domestic and world affairs. Who could have predicted this?

    1. Not SIV anyhow.

      1. There is no shortage of Cheeto-Gobblers in this chat room.

        1. “There is no shortage of Cheeto-Gobblers in this chat room.”

          From one who sucks the hag’s ass.
          You lost, loser.

        2. Nah, it is just the same three or four Drumpf taint suckers pretending to be libertarians. Still smarting from Friday’s disaster. Sevo just loves the adventure finding Drumpf’s dick to suck. The hunt is an adventure in itself for him. Has he ever done much more than “leftist, slaver, statist” and insults that he kissed his dead mother with?

          1. Damned|3.26.17 @ 9:49PM|#
            “Nah, it is just the same three or four Drumpf taint suckers pretending to be libertarians.”

            From one who sucks the hag’s ass.
            You lost, loser.

            1. From one who sucks the hag’s ass.
              Wait, you suck his ass too?

              You lost, loser.
              Given that you suck his taint and ass, don’t think so.

              1. “Given that you suck his taint and ass, don’t think so.”

                Loser, let’s see one cite where I defend Trump.
                Oh, and you LOST, loser.

      2. Notice how most of the regular commenters have up and quit this shit factory of a blog? Many of them were my harshest critics yet their reasons for leaving pretty much echoed much of my 10 year long critique.

        As countless commenters have begrudgingly conceded: “SIV is right”

        1. “Many of them were my harshest critics yet their reasons for leaving pretty much echoed much of my 10 year long critique.”

          Bull
          .
          .
          .
          shit.

        2. Countless? I must have missed it.

          1. SIV just can’t count very high is all.

        3. “SIV is right. A rooster’s cloaca does tighten up when you punch it in the wattle.”

        4. Wow. Genuine delusions of grandeur are as sad as they are fascinating.

    2. I love the intellectual content if this thread…

  4. “Germany owes ? vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!”

    Just part of that 7-D wizard chess hypnotic manipulation crap – it’s not a literal concrete statement, it’s an opening bid for negotiations. Kinda like the Obamacare bill Trump and Ryan tried passing, it was just an opening bid to see which members of the GOP were willing to drop their pants and bend over like good little puppets and which would agree to haggle over the price and which ones weren’t willing to take it up the ass at all. And now we know.

  5. OT:
    “Empires of the Silk Road”, Christopher I. Beckwith
    (pg 266)…”The institution of compulsory national education in all modern republics brought with it the indoctrination of children in the ideology of “democracy” so they would not oppose the programs of those who held actual political power but would unwittingly support them.”

    Guy teaches at Indiana University; hope he’s tenured….

  6. More OT:
    “Watch Ted Koppel Tell Sean Hannity That Hannity Is ‘Bad for America’ ? to His Face ”
    (actually, he doesn’t; that’s the Chron trying to spin the story. He calls all ‘opinion shows’ bad. But here’s the money quote:)
    “To explain the evolution of the increasingly partisan American media, Koppel pointed to a 1987 decision by the Federal Communications Commission to overturn the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which stipulated that radio and television programs had to present both sides of a political question on air.
    Free of the Fairness Doctrine, Rush Limbaugh and conservative talk radio exploded into a political force of nature,” Koppel said.”
    http://www.sfgate.com/entertai…..028693.php

    Yes, you read that right. Once the government stopped supporting Koppel’s views people started watching those who disagreed!
    Fucking slaver…

    1. There’s never more than two sides to anything, after all.

      1. My side and the wrong side?

  7. Sheldon is slipping. Israel not mentioned once in an article about defense spending.

    1. That’s cause…JOOOOSE!

  8. From the article: ” Americans don’t pay more because Germans Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese, and Norwegians pay less.”

    Yes, actually, Americans do pay more because Germans Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese, and Norwegians pay less, you moron. If our NATO allies paid more, the alliance would be more secure with lower levels of US spending and our allies would be able to assist the US with military operations not directly in the NATO area.

    So, you are exactly wrong, Mr. Richman.

  9. dcscdcsdc

  10. Wish we could stop the madness but it looks like the petulant hawks are in control till it all blows up.

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