Donald Trump

'Peace Through Strength' Is a Racket

The way to achieve peace is not to prepare for war but to reject militarism and empire, and embrace nonintervention.



Donald Trump has embraced the popular "peace through strength" doctrine (PTSD) with his characteristic panache: "I'm going to make our military so big, so powerful, so strong, that nobody—absolutely nobody—is gonna to mess with us," Trump has said.

On other occasions he's said similar things: "We want to defer, avoid and prevent conflict through our unquestioned military strength" (same link) and, a year ago, "Nobody is going to mess with us. Nobody. It will be one of the greatest military build-ups in American history."

I will acknowledge that the PTSD has surface appeal. Why not show the world the United States is so awesomely powerful that no one in his right mind would even think to get on its wrong side? It seems to make sense in a practical sort of way.

Once people believe that, of course, they are softened up to accept unlimited military spending and the concomitant deficits and debt. As John T. Flynn used to say, military spending is a favorite of big-government types precisely because the conservatives won't object. Conservatives rail against even small amounts of so-called foreign aid and welfare, but they drool over monstrous sums for the armed forces and spy agencies. (Thankfully, some conservatives don't.)

Progressives, by the way, are not immune to the allure of military spending. When a Pentagon budget cap was debated a few years ago, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina), a leading progressive and a Black Caucus leader, opposed it because he feared losing jobs in his district.

Military spending thus has something for nearly everybody: strength for conservatives; economic stimulus for progressives. The conservative Keynesians like both justifications.

It takes only a few minutes to see that the "peace through strength" doctrine is a racket intended (by some of its advocates at least) to gull the unsuspecting populace into supporting whatever the war party and the Pentagon want. It is handy for parrying the antimilitarist' charge that its espousers are dangerously reckless, if not outright warmongers. "We're not warmongers," they can reply. "A military second to none will prevent war and promote peace. We're the peaceniks. You doves are the promoters of war." They are also likely to quote (without knowing the source) Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus's De re militari, "If you want peace, prepare for war."

Brilliant!—but the doctrine encases a racket just the same, much as "war is a racket," as the highly decorated U.S. Marine Maj. Gen Smedley Butler put it. I'd like to meet the grifter who thought it up.

At least one thick book could be written on the flaws in the doctrine. I can sum them up by invoking the law of unintended consequences and the law of perverse incentives, by which I mean the well-established public-choice problems regarding policymaking and voter interest. People may have the best intentions in supporting the PTSD, but they have absolutely no reason to believe the policy would be carried out as they envision. We must expect the worse, or as David Hume charmingly wrote, "Political writers have established it as a maxim, that, in contriving any system of government, … every man ought to be supposed a knave." Had we listened to Hume, many fewer things would have gone awry.

Trump's deployment of the PTSD suggests that the U.S. military isn't already powerful enough to deter an attack. But that is balderdash. The government now spends more on the military than the next 12 countries combined. The recent increase alone was bigger than Russia's entire military budget.

But that is an understatement because the Pentagon budget is far from the total amount the U.S. government spends on "national security." Robert Higgs wrote in 2007:

Hardly anyone appreciates that the total amount of all defense-related spending greatly exceeds the amount budgeted for the Department of Defense. Indeed, it is roughly almost twice as large….

Lodged elsewhere in the budget, however, other lines identify funding that serves defense purposes just as surely as—sometimes even more surely than—the money allocated to the Department of Defense. On occasion, commentators take note of some of these additional defense-related budget items, such as the Department of Energy's nuclear-weapons programs, but many such items, including some extremely large ones, remain generally unrecognized.

Thus when George W. Bush formally proposed to spend $583 billion on the military in fiscal 2008, Higgs calculated the real tab at $934.9 billion. The story is the same today. We may reasonably ask: how can Trump know the military isn't already powerful enough to deter any would-be attacker and how can he know that spending less would make Americans less safe? What we have here is a knowledge problem, which politicians and bureaucrats are likely to exploit in favor of more spending.

By PTSD standards, no amount of spending is enough: "If I'm wrong," the militarist will say, "we'll blow a few bucks. If you're wrong, we'll be speaking Russian, Chinese, Arabic, or Farsi."

The war party tries to bolster its case by claiming the U.S. military was hollowed out by Barack Obama; thus we must rebuild. Bullfeathers! As Nick Gillespie of Reason pointed out a year ago:

There's little doubt that the military is exhausted. Since 2001, we've been waging endless wars, including in countries against whom we've never officially declared war. We're still in Afghanistan and Iraq, of course, and all signs point to boots on the ground in Syria sooner or later. War footing isn't simply expensive (even if we're spending less on "overseas contingency operations" that we did in the mid-Aughts), it introduces incredible strain and stress throughout the military and society at home.

But depleted, underfunded, undersized, unready? Please. Defense spending ratcheted up during the Bush years in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq. It hasn't come close to coming back down. In a nation that has supposedly wound down two of its longest wars and where the principal threat to the homeland is a group of religious extremists who live thousands of miles away (and are, lest we forget, a byproduct of our own failed occupation of the Middle East), we always need more money for defense, right?

To be sure, Trump has doubled down on all the Bush-Obama wars, but those have nothing to do with the safety of Americans. Therefore the personnel could be brought home and the military budget cut.

To put things into perspective, when Dwight Eisenhower was president, at the start of the Cold War, his annual military budgets for seven out of his eight years were under $400 billion (in 2012 dollars)—less than Harry Truman bequeathed him. So why does Trump need $716 billion today (to use the official but incomplete figure) when the Soviet Union is long gone, Russia's military gets only $47 billion, and China, which spends $192.5, is a major trading partner? (We'll get to Iran and North Korea shortly.)

Another objection to the PTSD is the temptation the overgrown military establishment presents to policymakers. This was best articulated by Bill Clinton's secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, who recounts in her memoir how—in the late 1990s, as Clinton was looking to intervene against Serbia—she asked Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell, "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about if we can't use it?" Here was the supposed chief diplomat more or less saying, "We've got this big hammer, so why not see every problem as a nail."

Government officials, hiding behind classified material, can easily inflate and even create so-called threats, and they have an obvious incentive to do so. Moreover, a big military is going to be a menacing military because it will conduct war games close to other countries; when governments respond, they can be accused of provocation and aggression. (In contrast, American moves are never provocative.) And yes, politicians and bureaucrats lie, especially in foreign policy. War is a lie, to appropriate David Swanson's book title. Post-Vietnam, we should not have needed to be reminded of this danger, but we sure got a reminder with Iraq in 2002-03.

Who do the PSDT advocates think would attack the United States unless it has a bigger military? Who presents an existential threat? Some will say we no longer need to fear a conventional attack or invasion by a nation-state. What then? Terrorists? What is more ridiculous than the contention that a terrorist organization would be deterred by an even more powerful U.S. military? Osama bin Laden hoped the U.S. government would respond to 9/11 by invading the Muslim world and spending itself into bankruptcy. And does anyone seriously believe a domestic lone wolf, having been "radicalized" after looking at al-Qaeda websites or seeing news accounts of U.S. atrocities in the Middle East, would take the size of the U.S. military into account when plotting retaliation?

Perhaps before we dismiss the nation-state threat we ought to ask if Iran and North Korea are special cases. The leaders of Iran have been called "mad mullahs," and Kim-Jong Un has been described as insane. But this poses a problem for the PTSD. If those rulers are indeed mad, how can we expect them to be rational enough to do calculate the costs and benefits of an attack?

On the other hand, if they are not mad—and we have no reason to believe they are—we may reasonably assume they know they would gain nothing from an attack. A larger U.S. military would not change that; neither would a dramatically scaled-back military. But the large national-security apparatus the United States already has is a daily threat to Iran and North Korea. These so-called threats have been manufactured in Washington, D.C.

For the record, Trump's military brain trust says the biggest national-security challenges come from Russia and China, not terrorism. "Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security," the new National Defense Strategy's unclassified summary states.

Finally, military spending takes money out of the pockets of taxpayers, who, it's safe to say, have personally important uses for that money. Instead of labor and resources flowing into industries that make consumers better off, they go to politicians, bureaucrats, and all the businesses that long to sell things to the government. This is the infamous military-industrial complex, which is far more pervasive than anything Eisenhower ever had nightmares about. The deep distortion of economic activity is part of the incalculable cost of the national-security state. We literally don't know what we're missing because of it.

The way to achieve peace is not to prepare for war but to reject militarism and empire, and embrace nonintervention. Prophecies of war are too easily self-fulfilling. Thus, as a pioneer of modern libertarianism, F. A. Harper, put it many years ago, "It is now urgent in the interest of liberty that many persons become 'peace-mongers.'"

This piece was originally published by The Libertarian Institute.

NEXT: When Governments Suspend Their Own Rules

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  1. I prefer ‘strength through joy.’

    1. I knew who wrote this article just based on the title. This clearly fits his world view.

  2. Peace through appeasement is even less credulous. While I agree that we shouldn’t allow the military to continuously increase, I do believe that possessing a formidable defense and offensive capabilities goes a long way towards restraining the aggression of other nations. The nuclear capability of mutual destruction coupled with economic co-dependency is a large part of what keeps peace among many nations. To assert that “peace through strength” is bs is to ignore that it is a factor in maintaining peace. People certainly use the axiom to argue for empire building and military expansion, but it doesn’t negate the truth of it in principle.

    1. Sheldon just has some TDS issues. He’s throwing around PTSD like it does not already mean something that warriors get.

      As usual, media people don’t know their history and it shows. He cites Eisenhower but does not go back farther to find out about America’s pre-WWII position and the context of Einsenhower’s Military Industrial Complex statement.

    2. Peace through appeasement is folly, though I’m not sure I see where Richman argues for appeasement.

      But a strategy that begins with budgetary restraint isn’t much more credulous. Supporting the existing geopolitical model necessarily means supporting powerful states and their tendency towards expansion.

      A noninterventionist foreign policy might be every bit the pipedream as the end of the welfare state, but it’s consistent with libertarianism.

      From a realistic point of view, cyberweapons could soon supplant nukes as the MAD weapon of choice. If I was a political leader, I might choose to lose a city to a nuke rather than have my entire nation’s energy infrastructure slagged. The US could remain safe with a leaner traditional military force, and more robust cyber-war capability.

    3. “I do believe that possessing a formidable defense and offensive capabilities goes a long way towards restraining the aggression of other nations. ”

      US enjoys a vastly larger capability over North Korea which nevertheless was able to develop its own nuclear and missile technology. The US did nothing more than tighten economic sanctions, which proved inadequate in any case. This has been policy ever since Bush Jr. All that weaponry is useless if the other guy calls your bluff.

  3. I was never a particularly strict parent, but if I gave my a kid an allowance and she simply lost it by being careless, I would not replace it. So when it was recently revealed the Pentagon lost $800 billion, they should have had to absorb that loss, not be made whole agin at taxpayer expense. (Besides, a sun like that didn’t through a pocket hole…it has to be fraud).

    Sheldon is right. In a non-interventionist footing, we’d get along great with even a fraction of our military and nuclear arms spending. Intervention hasn’t netted any benefits, so why not try non-intervention for a while?

    1. It would eventually result in a dominant global position by another party, like China.

      1. You’re making two huge assumptions:

        One is that we can accurately assess ahead of time what small irrelevant entities are going to become dominant hostile powers. Here’s a partial list of American war actions since WW2. Specifically which of them prevented a dominant hostile power – Korea, Laos, Lebanon, Guatemala, Vietnam, Cuba, Cambodia, Thailand, Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Congo, Angola, Iran, Libya, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama, Colombia, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Serbia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya, Syria, Yemen.

        Second is that the very act of whittling those down strengthens us – relative to those large potentially hostile powers that don’t get involved. Because otherwise the best strategy of a large long-term hostile is to watch – and wait – and strike when we are diverted by swatting flies.

        1. China is working overtime to increase their military capability to exceed ours. This is not in question. Neither is their rhetoric, or long term planning to be the lone world superpower. Given their tangible efforts at expanding their military, and aggressive actions like claiming international waters in the South China Sea as their own (historically there is no precedent for that), and their recent aggression towards India, I take them at their word.

  4. Donald Trump has embraced the popular “peace through strength” doctrine (PTSD) with his characteristic panache: “I’m going to make our military so big, so powerful, so strong, that nobody?absolutely nobody?is gonna to mess with us,”

    I guess you meant to add the acronym of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for peace through strength?

    Just like that peace through strength is a racket your acronym is in typical TDS fashion.

    Peace through superior firepower does not mean the USA has to run around nation building but it does mean that when the USA is so strong that we can defend ourselves, other nations think twice before attacking us. MAD is another strategy that has worked for 69 years to avoid nuclear war.

    The USA already tried peace without superior firepower and Germany, Italy, and Imperial Japan decided to attack the USA.

    1. Trump’s deployment of the PTSD suggests that the U.S. military isn’t already powerful enough to deter an attack. But that is balderdash. The government now spends more on the military than the next 12 countries combined. The recent increase alone was bigger than Russia’s entire military budget.

      Furthermore, Sheldon never addresses that Trump might be talking about what the US military has on hand to be powerful rather than assuming it means more.

      Anti-Ballistic missile defense is a military platform that is well worth the money as it can almost make North Korea’s nuclear ballistic missiles no threat after all.

      1. “Anti-Ballistic missile defense is a military platform that is well worth the money as it can almost make North Korea’s nuclear ballistic missiles no threat after all.”

        Your timing is off by a year or so. The previous president (daughter of dictator Park Chunghee, go look it up, Sevo,) would have jumped at the chance to buy a brand new military platform. But she was impeached and now there are commies ruling North and South Korea.

        1. This has nothing to do with the USA having a great anti-ballistic system to protect America from nuclear missile countries like NK, Israel, Russia, Pakistan, and India.

          1. But not China? You really trust them that much?

    2. The USA already tried peace without superior firepower and Germany, Italy, and Imperial Japan decided to attack the USA.

      Japan attacked the US because we were heavily involved in their war with China. Not saying that was right/wrong – but it sure as hell wasn’t neutral or non-involved or ‘isolationist’.

      And BTW – the BEST example of a country that prevented that sort of involvement was Switzerland. There were three separate formal invasion plans that Germany/Italy had re Switzerland in WW2. In every case, they most likely would have occupied pretty quickly.

      In every case, they decided against it not because because of ‘superior firepower’ or any top-down decision by Switzerland but because their militia system and a completely bottom-up based govt (the Prez of Switzerland openly said that even if he himself was forced to surrender it wouldn’t mean anything because no one knew who he was) meant that continued occupation would have been too expensive.

      1. The USA had the a volunteer squadron in China and sent some supplies.

        The Japanese knew that any expansion in the Pacific would be checked by the USA and Japan felt it needed to expand to take all required resources, especially oil. Japan imported nearly all of its oil from the USA. Once that was cut off, Japan felt they had no choice but to get it from Indonesia.

        Being neutral still allows you to send destroyers to Britain as any trade is permissible and cut oil exports to Imperial Japan. You are right that the USA did things that were “involved” in World events but the USA stayed remarkably reserved even with World events going against US interests.

        Nazi Germany also needed Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, and Portugal to allow fairly easy passing of spies and embargoed resources back and forth. There were German plans for invading all those countries but Canaris helped temper those desires to invade. Plus, as you say the costs would not be worth the gains as far as Hitler was concerned.

        1. the USA stayed remarkably reserved even with World events going against US interests.

          Which is irrelevant to the assumption you made. Japan did not attack us because we were weak or non-involved. they attacked us because we were involved. Here’s the US Army’s own history of the 1941 timeframe –

          1. And the US Army’s history of the decision-making on the Japanese side –

            1. Your links do not support your claims.
              While it is never specifically mentioned, Japan’s concern for ‘time’ indicates they saw the US as ‘weak’ and wanted to prosecute the war before the US gained the advantage.
              If you read anything about the Japanese side, that is *exactly* Yamamoto’s position.
              And it was true: In 1941, the US Army was training with broomsticks for rifles.

              1. While it is never specifically mentioned, Japan’s concern for ‘time’ indicates they saw the US as ‘weak’ and wanted to prosecute the war before the US gained the advantage.

                Well you’re wrong. It is specifically mentioned. And the concern about time was a)Japan running out of oil because we embargoed that from them and b)a weather window (dry season is Nov-May) for amphibious operations in Malaysia/Indonesia (their real target) to avoid typhoon season.

                They never had any intention of following through in any attacks on the US – which is exactly what they would have done if ‘our weakness’ was what attracted them into attacking us.

            2. JFree. I am not clicking on some link that you cannot do write, so I can see where it links to.

              1. …do right that is.

              2. This site doesn’t allow more than 50 characters in a link.

                1. Yes, it does if you format it as a proper HTML hyperlink.

                  Angle brackets replaced with square brackets and spaces added to URL so you can see the formating

                  [a href=”https: //www. google. com”]Google[/a]

                  Formatted properly


                  1. And if you hover the mouse cursor over the hyperlink text, you will see the full URL at the bottom of your browser window.

                  2. Ok – let me try that. Thanks if it works.

                    [a href=”http: //www. ibiblio. org /hyperwar /USA /USA-WD-Strategic1 /USA-WD-Strategic1-4.html”] Showdown with Japan Aug-Dec 1941[/a]

                    [a href=”http: //www. ibiblio. org /hyperwar /USA /USA-WD-Strategic1 /USA-WD-Strategic1-4.html”] Decision for War [/a]

                    1. Nope. Looks like I’m gonna keep doing the short URL’s.

                    2. Add “” to the below link at the front of the below partial link.


                      You long link will fit inside the html code and you can label the link so it appears in orange. Then we can all hover over the link and see where it goes.

                      Its how we can avoid Buttplug nonsense links.

                    3. Use the < and > instead of [ ].

                    4. Also, remove the spaces from the URL, Matt only did that to get the non-formatted link past the 50-character limit.

                    5. You need to replace the square brackets [ ] with angle brackets < > and take the spaces out of the URL. Did you not bother reading my comment? I explicity said I replaced the needed angle brackets with spaces and added spaces to the link so you would see the formatting>

          2. The Japanese thought they could defeat our Pacific Fleet and get the USA into peace before our industrial might kicked in.

            Being weak is different than being “involved” in World events. I gave you “involved” but its a subjective word. Clearly you want to run with it like the USA was not what is considered isolationist.

            Japan thought the USA was weak and it was. Japan had 12 carriers and were building 7 more by 1941. The USA had 7 carriers with only 2 on station ready to fight in the Pacific. Furthermore, the naval strategy in the Pacific was stupidly short-sided. Even with breaking the Japanese naval code and knowing attack would come soon, the US military was not prepared to defend itself.

            1. Their objective was to invade/occupy Malaya and the Dutch East Indies – to replace the oil/resources that we embargoed. Even the Philippines was of no interest to them until AFTER we credibly threatened to go to war if they went further south.

              IOW – it is our ACTIONS that created a)their motivation to quickly attack a third party and b)their belief that we would get even further involved if they did.

              This is the biggest deception of that whole ‘isolationist’ accusation. The real goal of those interventionists is not merely to be strong enough to prevent attacks on the US where attacking the US is the objective. Everyone wants that.

              The goal is to be ‘strong enough’ to prevent all attacks – on everyone else in the world. And to get involved up to our eyebrows if that ever does happen. Which has a required corollary – we are the world’s policeman. Which means – we are also gonna be the world’s nation-builder since failed states are also a major cause of wars. Which also means we are gonna pay for all the freeloaders too.

              1. Just to understand that oil threat we created for the Japanese:

                In 1940, the US produced 180 million Mtons of oil. Venezuela (biggest single exporter) and USSR produced about 30 million Mtons each. Followed by Iran/Mexico/Romania/Dutch EastIndies at about 7 million Mtons each.

                Our oil embargo was intended to (and did) also eliminate Venezuela, Mexico, Iran, and Dutch East Indies as supply sources for Japan. And USSR/Romania were already at war.

              2. The Japanese attacked Malaya, DEI, Hong Kong, Philippines, Thailand, Wake Island, Singapore, and Shanghai all on December 8, 1941.

                Isolationism does not mean that you do nothing to protect your interests.

                1. the policy or doctrine of isolating one’s country from the affairs of other nations by declining to enter into alliances, foreign economic commitments, international agreements, etc., seeking to devote the entire efforts of one’s country to its own advancement and remain at peace by avoiding foreign entanglements and responsibilities.

                Being isolationist does even preclude being an imperialist power if you already had the foreign territories at the time your country became isolationist.

                1. The Japanese attacked Malaya, DEI, Hong Kong, Philippines, Thailand, Wake Island, Singapore, and Shanghai all on December 8, 1941.

                  Your point being what – that we should have been strong enough – and everywhere enough – to prevent ALL of that? This is EXACTLY the implication of those who yell ‘isolationist’ as an epithet. That WE have to be the frontline everywhere so that an attack on anyone is an attack on us. The attack on Pearl was NOT an attack on us in splendid isolation. It was not preparatory to a Japanese occupation of Hawaii or Texas or California. ‘our weakness’ didn’t attract them to attack. PERIOD.

                  Isolationism does not mean that you do nothing to protect your interests.

                  The US government was NOT isolationist in this timeframe by any measure. They were dicking around with Japan trying to pick a fight with them – and succeeded. The American PEOPLE were isolationist but we were being lied to by the US government re the actions that the US government was taking. Failure to realize the difference here was probably a Japanese miscalculation – because they could have probably backed FDR into a corner by invading Malaya/DEI without attacking the US (or the Philippines – which had nothing of interest to the Japanese). OTOH backing FDR into a corner was exactly what FDR had been doing to them – and that creates unanticipated problems.

                  This calculus is by definition NOT isolationism. It is pure Great Game power politics.

                  1. Whoops – left italics open. This comment software is crap without ability to edit

              3. OK, but what actions by others created our motivation to take the actions that created Japan’s motivation?

  5. Strength through peace?

  6. Yes of course peace through strength. We must remain strong militarily. However we must do a better job of exporting our values and freedoms instead of our bombs. Over the last few centuries, at least 100 million Europeans have died in wars, compared to less than 1 million Americans. Why? Because we have freedom. I’m grateful for all the Americans who fought and died for mine and their sacrifice was not in vain.

    1. Exporting ‘our values and our freedoms’ is precisely what is going to result in the morass that has levelled every previous empire in history.

      Wanna know why we can’t get the fuck out of Afghanistan? Why we couldn’t get the fuck out of Vietnam? Why we can’t get the fuck out of the Middle East? It’s because we look at every part of the world through the lens of our values and our freedoms – which means we do stupid things and overreach and create enemies every place we try to ‘do something’. Every empire in history has fallen the same way – they find too many places that need us to ‘make a difference’ – and then they find that getting out isn’t the same thing as getting in

      1. We aren’t an empire in any sense of the historical references you imply, not even close.

        Nope, they all didn’t fall for the same reasons. Indeed quite a few fell directly from military weakness.

        Agree we need to pump the brakes, but you are overboard with your analogies.

        Good faith question for non-interventionists: should we have abandoned South Korea ?

    2. However we must do a better job of exporting our values and freedoms instead of our bombs.

      1. Progs bitch incessantly when we export our values to other societies.

      2. As far as exporting values and freedoms, the best you can do is be an example. If it works, others will copy it.

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  8. “Si vis pacem, para bellum.”

    Good thing the Roman empire is doing so well with their hawkish tendencies.
    Good thing we’re minding Gen. Eisenhower’s warnings of the development of a military industrial complex.
    Good thing we are magically different than all of the failed societies of history.

    Because if not, we might really be in trouble!

    1. The Roman Empire lasted more than a thousand years, I would hardly call their tendencies unsuccessful.

      In any event, I do agree we have tried to do too much. That does not discredit the idea that a deterrent is an effective defense.

  9. It can be intellectualized to death, but the real reason wars start is because somebody thinks they can win. They are often wrong, misguided or downright delusional, but thats really it. Causes like national pride, resources, blah blah blah are all great to sit around debating, but when you boil it down, somebody went for it because they thought they could win. Note this is not the same as saying that ANY time a county thinks they can win they fight, just 100% of the times they DO start a fight.

    So, when we talk about how much military we need, it better meet the test of “nobody (or few) thinks they can beat us”. Its wise for it to be enough to convince some of those delusional ones too.

    Furthermore, articles like this that attempt to compare military spending without a PPP adjustment, frankly acknowledging the different ways country military budgets are calculated, and if the reporting is even truthful (I’m looking at you China), aren’t honest. The truth is its damn hard to compare military capability with spending.

    Hey, close overseas bases, reform the procurement process and cease adventurism, but radical reductions in military spending probably aren’t wise or even necessary. Its a declining portion of GDP and federal spending, and looks like will remain so over the long haul. If we care about fixing our country’s finances, we ought to talk about SS reform 24/7.

    1. No. China could easily beat Latvia in a war, and they know it, so why hasn’t China attacked Latvia? Countries don’t just start wars ‘because they think they can win.’ They start them because they think they have something to gain.

      And we can definitely afford to drastically cut defense spending without any discernible adverse effect on national security. Defense is no different from Education or any other bureaucracy: a huge fraction of it is just pissed away on things with no quantifiable benefit.

      1. See last sentence of first paragraph.

        On cuts, I believe you are wildly optimistic how efficient the fed govt can ever be. I am with you that i’d LIKE it to be 5X more efficient, but it just ain’t gonna ever be. Moreover, we could cut it to zero, and we’d still be fucked by SS and Medicare by 2050 onward. Maybe we ought to go after what’s really going to fuck us.

      2. No. China could easily beat Latvia in a war, and they know it, so why hasn’t China attacked Latvia?

        Because China has no land route to Latvia, their navy is still weak, and the US, Royal, and (in that scenario) Russian navies are in the way, and have the combined power to whip them like a rented mule.

        Or, IOW… Because China couldn’t beat Latvia in a war. Because Latvia has superpowers backing it. And if they didn’t, you can bet your ass China would conquer them as soon they’d conquered all the closer, tastier morsels in between them.

        And we can definitely afford to drastically cut defense spending without any discernible adverse effect on national security. Defense is no different from Education or any other bureaucracy: a huge fraction of it is just pissed away on things with no quantifiable benefit

        When we finally get around to inventing the Cut Fat Without Cutting Meat-O-Tron 5000, maybe. But trying to fix government inefficiency by cutting off funds is like trying to kill a tapeworm by starving yourself.

        We should completely eliminate DoE, SS, Medicare/caid etc. because those institutions don’t need to be run by government at all. Cutting funding to them while they still exist can only result in bureaucrats prioritizing their profitable wastful spending while cutting useful services instead. So, when you figure out a way to completely privatize all US LEO/MIL activity, get back to me.

      3. Why would China attack Latvia?

        At least be somewhat realistic in a hypothetical.

  10. A better question for the Hawks would be, How much spending is enough?

    As Sheldon mentioned we already spend more money than the 12 next nations combined. Peace through strength seems to be a viable option, but it seems to always be more more more… So we need to be asking how much is enough? We spend nearly as much as we did at the height of WW2 (adjusted for inflation). Is that the right benchmark? Should it really be more than that?

    We’re spending almost 50% more than at any other time during the cold war (adjusted for inflation). Our peace through strength during this time proved to be effective at that level of spending. Not to mention we were almost always entangled in some regional conflict during this time, much like today.

    I also believe that strength involves not over-leveraging your resources. We have military action on multiple fronts now. Would we be stronger if we weren’t fighting these wars? Why aren’t the peace through strength advocates calling for making those resources available for defense?

    1. I don’t know exactly, but I am pretty sure it’s a lot more than Sheldon wants to spend. Indeed he offers no guidance other than gross naivetes and a comically inept grasp of history.

      Our spending relative to the next X countries is pretty much a meaningless statistic.

      As far as our current spend relative to the Cold War, by all means let’s look at where we can cut. I won’t shed a tear over closing unneeded bases, etc. in the end though, we must be left with a decisively superior military capability. I don’t know whether that’s 5% of GDP or 4% or ?

    2. We spend nearly as much as we did at the height of WW2 (adjusted for inflation)… We’re spending almost 50% more than at any other time during the cold war (adjusted for inflation)…

      The relevant question is percentage of GDP. And we spend 4% of our GDP on defense today… Compared to 40% of GDP in WWII.

      You might as well say that “we spend one hundred thousand times more on soldier pay in 2018 than we did in 1778”.

  11. “The way to achieve peace is not to prepare for war but to reject militarism and empire, and embrace nonintervention.”


    I sometimes wonder if peaceniks have ever left the country, the extreme naivety of some individuals is astounding. Force and violence may be an unfortunate part of the human experience, but part of our experience it is. Sometimes patience and talking does not work as some people do not want to talk, you need guns for these people.

    As someone very aware of the military buildup of China I can tell you right now you would be a fool to trust anything they announce publicly as a budget figure, especially if it is not adjusted for PPP. The Chinese government is slime and full of shit all the way through. And the argument about trade… I am sure some Brit were saying the same thing about Wilhelmine Germany, huge trading partners of theirs. Their royalty was even related, they were cousins! Cousins who are leaders of nations with similar political institutions who are also large trading partners would surely never fight one another, would they?

    Mr. Richman has the privilege of arguing this naive claptrap from his tower of bourgeois decadence.

    1. China is building islands from nothing in the South China Sea for a reason and its not because they need more coastline for Communists to get some sun.

  12. There are two levels of necessary defense spending necessary in my universe. The first is to achieve a level of Iron Dome technology that insures 100% interception of incoming nuke warheads from the Korean peninsula, Iran, or ships at sea. (I live near Seattle.)
    The second level is that I need to save enough on taxes (I am retired) to buy a Nemo Watchman 3.0 modern sporting rifle (labeled an assault rifle by some) and an AN digital night vision video recording day/night scope for said weapon. The total package will run about $10K. The video recording will be for any court proceedings later.

    1. LOL you’re going to snipe burglars/home invaders ? I don’t think think that would be legal even with a generous interpretation of Castle Doctrine.

      I’d say if we are in situations where you’d need that rifle, we are way past the point of court proceedings being a part of daily life.

  13. Why indeed? These militarized polizei gunning for deadheads, blacks and puppy dogs might be a dress rehearsal for actual Kristallnacht and Anschluss in These States. How else are God’s Own Prohibitionists gonna pass the Antichoice Amendment and force Canada to reinstate coathanger birth control?

    1. H. Phillips: Putting the “Mad” and “Lib(ertarian)” in Mad Libs since whenever his mama shat him out.

  14. The megaweapons of the near future are likely to be harder to detect and internationally regulate than anything dreamed of in our previous philosophy. For instance, now that a Tesla sports car is headed to the asteroid belt, we have to consider that a sufficiently sophisticated computer program could bang that car into an asteroid billiard-style and send the asteroid on a course back to earth.

    If course corrections are needed, smaller rockets can rendezvous with it and nudge it precisely on to a trajectory to land it on London. A twenty ton rock going 20.000 mph equals the largest nuclear weapon, (the AN402 60 megaton Russian bomb.)

    Or if you get a DNA sample of the Trump family, really good lab work could fashion an Anthrax spore or something that only is lethal to Trumps. Or Kennedys.

  15. “The way to achieve peace is not to prepare for war but to reject militarism and empire, and embrace nonintervention. ”

    That would have worked wonders in WWII. I’m sure without the US all the little countries like Israel or South Korea would be peaceful paradises.

    I do understand that people don’t want the US to police the world. But I never could understand why the so called “peace/noninterventionists” don’t care about other opposed people in the world and wanting to give them a better life.

    Wait *ding* so is Reason finally admitting that countries have borders? (You know the whole empire thing). So that means we don’t have to take in illegal – sorry understanding/not caring about US law challenged – immigrants?

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

    1. Oh, go ahead and call them illegal. Maybe if you do, enough libertarians will look from your comment, to the joint in their hand, and back, and make the connection.

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