Tag Archive: military

With the news abuzz with events that, while very tragic for some, continuing events can be easily overshadowed.  Here’s a quick round up of things that affect most, if not all, of us (on the planet).

The War in Afghanistan– Now the longest war in US history, our involvement in this militarily-infamous region has cost close to half a trillion dollars (more than half of Iraq which is also still accruing costs), over 1,800 US military fatalities, and over 32,000 wounded soldiers.

The US Debt– Related to the above item, we’re still being embarrassed by a stymied Congress incapable of rising above petty (and irrational) politics to solve our debt crisis.  We, the taxpayers, are being held hostage by ludicrous sound bites and, on the part of many, a willful ignorance of what to do in order to fix this massive problem.  Oh yeah, and the financiers who really facilitated the great bulk of this problem (thorough the economic recession), have still not been indicted for a single thing.

The European Debt– Another crisis that is and will continue to have inevitable impacts on our own economic well-being, more states in the Euro zone are close to failing and looking for a bailout; but where the “saviors” are going to get the money is anyone’s guess.  (To help with all of these woes, a miniscule “Robin Hood” tax on the world’s banking transactions has been proposed; within a day, suspicious “ballot stuffing” began pouring in from…wait for it…Goldman Sachs.  Shocker, eh?  Remember, their betting on the failing of the US housing market is how they made lots of money—and they’re advising their clients to bet on failure again).

Chinese/US Military Relations– Defense Secretary Panetta has remarked on the US remaining a “Pacific power” (i.e. relative to China).  Naval power is very expensive to maintain, yet the military and advisors to Congress both advocate that the US needs an increased military presence in Asia.  Not unrelated, this presence is also for competitiveness in economic matters (and in response to China’s military establishment growing bolder).

Let’s keep some things in perspective, eh?

So in the current maelstrom that is the debate over the federal budget, it seems that the appropriations for defense are nearly entirely off the table.  Let’s take a look at how much we spend on defense from several angles:


Here’s a video presentation by Ben Cohen (of Ben & Jerry’s fame) explaining how to put some of that spending to better use (especially to help kids here and around the world).  [Caveat- he’s talking about discretionary spending, not the overall budget].

Now, if a guy in the ice cream business can get it, why can’t Congress?

Pure Numbers

Let’s expand on his comparisons to the spending of other nations.  Not only does the US outlay on the military dwarf our current “enemies’,” but it would take the next 22 nations combined to equal our budget on the military.  That gets us down to Poland–you know, that military powerhouse of the 21st century.

Not coincidentally, we lag behind many of these countries in health care (despite the dated nature of the report) and our scores in math and science.  Finally, though the US ranks pretty high (4th) on the Human Development Report (effectively a comparison of overall quality of life), we drop to 12th when inequality is adjusted for (i.e. income, life expectancy, and education).  There’s a correlation here, and dare I say causation?  (Hint: the countries that spend less on defense score higher in these areas.  And yet, they’re not being overrun by their enemies).

The Founding Fathers

How about that bedrock upon which our country was founded–where did they rank defense in their vision of the republic?  Fourth out of six, behind forming a more perfect union, establishing justice, and insuring domestic tranquility. That’s right, from the pen of men who thought carefully about every word and its impact on future generations, they put it in the 42nd percentile. (That’s like an “F” in most schools).

As for the powers enumerated to Congress (Section 8), defense doesn’t appear until number 11 (the 47th percentile).  I can’t help but see that they felt other functions of the government were much more important.

Now I know the concept of “defense” has changed over the years and that does need to be taken into account; but it sure seems to follow that the other functions of our government listed in the preamble (and its more modern functions) are getting the short shrift when an excessive amount of our wealth is being spent on the military.

I do believe in protecting ourselves from enemies (foreign and domestic), and if we want to act as a world police force (whether they want us to or not), well, there are worse countries out there that could be throwing their weight around (if they’d spend more).  But I would never advocate doing so at the expense of our general welfare and forming a more perfect union.

P.S. That quote at the beginning of this piece is by a president…and a 5-star general.  If he was worried about it, shouldn’t we be?