Investing In American Insecurity

The United States has a military that, by any normal measure, is unmatched on planet Earth.
03/06/2017 11:54 am ET
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

Let’s think about the logic of it all for a moment. The 2016 Pentagon budget came in at just over $600 billion and that royal sum, larger than the combined military investments of the next seven countries, was hardly the full measure of the money U.S. taxpayers spent on what we like to call “national security.” Add everything in ― including funding for the Department of Homeland Security and for veterans affairs ― and you’re approaching a trillion dollars annually, according to the Project on Government Oversight. No other country spends anything faintly like it, which means the United States has a military that, by any normal measure, is unmatched on planet Earth.

For the last 15 years, that military has been engaged in a series of wars and conflicts across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa that have been both unending and by anyone’s standards remarkably unsuccessful, if not disastrous.  Or put another way, the greatest military around, sent into action for a decade and a half and funded in a way that no other military comes close to, hasn’t notched a victory to its name in its twenty-first-century era of permanent war.

Now for that matter of logic.  In response to such over-the-top outlays of taxpayer dollars and such a record of unsuccessful wars, the Trump administration is moving fast to improve the situation by... yes, of course... working to massively increase spending on the U.S. military and national security, while slashing the budgets of outfits ranging from the State Department (goodbye, diplomacy!) to the Environmental Protection Agency (goodbye, relatively unpolluted surroundings!) to education and “social safety net programs” (don’t be young and poor!).  Trump will reportedly call for adding a “supplemental” $30 billion to the 2017 defense budget and a whopping $54 billion in 2018, an increase of close to 10%.  To put that sum into perspective, ask yourself where the U.S. military would rank internationally if that were its entire military budget.  The answer: 7th in the world (according to 2015 figures).  It would come just after Great Britain at $55.5 billion and would outrank India ($51.3 billion), France ($50.9 billion), and Japan ($40.9 billion).  Put another way, despite recent rising fears about Russia, that $54 billion alone would be more than 80% of the total Russian military budget of 2015.

In other words, there will be more planes, ships, troops, and weaponry of every sort ― armaments industry stocks naturally rose on the news ― to fight America’s disastrous wars, while domestically the “security” of the American people will be slashed in just about every imaginable way. (And to add a touch of humor to the mix, Republican Senator John McCain promptly attacked President Trump for his miserly approach to the needs of the U.S. military.) As William Hartung, author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex, points out today in “The President Who Loved Generals,” if you add into all this Trump’s bevy of generals (and his ideologues), you have a fabulous formula for permanent war into the (un)foreseeable future.

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