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Why Cutting Defense Helps America

Benjamin Friedman explains how cuts to American defense spending will, in fact, weaken the nation’s military capabilities — and why that’s a very good thing for everyone other than defense contractors.

The Pentagon’s boosters are right that big cuts will limit military capabilities. But that would actually be a good thing for the United States. Shrinking the U.S. military would not only save a fortune but also encourage policymakers to employ the armed services less promiscuously, keeping American troops — and the country at large — out of needless trouble. Especially for the last two decades, the United States’ considerable wealth and fortunate geography have made global adventurism seem largely costless. The 2011 U.S. military budget of nearly $700 billion is higher in real terms than at any point during the Cold War. But for the American public (except the members of the military and their families, that is), the only real impact of such spending has been marginally higher taxes, which have lately been subsidized by deficits…

Far bigger savings are possible if the Pentagon is recast as a true defense agency rather than one aimed at something far more ambitious. And cuts would force U.S. officials to prioritize. For starters, they would have to recognize that the U.S. military is currently structured to exercise power abroad, not provide self-defense. The U.S. Navy patrols the globe in the name of protecting global commerce, even though markets easily adapt to supply disruptions and other states have good reason to protect their own shipments. Washington maintains enormous ground forces in order to conduct nation-building missions abroad — despite the fact that such missions generally fail at great cost. Garrisons in Germany and South Korea have become subsidies that allow Cold War-era allies to avoid self-reliance.

Not only are these missions unnecessary, they are counterproductive. They turn economically capable allies into dependents, provoke animosity in far-flung corners of the globe, and encourage states to balance U.S. military power, often with nuclear weapons. A strategy based on restraint would allow Washington to save at least about $1.2 trillion over a decade, three times what the Obama administration is now asking for.

He offers a long list of major things that the military can do without if they were to assume a defensive rather than an offensive posture. But then again, he works for the Cato Institute, so he’s obviously a warmongering neo-con doing the bidding of the Koch brothers. /sarcasm

Comments

  1. says

    interesting read overall, and I certainly agree that there’s no point to US military bases in Germany. but I doubt those bases are subsidizing Germany’s self defense anymore; I mean, who’s going to invade Germany? All its neighbors are currently allied to them and also have small militaries, and all possible enemies further away with larger militaries have no incentive to invade all of the EU just to get at the country in the middle of it (besides, it’s more profitable and easier to just flood said EU with migrant workers and cheap exports).

  2. says

    We absolutely have to rein in our defense-industrial-congressional complex or it will continue to drag the economy toward pointless deficit spending. The USSR’s cold war collapse was in part a consequence of their runaway military spending and their failure to put the brakes on it before it was too late.

    It sickens me because we could still waste the money, but waste the same amount on something that would result in eventual growth or technological advancement but instead we spend it on building the infrastructure to blow up and conquer lots of useless places, build useless bases, and project pointless power.

  3. says

    If America was the dreamland I wish for, I’d be okay with having an offensive segment of the military ready to send aid should the worst happen to one of our democratic, human-rights-respecting allies.

    Unfortunately, the US, far from being my dreamland, is steadily changing into one of my nightmares. The military needs to be knocked down several pegs. If our government’s not in the business of protecting our own rights, how can we expect the military to protect the lives and freedoms of our neighbors?

  4. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    [Benjamin Freidman] offers a long list of major things that the military can do without if they were to assume a defensive rather than an offensive posture.

    I support the strategy of projecting military power outward rather than retreating to our own borders. One reason is the reduction in costs to produce and deliver goods and services where our military is a tremendous contributor to increasing assurances of supply across supply chains, which are now global. Our wide-spread military footprint is a primary factor in creating the relative peace we’ve enjoyed since WWII which has led to the growth of the global economy and enormous improvements in human wellbeing across a vaster area of the globe. This increased interconnectivity between countries, economies, and people is also killing off the type of nationalism and ethnocentricity we despise from our conservatives.

    I do wish we were taxed on the military’s contribution through our consumption of goods rather than through income taxes so voters had a better understanding of where their taxes go and are used. For example, we should have a much higher gasoline tax rather than collecting funds which goes towards securing the Persian Gulf rather than collecting those funds through income taxes as we do now. That would send more accurate market signals on the relative cost of oil vs. competing products like power generated from wind, solar, or natural gas.

    Supporting the principle of a thing is also very different than grading our execution of that strategy where I think we’ve been failing on the latter since the 1960s. I think we do spend far too much on Defense because we have far too many overseas bases. Not only is this an unnecessary burden on American taxpayers, but it enables our trading partners to out-compete us in the global economy. They can spend their tax revenues on butter since the U.S. is spending our’s on guns which protect their country and their supply chains. In addition spending our money on growing our economy within a global economy also decreases the risk of war because nations who successfully trade are now less likely to go to war with each other.

    As China expands it’s own military footprint to better control their own assurance of supply and supply chains, particularly the sea lanes and ports between itself and Africa, it’ll be interesting to see how the U.S. reacts. Just several days ago the president announced our expanding our capabilities in Darwin, Australia specifically because of China’s expansion.

  5. Aquaria says

    South Korea, I think we can understand keeping some presence there. North Korea is nuts.

    We’re probably in the Middle East for a very long time.

    Europe? Get out. Germany isn’t the Germany of 1938.

    At this point we needed to be out of Japan yesterday. The US is trying to move one of its bases on Okinawa, but the citizenry are resisting–not to keep the base where it is, but because they don’t want the US there at all anymore. There’s too much bad blood from Americans acting like assholes there.

  6. Chris from Europe says

    They can spend their tax revenues on butter since the U.S. is spending our’s on guns which protect their country and their supply chains.

    I don’t think the US really protects anyone in these countries, except maybe South Korea. Europe spends too much on military and should cut it further and leave the NATO.

  7. says

    I’m all in favor of less reliance on the military than we’re seeing now; but I really don’t like the idea that our country has to be kept weak because someone doesn’t want us to get uppity. It’s the logic of emotional abuse, applied on a global scale: “I can’t let you get too confident, otherwise you’ll do things I don’t like.” It’s also the logic of the backward authoritarian, who wants to keep people poor so they won’t get decadent or overconfident.

    If the Cato folks want America to be less reliant on military means, they should work to elect more competent leaders. What have they done in that regard?

  8. says

    Okay, now it’s double-take time. What’s the Cato Institute’s idea of foreign policy? Isolationism. The last time we tried that, we (and other nations we could have supported) ended up standing back while Hitler took half of Europe — which didn’t exactly help us avoid costly foreign military adventures. And they still haven’t learned the lessons of that war. They want us to rely less on military means, but they also want to deprive us of any other means of influencing global events, such as economic aid to stave off the privations that could easily lead to aggression.

    Fuck the Cato Institute — they’re too fucking selfish and short-sighted to tell us how to deal with the rest of the world.

  9. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    [Benjamin Freidman] offers a long list of major things that the military can do without if they were to assume a defensive rather than an offensive posture. But then again, he works for the Cato Institute, so he’s obviously a warmongering neo-con doing the bidding of the Koch brothers. /sarcasm

    Ed, this latter point has to be the worst argument you repeatedly make; I’m embarrassed on your behalf. The best arguments in opposition to your’s in your forum are not strawman like your snark above.

    We instead reveal that because we know that the leadership of the Cato Institute is rotten enough they purposefully lie to promote some policy positions, a reasonable person who cares about objective truth prudently employs heightened scrutiny across the board when it comes to Cato publications and people employed or sponsored by Cato. I.e., we can’t assume Cato argues in good faith about anything because their leadership is shown to purposefully lie to promote their position. This is the same standard we all use against the Discovery Institute, Heritage and AEI for the very same behavior.

    If Cato wants us to assume they credibly argue about anything in good faith, than they need to stop systemically lying in all areas and demonstrate they advocate honestly. It’s on them given their continual dishonesty, it’s not our obligation as you appear to argue here.

    And I’m not promoting passively accepting everything by those I deem credible, a rebuttal in that vein would also be a strawman of my position. Only that we all effectively make concessions to certain facts when reading something from someone whose earned some credibility, otherwise we could never get through an article and consider its arguments, we’d be swamped attempting to validate the entire set of facts and their framing. This is a concession Cato has not earned, not because they’ve got a handful of bad apples many organizations do, but instead because the leaders of their organization purposefully and systemically promote dishonesty.

  10. says

    [Benjamin Freidman] offers a long list of major things that the military can do without if they were to assume a defensive rather than an offensive posture.

    And where did he get that list from — Neville Chamberlain?

  11. says

    Aquaria writes:
    North Korea is nuts.

    The US played a substantial role in creating North Korea and driving them nuts. I know that doesn’t really help with the situation but they are, to a fair degree, a monster of our own creation. What’s sad is that we rightly don’t have the credibility with them. We bombed them back to the stone age following the Korean War and they still expect more. To a certain degree, North Korea has become a valuable boogey-man for The Pentagon to help keep the money-valve in the “full on” position.

  12. Michael Heath says

    Raging Bee writes:

    If the Cato folks want America to be less reliant on military means, they should work to elect more competent leaders. What have they done in that regard?

    Excellent question.

  13. says

    Aquaria: we still have China to worry about — they’re expanding their power both economically and militarily, and their warfighting capability is getting more advanced by the day. War with China would be disasterous and counterproductuve — which is why we need a strong military presence there to bolster our diplomatic efforts. As Sun Tsu said, “In war, prepare for peace; in peace, prepare for war.”

    Our problem is not military strength; it’s the stupidity of our entire political culture. And the Cato Institute is part of the problem.

  14. Dennis N says

    To snark a bit here, I have a sneaking suspicion that Cato would like to reduce military spending in order fund tax cuts for “job creators”. I fail to see how that shift in spending assists, say, 99% of us.

  15. says

    The US played a substantial role in creating North Korea and driving them nuts…

    Dude, even Iran’s mullocrats are getting over the whole “blame America first” thing. You’ve got some catching up to do.

  16. says

    Now that I’ve calmed down from generalized outrage:

    I do agree that outright isolationism is stupid and self-defeating, so overall, I’m more for some moderation in international military involvement. Cut out the unnecessary military bases. Bases in allied nations should be treated as a temporary measure until those allies can become more self-reliant. If we need a ‘stepping stone’ base for acting in a hotbed region, I’d prefer to negotiate for the use of an ally’s base.

    I do think having some role in protecting trade routes is a worthwhile task. I may be over-idealistic, but I think trade is probably the more reliable way of maintaining and spreading peace.

  17. says

    Dennis N: that’s not “snark,” that’s been Cato’s number-one priority since 1980: coddle the rich regardless of the cost the masses may bear.

  18. says

    Raging Bee writes:
    I really don’t like the idea that our country has to be kept weak because someone doesn’t want us to get uppity

    The “rest of the world” once felt that the Germans needed to be kept weak because they had a short-term history of running around invading people. We’re in that role, now. I don’t like it either but I’m not blaming the rest of the world for having that idea – I blame our idiotic adventure-loving force-projecting leaders for giving it to them.

  19. Dennis N says

    Well, I labelled it snark since it addresses their motives and not their argument. I support the idea of limiting our military for similar reasons, but I would use the savings to help the rest of us, not those who don’t need it.

  20. Chris from Europe says

    @Raging Bee #10:
    Why do you think your response isn’t total BS? It’s easy to use the traditional, ignorant picture of Chamberlain.

    Do you really agree with the right about the size and use of the military?

  21. says

    Raging Bee:
    Dude, even Iran’s mullocrats are getting over the whole “blame America first” thing. You’ve got some catching up to do.

    My comment was not knee-jerk, but rather based on a fairly sober assessment of the history of Korea, Korean division, The Korean War, the post-ceasefire bombardment by US bomber command, and Korean involvement in proliferation and their attempts to gain nukes. If one of our responses indicates some “catching up to do” it seems to me to be yours. Is your historical knowledge about Korea based solely on wikipedia and Fox news or do you bring something more substantial to the discussion?

  22. wscott says

    Some good points overall, but…

    Shrinking the U.S. military would…encourage policymakers to employ the armed services less promiscuously

    That assumes that policymakers actually consider military capabilities before they make policy decisions; an assumption not supported by history.

    …despite the fact that [nation-building] missions generally fail at great cost. Garrisons in Germany and South Korea have become subsidies that allow Cold War-era allies to avoid self-reliance.

    Right, because Germany & South Korea are both failed states? I agree that our won-lost ratio at nation-building sucks. (Tho it’s no worse than anyone else’s.) But he couldn’t have picked two worse examples to support his point. As for “subsidies”, Germany ranks 7th in the world in defense spending, and South Korea ranks 12th. So the notion that they’re getting off without having to pay for their own defense is just nonsense.

  23. says

    It sickens me because we could still waste the money, but waste the same amount on something that would result in eventual growth or technological advancement…

    Read some history, pal: our investment in the military made us the most technologically advanced country on the planet. Aviation, space flight, recon, computers, communications…our advancement in all of those fields (at least) was driven by government and military needs during and after WW-II. And those needs drove economic growth and job-creation in the short term as well: because of defense spending, the West caught up with the East Coast as a center of US industry.

    Oh, and this Internet thingie? Its original name was Arpanet, as in DEFENSE Advanced Research Projects Administration.

  24. says

    The “rest of the world” once felt that the Germans needed to be kept weak because they had a short-term history of running around invading people.

    Yeah, we tried that strategy after WW-I, and the result was Hitler and a policy of vengeance. Some idiot named Morgenthau advocated doing something even worse to Germany after WW-II, but the FDR liberals smacked that down and instead went with a policy of letting them have a modern economy that created jobs and wealth and kept people fed and employed. Letting people grow and stand on their own works; keeping them weak doesn’t.

  25. Chris from Europe says

    Oh, Germany doesn’t get subsidies through the US bases, but even pays for the foreign soldiers on its territory. I guess the reason is the same why US states want to have bases: An accepted excuse to waste money for jobs.

  26. wscott says

    A couple points re overseas bases: US forces stationed overseas aren’t really there to protect the nations they’re stationed (except for South Korea). Out overseas bases serve as forward staging areas, allowing America to project it’s power around the globe. The type of power projection Michael Heath discusses would not be possible without overseas bases. Now you can argue whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But looking at overseas bases solely in terms of defensive garrisons is totally missing the larger point.
    Also, it’s not clear that stationing US troops overseas is actually cheaper than stationing them at home. To assume that we only need those troops to man the overseas bases is putting the cart in front of the horse, at least partly. We can debate how large our military “should” be; but whatever that size is, it’s not necessarily cheaper to station them at home vs. abroad.

  27. says

    My comment was not knee-jerk, but rather based on a fairly sober assessment of the history of Korea…

    So how, exactly, did America cause NK leaders to act irrationally, or to stick with unworkable Stalinoid farm policies? Did a CIA coup put Kim Jong Il in power?

    Do you really agree with the right about the size and use of the military?

    Do I? You haven’t quoted me saying I do, so I guess the answer is no.

  28. Chris from Europe says

    @25
    You’re using the well-known picture of a politician that has also been known to be false for some decades. But you aren’t even making an argument we could respond to. You are just invoking a name without making clear what you criticize exactly, both in regard to his policies and to the proposal of defense orientation. We can only argue against our imagination of what your argument might be.

    Your comment stinks so terribly that there’s no need to prove it to be BS. And it can’t for the lack of substance.

  29. says

    …US forces stationed overseas aren’t really there to protect the nations they’re stationed (except for South Korea). Out overseas bases serve as forward staging areas, allowing America to project it’s power around the globe.

    …power which is used to protect the nations they’re stationed in, as well as their neighbors. The dividing line between “offensive” and “defensive” power projection isn’t always clear, and sometimes doesn’t even exist.

  30. Chris from Europe says

    You implied by attacking the proposal to give up offensive, global policies. Or are you just firing because the proposal’s origin?

    You’re invoking a false assessment of appeasement, slogans like “blame America first” etc. Are you sure that you aren’t Newt Gingrich?

  31. gingerbaker says

    Michael Heath:

    “I support the strategy of projecting military power outward rather than retreating to our own borders. One reason is the reduction in costs to produce and deliver goods and services where our military is a tremendous contributor to increasing assurances of supply across supply chains, which are now global… “

    Huh?

    That’s quite an assertion. Care to back it up, and with perhaps a ballpark accounting of how much military spending is NOT devoted to such a program?

    Because it seems to me that:

    a) international capitalism , not our military might, is responsible for “increasing assurances of supply across supply chains, which are now global”.

    b) I don’t see any record of economic disadvantage to (every) other civilized country in the world, who spend tiny fractions of their budgets for the military, yet whose economies, social safety nets, national debts, and standards of living put ours to shame. Indeed, one might expect to have heard a hue and cry from these relatively disadvantaged nations, or do they benefit from our military largesse?

  32. says

    It’s kinda funny that the Cato Institute blames our military strength for our recent military misadventures, and not the Republican Party whose path to power they helped to clear. This isn’t a serious policy idea, it’s a childish attempt to hide in their favorite fantasy world (again) and dodge any responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

  33. says

    b) I don’t see any record of economic disadvantage to (every) other civilized country in the world, who spend tiny fractions of their budgets for the military, yet whose economies, social safety nets, national debts, and standards of living put ours to shame.

    Which countries are you talking about?

  34. Chris from Europe says

    The problem is that it took the serious failure of a military adventure for the public to not like it. And it took so long to turn the public opinion that the responsible guy was reelected with the contributing to the reelection.

  35. says

    Raging Bee asks:
    So how, exactly, did America cause NK leaders to act irrationally, or to stick with unworkable Stalinoid farm policies?

    Well, let me throw that back at you, since you seem to think you know something about this. How do you think the US’s reaction to Kim Il Sung’s administration’s deal with the soviets, in 1967, to produce a nuclear reactor might have helped convince him we weren’t negotiating in good faith? Or would you care to comment on Eisenhower’s electoral promise to “go to Korea” which changed to an outright threat of nuclear first use after he got elected? Would you care to write us a book about the number of times that the US has placed the nuclear card on the table regarding North Korea? (I count at least a dozen) And can you comprehend why a country that is constantly being so threatened and which was literally bombed back into the stone age by US bomber command following the cease-fire might want a deterrent?

    “Unworkable stalinoid policies” are unworkable, indeed, when a country is economically isolated and has virtually no natural resources. Of course, North Korean near-slave-labor is useful in the animation industry and other low-tech labor-intensive areas, so the North Koreans are allowed to have a bit of an economic lifeline. You can’t fairly say a country’s farm policy is “stalinoid” when they don’t have oil, don’t have agricultural machinery, and have nearly no access to capital because they’re effectively blockaded and are forced to an oil-based economy because if they were to even lay the foundation for another nuclear reactor it’d attract cruise missiles… North Korea’s got basically no exports worth anything except weapons, which, of course, are blockaded.

    Oh, right, on the planet you come from when one group of governments blockade another in order to use the starvation of their economy and civilians as a weapon – it’s always the victim’s fault and the victim has no right to feel a bit put upon or maybe to be distrustful.

    The North Koreans’ negotiating strategy with the rest of the world has not been very consistent or honest. They certainly have a tough position to play, when their opponent will cheerfully threaten to bomb their infrastructure if they don’t remain on an oil-based energy economy (where do they get the oil from? they are forced to negotiate for that, as well…) Basically it’s the same policy that backed Japan into a corner in the 1930s: we control your oil, we control your access to the outside world, and if you don’t like it, we’ll fuck you up. Sure, that’s an incentive to not cheat and to not try to get a deterrent.

    What do you know about North Korea that you didn’t just get from Wikipedia or Fox news?

  36. eric says

    Michael Heath @4: I do wish we were taxed on the military’s contribution through our consumption of goods rather than through income taxes so voters had a better understanding of where their taxes go and are used.

    The former is not needed to do the latter. For example, we could easily create an income surtax to fund military spending. Just put it on its own line on the 1040: after calculating your regular income tax, add an additional 1% of taxable income (or whatever) for the war effort. And do the same for corporate income.

    The gov doesn’t do this because it would have exactly the effect everyone expects it to have; the populace would be less supportive of wars. Bush insisted that war costs not be counted as part of the regular budget expenditures for a similar reason; to hide the economic impact.

  37. says

    Raging Bee writes:
    Letting people grow and stand on their own works; keeping them weak doesn’t.

    Are you trying to imply that the rest of the world is keeping the USA from standing on their own, and are keeping us weak.

    Excuse me, I think I just laughed so hard one of my lungs came out my nose.

  38. says

    Marcus: if NK is so poor and disadvantaged, why did they choose to devote any of their limited resources to trying to get a nuke in the first place? Nothing we did forced them to make that choice, and a fleet of nuclear missiles won’t do jack for their people’s desperate economic needs. Our policy toward NK has not been anywhere near flawless, but NK could have chosen to spend what little they had on civilian needs, and instead chose to waste it on weapons they could never profitably use. That irrationality is not America’s fault.

    Just because America does bad things, does not mean everything bad is America’s fault.

  39. says

    Are you trying to imply that the rest of the world is keeping the USA from standing on their own, and are keeping us weak[?]

    Um, no, I was talking about Germany, and using it as an example to show that keeping a nation weak does not make its people more responsible. I hope no one else missed the point as badly as you did.

  40. says

    The problem is that it took the serious failure of a military adventure for the public to not like it.

    Actually, no, it didn’t: the public weren’t too keen on it at the start either. That’s why Bush & Co. had to make up such idiotic lies to justify it, and use all their media allies to discredit and marginalize all of their most credible critics. (And again, the Cato Institute, and their longstanding hatred of liberals, are part of the problem here.)

  41. Chris from Europe says

    Raging Bee, I think the nukes worked for NK. This changes how the US can treat them and that’s the whole point of it. And this validates that the seemingly sane strategy for dealing with the US is actually to develop nuclear capability. Which makes the whole thing a giant failure of US foreign politics in my view.

    The US should have convinced NK (and a lot of other countries who were watching) that it is preferrable not to develop nukes.

  42. gingerbaker says

    “but NK could have chosen to spend what little they had on civilian needs, and instead chose to waste it on weapons they could never profitably use. That irrationality is not America’s fault.”

    Unless the U.S. could be held accountable for leading by example! :D

  43. says

    Raging Bee, I think the nukes worked for NK. This changes how the US can treat them and that’s the whole point of it.

    How did they “work” for NK? What advantage, exactly, do they have now that they didn’t have earlier? More to the point, what advantage do they have that justifies the sacrifice their priorities inflicted on their people?

  44. says

    Chris from Europe writes:
    The US should have convinced NK (and a lot of other countries who were watching) that it is preferrable not to develop nukes.

    Why? Developing nukes is extremely expensive but it’s (so far) the one sure way of making sure the US/UK/France/Russia won’t mess with you. If you ignore the propaganda about how some country’s leaders would be crazy enough to commit national suicide by launching a pointless single-target strike against a superpower, you realize pretty quickly that a small arsenal of nukes is only strategically useful for defense. Nuclear non-proliferation is not a well-meaning attempt by the “nice guys” of the planet to try to keep these dangerous weapons out of the hands of ignorant savages – it’s an attempt to maintain a monopoly on the threat of genocidal violence.

  45. says

    Developing nukes is extremely expensive but it’s (so far) the one sure way of making sure the US/UK/France/Russia won’t mess with you.

    Were either of those countries messing with NK before they got nukes? America stopped messing with them because of Chinese support, back in 1953, not because they got a nuke after 2000. The idea that nuclear capability does small nations like NK or Israel any good is somewhere between unsupported and laughable.

  46. says

    Raging Bee:
    if NK is so poor and disadvantaged, why did they choose to devote any of their limited resources to trying to get a nuke in the first place?

    Because they had just had it rather conclusively demonstrated to them that they had no chance of defending themselves against the ground, air, and naval forces that could be brought against them. Further, when you have the US president (Eisenhower) saying that he would use nukes on you if you didn’t honor a cease-fire, the idea of having a retaliatory weapon as a hedge against invasion might be appealing.

    Nothing we did forced them to make that choice

    (eyeroll) Only an idiot would think that.
    North Korea is a client state of China (and Russia, initially, until Stalin died) Kim Il Sung’s masters gave him a strategic direction of confrontation with the US and you can bet he had about as much choice in that as Hamid Karzai has in setting Afghanistan’s foreign policy. If he didn’t do as he was pressured to, he’d be replaced with someone who would. Life is rough when you’re a client state – you can’t tell your masters to piss off and you can’t seek a separate peace with their enemies. Actually the similarity to Afghanistan is pretty striking. Observe the hyperventilating reaction that the US has whenever Karzai makes comments about attempting to come to terms with the insurgents. Kim Il Sung did what he was told and was left hanging to dry, then got bombed back into the stone age and was being threatened by US nukes and pressured by his Chinese masters to not give in to US pressure. North Korea’s freedom of choice was about as significant as the Karzai administration’s is: “bend over, here it comes again”

    There’s a decent chance that, before so much blood was spilled and such bleak battle lines were drawn, the North and South Koreas could have had a rapprochement similar to Germany’s. But in the case of Germany one of the puppet masters stopped playing the game and the puppet got to do what it wanted (which was immediate reunification) The division between the North and South in Korea is a long-term policy of both the US and China much more than it is of either of the Koreas. We probably shouldn’t call South Korea a “puppet” – it’s more of a “spin off” or “investment property” and not quite a “wholly owned subsidiary” but having a threat to the north is a great excuse to keep a military force right down in China’s back pocket. And speaking of nukes, it ought not to elude your massive brain that the Chinese aren’t happy about having a US arsenal and troops right in that back pocket.

    Sure, Kim Jong Il and his disgusting frogspawn are repellent dictators that it’s easy to make fun of. But you’ve been propagandized into ignoring the strings that pull them in different directions. Your idea that the North Koreans have “choices” is about as absurd as saying that Hungary had “choices” in 1956.

    That irrationality is not America’s fault.

    Sure. When a bully is constantly telling you they’re going to kick your ass, any time you spend thinking about how to defend yourself is entirely your choice and your “fault”

    How’s the weather on planet wingnuttia?

  47. says

    Um, no, I was talking about Germany, and using it as an example to show that keeping a nation weak does not make its people more responsible. I hope no one else missed the point as badly as you did.

    No, I was following your argument. Which was:

    – The rest of the world is trying to hamper US power
    – That didn’t work very well with Germany after WWI

    My observation was that there’s a substantial difference between how effectively the rest of the world has hampered US power and how German power was hampered after WWI. Or did that minor historical difference elude you?

  48. says

    Chris from Europe writes:
    this validates that the seemingly sane strategy for dealing with the US is actually to develop nuclear capability

    Well, I’m pretty sure Ghadaffi’d agree with that, and so would Saddam Hussein.

    Israel would probably agree, as well, for subtly different reasons. But, clearly, it’s crucial to their strategy that they maintain a nuclear monopoly in their region. That allows them to launch regional incursions without fear of any effective retaliation.

  49. Michael Heath says

    Gingerbaker @ 32 responding to my prior post:

    Because it seems to me that:

    a) international capitalism , not our military might, is responsible for “increasing assurances of supply across supply chains, which are now global”.

    We enabled capitalism to thrive by greatly improving assurances of supply. In fact one reason China is expanding their projection of power beyond their borders is precisely because of the lessons they’ve learned from our past successes post-WWII. There’s a vacuum of power in their strategic supply lines where they plan to secure their supply of commodities (Africa) to their sea lanes and ports (the Indian Ocean and its ports near the southern border of China). I’ve also previously noted that the best way to reduce the threat of war is to engage in commerce with other countries. Such increased trade reduces the need for militarism. So I’m not arguing directly contra to your conclusions, I’m instead claiming some projection of power enables what you to happen to happen, which is why it happened.

    Gingerbaker @ 32 responding to my prior post:

    Because it seems to me that:

    b) I don’t see any record of economic disadvantage to (every) other civilized country in the world, who spend tiny fractions of their budgets for the military, yet whose economies, social safety nets, national debts, and standards of living put ours to shame. Indeed, one might expect to have heard a hue and cry from these relatively disadvantaged nations, or do they benefit from our military largesse?

    Because they’re benefitting by spending their money on butter while we spend on guns, which benefits them since we secure them as well. Northern European countries, especially Germany, along with Japan are prime examples. That makes it much harder for those of us, like myself, who think we need to spend far more on butter, not just cut military expenditures to better manage our debt load. From a federal perspective others have noted we’re an insurance company with an army; unfortunately that’s only slight hyperbole.

  50. sunsangnim says

    I can understand having some military presence here in Korea. Nobody wants the North invading. But every day, I see F-15s, Chinook helicopters, and other military aircraft doing maneuvers over Daegu. It’s kind of cool getting a free airshow every time I step outside, but I can’t imagine how much money it costs us.

  51. Michael Heath says

    eric @ 37,

    Your advice is good stuff but not related to my advocacy. I wasn’t arguing we take the entire military budget and collect taxes through our consumption, only those parts which are used to secure supply chains which distorts pricing information on certain goods and services. I.e., oil based product pricing is far cheaper than their actual full cost since we pay for the security of oil supply through income taxes rather than in the prices we pay for oil-based goods. That distorts pricing differentials between say, oil-based power and natural gas, wind or solar.

  52. says

    Because they had just had it rather conclusively demonstrated to them that they had no chance of defending themselves against the ground, air, and naval forces that could be brought against them.

    And nukes would not have helped NK, because they can’t out-nuke us any more than they can out-fight us.

    Also, they have PLENTY of chance of defending themselves, since they would very likely have China on their side. They owe their very existence to Chinese intervention, and they’re well within China’s sphere of influence; so they have no need, or use, for a nuclear capability of their own.

    NK can take away resources from their nuclear program and use it to feed their own people, without giving up an ounce of security. Why do you think the US hasn’t tried to finish them off already?

    There’s a decent chance that, before so much blood was spilled and such bleak battle lines were drawn, the North and South Koreas could have had a rapprochement similar to Germany’s.

    There’s also a chance that, if China had not got into the war, Korea could have been unified under a competent regime, and both halves would be relatively prosperous and at peace. Your knee-jerk blame-America reflex needs to be updated.

    How’s the weather on planet wingnuttia?

    Not blaming America for everything that’s currently wrong in North Korea makes me a wingnut?

  53. Chris from Europe says

    Because they’re benefitting by spending their money on butter while we spend on guns, which benefits them since we secure them as well. Northern European countries, especially Germany, along with Japan are prime examples

    No your spending on guns is simply irrational.

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