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Feb 27 2014

Those Serious Defense Spending Cuts

The media is breathlessly reporting on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s newly announced Pentagon budget proposal, which — OMG! — reduces the number of troops to the lowest number since before WW2! These are very deep, major cuts in spending, you guys. Except, of course, they aren’t. From Hagel’s speech announcing the “cuts.”

On March 1, 2013 – one year ago this week – steep and abrupt automatic spending cuts were imposed on DoD and other agencies across the government under the mechanism of sequestration. For DoD, these irresponsible cuts amounted to $37 billion last fiscal year. These cuts came on top of the $487 billion, ten-year defense spending reductions required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

As sequestration was being imposed, the President submitted a Fiscal Year 2014 budget plan that would have fully repealed those cuts in favor of balanced deficit reduction. That would have given DoD the resources needed to fully implement the President’s January 2012 defense strategy and maintain a ready and modern force.

Two months ago, rather than fully repealing sequestration, Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act, which provided DoD with some relief in this Fiscal Year and for Fiscal Year 2015. The Bipartisan Budget Act gives DoD much-needed budget certainty for the next fiscal year. But, defense spending remains significantly below what the President requested in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget request and five year budget plan.

Under the spending limits of the Bipartisan Budget Act, DoD’s budget is roughly $496 billion this Fiscal Year – or $31 billion below what the President requested. The law also limits DoD spending in Fiscal Year 2015 to $496 billion, which is $45 billion less than was projected in the President’s budget request last year. So while DoD welcomes the measure of relief and stability that the [Bipartisan] Budget Act provided, it still forces us to cut more than $75 billion over this two-year period, in addition to the $37 billion cut we took last year and the Budget Control Act’s 10-year reductions of $487 billion. And sequestration-level cuts remain the law for Fiscal Year 2016 and beyond.

The President will soon submit a budget request that adheres to Bipartisan Budget Act spending limits for Fiscal Year 2015. But it is clear that under these limits the military will still face significant readiness and modernization challenges next year. To close these gaps, the President’s budget will include an Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative. This initiative is a detailed proposal that is part of the President’s budget submission. It would provide an additional $26 billion for the Defense Department in Fiscal Year 2015…

These additional funds would be paid for with a balanced package of spending and tax reforms, and would allow us to increase training, upgrade aircraft and weapons systems, and make needed repairs to our facilities. The money is specifically for bringing unit readiness and equipment closer to standard after the disruptions and large shortfalls of the last few years. I strongly support the President’s proposal.

The President’s budget for Fiscal Year 2015 will also contain a new five-year defense budget plan, mapping out defense programs through 2019. Over five years, this plan projects $115 billion more in spending than sequestration levels.

The reason we are requesting this increase over sequestration levels is because the President and I would never recommend a budget that compromises our national security. Continued sequestration cuts would compromise our national security both for the short- and long-term.

This kind of nonsense is bad enough coming from Republicans, but when it comes to defense spending and foreign policy there is no longer any meaningful difference between the two parties. We spend nearly half of all the money spent in the entire world on “defense” (which we use almost entirely for offense, not defense) and they seriously expect us to believe that these tiny little cuts, which are still higher than the sequester cuts from last year, is going to compromise our national security? Can anyone really believe that? Look at this chart:

defensebudget

We spent nearly four times what China and Russia do combined. And the next 11 biggest spending nations are all our allies. Yeah, I’m going to stay up at night shaking at the thought of us spending only 45% of the world’s defense spending instead of 47%. My eyes could roll from here to Timbuktu and back hearing that nonsense.

47 comments

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  1. 1
    bushrat

    The Price of Freedom…or some such drivel.

  2. 2
    Marcus Ranum

    They are also talking insanity like cutting the A-10, which works to preserve funding for the F-35 which is still speculative. It’s horrifying.

    If there’s a branch of government that could handle a 90% across the board cut, it’s defense.

  3. 3
    Pierce R. Butler

    … the Bipartisan Budget Act…

    A strange name for legislation, even if factually correct.

    When has partisanship become part of official legislative nomenclature?

    Will we next see the Democratic Social Security Status Quo bill or the Republican Obamacare Repeal Act?

  4. 4
    Marcus Ranum

    The Quid Pro Quo Bill would be aptly named and would pass the eloquence comittee.

  5. 5
    jamesmaynard

    With all the Snowden-NSA revelations, we may not have that many allies for much longer. We may have to bump the military budget back up to 45.5 – 46.5% of the worlds defense budget just to stay safe.

  6. 6
    richardelguru

    How come the Saudis spend so much? Solid gold planes??

  7. 7
    Chiroptera

    On March 1, 2013 – one year ago this week – steep and abrupt automatic spending cuts were imposed on DoD and other agencies across the government under the mechanism of sequestration.

    Wait a minute: isn’t the reason the sequestration kicked in because the Republicans refuse any and all compromise on their extremist budget positions?

  8. 8
    eric

    Saudi Arabia’s defense budjet consists of the US giving them aid money that we earmark can only be spent buying arms, planes, etc. manufactured by the US. Then they turn around and buy the planes etc. we told them they could buy. Its more of a “Lockheed (etc). employment program” than a foreign defense program.

  9. 9
    richardelguru

    eric,
    of course, that makes a lot of sense (especially to Lockheed)!

  10. 10
    noastronomer

    I thought Russia was our ally too now, at least according to a number of Republicans, or am I mistaken?

    Mike

  11. 11
    scienceavenger

    …reduces the number of troops to the lowest number since before WW2

    Well since we don’t currently have a global enemy nearly as threatening as those in WWII, why wouldn’t that be an appropriate maximum bound’?

  12. 12
    alanuk

    You might find diplomacy is cheaper.

  13. 13
    patrikroslund

    I have no idea how you manage to spend such amounts on your military. You have the best military force in the world no doubt, but it’s not that much bigger in manpower and equipment than some other countries. Quality has much to do whit it I guess, but there has to be much spill and costs associated whit having military stationed all over the world. Ironic since you have no unfriendly neighboring countries, and the location and high population of your country should allow you to get by whit a smaller military than most.

  14. 14
    Kevin Alexander

    I wonder what Al Qaeda’s budget is?

  15. 15
    doublereed

    That whole “over X years” thing is so confusing when talking about these numbers. It makes all this so damn difficult to read and comprehend.

    Though we should actually reallocate those funds to infrastructure/education. Sequestration is terrible for the economy, but it’s an opportunity to realign our priorities.

  16. 16
    Orakio

    @13:

    What we have in the US is a contractor employment and politician graft program that has military equipment as a side effect. While foreign bases are expensive, the largest expense is maintaining irrelevant programs that are administered by contractors who make major donations to legislators, while being the largest employers in many very poor areas.

    Then, of course, there’s the “thousand dollar hammer” syndrome, in which an army base sends someone down to home depot, has them buy three dozen hammers for 5$ a pop, then proceeds to bar code them and spend $40,000 in labor a year trying to catch it when one walks off base in someone’s pocket.

  17. 17
    eric

    And remember ladies and gentlemen, we now have drones! Yes drones, who will remove the need and risk of putting so many young men and women in harm’s way! Drones that can do what it would take many peolpe to do! Drones that…um, what’s that? [murmurmurmer] Sorry about that aside. My aide has just informed me that it’s in my best political interest to keep troop numbers high. Ladies and Gentlemen, let me tell you about this absolute travesty. I’m talking about the drastic loss of absotulely necessary troops in our armed forces….

  18. 18
    doublereed

    and eric wins the thread.

  19. 19
    dshetty

    We spent nearly four times what China and Russia do combined.
    I wonder if this demonstrates incompetence or corruption (not mutually exclusive of course)

  20. 20
    busterggi

    Its not about military readiness or strength or defense – its psychological, its about ‘shrinkage’.

  21. 21
    felidae

    the latest estimates are in: cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,including legacy costs—3 trillion dollars Benefits to the US: zero* Hell of a return on investment unless you look at military spending as a jobs program for soldiers and defense contractors

    * perhaps negative if one takes into account that the principal beneficiaries of the Iraq war were the Iranians and the Chinese oil companies

  22. 22
    noastronomer

    @Orakio #16

    And that kind of idiocy is not restricted to the military I fondly remember spending two weeks worth of billable hours for a client (@ $150 an hour) preparing a cost justification, including analysis of two alternatives, for the purchase of three copies of a $150 software package.

    Total amount saved for the client : -$11,550.

  23. 23
    Suido

    Holy crap. I had no idea Australia was in the top 15.

    Defence in Australia gets a smaller piece of the pie than health, welfare or education, but apparently we’re still outspending Indonesia (a country with ~10x our population and one of the largest armies in the world). Really shows how much difference there is between the developed and developing.

  24. 24
    Mark Weber

    In the fall of 2002, prior to the beginning of the campaign in Iraq, we spent more on defense than the next 26 spendiest nations combined. Defense spending has only increased since then. I’m all for replacing our old fighters with the F-22 (which will replace the F-18, the F-14, and the Harrier, becoming the fighter of choice for the Air Force, the Navy, and the Marines). It is a real and substantial improvement in technology and we have invested so much it would be ridiculous to abandon the project. Otherwise, I think we can afford to trim our military quite substantially.
    .
    The US is simply the most secure country on the planet. In addition to our overwhelming technological advantage over essentially all potential foes, two of our boundaries are friendly nations and the other two are oceans which any enemies must cross to get to us. To be a real threat, they would need to somehow do so without being noticed by our numerous recon satellites, fleets, and flights. Basically, any enemy attempting an attack against us will be caught before they get halfway here. Red Dawn made sense in the 80s, but we’ve come a long way since then.
    .
    We no longer need to be able to simultaneously fight three wars (which is what our military is designed to do). We need to be prepared for war to maintain the peace, but we must also recognize that the threat of war is vastly reduced.

  25. 25
    Mark Weber

    Correction to my post in #24: The plane in question is the F-35, not the F-22.

  26. 26
    Michael Heath

    Mark Weber writes:

    The US is simply the most secure country on the planet. In addition to our overwhelming technological advantage over essentially all potential foes, two of our boundaries are friendly nations and the other two are oceans which any enemies must cross to get to us. To be a real threat, they would need to somehow do so without being noticed by our numerous recon satellites, fleets, and flights. Basically, any enemy attempting an attack against us will be caught before they get halfway here. Red Dawn made sense in the 80s, but we’ve come a long way since then.

    This is a strawman and category error regarding the priorities of the U.S. Military. Their mission has long been to project power outward, not focus predominately on protecting our borders inward. For decades now such projection outward is focused on assurances of supply of key supply chains, particularly oil. It was this motivation that resulted in the Gulf War after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait.

    And U.S. energy independence doesn’t necessarily negate a reduced demand for the U.S. military. That’s because those key supply chains are part of a global supply chain, where the U.S. disproportionately subsidizes security for the benefit of nearly all countries.

    I too think our military budgets should get shaved, where I’d like to see those funds reallocated to domestic policies focused on long- and short-term economic growth opportunities. However it’s also worth noting how other countries benefit at the largesse of the U.S. military. Those other countries pay less for goods and services and their governments can focus more on butter projects as the U.S. taxpayers foot a military budget that benefits the global economy. That in turn has made the U.S. less competitive economically than its potential; this along with conservatives and libertarians who advocate for policies that are effectively contractionary.

  27. 27
    Mark Weber

    Michael Heath writes:

    Their mission has long been to project power outward, not focus predominately on protecting our borders inward. For decades now such projection outward is focused on assurances of supply of key supply chains, particularly oil.

    Actually, the focus on supply lines is relatively recent, in just the last couple of decades. The military turned its focus outward as a means to justify its size post-WWII with the advent of the Cold War. Everything became about extended deterrent threat until the collapse of the Soviet Union. In that geopolitical landscape, the extended threat was more applicable. In our current landscape, there is no Cold War grounded in the threat of cascading conflict. The closest threat of such a situation is North Korea. Globally, warfare among states has largely undergone the transformation it underwent in Japan in the late 40s and early 50s, i.e. it has moved from military engagement into economic engagement.
    .
    You are absolutely correct that the world at large benefits from the US’s investment in its military. That is just another argument for reducing our investment. Let our military protect our interests and let the rest of the world pay for their own security. I’m not suggesting we abrogate our treaties and alliances, but I think we can share the burden with them more equally. The simple fact is that we don’t need to maintain the same level of hegemony over against our allies which we currently have. We can cooperatively protect the global supply lines more efficiently than we can hegemoniclaly.

  28. 28
    sailor1031

    We spent nearly four times what China and Russia do combined

    perhaps this should give us a hint as to where we should be doing our military procurement. At least if we bought from China and Russia we’d know we had weapons parity……

  29. 29
    Raging Bee

    Though we should actually reallocate those funds to infrastructure/education.

    Are the advocates of these “cuts” pushing for such reallocation?

    Sequestration is terrible for the economy, but it’s an opportunity to realign our priorities.

    It’s been terrible for the economy for MANY YEARS now, and is there any such realignment in sight? Fuck no — our infrastructure and education needs were better served BEFORE tax cuts and sequestration, even when we were complaining so bitterly about defense spending. In fact, a lot of that defense spending was going back into such domestic needs, by giving people jobs with taxable income, by creating high-tech infrastructure on which civilian entrepreneurship can build, and by driving innovation that has non-military uses.

    This phony argument between military and civilian spending priorities is, in many ways, a false dichotomy — especially now, when the Republitarians are shafting people on both sides and destroying the economy that once managed to serve both priorities pretty well, thankyouverymuch.

  30. 30
    Raging Bee

    You are absolutely correct that the world at large benefits from the US’s investment in its military. That is just another argument for reducing our investment.

    The rest of the world benefits from our military spending, and that’s your idea of a good argument for REDUCING that spending? Seriously? That’s like saying some other neighborhood benefits from police protection, therefore I should pay less in taxes to fund the police. Dude, take your divisive, tribalistic horseshit and peddle it somewhere else.

  31. 31
    Raging Bee

    the latest estimates are in: cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,including legacy costs—3 trillion dollars Benefits to the US: zero…

    The solution to that problem is not to reduce defense spending — it’s to elect more competent leaders.

  32. 32
    steve84

    Making any real changes is almost impossible with the way the US system is set up. Even if you could get past the extreme militarism in America, you’d immediately run into a completely corrupt system where politicians are wholly owned by the defense industry and only interested in their own gain.

    When someone proposes to cut a certain program you get automatic whining from a senator in whose state the factory is located. Of course he doesn’t give a shit about the workers. He only cares about the bribes from the company and votes.
    When someone proposes to close a base you get immediate whining from local politicians. When someone proposes to transfer some planes from a base you get immediate whining, even when they are replaced by some other weapons system. When someone proposes changes to the National Guard you get immediate whining from the local senators. Because it’s all about their pork.

  33. 33
    Raging Bee

    The military turned its focus outward as a means to justify its size post-WWII with the advent of the Cold War.

    No, the military turned its focus outward to crush one genocidal tyrannical regime, keep another from expanding its power, and secure significantly more freedom for tens of millions of people. Your failure to mention that says a lot about your credibility.

  34. 34
    Raging Bee

    When someone proposes to cut a certain program you get automatic whining from a senator in whose state the factory is located. Of course he doesn’t give a shit about the workers. He only cares about the bribes from the company and votes.

    And when you propose raising taxes to fund the program, you get far more automatic whining from the 1% who only care about their own short-term financial betterment.

    When someone proposes to close a base you get immediate whining from local politicians.

    You also get “whining” from larger numbers of people who actually benefit from the jobs created by that base, and by the progress that is driven by government demand. If you have a problem with such “whiners,” maybe you should move to a country that does less for its whiny ordinary people. Like maybe Somalia.

  35. 35
    Raging Bee

    Globally, warfare among states has largely undergone the transformation it underwent in Japan in the late 40s and early 50s, i.e. it has moved from military engagement into economic engagement.

    Warring states have become like Japan? Mark Weber, you clearly have no fucking clue what you’re talking about.

  36. 36
    dingojack

    Raging Bee – Yes, thanks to America we were spared the terrible expansionistic totalitarian regime of Alfonso XIII of Spain. I feel safer already.
    ‘Remember the Maine’
    ;s Dingo

  37. 37
    steve84

    @Raging Bee
    The spending on the military is in no proportion to the economical benefits or the jobs its provides. You could just hand out some money directly to people and still save hundreds of billions.

    And in general, you’re an idiot.

  38. 38
    Raging Bee

    Wow, steve84 sure got incoherent in a hurry. What does the “84″ in your name mean — the last time your rhetoric was updated?

  39. 39
    freehand

    Well, when the aliens make me king, right off the top I’ll take half the military forces and resources, and put them to use rebuilding our infrastructure. Smart grid, sustainable power sources, new water lines, levees for coastal cities with longer-term plans for relocating, etc. Later, I’ll take more.
    .
    Raging Bee, the workers in various military industrial endeavors could make just as much money building bridges as building bombs to blow up other people’s bridges. If they were rebuilding infrastructure they’d see a lot more benefit. Steve84 was pointing out that there are no obvious benefits now to weapon industry workers beyond their immediate income. We collectively pay taxes so they can build expensive machines which, if they work, are only used to destroy stuff and destabilize the world I’m sure the obscene amounts of money the top management makes is a coincidence.

  40. 40
    wscott

    We spend nearly half of all the money spent in the entire world on “defense”

    True, but misleading for several reasons. First off, part of the reason the US spends so much on our military is simply because we’re so damn rich. Big, rich countries throughout history have tended to have big, expensive militaries, so this shouldn’t be surprising. If you look at military spending as a share of GDP, we’re actually 10th, tied with Russia (4.4%). We spend less than half what Saudi Arabia does (8.9%), and about twice what China does (2.1%). We can certainly debate how much is necessary/too much, but the discrepancy isn’t nearly as wide as if you only look at absolute expenditures. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures
    .
    Second, comparing how much money countries spend on their militaries is a very poor measure of their relative combat capability. The US spends way more than anyone else on education & health care, but no sane observer would claim we’re leading the pack in those areas, right? Our military is hugely expensive for several reasons, including but not limited to: we project our power overseas (leading to higher costs for basing, fuel, etc); we pay our soldiers a living wage; we train and exercise them extensively; and we insist on them having the best equipment in the world, which includes a ton of R&D to maintain that edge. I’m not saying those are bad things, but they’re not cheap. And yeah, there’s a fair amount of bloat in the system. [/understatement] But those sort of systematic costs are harder to cut once they’re in place, so in practice budget cuts almost always result in direct troop cuts. Which matters because…
    .
    In terms of actual manpower our military is big, but not so overwhelmingly huge as you might expect from the budget. Counting active and reserve forces* we come in 7th behind North Korea, Vietnam, India, China, Russia and Bangladesh; we’re just ahead of Taiwan and Brazil; and barely twice Pakistan or Ukraine. Yes, manpower isn’t everything – our military is far more effective per person than any other military in the world. (See previous paragraph for why.) But deploying forces globally still requires bodies, and you can only spread them so thin.
    .
    Which leads me to my last point, which is that this whole discussion** is ass-backwards, because no one is talking about what our role in the world ought to be, what risks we’re willing to absorb, whether or not our allies need to carry more of the burden, etc…and then we can talk about what size/cost/organization of military we need to support that role. We made the same mistake during the drawdown in the 90s (post Desert Storm), cutting funding and force levels without cutting back on the missions we expect our military to accomplish. Hence all the talk about “ops tempo” which has been hammering our military for the last 10+ years.
    .
    In closing (sorry for the long post!): I’m not saying there’s not room to cut the defense budget, and I agree these cuts are hardly going to be the catastrophe some claim. But the conversation is far more complex than just “Look how much money we spend!”
    .
    * I didn’t count “paramilitary” forces because that category varies so widely. And yes, we could debate whether to count reserves or not, but this post is too long already.
    ** Nationally, not in this comment thread. ;)

  41. 41
    Mark Weber

    Raging Bee says

    That’s like saying some other neighborhood benefits from police protection, therefore I should pay less in taxes to fund the police. Dude, take your divisive, tribalistic horseshit and peddle it somewhere else.

    No, It’s like saying there is no reason for one affluent neighborhood to pay for all the police in a city with several affluent neighborhoods. The UK has plenty of resources to allocate to global security. France has plenty of resources to allocate to global security. Germany has lots of resources to allocate to global security. Let’s spread the cost out over the many other countries that have the resources instead of assuming that we’re the only people out there who can ensure the world’s security. Maybe that would make us a bit less cavalier about attacking people we don’t like for no good reason.
    .

    No, the military turned its focus outward to crush one genocidal tyrannical regime, keep another from expanding its power, and secure significantly more freedom for tens of millions of people.

    The first of those was WWII which clearly wouldn’t fall under any discussion of post-WWII military. As for the second, our opposition to the USSR had a lot less to do with Stalin’s genocidal tendencies and a lot more to do with stopping the spread of communist ideology (which is not inherently genocidal, as demonstrated by leaders like Lenin and Gorbachev). There were lots of dictators we could have done something about. Instead, we funded a bunch of them and approached the rest from a containment model, because we cared about ideology not the moral imperative created by the suffering of their citizens.
    .
    I’m willing to listen to Ike when it comes to what was going on at the time. I would think that with his background in the military and as CiC, he probably had a good picture of the situation and he warned us about the dangers of the growing military-industrial complex as the impetus behind much of our Cold War policy.
    .

    Warring states have become like Japan? Mark Weber, you clearly have no fucking clue what you’re talking about.

    I was referring to the way in which the warrior culture of Japan under Hirohito (which really derived from the samurai culture of the Tokugawa period) was redirected away from the military after we forbade them from having one. Japan moved away from a militaristic culture which fetishized warriors to an economic culture which fetishized the emerging equivalent: salarymen. In the same way, the bulk of conflict between China and the US is in their attempts to disrupt e-commerce.
    .
    The US is the only state that has initiated a war in the last two decades. The two wars started prior to that were started by Saddam Hussein (who isn’t doing much). Just before Saddam’s invasion of Iran, there was another war: the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. They’re not doing much these days either.
    .
    Essentially all armed conflicts not initiated by the US are civil wars. Interceding in civil wars is a messy business and shouldn’t be done unilaterally. Again, let’s share the burden for addressing such situations among other nations who have the resources to help instead of assuming we’re the only people who can ensure world peace.
    (I suppose you could make an argument for Israel starting armed conflicts with its neighbors, as well, but they are ostensibly our ally and not a security threat to us.)

  42. 42
    wscott

    They are also talking insanity like cutting the A-10, which works to preserve funding for the F-35 which is still speculative.

    I love the ol’ Warthogs. But they’re a 40-year-old design. How many of us are driving cars designed in 1970? At some point, even the best designs become obsolete.
    .

    Well since we don’t currently have a global enemy nearly as threatening as those in WWII, why wouldn’t that be an appropriate maximum bound’?

    Maybe, but it truly was a different world back then. Prior to 1940, the active-duty military was regarded as a “cadre” which would train up hordes of new volunteers/draftees for 6-12 months before we headed off to war. Those days are long gone. If we expect our military forces to actually be able to, you know, win when called on, we need a professional military. (No disrespect to the guard/reserve forces, who are mostly full-time now anyway.)
    .

    The US is simply the most secure country on the planet.

    Arguably, ok. But how much of that is because we have such a strong military? I’d agree there are other factors, but having a strong defense is certainly a factor.
    .
    @ Michael Heath #26 – I don’t want to blockquote your whole post, so I’ll just say: Exactly!
    .

    Actually, the focus on supply lines is relatively recent, in just the last couple of decades.

    I’d argue it’s been a focus, going back to the late 40s. But obviously it’s become a larger focus over time, until post-Soviet-collapse it has become the primary focus. [/nitpick]
    .

    Globally, warfare among states has largely undergone the transformation it underwent in Japan in the late 40s and early 50s, i.e. it has moved from military engagement into economic engagement.

    That’s a fair point; Steven Pinker goes into it at length in Better Angels Of Our Natures. tl;dr – war hasn’t gone away, obviously, but since the 1950s wars between nations have become vanishingly rare compared to historical levels. For most nations today, the cost-benefit ratio of invading your neighbor is so badly skewed that the benefits of economic competition and cooperation are a no-brainer for any but the most jingoistic leaders. http://thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Pinker.jpg.
    .

    I’m not suggesting we abrogate our treaties and alliances, but I think we can share the burden with them more equally.

    Sounds great in theory. But I think the odds of our allies increasing their defense budgets to pick up the more of the tab are between zero and zilch. Why should they, when they know they can rely on us to keep the shipping lanes safe? (I’m not implying the US does so out of pure altruism.)

  43. 43
    wscott

    I was referring to the way in which the warrior culture of Japan under Hirohito…moved away from a militaristic culture which fetishized warriors to an economic culture which fetishized the emerging equivalent: salarymen.

    Ah, I misunderstood what you meant. But that’s a good point too!

    The US is the only state that has initiated a war in the last two decades…Essentially all armed conflicts not initiated by the US are civil wars.

    Well…I think that overstates the case a teensy bit. Do you really count the 2008 Russia-Georgia 5-day war as a civil war? The 2009 Gaza War? Comoros’ invasion of Anjouan? The Congo Wars of the late 90s? The border disputes between Cambodia-Thailand, or Eritrea-Etheopia-Djibouti? To call all these conflicts “civil wars” is to redefine the term so broadly as to render it meaningless.
    You’re correct that traditional cross-border wars have nearly become extinct, and also fair in pointing out that the US has accounted for most of those we have seen in the last two decades. (Whether you think those wars were justified or not.) No need to stretch the point into clearly-false-land to make the point.

  44. 44
    Mark Weber

    wcott writes

    Arguably, ok. But how much of that is because we have such a strong military? I’d agree there are other factors, but having a strong defense is certainly a factor.

    It is absolutely because of how awesome our military is. That’s why I’m all for following through on the F-35 (that and it’s a ridiculously awesome piece of technology when it works). That said, the simple fact is that we don’t need to outspend all the other major players in the world combined for us to maintain that level of force and preparedness.
    .

    Why should they, when they know they can rely on us to keep the shipping lanes safe?

    That’s why we need to reduce our forces. We need them to know that we can’t do it alone. We’ll do our part, but we won’t do their part, too.

  45. 45
    Mark Weber

    My apologies to wscott for misspelling his name.

  46. 46
    Mark Weber

    No need to stretch the point into clearly-false-land to make the point.

    My apologies. My ignorance is showing. I was not aware of some of those conflicts. I forgot about Georgia and remembered the unrest in the Congo being presented as a series of coups, not an invasion by Rwanda. In fairness to myself, though, I did note that a case could be made for Israel; I was thinking of the Gaza conflict and their retaliation to the Lebanese missile attacks. You are correct, however, that I overstated my case. I will stand by the point, though, (which you seem to agree with) that none of these wars represent any serious domestic security risk for the US. They also demonstrate a change in how interstate war is done. It tends to be between states without what we might chauvinistically call “a real military” and it tends to be quickly decided. A much smaller military can still serve us well in this respect.
    .
    Another point came up recently elsewhere. The theory behind the size and structure of our military is still grounded in the specifics of WWII: it is designed so that we can simultaneously fight two wars while also defending the homeland. Effectively, we are set up so that we have three full size standing armies. We just don’t need to maintain that level of troops in today’s geomilitary landscape.

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    wscott

    My apologies to wscott for misspelling his name.

    Meh, I’ve been called worse. ;)
    .
    You’re totally forgiven for not knowing much about most of those conflicts – they didn’t exactly get a lot of press coverage in the West. (Or at least not in the US.) And the fact that they were so small, short-lived and took place in the least-developed parts of the world supports your broader point, which I do agree with. Tho I’m less optimistic about the notion that if we cut our military, our allies will automatically pick up the slack.

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