The Atlantic‘s Robert Wright says what I have been thinking too, that if there is one entity that can survive a drop over the ‘fiscal cliff’ because its existing bloat will cushion the fall, it is the defense budget. He argues that the money it will lose will not harm America’s national security in the least.
I mean, what actual threat to America’s security is the military currently fending off? Are there any countries that would invade the United States if the Pentagon’s budget were 10 percent smaller than it is–which is roughly what $500 billion in cuts over 10 years would amount to?
The main threat to national security you hear about is terrorism. And, so far as I can tell, a big chunk of the money spent by the military to address that problem has made the problem worse. The invasion and occupation of Iraq provided massive propaganda for terrorist recruiters (and the consequent regime change created a new ally for Iran, which is said to be our nemesis and a backer of terrorists). The war in Afghanistan has also been a Godsend for Jihadist propagandists–while, in the bargain, destabilizing Pakistan and making its nuclear weapons more likely to fall into the hands of extremists.
And even if you believe that drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, etc., are making us safer from terrorists (I personally think the opposite), they don’t account for that much of the military budget–and in fact many of them are conducted by the CIA, not the Pentagon.
As for the navy: What threat to America are American ships half a world away from our shores fending off? If the navy were 90 percent–or even 80 or 70 percent–of its size, who exactly would attack us? What vital interest would be threatened?
Even after the cuts mandated by the sequestration process if the fiscal cliff is not avoided, the US defense would only drop from 40% to 38% of the entire world’s spending, as these charts from Time magazine illustrate.
The problem is that the ‘defense’ budget has little to do with defense. A true defense budget would be comparable to those of other major countries. Even at 20% of current spending, the US would be way ahead of any other country. What we have instead are two things: a ‘war’ budget that actually encourages military adventurism around the globe; and a huge parasitic industry, the real ‘moochers’ and ‘looters’, that contributes little to actual defense but leeches off this budget to enrich itself.