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Sunday, December 26, 2010

On US' defense spending

Statistics, hard data (from Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, today) :

• The United States spends nearly as much on military power as every other country in the world combined, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It says that we spend more than six times as much as the country with the next highest budget, China.
• The United States maintains troops at more than 560 bases and other sites abroad, many of them a legacy of a world war that ended 65 years ago. Do we fear that if we pull our bases from Germany, Russia might invade?
• The intelligence community is so vast that more people have “top secret” clearance than live in Washington, D.C.
• The U.S. will spend more on the war in Afghanistan this year, adjusting for inflation, than we spent on the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War combined.
It's obscene, what we spend on defense and the military.  In fact, let me go a step further--it's insane.  It truly is crazy.  It has no base in reality. (Absolutely no pun intended).
It makes no sense to spend this much on the military and on bases and weapons and weapons programs, not when nearly 10% of us are unemployed;  Not when so many of us can't afford our own health care;  Not when so many can't afford college educations.  Not when our infrastructure needs so much investment;  Not when we need to spend, far more wisely, on technology and research and development, instead, on computers and technology and that same health care I mentioned earlier and on our children's and grandchildren's futures;  And it makes no sense at all, considering the budget deficits we have.  The "military-industrial complex" is doing fantastically, thank you very much, while the rest of the country is going to hell in a handbasket.  Well, except for the bankers, but that's another story.  (There is even an editorial in the NY Times today, too, pointing out how short--in the billions--states are with their budgets and debts, yet we have military bases in Germany and Italy.  It is lunacy).

Even people from the military are saying the same things, too, so don't think this is coming from "the Left", trying to make us "weak on defense":

“Republicans think banging the war drums wins them votes, and Democrats think if they don’t chime in, they’ll lose votes,” said Andrew Bacevich, an ex-military officer who now is a historian at Boston University. He is author of a thoughtful recent book, “Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.”

More:  Let me be clear: I’m a believer in a robust military, which is essential for backing up diplomacy. But the implication is that we need a balanced tool chest of diplomatic and military tools alike. Instead, we have a billionaire military and a pauper diplomacy. The U.S. military now has more people in its marching bands than the State Department has in its foreign service — and that’s preposterous.
Now-former President Dwight D. Eisenhower  had it right--and warned us--when he said "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed." 
We need to get off this merry-go-round.  
Only it's not a merry-go-round, actually.
It's a nearly-endless escalator.
And we aren't even having the conversation yet.

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