The 2018 U.S. Militarized Budget
My premise is that the military budget, as proposed by the current administration, is a principal reason for the strangling of our civil society. This article explains why it is unnecessary, why it is promoted, and why it is malignant.
The Proposed Military Budget and its Rationale
There are two components of the Federal budget, one discretionary and the other “mandatory” (essentially fixed). Discretionary spending is about one-third (about $1.2 trillion) of total spending.
The discretionary part of the Trump Federal budget (as with prior budgets) is presently dominated by Pentagon and related expenditures and amounts to about $740 billion, but still must be negotiated. It includes virtually everything the government does outside of such “entitlement” expenditures as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which are components of the mandatory budget. Military expenditures include direct military spending and related spending on veterans’ affairs, homeland security, CIA, intelligence, and nuclear weapons research and development. It amounts to an astounding 65%-68% of the federal discretionary budget!
Borrowing words from William Hartung, “You undoubtedly won’t be surprised to learn that perpetual war and the urge to perpetuate yet more of it leaves little room for spending on the environment, diplomacy, alternative energy, housing, or other domestic investments, not to speak of infrastructure repair. Put another way, preparations for, and the pursuit of war, will ensure that any future America is dirtier, sicker, poorer, more rickety, and less safe.”
“With all the military spending and the increase planned by the Trump administration, the danger is that we shall forever be looking for new conflicts to engage in, to finding new enemies to scare our people.” (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176311/tomgram%3A_william_hartung%2C_ the_trillion_dollar_national_security_budget/#more)
Why Are Our Military Expenses So Large?
1) Is the U.S. homeland really in danger from attack from perceived state adversaries: China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, …Venezuela?
One should remember here that US military expenditures dwarf those of any other nation, in fact are larger then next eight countries’ military expenditures combined. Russia’s spending is about one-tenth, and China’s about one-third, that of the U.S.. Moreover, Russia has recently announced that it is reducing its military spending by about 25%.
The U.S mainland is surrounded by protective oceans and friendly countries. The only nations that could conceivably attack it are those which possess intercontinental ballistic missles as well as imposing sea and air power, namely our advertised main adversaries Russia and China. Iran and North Korea, now rated so dangerous, lack such capabilities and are unlikely to have them in the near future, for they simply lack technical capacity and resources, the recent ballistic missile tests by North Korea notwithstanding. (However, they could use their diminished deterrent military capabilities were they to be targeted by the U.S.)
But what country would dare attack our nuclearized, high-tech military powerhouse knowing that it would be obliterated by an overwhelming U.S. response if it tried? This would be true even if our military budget were, for example, halved. Russia and China clearly understand this, and hence seek peaceful coexistence with the United States, despite our threatening military provocations at their borders.
2) Another excuse for our military budget is to protect our allies—NATO countries, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, South Korea—but there is little indication that those nations are in danger, unless the U.S. initiates or promotes attacks on their neighbors. (Thus, an attack by the U.S. on North Korea might cause Japan and South Korea to be attacked; a U.S. attack on Iran would possibly invoke retaliation against Saudi Arabia and Israel.)
3) Therefore, what seems most evident is that this overwhelming military U.S. capability serves mainly to safeguard our broadly understood “national security” or “national interests.”
What this entails is that “we”, i.e. the U.S. governing circles, shall not readily tolerate competitors to those interests. “We” have to be able to demand that others provide resources that we need, or crave, such as oil. Moreover, we wish to be in control of those resources, physical and economic. It is for this reason that we maintain about 800 military bases around the globe. Efforts to create what is called “global stability” means that we must repel opposition from other nations to these, our aims: We thus cannot admit the sovereignty of nations who do not acquiesce to major U.S. policy objectives.
4) What about having our military prowess in order to fight terrorism? But it is well recognized that we create terrorists who seek vengeance for our destructive actions against their societies. Moreover, terrorism and the demonization of Russians, Chinese, Iranians, and North Koreans is useful in keeping our war economy humming, servicing Raytheon, Lockheed-Martin, General Dynamics, Boeing, etc., and myriad subcontractors. These corporations are the obvious beneficiaries of our war-prone foreign policies. Yet, expensive high-tech weaponry has little effect in preventing the attacks that terrorists can employ.
Of course, we must maintain and enhance our already overwhelming military superiority, because China and Russia (among others) are improving their military capabilities. Thus, the Trump budget proposes $54 billion in new military spending, and $1 trillion over 30 years to improve our nuclear weaponry—possibly for what used to be unthinkable, a first strike against Russia or China.
Who Benefits and Who Suffers?
It is at this point relevant and important to emphasize that the security of the U.S., as conceived by our administrations, does not extend uniformly to our own population! The well-being of most us not only does not benefit from the gargantuan U.S. military/national security budget, but is sabotaged by it. With such a budget, much of what most of our people value will be unattainable.
Finally, and perhaps foremost, one must take into account the moral dimensions of U.S. military behavior. Our military policies, made available by our military expenses, have cast aside core human values, the values of a just and humane society. Our behavior—wars, drone killings, subversions—constitute a grotesque tale of death, maiming, and destruction of other peoples and their societies. We’ve destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia … , while sustaining war-mongering theocracies, like Saudi Arabia, and repressive expansive governments, like Israel with respect to Palestinians.
Domestically, military expenditures go hand in hand with an increasing militarization here at home. National security regulations undermine freedoms. Nations dominated by militaries and their supporters become murderous and repressive. One only needs to recall how it worked in Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hirohito’s Japan.
To summarize, my focus has been to attack grossly excessive military spending, because that determines what resources are available for our nation’s social needs, hence our nation’s internal strength; and whether we can have a truly democratic society, and one that fits peacefully into the world, rather than one which is militarized. The world would be a safer and more prosperous place if the wealth of the U.S. were not depleted by its unnecessary military and intelligence depredations.
This article and Dave Johnson’s article in this issue are derived from presentations at a panel on “The Hidden Costs of War” on June 18, 2017 at the Champaign Public Library.
Morton (Mort) K. Brussel is a UIUC emeritus professor of physics, retired in 1995. He is concerned with war, peace and human rights issues, and worries about the sustainability of resources in a growing world economy and problems arising with climate change due to human influences. He has engaged in antiwar protests in France and the United States.