Why do we spend so much on the military?

Originally published at: https://interi.org/2017/01/why-do-we-spend-so-much-on-the-military/

Specifically, why is the discussion around a “defense sequester” and not the mind-boggling $600 billion a year that we spend on the military?

I simply have no context for this. I’ve heard that the military spending is in part going to contractors in multiple districts, and therefore at best provides jobs and at worse provides campaign funds. But surely that isn’t the whole story.

And if your party is basically riding a fear-fueled cultural backlash, I can see how you would spin it in your favor. Immigrants? ISIS?! Yeah, okay, that’s your narrative. But why are Democrats going along with that? And what about those freedom-loving libertarian Republicans, always trying to reign in government spending?

Why isn’t there a concerted effort to cut military spending? Any percent of that could cover, like, all the insurance subsidies!

What am I missing?

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I don’t understand it either, and I don’t get how anyone could say our military has gotten weak. WE SPEND MORE THAN EVERYONE ELSE!!!

Here is the image from the article showing the top five countries from 2015:

US huge spending relative to almost all others, and absolutely dwarfing all others, has been the case for several decades. Now that I think of it, I’ve never seen data showing when each happened, I guess there are sharp breaks with other countries in 1945 (most of Europe, Japan), 1950s-60s (UK and France decolonization (really, imposition of apartheid rather than colonial citizens taking their rights, in my book), 1990 (ex-USSR, South Africa). Many explanations have been made, but I think the short version is the US is now the only significant global empire, and it has always cost a huge amount maintain such a thing (and much more in human costs of course).

There’s vast waste in various military programs of course, and some could be saved through reform, but to get US military spending down to global norms, it has to stop being an imperial power, period.

I’ve been thinking about this ever since you posted it, @mlinksva.

I totally agree our military funding should be cut back enormous amounts. The piece of the puzzle I can’t figure out is, who would fill the vacuum the US military would be leaving? By that I mean, US makes up the majority of NATO troops, which are deployed places to keep them safe. If the US suddenly said “Ok we are cutting our funding by 90%, we have to pull back all of our troops everywhere outside the US.” I could see that being a problem in areas where our troops under NATO are literally keeping the peace.

That said, I have no sources to back up some of my assumptions, so I’ll be researching that as I have time. If someone else already knows of an misconception I have, please share!

Withdrawing troops from NATO may or may not be a good idea, and it is certainly worth discussing. But let’s focus on a different aspect, because I don’t think the budget allocated to maintaining the training and safety of troops even dents the overall military budget.

I intend to look more into this, because I am sure others have done the groundwork. So I ask ya’ll this: what are the books/studies we ought to look up that explains the current budget, and possible ways out of it?

Are US troops literally keeping the peace? How? Russia would immediately invade Poland without US troops or something? I don’t think there’s anywhere in the world US troops are unambiguously keeping the peace over the long term (in the short term they have recently in places destroyed…by US troops) rather than raising the stakes and increasing chances of disaster.

I should know more, but here are three ideas/indicators for significant long-term curtailment of U.S. imperial activity and thus sustainable spending reduction:

  1. no invading other countries (Afghanistan and Iraq cost > $1 trillion directly)
  2. steep nuclear reduction
  3. steep militarization of space reduction
  4. steep navy reduction
  5. fully commit to the International Criminal Court

2 and 3 probably won’t be accepted without being done in tandem with Russia and China, but the others are all on the US deciding to no longer be a global empire.

I’ve no idea how to accomplish any of this, especially in the face of prevalent U.S. nationalism (and I don’t mean just supporters of the extreme narcissist now in power) and the imperial deep state.

For me anyway, I think the most effective work towards long-term peace (i.e., survival) involves mitigating the next great sources of conflict before they become the property of the empire.