Upon hearing the report that US lawmakers have released details about the annual defense spending budget, it can only make a reasonable and well-informed person sigh, knowing that regardless how high the number dwarfs the rest of the world, some will feel it’s not enough. Currently, Reuters is reporting that number is $717 billion dollars, though before we jump into the details, let’s explore how that really stacks up with the world.
If you do research, you will find a variety of statistics sited for the US defense budget; a simple image search for “US Defense Budget Chart” will be very telling. Despite the minor differences in some statistics, they all agree on one thing. As a universal fact, all statistics you can find agree that US defense spending is by far the largest in the world, unreasonably so.
Suffice to say, US Defense spending dwarfs the world – that’s not my turn of phrase alone, but the Washington Post agrees. US defense spending is so high, the next top ten countries in the world put together do not compete in raw spending. It does not matter if the number is 711 billion, or 600, or 1000, whatever year is in question, you can bet the US is outspending the world.
This inspires a simple question in a reasonable person.
Why is the US so convinced that outspending the rest of the world is of any benefit to them, let alone the world, and why do they feel so insecure they must spend so much? For example, if a person is reasonable sure his house will never be invaded by, for example, the Golden Horde, he will not invest much money in building a personal Kremlin (citadel) to defend from the invasion of Steppe Nomads. He would say, that is ridiculous! Why do you think I need to build crenelated walls seven meters thick, with battlements, and machicolations. In what world do I need the Walls of Constantinople around my house to be safe?
Likewise, if a reasonable person was asked, should he spend 30% of his normal household budget on weapons, body armor, armored vehicles, mercenaries, etc. he would find this unreasonable. The actual dangers a normal human being is under does not justify arming himself to this level. This is NOT to argue he does not have the right to self-defense or to do what he pleases so long as he isn’t breaking the law, or harming others, but there simply are no normal situations in which a civilian would need to own…for example, a tank, in order to defend himself.
Why then would a country need much more than say, Russia or China spends, in order to defend themselves. These countries are certainly large and powerful. Why does the US need to outspend literally every major player put together? Interestingly enough, according to Reuters, the new US budget is intended not only to “complete with” Russia and China…even if it would seem as if the US is already outspending them…by far, but Reuters also noted the bill includes “efforts to compete to temporarily halt weapons sales to Turkey”.
As a result, one wonders why the US feels so convinced they must outspend Russia and China put together several times over, to defend themselves, when these countries are not planning, nor would really be capable of mounting an invasion against the US. Is it perhaps because the US military is not so much a defense force, but an actual invasion force? Would the American people not be better served if a tiny fraction of this massive spending was set aside for…say…education.
It is also worth noting, that while a massive defense budget does contribute to military strength, it does not alone define it. Saudi Arabia is consistently ranked very high in global military spending, sometimes around that of Russia, but the Saudi Military is quite weaker than many countries, and underperformed against under-equipt militiamen in Yemen.
Let’s see what Reuters has to say about the US budget:
U.S. lawmakers set $717 billion defense bill with eye on China, Russia, Turkey
U.S. House of Representatives lawmakers released details on Friday of a $717 billion annual defense policy bill, including efforts to compete with Russia and China and a measure to temporarily halt weapons sales to Turkey.
The House Armed Services Committee is due to debate next week, the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes the level of defense spending and sets policies controlling how the funding is used.
One of the few pieces of major legislation passed by Congress every year, the NDAA is used as a vehicle for a broad range of policy measures, as well as determining everything from military pay levels and benefits, to which ships or aircraft will be modernized, purchased or discontinued.
The committee will not release the bill itself until next week, but Republicans, who control the panel, and the minority Democrats, each released summaries.
On Russia, the proposed NDAA for fiscal year 2019 includes provisions such as imposing new sanctions on Russia’s arms industry in response to treaty violations, prohibiting military-to-military cooperation and providing more funding for cyber warfare.
But it also includes a rule, backed by President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans, that would allow Trump to end some sanctions imposed on Russia in legislation Congress passed overwhelmingly last summer despite the president’s objections.
On China, the proposed NDAA includes provisions including improving Taiwan’s defense capabilities and barring any U.S. government agency from using “risky” technology produced by Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL] and ZTE Corp, which a committee statement describes as “linked to the Chinese Communist Party’s intelligence apparatus.”
Washington has recently made a series of moves aimed at stopping or reducing access by Huawei and ZTE to the U.S. economy amid allegations the telecommunications equipment companies could be using their technology to spy on Americans.
The legislation would also ask the Defense Department to provide Congress with a report on the relationship between the United States and Turkey, and would block the sale of major defense equipment until the report was complete.
Although Turkey is a NATO ally, relations between Ankara and Washington recently have deteriorated. Turkey supported the U.S. fight against Islamic State, but has become increasingly worried about U.S. backing for Kurdish fighters in Syria.
The NDAA is several steps from becoming law. The final version of the legislation will be a compromise reached later this year by House and Senate negotiators between separate versions of the bill approved in the two chambers.
Peace is Priceless
In conclusion, the massive US defense budget seems not only grossly unneeded for defense, but also comes as a sign of poor strategic thinking. While its true that not every dollar of that budget goes to war, a large portion goes to paying salaries of a massive bureaucracy, and another to taking care of veterans (perhaps veterans should get a much larger chunk of this budget), it should be noted that other countries include this too in their budget.
Russia also provides support to Russian veterans, and obviously pays military members, so obviously not every aspect of the Russian budget is based on waging war.
The largest issue seems to be the assumption that more spending will keep the US safe – this is likely something many Americans believe. But just like Saudi Arabia, you can spend a large amount of money on something, and not even truly improve it. Americans have long thought throwing money at any issues is the solution, but when that money is mismanaged, it doesn’t do much good. Just look at the F-35. The topic of how to better plan and spent defense money is a sperate issue.
What Americans must understand, is that only devoting a considerable amount of the US economic might towards improving peoples lives, and making peace – especially where they previously made war – only that will make the world, and by extension, Americans, safe.
People forget that War, for some people, is a business, a very profitable one, and the Military Industrial Complex has no desire to end wars. War is their lucrative business, and an end to War is bad for their business, but good for the lives most citizens. Peace is priceless, that makes it not profitable for the pernicious among us, but oh so very precious.