Monday, December 27, 2010

Cut military spending, strengthen diplomacy and the economy

In his latest column, Nick Kristof says we must bust the taboo against cutting military and security spending. He cites some facts (the following points are direct quotes):
  • 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.
He goes on to say that we need a strong military, but that it must be balanced with strong diplomacy. The problem is that our military budget is wildly out of proportion to our diplomatic budget. In fact, House Republicans want to cut the State Department budget further.

The world and the problems it faces are changing. Traditional military solutions, as we have seen in our very recent history, are not always effective; rather, they sometimes worsen the problem. There are several proven ways of "winning hearts and minds" that have nothing to do with the DoD budget. (Kristof mentions several of these, and not for the first time.)

In a New Republic article, Paul Kennedy writes that American power is and has been abnormally huge and that is must, like every other great power, decline to a more normal size. He doesn't deny that America will remain enormously powerful, but that the level of power we wield today cannot be sustained. It will take on more normal proportions and we must prepare ourselves for this. Citing Joseph Nye, he says that American power is like a stool of three legs: soft power, economic power, and military power. Soft power (the ability to persuade other nations to do what we want) is clearly waning. Economic power has taken a serious blow. Military power is the only leg that remains strong. But, like Kristof, Kennedy says that military power is not an all-purpose cure.

In light of all of this it seems to me (and my opinion plus a dollar will buy you a cup of coffee) that we should cut military spending and direct it toward strengthening those other two legs, especially since it is increasingly clear that it is an ineffective way of solving our problems.

1 comment:

  1. Seems like a typical american common man thought. I agree where the post emphasises to strengthen the economy but it does not mean that the US should weaken its military power. I came here after reading and googling for "military power and economy". I think this is the fifth post I am commenting on similar subject today.

    Just a real time example is the NATO exercise taking place in the black sea. Would you accept if the US was the least powerful nation in the fleet? I don't think any American would want that. Unfortunately though, things are changing and are not in favor of a common man. It is a large propaganda and plans it seems and it also seems a bit difficult to break through if not all the people realize it at once.

    People usually want to follow and not lead; we are the generation where it ends. We will either obey, or will decide. There will be no following up. It depends on our hands whether we are going to obey to someone abruptly without asking why or to decide whatever the country should be doing. It is not the case at the moment, but it will be soon. I can see that one coming!


About Me

I'm Rachel's husband and Darcy's daddy. I'm a Hoosier, an accountant, and an Episcopalian. Politically, I'm a progressive who believes in the preferential option for the poor. I use the blog as a sort of journal - to interact with my reading and sketch out ideas.