Drop Pretensions to Supremacy
September 21, 2010
By Benjamin H. Friedman and Christopher Preble
With the Senate close to voting on the defense authorization bill, Congress is poised to pass the largest military budget since World War II -- roughly $550 billion, excluding funds for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
President Barack Obama is expected to sign it, pending resolution of minor disputes like funding for the alternative Joint Strike Fighter engine.
Despite Obama's professed concern about the huge budget deficit, the president has taken no meaningful steps to rein in military spending. Citing the need for austerity, Pentagon officials have a goal of 1 percent real growth in the Defense Department budget over the next decade. Not exactly a revolution of fiscal discipline.
Hawks and defense industry trade groups say this spending is essential to U.S. security. But much of Washington's military spending is geared toward defending others and toward the dubious proposition that global stability depends on U.S. military deployments.
If our military had less to do, the Pentagon could spend less -- at least $1.22 trillion less over the next 10 years, according to a Cato Institute report released Tuesday.
Washington confuses what it wants from its military (global primacy or hegemony) with what it needs (safety).
Policymakers exaggerate the capability of existing enemies and invent new ones by defining traditional foreign troubles -- geopolitical competition among states and instability within them, for example -- as major U.S. security threats. In nearly all cases, they are not.
This article was first published in Politico on September 21, 2010, and can be read in its entirety here.
Benjamin H. Friedman is a research fellow in defense and homeland security at the Cato Institute. Christopher Preble is director of foreign policy studies at Cato. They are members of the Sustainable Defense Task Force, an ad hoc advisory panel created by Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas).
Posted by coalition at September 21, 2010 08:12 PM