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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.

Continue reading.

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 08:12 PM | Comments (0)

The True Cost of the Iraq War: $3 Trillion and Beyond

September 05, 2010

Writing in these pages in early 2008, we put the total cost to the United States of the Iraq war at $3 trillion. This price tag dwarfed previous estimates, including the Bush administration's 2003 projections of a $50 billion to $60 billion war.

But today, as the United States ends combat in Iraq, it appears that our $3 trillion estimate (which accounted for both government expenses and the war's broader impact on the U.S. economy) was, if anything, too low. For example, the cost of diagnosing, treating and compensating disabled veterans has proved higher than we expected.

Moreover, two years on, it has become clear to us that our estimate did not capture what may have been the conflict's most sobering expenses: those in the category of "might have beens," or what economists call opportunity costs. For instance, many have wondered aloud whether, absent the Iraq invasion, we would still be stuck in Afghanistan. And this is not the only "what if" worth contemplating. We might also ask: If not for the war in Iraq, would oil prices have risen so rapidly? Would the federal debt be so high? Would the economic crisis have been so severe?

This article was originally printed in the Washington Post on September 5, 2010. The rest can be read here.

Posted by coalition at 10:10 AM | Comments (0)

Empire for Liberty 09.01.2010

September 01, 2010

Empire for Liberty: A History of American Imperialism from Benjamin Franklin to Paul Wolfowitz
(Princeton University Press, 2010)

Book Forum
Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Cato Institute
1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Featuring the author Richard Immerman, Professor of History and Marvin Wachman Director, Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy, Temple University; Robert Kagan, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Derek Leebaert, Partner, MAP AG; moderated by Christopher Preble, Director of Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute, and Executive Director of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy.

Did America set out to become an empire? And if so, how has it reconciled its imperialism with the idea of liberty so forcefully expressed in the Declaration of Independence? In his new book, Empire for Liberty, historian Richard Immerman tells the stories of six men who influenced the course of American empire: Benjamin Franklin, John Quincy Adams, William Henry Seward, Henry Cabot Lodge, John Foster Dulles, and Paul Wolfowitz. Immerman shows how each individual's influence arose from a keen sensitivity to the concerns of his times, how the trajectory of American empire was relentless, if not straight, and how these shrewd and powerful individuals shaped their rhetoric about liberty to suit their needs. But as Immerman demonstrates, the Global War on Terror and the occupation of Iraq brought the tensions between liberty and empire into bold relief.

Posted by coalition at 07:58 AM | Comments (0)