In time for next year’s Pentagon paying spending, a new report is calling for a huge rise in the Defense Department’s funding, which is at one of the greatest levels since World War II. The record was produced by the National Defense Strategy Commission, a congressionally mandated group charged with assessing the Trump government’s new national-defense plan .
The premise of this new report is that America faces a”national security crisis” that renders its ability to defend”its allies, its partners, and also its own vital interests” increasingly in doubt.
As its solution, the commission requires an increase in Pentagon spending of 3 to 5% above inflation for at least the next five decades. Based on calculations from Taxpayers for Common Sense, the high end of the range would mean an annual Pentagon budget of an astonishing $972 billion by 2024–a potential boon for Lockheed Martin and its fellow weapons-makers, but a tragedy for US taxpayers. It is not likely that Congress will sign off on such a hefty growth, but how it has been put forward whatsoever will provide more rhetorical ammunition for the hawks on Capitol Hill, making it all the harder to rein in runaway Pentagon spending.
It’s not like the Defense Department is starved for capital. The United States spends longer on its military than the next seven nations on the planet combined (five of which are US allies). The increase at Pentagon spending in the past two decades alone is higher than the entire military budget of Russia. And that is before the massive increases proposed by the strategy commission.
Maybe this suggestion should not come as a surprise, given the origin. The commission was co-chaired by Eric Edelman, an Iraq War supporter and former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, also Gary Roughead, the former leader of US naval operations along with a present board member of Northrop Grumman, the fourth-largest weapons contractor in the USA.
They begin by enumerating a long list of possible threats, exaggerating them scale and importance; they then assert that the best way to address these challenges would be to double down on the military-first approach that has characterized US foreign policy during this century. Nevertheless this argument ignores the fact that the best threats we face cannot be solved with military force, and that trying to do this will have catastrophic consequences, as America’s nonstop wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and Somalia have shown. The commission report provides lip service to diplomacy, but just as an adjunct to military power, not as a value in its own right.
We ought to be spending time figuring out how to fight wars with Russia, China, Iran, or any other country, and more on how to forge partnerships to deal with the largest challenges to continued life on this planet: climate change and nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, the new report is silent on the first problem, whereas on the second, it has none discouraging word for the Pentagon’s dangerous, devious strategy to invest $1.2 trillion on a new generation of atomic weapons over the next 3 decades
Thankfully, there was another study released last week that takes a more serious view of America’s policy of endless war and runaway military spending. Issued by the expenses of War Project at Brown University, it quotes the full price of the United States’ post-9/11 wars at $5.9 trillion–a stunning figure when you consider that the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and outside have caused much more harm than good. The study takes a comprehensive look in the War on Terror, by the direct expenses of overseas military operations to current and future spending on the specialists of those conflicts, to the budget of the Department of Homeland Security, to the interest on the debt resulting from the fact that these wars have been financed through deficit spending.
A company report from the expenses of War Project tallies the immense human costs of the post-9/11 wars: more than 240,000 civilian deaths, more than 21 million people displaced, widespread ecological devastation, and over 300,000 veterans experiencing traumatic brain injuries, to mention just a couple of examples. In the face of the catastrophe, the idea that a more militarized US coverage is the answer to the world’s security challenges is absurd.
When the new Congress convenes in January, let us hope it requires a new look at the consequences of our current policy of endless warfare and constant preparation for war–and puts the record of the National Defense Strategy Commission back on the shelf, where it goes.