Last week, the Washington Post published an editorial on possible “defense” cuts that was about what one would expect. I noticed, however, the editorial made almost no mention of what the mission of the US military is that would justify continuing to spend as much on the military as the rest of the world combined. So I sent this letter to the editor (didn’t get published, not a big surprise but I’ll try again soon I’m sure!):
January 21, 2011
To the Editor,
Your editorial (“The Pentagon Cuts,” January 20) began with commentary on Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ various proposals to trim military spending over the last few years and into the future, and then proceeded to weigh the merits of potential cuts in various weapons systems, technologies and capabilities.
Missing was important context your readers might want to know, such as the fact that our current military budget is the largest since World War II, or that we spend about as much on the military as the rest of the world’s countries combined, or that the current annual military budget of over $500 billion does not include the cost of our ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and increasingly, Pakistan), or that the military budget consumes more than half the annual federal discretionary budget.
I also was curious to see how you would characterize the mission of the U.S. military, and saw nothing until these few words in the last paragraph, “…ability to project power.” This is of course was sets us apart from nearly every other country on Earth, our ability to project military might all over the globe, with aircraft carriers, long-range nuclear-armed missiles, bombers, nuclear submarines, over 800 foreign military bases and extended military occupations of two countries at once, to name but a few manifestations of our power projection.
The not-so-nice term for this is Empire. Most Americans see our country as a Republic, not an Empire, want us out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and favor cuts in military spending rather than Medicare or Social Security. With serious economic and budgetary challenges, the military’s days on the gravy train driven by our tax dollars are numbered, as they must be if we are to re-make ourselves as a peaceful society invested more in the well-being of our people than in our “ability to project power.”
On Monday, Benjamin Friedman of the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute had a good op-ed published in the Philadelphia Inquirer titled New Republicans, Same Old Militarism casting doubt on hopes that new Tea Party Republicans will form a new bloc in Congress advocating an end to the US wars of occupation and significant cuts in military spending. It’s a good read, and I heard him give a talk along similar lines recently. While this new anti-war Tea Party congressional bloc may not be very big, so far, it may well grow, especially if we are able to succeed in making alliances with “unusual bedfellows” at the grassroots level.