For the past 70 years, The United States has more or less acted as the world police. Whether it be Korea in the 50s, Vietnam in the 60s, or Afghanistan in the early 2000s, our country has found its way to intervene in foreign conflicts that may or may not have necessarily needed our involvement. As with any globally immersed country, you could argue that we have a duty to act against international violence or injustice and to do that we need to ramp up colossal amounts of money into our defense sector. While I agree that safety and security of a country are important, we currently have a major problem on our hands — the military budget is out of control, and we need to do something about it.
The U.S. is not in danger of invasion
Let’s think back to the Cold War. The U.S. and USSR were constantly on the edge of their seats throughout everyday life. Near the height of the tension, children in schools were even given instructions on what to do in the event of a nuclear attack, just as casually as fire drills or lockdown procedures. This was no small geopolitical conflict, it was a legitimate danger of death for all citizens at every minute.
Obviously, we know the high demand from America and Russia for gigantic nuclear arsenals mostly disappeared after the war ended in 1991, but not completely. The United States currently possesses an estimated 6,800 warheads, the second highest in the world, with Russia as it’s only competition. All other countries have less than 300 in stock. So, clearly it would be foolish if any other country launched a large-scale military attack against the U.S. or Russia, and although our relationship with Russia isn’t exactly the strongest, we are certainly not at any high risk of war with them.
“But what about terrorist organizations like ISIS? They’re a real danger that we need protection from.” say many people who want a larger budget. While ISIS is no joke, it is currently by no means an existential danger to U.S. soil. Our intelligence agency has more than tripled since 9/11, and our scope of anti-terrorism combat has increased greatly as well. ISIS has also shown great weakness when facing legitimate armies, with nearly all encounters involving large western or European nations, even when having larger numbers, resulting in decisive defeats. If ISIS is only gaining ground against tiny militant groups in the Middle East, it puzzled me how people think they'd be any sort of threat against the U.S. military.
Our Military spending in perspective
In terms of defense spending, the U.S. blows every other country away. We currently spend $637 billion dollars per year on the military, and that number is expected to rise because Donald Trump has promised to increase the budget. That’s by far the most in the world, and more than the next seven countries combined. Our defense spending accounts for nearly 40% of total military spending worldwide, and 16% of our total spending as a country, which is over half of our discretionary spending.
The U.S. military budget runs on a two-war strategy, meaning the amount we spend on the military is meant to allow us to fight two full-fledged wars simultaneously. This strategy is flawed in the sense that it unrealistically assumes that we would ever get involved in multiple wars at the same time that both pose a threat to our homeland security without any help from our many strong allies. If we had more balanced spending in foreign aid and diplomacy and weren’t so obsessed with “readiness”, the danger of this event ever happening would decrease even further than the practically nonexistent danger that it already is.
One billion dollars spent on the military can create an estimated 25,000 jobs in weapons manufacturing. That same billion dollars can create an estimated 50,000 jobs in health care or 40,000 in education. Also, if we closed military bases that are unused or unnecessary, congress could save us $3 billion per year, and these bases could be used for more practical and economically efficient uses. The U.S. must decide what it cares more about — unnecessary military equipment that has lost it’s practical purpose or the well-being of its own people.
Being a secure nation means more than just having a military that could squash any other nation like a bug. A secure nation needs a good balance in all areas of spending, and right now the military spending is far out of proportion. Even cutting just a few billion in the budget could lead to improvement in areas such as education, health care, and job training. Remember how we won the Cold War? It wasn’t by bombing the USSR into the dirt. They collapsed on themselves through overspending, and we may be in danger of doing the same.
In this time of relative peace for America, we must reconsider how we plan on supporting our people in need, and that can start with cutting back on our military spending.