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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Inflated military spending doesn’t make America safer

    The United States’ military budget represents the ultimate financial black hole.

    For every dollar of taxes you pay, 20 cents will be needlessly slipped into the Department of Defense’s coffers. While the American people sometimes see ancillary benefits in the form of research that can be adapted to make our lives better, we shouldn’t forget that the roughly $500 billion allocated to the Pentagon each year is basically a part of our budget dedicated to killing people, as well as finding new and more efficient ways to kill people.

    Some have already called for significant cuts to the military budget. Rep. Barney Frank, D.-Mass., famously called for a 25 percent reduction in defense spending. For all the furor that erupted over his suggestion, you’d think that the Department of Defense didn’t represent 20 percent of the United States’ yearly budget which could very easily be devoted toward doing something other than killing people, and you’d think the United States didn’t already spend almost as much on defense as every other country on Earth put together. And if you thought either of these things, you’d be wrong.

    Plenty of people are up in arms at the mere proposition that defense spending might be put to better use serving the American people. But why?

    Part of the problem lies in the blind acceptance of the notion that lots of military spending somehow means a strong America or national defense. That is simply not true.

    Defense in particular is an unusual word, in that the usage is always, at least implicitly: “”defense from something.”” For example, advocates of Proposition 102 did a good job of convincing us that gay marriage bans are a way of defending traditional marriage from being redefined or undermined. What, exactly does the United States need defense from?

    Terrorist organizations? Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups don’t seem to mind the United States’ impressive military might. The solution to taking out terrorist cells is more intelligent, more precise use of existing military resources; using terrorism as a pretense to augment our military seems a bit like using a battle axe to kill a mosquito. If anything, wasteful military spending worsens terrorism – having military bases in everyone’s backyard tends to fan the flames of anti-American sentiment.

    Nascent military powers like Russia, North Korea and Iran? The Soviet Union presented a much greater threat to the United States than all these nations combined do now. The logical response, since the Soviet Union hasn’t existed for the last 17 years, is to stop dumping so much money into the Pentagon every year. Instead, exactly the opposite has happened: Military spending is now higher than it has been at any point in the last fifty years.

    Other threats abroad? The United States already has hundreds of overseas bases and more ability to project overseas military power than any other country on Earth. This will not change any time soon.

    At the risk of sounding slightly clichéd, America is not her military, and the strength of America is not her military might. Have we really slipped into such a low opinion of our own country that our national pride can be measured by the size of our military penis?

    The strength of our country is to be found in “”the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children”” – and, as President Eisenhower noted in his farewell address to the nation, these are the real currency we use when we pay for military buildups.

    Lest I be accused of putting words in the late president’s mouth, Eisenhower presided over the establishment of the sort of permanent military industry which exists today, and while he cautioned the American people to be vigilant of the buildup of the military-industrial complex, he saw it as, at worst, a necessary evil.

    This mature outlook strongly suggests that it is possible to acknowledge the need for U.S. military power while also being cognizant of its effects: every dollar given to the Pentagon is a dollar that isn’t given back to the American people by attending to their continued education, health and welfare.

    Even the Pentagon is acutely aware of this. A series of briefings prepared by the Defense Business Board, a group of Pentagon insiders, noted that the current defense budget is unsustainable and that, in light of the current financial crisis, cuts will have to be made somewhere. Prime candidates for cuts include a variety of weapons procurement and development programs which, while some of them sound cool as hell, will likely be marred by waste and may prove not to be very useful.

    When the Pentagon is calling for cuts to its own budget while very few other people are supporting military budget cuts, something is terribly wrong.

    War hawks will continue to call for needless increases in military power, as well as the needless exercise of that power. The United States has much higher priorities right now; it’s our hope that President-elect Obama realizes this before our country slides any further down the tubes.

    – Taylor Kessinger is a senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, math and physics. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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