Have you ever noticed that the news stories about our military change with the seasons?
On patriotic holidays we have the greatest military in world. Our ships and planes are cutting-edge. And our troops are the best-trained.
But during budget debates suddenly we must “rebuild” our depleted and obsolete military. Suddenly we need billions more in defense spending.
These narratives can’t both be true at the same time. Somebody has to be lying.
Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, just passed a huge increase in defense spending. They are going to spend $165 billion more than the current bloated defense budget. This will make defense spending 65 percent of the annual discretionary budget by 2023, according to the nonprofit National Priorities Project.
Is this necessary? Does it keep us safe? Our real individual and national security depends on much more than bombs and troops. We — our communities and the economy — depend on public services like clean water, sanitation, disease control, police and fire protection, education, health care, and transportation infrastructure. These are what really impact our daily lives. But all these essential services are being cut or inadequately funded.
More unneeded military spending only creates deficits, diverts money from other needs, and makes us weaker. World Beyond War has a video that explains these problems. It is called “What can you do with $2 trillion?” You can see it at worldbeyondwar.org/moneyvideo.
Given the long history of Pentagon waste, the newly passed defense spending budget is throwing good money after bad. Many reports have established that the Pentagon cannot account for trillions in spending. Mismanagement and waste in military spending are legendary. So why should we give the military more money?
Many experts from across the economic, military, business, and political spectrum think skewed priorities are bad for America. Many conservatives agree.
“The greatest threat to our national security is how much our militarism costs,” Jon Basil Utley wrote in February 2013 for the American Conservative.
“If past performance offers any indication, none of the new money slated to pour into the Pentagon will make anyone safer,” the Center for International Policy’s William Hartung wrote in February for the TomDispatch.com blog.
“Waste and inefficiency within the Pentagon not only contributes to our nation’s debt and deficit, it also diminishes the effectiveness of our nation’s armed forces,” wrote Dan Caldwell, executive director for Concerned Veterans for America.
Conservative Sen. Ron Paul, R-Ky., has said, according to Utley, “About half the defense budget is for defense; the other half is for militarism abroad.”
And lawyer and writer A.J. Delgado, in an op-ed in the Miami Herald in July 2015, wrote, “Conservatives are fiscally responsible. We believe in smaller government, cutting government spending and reducing the national debt. So why do we support reckless, bloated, wasteful government spending on so-called ‘defense’ — and even fight to increase it?”
Amen! There are many ways to save money on defense and not hurt national security. Citizens must demand more responsibility and reject endless spending increases.
Philip Anderson of Maple is a member of Veterans for Peace Chapter 80. Fellow members Tom Morgan, John Pegg, and Warren Howe, all of Duluth, contributed to this commentary.