US Military Spending Is
Undebatable Because It Is Indefensible
David Swanson / World BEYOND War
(June 6, 2022) — Spain, Thailand, Germany, Japan, Netherlands — The word has gone out that every government can buy a lot more weapons with either no debate at all or with all debate shut down by a single word: Russia. Do a web search for “weapons buying” and you’ll find story after story about US residents solving their personal problems the way their government does. But search for the secret code words “defense spending” and the headlines look like a united global community of nations each doing its important bit to enrich the merchants of death.
Weapons companies don’t mind. Their stocks are soaring. US weapons exports exceed those of the next five leading weapons-dealing countries. The top seven countries account for 84% of weapons exports. Second place in international weapons dealing, held by Russia for the previous seven years, was taken over in 2021 by France.
The only overlap between significant weapons dealing and where wars are present is in Ukraine and Russia — two countries impacted by a war widely recognized as outside the norm and meriting serious media coverage of the victims. In most years no nations with wars present are weapons dealers. Some nations get wars, others profit from wars.
In many cases, when nations increase their military spending, it’s understood as fulfilling a commitment to the US government. The Prime Minister of Japan, for example, has promised Joe Biden that Japan will spend a lot more. Other times, its a commitment to NATO that’s discussed by weapons-buying governments. In US minds, President Trump was anti-NATO and President Biden pro-NATO. But both advanced the identical demand of NATO members: buy more weapons. And both had success, although neither has come anywhere close to boosting NATO in the way that Russia has.
But getting other countries even to double their military spending is pocket change. The big bucks always come from the US government itself, which spends more than the next 10 countries combined, 8 of those 10 being US weapons customers pressured by the US to spend more. According to most US media outlets . . . nothing is happening. Other countries are boosting their so-called “defense spending,” but nothing whatsoever is happening in the United States, although there was that little $40 billion gift of “aid” to Ukraine recently.
But in weapons-company-advertisement-space outlet Politico, another big boost in US military spending is coming soon, and the question of whether to increase or decrease the military budget has already been pre-decided: “Democrats will be forced to either back Biden’s blueprint or — as they did last year — ladle on billions more in military spending.” Biden’s blueprint is for yet another big increase, at least in dollar figures. The favorite topic of the “news” generated by weapons-funded stink tanks and former Pentagon employees and military media is inflation.
So, let’s take a look at US military spending over the years (available data goes back to 1949), adjusted for inflation and using 2020 dollars for every year. In those terms, the high point was reached when Barack Obama was in the White House. But the budgets of recent years far exceed any other point in the past, including the Reagan years, including the Vietnam years, and including the Korea years.
Returning to the pre-Endless War on Terror spending level would mean about a $300 billion cut rather than the usual $30 billion increase. Returning to the level of that golden day of conservative righteousness, 1950, would mean a reduction of about $600 billion.
The reasons to reduce military spending include: the higher than ever risk of nuclear apocalypse, the immense environmental damage done by weaponry, the horrific human damage done by weaponry, the economic drain, the desperate need for global cooperation and spending on environment and health and welfare, and the promises of the 2020 Democratic Party platform.
The reasons to increase military spending include: lots of election campaigns are funded by weapons dealers.
So, of course, there’s no debate. A debate that cannot be had must simply be declared over before it begins. Media outlets universally agree. The White House agrees. The whole of Congress agrees. Not a single caucus or Congress Member is organizing to vote No on military spending unless it’s reduced.
Even peace groups agree. They almost universally call military spending “defense,” despite not being paid a dime to do so, and they’re putting out joint statements opposing increases but refusing to even mention the possibility of decreases. After all, that’s been placed outside the acceptable range of opinion.
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is executive director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie and When the World Outlawed War. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. This originally appeared at WorldBeyondWar.org.
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