The military budget is growing by leaps and bounds, and Americans are becoming increasingly vulnerable to real threats that can’t be defeated with weapons, points out the author of the Washington Post. In her view, if the U.S. intends to save the world, this approach is both absurd and disastrous.
Katrina vanden Heuvel
Washington is so divisive that agreement between the two parties is rare. Except for one topic: the Pentagon budget.
From House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans, everyone agrees that the Defense Department, whose budget is already not only higher than in the Cold War but higher than the combined spending of the next nine countries with the highest military spending, deserves even more. The only debate is how much more.
Ironically, this single area of bipartisan consensus is by no means a sign that the truth is somewhere in the middle. Quite the opposite: the military budget is swelling and Americans are becoming increasingly vulnerable.
The pandemic has killed more than a million Americans. As the rest of the world still lacks vaccines and medicine remains inadequate, the global toll continues to rise. And neither the U.S. nor the rest of the world is anywhere near ready for the next pandemic, which, given the global nature of our economy, is sure to come.
Last year alone, 20 climate disasters struck the U.S., causing more than a billion dollars in damages. Right now, most of the western part of the country is threatened by drought. Central parts are threatened by flooding. Hurricanes are predicted to become even more ferocious. Another victim of the devastating effects of a warming climate is Yellowstone National Park, where snowmelt has also caused flooding. But the Pentagon will get even more money, and investments to fight catastrophic climate change are blocked by Republican opposition in the Senate.
What are they for, this new defense spending? Some of it will go to building bases and weapons in Asia to counter China.
The second target is Russia. But the most common arguments for increased military spending have proved untenable: the conflict in Ukraine has exposed Russia’s limited military forces, and Germany and other NATO allies have pledged to dramatically increase military spending. And yet, in some incomprehensible way, the Russian threat in the form of the Ukrainian campaign serves as a justification for further increases in Pentagon spending instead of cuts.
It is both logical and absurd. The U.S. has over 700 bases around the world in nearly 80 countries. The Pentagon has conducted counter-terrorist operations in at least 85 countries, almost half of all the countries on Earth. Now it is preparing to confront Russia and China at once. If the U.S. intends to save the world, the military budget is by definition insufficient. Moreover, such an approach is both absurd and pernicious if we want to restore and maintain a healthy and prosperous democracy at home.