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A smaller increase is not a devastating 'cut'

October 26, 2012 - Mike Maneval
An excellent - though frustrated and frustrating - analysis by Reason editor Peter Suderman lays out some more of the flaws exposed in the final debate Monday in Boca Raton, Fla., of a 2012 presidential field dominated by two candidates, incumbent Democrat President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

As Suderman reported, both Romney and Obama stated their opposition to the sequestration cuts to military spending contained within last year's debt-ceiling deal, with the president going so far as to vow, "it will not happen."

But, as President Obama also noted, military spending already has continued to climb the last four years, and the U.S. already spends more than Russia, China, and the other eight top spenders on armaments combined. In the last decade, since the terrorist attacks in 2001, military spending has nearly doubled, according to the Center for American Progress at the group's website.

And, most alarming for Americans looking for a real choice this Fall what Suderman and economist and fellow writer for Reason Veronique de Rugy illustrated in Reason's commentary is that even with the sequestration, military spending still would rise by more than 200 billion dollars in the next decade.

The expansion of military spending at a time when the U.S. is plagued with debt and deficits is hardly unprecedented - a similar build-up could be seen from 1980 into the early 1990s, during a time when interventionist administrations aligned the U.S. with Islamic jihadists in Afghanistan and with the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The about $124 billion increase in yearly military spending, from 1980's $303 billion to 1989's $427.7 billion, left the U.S. spending about $2.97 trillion on arms over 10 years. During and after the fall of the Soviet Union, our Cold War adversary, and over the following 10 years, annual military spending would decline, but still never fall before $296 billion a year.

And after 20 years of spending more than $6.7 trillion, total, on military arms, we learned how effective it was in keeping the U.S. safe on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists previously armed and aided by the advocates of the military-industrial complex struck two major U.S. cities and killed thousands with assymetrical warfare, or terrorism. On that day, enemies of the U.S. and American principles demonstrated they had adapted to the ability of the U.S. to outspend hostile elements, whether nation-states or loosely organized networks of people.

And yet, more than a decade later, the two major-party candidates most likely to serve as president are decrying merely slowing the rate of military spending's growth as irresponsible "cuts," without any regard or consideration for whether the insatiable demands for more military spending even keep America safe. And that is a frustrating flaw with the choice American voters largely face for the next four years.


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