Friday, November 26, 2010

The most sacred of conservative sacred cows

Check out this video from the libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute...

I have always been a supporter of the U.S. military and the men and women who serve in uniform. On more than one occasion I came within a step or two of going to officer candidate school. While I think it is inappropriate for Christians to serve in the military and I think the role of the U.S. military needs to be curtailed, I still have a patriotic spot in my heart for the young men who serve in the military.

Having said that, I am finding it increasingly odd that small government conservatives who distrust the federal government (rightly so) and seek to shrink the size and scope of said government (also rightly so) seek to have a huge standing military, something that I think would have been unthinkable to the founding fathers. I can't imagine what the Founders would have said about an army of 1.5 million active soldiers, in times of war and peace. I do think it would have scared the heck out of them as concerned as they were about the tyranny of an overly large central government. In the event of real tyranny from the Federal government, who do you think will enforce that tyranny? Nancy Pelosi with a rifle? A bunch of Department of Agriculture bureaucrats? TSA agents getting handsy with you in the security line? Nope, it would be the very same military that is funded to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars and is the home of some of the most wasteful spending anywhere in the Federal government. Any suggestion of cutting the enormous Pentagon budget is screamed down as tantamount to unilateral disarmament even though we could save hundreds of billions of dollars by making some common sense cuts as suggested by the video and not noticeably impact the military strength of the United States.

In the face of enormous deficits and a government that grew out of control decades ago and shows no sign of slowing, everything needs to be on the table. Everything. Conservatives will howl but military spending is going to have to be on the negotiating table. Instead of X number of new destroyers or jets, we might need to lower it by a third and Europe might need to start spending some money on their own armed forces instead of letting us shoulder all the danger and expense. We have 11 aircraft carriers that are far superior to anything else on the ocean and which allows the U.S. to project power anywhere in the world. The Russian Navy has all of 1 aircraft carrier and even back in the Soviet days never had more than 5-6. The Chinese don’t have a single carrier. India has 1. The British have 1 active aircraft carrier that is thirty years old and two new ones that are not going to be ready for a long time. The French have 1 carrier. The Germans have none. The Japanese have a couple of helicopter carriers which obviously are not a threat to one of our carriers, same with the Australians. So unless some country I am not thinking of has a carrier, we have 11 aircraft carriers and the rest of the world has 4 and half of those are run by our allies. I am going to go on a limb and say that none of the existing aircraft carriers in the world could take on one of ours. So we have an enormous advantage over the rest of the world in terms of numbers of ships (especially carriers which are the most important) and quality of ships. The story is the same in the other branches of the Armed Forces. Maybe we only need 9 aircraft carriers? Maybe we need to tell our democratic allies like the U.K. and Japan that we cannot afford to be the only functional military in the world and that they need to spend some of their own coin. We have over 20,000 soldiers stationed in South Korea that have been there for half a century, not to mention our bases in Europe and the Pacific. If the rest of the world won't support their own military, we need to start sending them invoices to offset the enormous cost the U.S. expends every year to keep them safe.

In many ways, Republicans are just as bad as Democrats. Both parties want to spend money because that is how they get control and power. The big difference is that Republicans hide their spending behind the waving flag and saluting young soldier. The motivation (power) and the cynical manipulation are the same. Any suggestion that we back down military spending is tantamount to treason and cowardice in many quarters. Granted, military spending is one of the few Constitutionally defensible spending areas in the Federal budget but when you have a budget well north of half a trillion dollars annually, it certainly seems that there is room to cut back. It isn't like there is a single nation on earth that threatens our safety and security and terrorists aren't much dissuaded by $4,500,000,000 aircraft carriers. If we are serious about reducing the size and scope of the Federal government, not just shuffling spending from one place to another, military spending has to be on the table.
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