Scanning my email updates, I saw two articles dealing with allegedly declining militaries. The Weekly Standard complained that the British military is “damn, busted.” The article cites Britain’s lack of main battle tanks (only 227) compared to Russia’s 20,000, concluding that Britannia’s leaders have a “narrow-minded, cost-driven vision [that] has left Britain unprepared for great-power conflict.” And here I thought the Cold War ended in c.1991 and that an island nation historically and sensibly is far more concerned with its navy and air forces than its army.
As Britain’s military withers, so too, apparently, does Germany’s. Hence the following brief from FP: Foreign Policy:
Germany’s defense minister pushes for expanded military budget. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has requested an additional $14.6 billion for the country’s military budget, saying the current budget of $45 billion is vastly inadequate for the military modernization Germany needs. Germany is currently still below the 2% GDP military budget that NATO asks of members.
The sober, sane, thing to do, according to military experts, is always to expand military spending. The unwise, perhaps insane, thing to do is to attempt to set sensible goals that focus on national defense, and to spend no more than what’s necessary for a sound deterrent.
Put slightly differently, when we (the United States) announce plans to spend $1.2 trillion on modernizing an already world-smashing and life-ending nuclear force, it’s considered sensible by the president (whether Obama or Trump), Congress, and of course the military-industrial complex. But when other countries develop a relatively puny force (North Korea) or have the potential to develop a puny force (Iran), these countries are denounced as monstrous dangers to world peace.
And of course U.S. rearmament is always for peace!
Every now and then, it’s worth reading Dwight D. Eisenhower’s message on what we forfeit when we spend money on weapons:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children… This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
Just so, Ike. Higher military spending is not something to celebrate. Lower military spending is.
William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.