Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.
Three days ago, I got a story in my New York Times email feed on “A Turning Point in Military Spending.” The article celebrated the greater willingness of NATO members as well as countries like Japan to spend more on military weaponry, which, according to the “liberal” NYT, will help to preserve democracy. Interestingly, even as NATO members have started to spend more, the Pentagon is still demanding yet higher budgets, abetted by Congress. I thought if NATO spent more, the USA could finally spend less?
No matter. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as the hyping of what used to be called the “Yellow Peril,” today read “China,” is ensuring record military spending in the USA as yearly Pentagon budgets approach $900 billion. That figure does not include the roughly $120 billion or more in aid already provided to Ukraine in its war with Russia. And since the Biden administration’s commitment to Ukraine remains open-ended, you can add scores of billion more to that sum if the war persists into the fall and winter.
Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times piece that I found especially humorous in a grim way:
[Admittedly,] The additional money that countries spend on defense is money they cannot spend on roads, child care, cancer research, refugee resettlement, public parks or clean energy, my colleague Patricia points out. One reason Macron has insisted on raising France’s retirement age despite widespread protests, analysts believe, is a need to leave more money for the military.
But the situation [in Europe of spending more on butter than guns] over the past few decades feels unsustainable. Some of the world’s richest countries were able to spend so much on social programs partly because another country – the U.S. – was paying for their defense. Those other countries, sensing a more threatening world, are now once again promising to pull their weight. They still need to demonstrate that they’ll follow through this time.
Yes, Europe could continue to invest in better roads, cleaner energy, and the like, but now it’s time to buckle down and build more weapons. Stop freeloading, Europe! Dammit, “pull your weight”! You’ve had better and cheaper health care than Americans, stellar educational systems, child care benefits galore, all sorts of social programs we Americans can only dream of, but that’s because we’ve been paying for it! Captain America’s shield has been protecting you on the cheap! Time to pay up, you Germans, you French, you Italians, and especially you cheap Spaniards.
As the NYT article says: NATO allies need to “follow through this time” on strengthening their militaries. Because strong militaries produce democracy. And European “investments” in arms will ensure more equitable burden sharing in funding stronger cages and higher barriers to deter a rampaging Russian bear.
Again, you Americans out there, that doesn’t mean we can spend less on “defense.” What it means is that the US can “pivot to Asia” and spend more on weaponry to “deter” China. Because as many neocons say, the real threat is Xi, not Putin.
We have met the enemy, and he is us. That’s an old saying you won’t see in the “liberal” NYT.
William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools. He writes at Bracing Views.