Led by the United States, global “defense” spending has risen 18 percent since 2001, presumably justified by an increase in global terrorism. According to a U.S. congressional study, terrorism has risen 35 percent since 2001. The increase in spending has coincided with an increase in terrorism. With every dollar, the U.S., which accounts for 47 per cent of the spending, manufactures new terrorists, which will, in turn, lead to demands for increased defense spending.
The Iraq war and occupation certainly led to the hideous Madrid train bombing. The astute U.S. reaction was to increase its military presence in Iraq. U.S. troop levels in Iraq, originally scheduled to decrease to 105,000 by this summer, are now going to be at 145,000, with several Army units having their tours extended 90 days. The Pentagon has pulled 3,600 troops out of South Korea to help in Iraq. Since U.S. troops in enemy territory provoked North Korea to develop nuclear weapons, removing the provocative troops would be a positive and necessary step toward a negotiated disarmament between the North and South – but sending the troops to the Iraqi quagmire is not what libertarians had in mind.
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the current morass was predicted in many quarters. In a policy study for the Cato Institute two days after the attacks, Charles V. Peña wrote,
But how exactly will increased defense spending on tanks, airplanes, and ships remedy the situation?
The answer is that it won’t. To be sure, military action is the appropriate response to the heinous terrorist acts committed on American soil. But a larger military would not have prevented that devastating tragedy. And it won’t prevent future terrorist actions. Why?
Because terrorists are not traditional adversaries deterred by traditional military force. If that was the case, then terrorism should not exist in Israel. The Israeli military is bigger and better equipped than any of the Palestinian terrorist groups, yet terrorism persists. So the answer is not that simple. Terrorism – by its nature – is not traditional warfare. Terrorists pick and choose the times and places of their attacks, and they are not on military battlefields. Terrorists do not wear uniforms to distinguish themselves from their adversary. In other words, terrorists are the antithesis of the kind of enemy that armed services are designed and trained to fight.
Like trying to swat a fly with a machine-gun, fighting terrorism with massive military force is inappropriate and destructive, leading to the creation of more fanatics willing to sacrifice anything for their cause. As Justin Raimondo put it on September 28, 2001,
The interventionist response to the massacre of September 11 is to launch a massacre of our own, albeit on a much larger scale. Theirs is an agenda of military conquest, to go in and stay in – to spread “democracy” throughout the Middle East, to impose it by force of arms – and, coincidentally, make the world safe for Israel. On the other hand, the anti-interventionist response is quite different: it is roughly congruent with Powell’s arguments, as expressed to date, that we need to go in, kill ’em, and leave – without playing into Osama bin Laden’s hands. For the radical Islamists would like nothing better than a full-scale invasion of the Middle East, as recommended by [Bill] Kristol – all the better to spread his jihad far and wide.
And in a column on September 14, 2001, Raimondo on how to stop terrorism:
There is one and only one way to stop this sort of terrorism, and that is to keep out of the affairs of other nations. We should be neither pro-Israel, nor anti-Israel; neither pro-Albanian, nor anti-Albanian; neither pro-Taiwan, nor anti-Taiwan. Our foreign policy should consist of the following principle, one handed down to us by the Founders: entangling alliances with none, free trade with all. It is a foreign policy that puts America first – not Israel, not Kosovo, not Taiwan, not “human rights,” nor “democracy,” but America’s interests, narrowly conceived. Failing that, we reap the whirlwind.
The results of increased defense spending were predicted long ago by libertarians here and at Cato, Old Right conservatives such as Pat Buchanan and Old Left liberals such as Alexander Cockburn. President Bush didn’t listen to these people; instead he opened his ears to superhawk Paul Wolfowitz, the Office of Special Plans and other war-crazy neocons.
What has increased defense spending (i.e., war, occupation, regime change, etc.) given us? Not surprisingly, more terrorism.
Understanding the enemy, while not condoning his actions or agreeing with his views, is the first step toward achieving peace. Nations like Britain and the U.S. don’t really have to do anything to fight terrorism; they only have to stop doing things that provoke terrorist responses. Stop the flow of money to Israel, end the occupation of Iraq, pull troops from foreign soil, close foreign bases, trade freely with every country in the world. The moral crusade to end terrorism can only begin with a realistic assessment of its cause. The U.S. must put down the machine gun and try a flyswatter for a change.