Before I finish my “three part series” on refugees, I thought I would share some thoughts on the joyful subject of American military spending.
For an in-depth look at the American military-industrial complex, watch this documentary entitled “Why We Fight” (E. Jarecki, 2005). If you’re not in the mood to watch a full length feature about a pretty dry topic (I recognize that not everyone is into nerdy things like military spending), you should at least watch President Eisenhower’s farewell address, which is the first 3 minutes of the movie. Like him or not, he was definitely a visionary, and his words of warning ring so true today…
This graph shows the proportion of our military spending that is earmarked for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Why is the US spending so much on its military? Besides the fact that the military-industrial complex continues to have a huge influence on how much of the federal budget is allocated to military spending, it feels like the United States is construing its domination of the world as a matter of hard power – we are the strongest, mightiest nation on Earth because of our military. We used to dominate the global scene through our economic, political and military influence, but the former two have decreased sharply in recent times.
In terms of economic power, the United States is now contending for top dog with emerging market economies (China… India…. ), and economic interdependence makes it very difficult to truly dominate the world through that channel (thank god).
In terms of political influence, apart from Africa which apparently loves the United States and George W Bush, the US is confronted with the fact that its voice is not as powerful as it used to be.
I recognize that these are all debatable points – the point is that we really need to ask ourselves why the US is spending over half a trillion dollars/year on its own military, and if the reasons for doing so are valid.
Note: the US spends about $70 billion on education annually…. wonder why “63% of Americans aged 18 to 24 failed to correctly locate Iraq on a map of the Middle East. Seventy percent could not find Iran or Israel. Nine in ten couldn’t find Afghanistan on a map of Asia. And 54% did not know Sudan was a country in Africa“(2006, National Geographic.)
“Why We Fight” offers an interesting perspective on the relationship between the US government, and the military and its industries. It should fuel further examination of the reasoning behind astronomical spending on conventional military activities in a world where the threats that loom the largest are no longer conventional…. Our failure to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan are testament to this.