Sunday, 1 December 2019

We Spend More Than Enough on Our Military

Once again the Americans are leaning on us to spend more on our military. The new U.S. national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, insists it is an "urgent priority" that American allies set their military budgets at two percent of their GDP. They spend 3.2 percent, we spend 1.3 percent, and that seems to me to be about right.

In the first place, the U.S. is defending an empire, we are not. Secondly, they love to spend money on their military; they are after all a militaristic nation. They spend $649-billion a year, nearly as much as the next eight-largest spending countries combined, including China, Russia and India.

Congress routinely passes the Pentagon’s budgets with overwhelming bipartisan majorities, partly out of warrior worship but also because military spending is a major component of the American economy and defense contractors are masters at distributing contracts across as many congressional districts as possible. The interdependence has been referred to as the military/industrial/Congressional complex.

According to an article in Harper's, "The complex is embedded in our society to such a degree that it cannot be dislodged, and also that it could be said to be concerned, exclusively, with self-preservation and expansion, like a giant, malignant virus."

NATO members have agreed to the target of two percent of their GDP although only a handful have achieved it. Why they agree, other than placating the U.S., is puzzling. The only significant threat to the NATO countries is Russia and their combined expenditure, excluding the U.S., is over six times that of Russia's. If they are spending their money with a modicum of efficiency they should have the firepower to overwhelm Russia with lots of room for mischief elsewhere.

Nonetheless, the Americans will no doubt be pushing their allies for more spending at the 70th anniversary meeting of the alliance in London this week. The word is that Canada will hold the line on its current defence spending, given that it has promised a 70 percent increase over 10 years and, furthermore, our Department of National Defence apparently has trouble spending its current allocation.

Personally, I would rather see our foreign aid increased to two percent of GDP and our military spending reduced to the measly 0.26 percent we spend on foreign aid.

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