Military extravagance

Some while ago, in the Washington Post, Walter Pincus, an expert on the American military and a prominent critic, raised once again the scandal of the long-standing  division of command in the military, something even Eisenhower couldn’t overcome.  The rivalry between the three arms of the military is such that they constantly duplicate each other’s efforts.  If one gets a fancy new plane the others want something similar (but bigger and faster).  This costs the taxpayer untold amounts of money.  Each arm of the services its own elaborate management and intelligence arms.  And yet no one will point out the great untold story: these armchair generals are lousy at winning wars!  Aside from the first Gulf War, can you remember a case where the US actually won a war?  Certainly not Iraq or Afghanistan.  But if you say so you are in danger of being considered unpatriotic.  Unpatriotic?  Actually, patriotism is ensuring that you have good soldiers, sailors and airmen capable of strategic and tactical thought, fast on their feet and original of mind, not bureaucrats waiting for buggin’s turn. Patriotism is about doing the job and at a reasonable cost. And now Trump wants to increase the military budget?

Epicurus seems to have despised both politicians and the military, such as it was. He lived at a time of constant war and was disillusioned with the uselessness of it and the incompetence of military types. The awe and respect afforded to top generals in the US, despite their collective track record, is remarkable. Perhaps it’s because most civilian leaders are even less worthy of respect. But one day the public will wake up to what a huge waste of money and resources the overfunded military really is.

  • Owen Bell

    It seems extraordinary that these so-called ‘fiscal conservatives’ want higher military spending, which they then justify as an economic stimulus to places like Louisiana and South Carolina. You either believe in the effectiveness of state economic intervention and higher public sector employment, or you don’t. Conservatives shouldn’t be afraid of the effects of a lower military budget, if their views on the economy are correct. But sucking up to spoilt defence contractors makes conservatives as bad as the liberals they criticise for enriching the renewable energy industry. At least the renewable energy industry is making a difference to the environment. On the other hand, having a large military does not improve the life of the ordinary American at all.

    Having said that, I don’t want America to cut its military by so much, that it loses its status as a superpower. The world remains a very dangerous place, with hostile powers like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea becoming ever more belligerent. If America’s ceases to be the world’s superpower, other countries will take its place- countries that do not share the liberal democratic values expressed in the American constitution. To continue to be a major player, America must not go the way of the Roman Empire in overreaching itself and accumulating too much debt. However paradoxical it may seem, a modest but meaningful reduction in the American military budget actually cements the country’s continued influence in the world over the long term.