Don’t Bet on Obama Reining in Defense Spending

Don’t Bet on Obama Reining in Defense Spending

Many Americans believe that Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress will lower defense spending and restrain the militaristic foreign policy it underwrites. The coming years should destroy that myth. America's overly aggressive and fiscally reckless defense policy will survive the Democratic majority.

The Obama administration inherits runaway defense spending and leadership of a military that wants more. Non-war or base defense spending will be more than $515 billion in fiscal year 2009. Adjusting for inflation, that's 40 percent higher than the defense budget when George W. Bush took office. Add the wars, nuclear weapons research, veterans, and homeland security, and you get about $750 billion. That is more than six times what China spends, 10 times what Russia spends and 70 times what Iran, North Korea and Syria spend combined.

This explosion in spending comes despite a historically benign threat environment. Invasion and civil war, which traditionally justified militaries, are unthinkable here. North Korea and Iran trouble their citizens and neighbors, but with decaying economies, shoddy militaries, and aversion to suicidal behavior, they pose little threat to the United States. Russia and China are incapable of territorial expansion that should worry Americans, unless we put our troops on their frontiers. And unlike us, they are out of the revolution export business. Terrorism is chiefly an intelligence problem arising from a Muslim civil war. Our military has little to do with it.

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