More Money for … What Exactly?

Donald Trump has now proposed a $54 billion increase in defense spending to be offset by as yet unspecified cuts in discretionary spending (supposedly from Foreign Aid, the EPA, etc. — the usual Republican bete noires. There’s a lot to unpack here even without specifics. National Review gets into the budget specifics, pointing out that Trump is already promising big tax cuts and infrastructure spending. Moreover, Trump is punting on the biggest budget issue: entitlements. On Twitter, my e-migo Kevin Wilson noted:

This is an important to keep in mind with EPA budget cuts. Without change to regulations (promised by Trump but not yet delivered), all EPA budget cuts will do is drag out paperwork cycles and prevent some laws from being actively enforced (laws that we might want to be enforced, e.g., lead restrictions).

However, our friend Thrill hits a very important point that seems to be being glossed over.

Trump is following Reagan by developing a stronger military, pursuing a nuclear arms race, and other policies. What was different with Reagan is that we knew who we were arming against, what was at stake, and what would be the horrible outcome of a war with them. A strong military had been a core US Cold War policy held by presidents in both parties from when Truman had to convince a reluctant, war weary nation to accept it.

What I can’t figure out is whether anyone believes that our gigantic, sophisticated, and well-trained military just isn’t already good enough compared to what’s out there in the world. Who exactly are we trying to deter?

Exactly. Ronald Reagan didn’t just increase military spending. He increased in specific ways to counter potential Soviet aggression. The arms buildup made a Soviet invasion of central Europe impossible, made their nuclear arsenal unwieldily and put them into a potential race for “Star Wars” that they couldn’t possibly win. Moreover, they had to try to keep up with a much weaker economy. In the end, the arms race bankrupted them. And the weapons systems developed in the 80’s were so effective than when we finally did get a face-off between Soviet and American weapons during the Gulf War, it was no contest. Those weapons are still with us today and still outclass almost everything in the world.

A military spending budget should not just be some amount we send to defense contractors. That’s what’s gotten us into the F-35 debacle. You need to start with a strategic vision and work forward from there. Maybe you find that we’re spending too much. Maybe you find we’re spending too little. Maybe (very likely) you find we’re spending on the wrong things. But you don’t just increase military spending to increase military spending. That’s DemocratThink: hope spending money solves problems, maybe even ones that don’t exist.

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  1. richtaylor365

    Exactly.

    First off, our military state of readiness as it exits today is just woeful;

    Only three of the Army‘s 58 Brigade Combat Teams are ready to fight; 53 percent of Navy aircraft can’t fly; the Air Force is 723 fighter pilots short; and the Marine Corps needs 3,000 more troops.

    “We’re just flat-out out of money” to address those immediate needs and provide the additional personnel and maintenance funding to plan for the future, Navy Adm. William Moran said Tuesday in summing up the concerns of four-star officers across the services.

    In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Moran and other officers said their first priority is for Congress to scrap the budget caps known as sequestration under the Budget Control Act of 2011.

    Yes, you could attribute some of this to yet another government entity screaming for more funding, but it is no secret (even to our enemies) that a depleted military using antiquated falling a part equipment is not the threat it used to be.

    Secondly, I suspect Trump is looking at the conditions of the world; a revanchist Russia, NK lobbing ballistic missiles with abandon, China flexing in the South China Sea, Iran threatening innocent shipping in the straits of Hormuz, inching towards nuclear capabilities, and figuring (correctly in my mind) that the world authoritarians respect the stick more than the carrot.

    And third, with all the caterwauling  we observed over cabinet picks, the one area that garnered wide spread support was his security/military picks. You really think Trump would do or say anything in this area without consulting Mattis/Kelly/McMasters? If Mattis says we are vulnerable, take that to the bank.

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  2. Thrill

    If you’re correct, Rich, then the military we build has to be prepared to fight those future wars instead of the one we’ve been fighting since 2001.

    I’m really curious to see how this money gets spent because it’s going to tell us what Mattis thinks what the true threat is.

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  3. richtaylor365

    Reaganism’s Peace through Strength is as applicable today as it was in the Cold War. A strong America exporting its values, defending democratic institutions, defending human rights, protecting free trade and upholding the rule of law, these actions make the world a safer place.

    Military spending today as a percentage of GDP is about 3.5 %, it was 6.8% under Reagan. After 9/11 Bush raised that percentage up to about 5.7%, and under Obama it shrank year by year, until what we have now.

    Does the appropriations/spending process need overhauling? You bet, F-35’s that can’t fly, overpriced F/A-18 Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers, protecting wasteful unnecessary bases, the boondoggle LCS navy ship program, even rethinking troop deployments around the world. I’m for everything on the table.

     

    A consistent foreign policy, one that does not kick our friends in the teeth, and coddle our enemies, that would be a good start.

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  4. Thrill

    What I’m trying to say is that a force built for deterring a Russian invasion of Poland cannot be composed of the same assets as one for deterring Chinese naval aggression nor can it look like the current one that is actively engaged in counter-terrorism with its emphasis on fighting light infantry insurgents who lack air defense.

    Peace through Strength is the right doctrine, but our investments have to be both correct for the threats and they also have to be economical.

    Spending hundreds of millions of dollars to develop better mechanized infantry vehicles that are resistant to IED’s in the Sunni Triangle sounds great…until you realize that they would be worthless on the Korean Peninsula since they’re intended for a different kind of war.

    I just want to know that we’re spending this money at the expense of other non-military services wisely.  I’m far from convinced that’s true.

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  5. AlexInCT

    What I’m trying to say is that a force built for deterring a Russian invasion of Poland

    Not necessary. The Russians no longer posses the formidable armor capability they had towards the end of the Cold War, and unless Russia bankrupts itself building armor units, moving into Poland is not a viable tactic unless they want to commit suicide ending in nuclear Armageddon.

    cannot be composed of the same assets as one for deterring Chinese naval aggression

    This will be the next real war, and our NAVY is in horrible shape to really fight it without suffering severe losses. Key units are falling apart and not being replace, training has all but disappeared as funding goes to trans operations and green bullshit, while they can’t even procure the shells for the new destroyers that were built around that weapon system.

    nor can it look like the current one that is actively engaged in counter-terrorism with its emphasis on fighting light infantry insurgents who lack air defense.

    We refuse to fight to win this and continue to pretend that the problem is not with the West losing its moral compass and the relativism of the new age basically neutering our ability to do what must be done to win. Shit, we had a president that declared clear terror attacks as work place incidents instead because for some reason we couldn’t call adherents of a murderous religion what they are.

    I’d rather see the money spent on the troops that need it-we have seen soldiers on food stamps and high suicide rates among vets that aren’t being dealt with.

    This was precisely the problem. People serving realized they were being used as political cannon fodder by an administration which had as its priority not to insult an enemy that would sooner slit all our throats than save their kids. Morale in the military sucks as Obama turned the thing into a meals-on-wheels PC green causes machine instead of a fighting force. And he did this while committing our military to more action than even the Boosh years.

    As I repeatedly ask people: What would a manchurian candidate hell bent on destroying America, gutting its military and economy, and leaving it the laughing stock of a world rife with 3rd rate tinpot dictators, have done differently than Obama did?

    Our problem isn’t the money we spend on our military, but how it is being pissed away. Every other military on the planet, including the fucking corrupt and inept North Koreans, is getting more for whatever money they spend on their military than we are. And that is because they – with the exception of the Europeans- are building military forces and not an armed branch of the peace corps.

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  6. CM

    As I repeatedly ask people: What would a manchurian candidate hell bent on destroying America, gutting its military and economy, and leaving it the laughing stock of a world rife with 3rd rate tinpot dictators, have done differently than Obama did?

    And the reason you get no response is that it would be the biggest waste of time in the history of the world.

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  7. Thrill

    We refuse to fight to win this and continue to pretend that the problem is not with the West losing its moral compass and the relativism of the new age basically neutering our ability to do what must be done to win.

    We can’t win it nor should we spend any more trillions of dollars on doing so.  Ultimately, it isn’t really our war.  The corrupt Sunni nations, particularly the Saudis, brought this upon the world and they’ll be the ones to finally deal with it or burn.

    What we can do is contain the problem in their own region for them to deal with as brutally as they like.

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  8. Iconoclast

    We can’t win it nor should we spend any more trillions of dollars on doing so.  Ultimately, it isn’t really our war.

    Have you forgotten 9/11 already?  Sure, it’s been a decade and a half…..

    We can pretend it “isn’t our war” all we want, but the truth is, “they” are at war with us.

    As long as we refuse to acknowledge this, you are correct, we cannot win.   Sure, we can discuss the spending levels and where the money actually goes, but that is a separate issue.  Our military is depleted, and that cannot be good for anyone.

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  9. Thrill

    No, I haven’t forgotten 9/11 and I was quite supportive of our response, to include the Iraq War, Guantanamo, and even waterboarding.  The RTFLC Archives are chock full of examples of me saying this over the years.

    However, the landscape has changed and our strategy should as well.  We’re not going to be fighting them anymore by taking over their countries in these big invasions and occupying them until we’ve turned them into democracies that respect women’s rights.  Nobody believes we can do that anymore, do they?

    See, a long time ago, there were two competing attitudes among the jihadis about who they should be killing.  One faction thought that the problem was the “far enemy”.  The West, led by the US, who was exploiting the Muslim world needed to be defeated because only then could they take control within their own lands and bring about the version of Islam that they wanted.  This faction developed into al-Qaeda and they went on to conduct the USS Cole bombing, 9/11, and the like.

    The other faction believed that the real problem was the “near enemy”.  The corrupt, oppressive, and apostate governments of the Arab world needed to be overthrown before anything could be done about the far enemy.  They’re the ones who became ISIS and they’re currently the dominant threat.

    Al-Qaeda was capable of coordinated, devastating 9/11 style attacks.  ISIS isn’t and it’s not their focus anyway.  Yes, they will try to inspire the odd mass shooting or truck-ramming attack over here, but they’re primarily interested in removing the Saudi and Jordanian royal families, Assad, the Iraqi government, and the rest.  Once they’ve done that, THEN they’ll come after the West.  That’s the plan as I understand it.

    Our strategy needs to be making sure that they don’t beat their near enemy.  For that to work, we need to keep them from expanding any further and leave it to the countries they directly threaten to finally put them down.  This is pretty much what’s happening.

    ISIS is far more dangerous to Middle Eastern Muslims than it is to the United States and that is why I say this is going to be resolved by the Muslims of the Middle East, unless ISIS changes its views.  The most dangerous, active jihadis are fighting THEM, not us.  It’s their war, not ours.

    That’s not to say we shouldn’t help.  We can keep using airpower to stunt their growth and support Arab/Shi-ite forces who are fighting them, but we aren’t going to be occupying any territory, are we?

    What significant military spending increases do we need for this?  Not much, really.

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  10. AlexInCT

    And the reason you get no response is that it would be the biggest waste of time in the history of the world.

    Actually, why I usually don’t get answers is because there is none that wouldn’t expose idiots like you for the partisan hacks you are. Oh, some have tried, but it was blatantly obvious they were desperately grasping for straws. And usually it always devolved into Boosh=Hitler!!, or now a days, into Trump=Hitler!!!1!.

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  11. Thrill

    FWIW: I agree with Alex that China is probably the biggest concern from a deterrence standpoint.  Our efforts should be going toward the Navy.  It’s always been the backbone of American power.

    I’m perfectly okay with spending a lot more on it.

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  12. AlexInCT

    We can pretend it “isn’t our war” all we want, but the truth is, “they” are at war with us.

    It’s called the Ostrich defense. These idiots think that if they offer to suck enough terrorist dick or pretend there is no problem and kiss terrorist ass, that suddenly these terrorists wanting to kill us all will lose their drive to do so.

    The fact is that they will never like us until we are their slaves or dead, but you can’t explain that to people that think pushing others into the alligators mouth to save their own skin is actually a good way to tackle problems.

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  13. AlexInCT

    We’re not going to be fighting them anymore by taking over their countries in these big invasions and occupying them until we’ve turned them into democracies that respect women’s rights. 

    This was the mistake we made: we thought we could civilize them by force. The fact is that the only solution to this problem is the one Rome applied to Carthage, because their plan is to to do that to us regardless of what we do to appease them.

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  14. Thrill

    This was the mistake we made: we thought we could civilize them by force.

    Yep.  Notice too that the Obama Administration’s policies with regard to Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Libya all stupidly weakened ISIS’s “near enemies” and created conditions that allowed them to expand.  The more the US does to interfere directly, the worse it gets.

    Regime change is old and busted.

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  15. CM

    Actually, why I usually don’t get answers is because there is none that wouldn’t expose idiots like you for the partisan hacks you are. Oh, some have tried, but it was blatantly obvious they were desperately grasping for straws. And usually it always devolved into Boosh=Hitler!!, or now a days, into Trump=Hitler!!!1!.

    That’s why you think you don’t get answers, no doubt.

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  16. AlexInCT

    That’s why you think you don’t get answers, no doubt.

    Well, you are absolutely right there CM, but then of course, I understand how to apply logic and reason, extrapolating from experience with your kind whenever I run into one of you that candidly tells what they really believe,  and you seem immune to all of that.

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  17. Thrill

    I swear.  You two have the most clear and documented sadomasochistic relationship ever seen in the 14 year long annals of this blog or any forum that didn’t have “gimpmask” in the URL.

    The only thing I can’t tell is which is the sadist and which is the masochist.

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  18. AlexInCT

    I look forward to the day when you decide to bring it into this forum.

    Heh, you wouldn’t have a clue even if it came up and bit you in the ass dude.

    “SHE PUTS ON THE LOTION OR SHE GETS THE HOSE!”

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