Peace through Strength? Excessive US Military Spending Encourages More War

The united states spends about 11 % of its federal budget upon defense, which is the third largest item after Social Safety and Health, and expenses almost twice as much because education.

The Ruskies invasion of Ukraine has taken America’s foreign policy interventions under the limelight once again.

Ryan McMaken   argues that the US administration’s claim that countries should not have the right to a sphere of influence, implicitly addressing Russia, can be hypocritical. The US opposes the sphere of influence with regard to Russia and other regional power, while at the same time has steadily expanded its own global outreach. Amongst other, one can judge how true this is by looking in the amount of US military investing and size of its international military interventions.

The USA not only spends the disproportionately high amount of money upon military relative to the rest of the world, but has also continued doing this when the Cold War has been over and it could have set in motion a virtuous cycle of international disarmament. The USA has additionally multiplied its foreign military actions and engaged in controversial and costly wars within Iraq and Afghanistan, doing harm to both international peace as well as the global economy. From this point of view,   Lew Rockwell’s   scathing criticism of the US military interventions in Iraq and global hegemonic ambitions in general, appears still relevant right after almost twenty-five years.

US Army Spending in Perspective

The US usually spends about 11 percent of its  federal spending budget   on protection, which is the third largest item after Social Security and Health, and costs almost twice as much as education and learning. The US defense budget has been $754 billion for the financial year 2022, before President Biden increased it by  another $29 billion   following the war in Ukraine.

However , this is not the full picture, because  other government spending is also closely associated with defense . The financial constraints of Department of Veterans Affairs ($113 billion), Homeland Security ($55 billion), the State Department ($64 billion), and the FBI and Cybersecurity within the Department of Justice ($10 billion) add another $242 billion to the base spending budget of the Department of Defense (DoD). By adding it all upward, defense spending is set in order to exceed $1 trillion within 2022— i. e., 14 percent of the federal budget and 4 percent associated with gross domestic product. 1

The US defense budget signifies not only a significant burden on the domestic economy, but looks completely disproportionate relative to some other countries’ military outlays. Based on the  Stockholm Global Peace Research Institute (SIPRI ) the US army spending is greater than the ones from the next ten largest military expenditures combined. At about $800 billion in 2021, the US military budget had been almost three times higher than China’s ($293 billion) and twelve times larger than Russia’s ($66 billion).

Aside from China’s military budget that has increased about ten periods over the last two decades, albeit from a very low level, the continuous increase in the US military investing has widened the space with the rest of the World (graph 1). Together with its allies in Western Europe, the united states spent on military three times greater than Russia and China mixed in 2021. As the yearly spending differential between the US and other countries took place more than many years, it means that the  United States’ general military supremacy   in terms of stock and high quality of military equipment is unquestionable.

Graph 1: Annual military investing

Mahai Picture 1
Source: SIPRI

The key issue is why the USA has not reduced dramatically its military spending when the Cold War had been over and the main threat to its security disappeared. In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union’s military spending had been very high at about $220 billion dollars and almost in the same ballpark with the $300 billion spent by the US. However , when the Soviet Union disintegrated and its particular economy collapsed in the earlier 1990s, Russia’s military investing shrunk to a puny $10 billion on average during that decade. Yet, despite being a nuclear superpower, the US kept the military spending at the Cold War level of around $300 billion and later increased it exponentially during the Battle on Terror.

Endless Foreign Military Interventions Post– Cold Battle

The particular surge in US military spending over the last two decades mirrors a dramatic increase in the amount of US military interventions.   Monica Duffy Toft   shows that US military interventions— i. e., the deployment of US military to other countries— intensified as time passes, in particular after the Cold Battle.

Approximately 392 US military interventions took place since 1800, as documented by the Congressional Research Assistance in October 2017. Their frequency increased steadily, more than fifty-year periods, from 39 in 1800– 1849, in order to 47 in 1850– 99, 69 in 1900– 1949, 111 in 1950– 99, and to 126 over just seventeen years between 2000– 2017. By  03 2022 , the number of foreign military interventions had improved by a few dozen more. Another striking finding is that the number of US military surgery increased at least four moments from the Cold War (46) to the post– Cold Battle period (188) until 2017.

Monica Duffy Toft also claims that the US military interventions since World War II have only seldom achieved their intended political objectives. The statistics presented show that big power, such as the United States and Soviet Union, won a majority of issues with weaker adversaries as much as 1950, but afterwards lost most of these asymmetric fights. Furthermore, the interventions deemed “ successful” have eventually cost much more that would have been considered reasonable previously.

For example , the recent  military debacles   in the Iraq and Afghanistan bear an exorbitant cost of about  $4– 6 trillion , when the liability of providing medical care and disability benefits in order to war veterans and the cost of financing the war are included.

Economic Impact of Extreme Military Spending

Like any other government expenditure, defense spending represents a transfer of factors of production from market-oriented activities to government finishes, thus reducing consumer well being. In the 1980s, annual military spending of about 6 percent of GDP on average displayed a heavy burden on the criteria of living of the Us citizens and contributed to pretty large budget deficits of approximately 4 percent of GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT (graph 2). In the 1990s, despite remaining at the same high level in nominal terms, military spending declined gradually to 3 percent of GDP as nominal GDP sophisticated, helping reduce the overall budget deficit. However , this advantageous trend ended abruptly in the early 2000s when army spending jumped again to 5 percent of GDP worsening the budget deficit and overall debt level.

Graph 2: Army spending, budget deficit plus Fed’s interest rate

Mahai Picture 2
Source: SIPRI and SALLY.

It can also be argued that the massive increase in military spending in the 2000’s not only contributed to a sizeable financial deterioration, but also swayed the particular Federal Reserve System’s (Fed) expansionary monetary stance. Zooming in into this period, Chart 3 shows how the velocity of military spending to double digit growth rates proceeded to go hand in hand with the Fed’s slashing of interest rates to record lows. Ramping up money creation was the most expedient way for the American authorities to finance the battles and the burgeoning pubic financial debt at lower costs. The particular increase in foreign holdings of US dollars, given the latter’s special status of number one reserve currency in the world, assisted keep domestic inflation below the pace of money creation. Nevertheless, interest rates were cut for too low and too long 2 , encouraging the real estate and stock exchange pockets that caused the global financial crisis.

Graph 3: Annual growth within military spending and Fed’s interest rate

Mahai Picture 3
Source: SIPRI and FRED.

The USA controls about  750 foreign military bases   spread throughout eighty countries worldwide plus spends more on its military than the next ten nations combined. After the collapse from the USSR in 1991, the united states has missed a “ unipolar moment, ” by which, as a sole remaining superpower could have put an end to the global arms race.

Rather, it continued to increase its military budgets, greatly outspending the rest of the world and inciting other countries to follow match. The US foreign military interventions have also multiplied and culminated into costly and lengthy wars, which left behind nations ravaged by civil battles in Iraq and Libya or under the same autocratic Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

In addition , the particular justifications for the military surgery in both  Iraq   and  Libya   were seriously questioned and the international law principles were not consistently followed (e. g., the  invasion of Iraq without a UN mandate ,   Guantanamo Bay ), tarnishing the United States’ international popularity. Instead of a defender of global order and freedom, the united states now is perceived as an aggressive interventionist power, as illustrated by Lew Rockwell.

Eventually  most Americans   realized that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had not been worth fighting. But , will  the lesson be learnt that excessive US military investing should be cut and the  military-industrial complex   be kept under control in order to avoid such misadventures in the future?

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