military spending

Gates: Europe’s peacefulness threatens world peace

antiwar poster
Poster seen on the streets of Harlem, February 2010

Juan Cole takes Defense Secretary Gates to task for criticizing Europe’s “general anti-war sentiment.”

An AFP story earlier this week quoted Gates as saying:

The demilitarization of Europe — where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it — has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st.

Cole rightly sees this as being a little rich coming from a country in the process of beggaring itself on war expenditures.

[A]s far as I can tell, Europe is the world’s largest economy and got there without any recent substantial wars except those the US dragged it into. Moreover, the fastest-growing economy for the past nearly 30 years has been China, which spends a fraction on their military of what the US spends on its, and, aside from a skirmish with Vietnam in the early 1980s, has been at peace. Apparently massive war expenditures are unrelated to economic growth or prosperity.

In contrast, the US has been at war for 19 of the last 47 years (not counting US-backed insurgencies such as 1980s Afghanistan, on which we spent billions) but has not grown faster than the other two economically. Moreover, the increasingly unwieldy US national debt, deriving from the US government spending more than it took in in recent decades, would not exist if the US military budget had been the same as that of the European Union since 1980. The US overspent on its military because Washington mistakenly thought the Soviet economy was twice as big as it actually was, and vastly over-estimated Soviet military capabilities. The bloated military budgets continue now, apparently because of a couple thousand al-Qaeda operatives hiding out in caves in the Hadhramawt and Waziristan.

I would go further, and say Europe is spending way more than it should on soldiers and guns and bombers and rockets. The U.S. military budget is officially over $700 billion, but in reality it’s closer to a trillion and a half dollars. The Europe Union spends $289 billion on  its toys. In contrast, China’s 2009 military budget was $122 billion.  Economic growth comparison?

US economic growth 2009: 0.2%
European Union economic growth 2009: -4%
China economic growth 2009: 8.7 %

Hmm. I wonder if one thing has to do with another here.

And I  also wonder what the endgame will look like. In my darker moments, I worry that the day is not far off when the U.S. will no longer be able to print or borrow money (the same thing, in our case). At that point, what will stop our government from using its military might against its creditors?

So now we’re straight

school lunch
yup, that's what they eat

We now know pretty much exactly the priorities of the Administration everyone was so excited about … a year ago, when it was all hope and CHANGE and promising all sorts of things for our nation’s kids.

The Obama Adminstration’s budget for the coming year features the largest military budget in U.S. history,which of course also means the largest military budget in the planet’s history, and for that matter in the history of the known universe.

And for improving the school lunches of America’s hope and future?  The new budget sets aside … make Dr. Evil fingers here … one BILLION dollars for school lunches. Um. Er. To be shared with WIC. Which works out to an extra … 20 cents per meal! According to Jill Richardson of La Vida Locavore, The School Nutrition Association asked Congress for a whopping extra 35 cents per meal. What the kids get is not even enough for an extra apple per day!

Just so we’re clear. Obama is spending more on the military than anyone ever has! For our nation that just happens to be blessed with vast oceans east and west, not to mention friendly neighbors north and south. And for our kids? Not so much.

Even if you are not just being an ideological neo-dickensian with all this absurd talk about reducing the deficit without touching the military’s myriad entitlements, this still makes little sense. As Tom Philpott of notes:

Stiffing the school lunch program—enshrining it as the site where the food industry dumps cheap processed crap and shapes the tastes of kids—is the opposite of “fiscal responsibility.” It’s saddling millions of future adults with hefty medical bills they won’t be able to pay—and with lives diminished by chronic bad health.

pie chart
where the money really goes
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