The Military Purse Strings

The Review‘s former EIC Brian OConnell is now blogging for the American Spectator.

Last week, Brian posted about a conservative organization that proposed cutting back on military spending. Brian’s response is to dismiss the general thrust of the argument. O’Connell cites, in particular, Reagan’s aggressive military spending in the 1980’s and its contribution to ending the Cold War.

Many conservatives argue that Reagan’s spending forced the USSR to try to keep pace, therefore exposing its woeful economic shortcomings and contributing to the “Evil Empire’s” peaceful demise.  But how does this model relate to 2009? At the moment, the US is not competing with any other nation for military might. (Perhaps we will compete with China sooner than later.) But, for now, the United States’ military superiority utterly dwarfs the spending of other nations. Adding in European and Asian allies, free democracies (the good guys) dominate military spending:

Here is the US’s military spending in an international context, via the blogger Matt Yglesias:

The old model of spend, spend, spend, might, in other words, be past its time. The United States will not anytime soon lose its military strength. It will continue to spend generously on its military budget. But does it have to spend so much? What happened to fiscal responsibility? Pork is not just in domestic spending, but military spending as well.

Moreover, with such bald-faced military superiority, how, then, has the United States been bogged down in two wars for over half a decade? Conventional military might- tanks, planes, warships – no longer correlates to total military success in this day and age of nation-building. The new form of warfare, the sort of warfare we find ourselves fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq (although not so much Iraq anymore) is about using resources wisely, not necessarily muscling our way to victory (as we so vividly learned in Iraq in 2003). Modern warfare is about intelligence and planning, not necessarily fancier weapons and larger budgets.

Is there really no room at all for fiscal prudence in military spending?

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