Is Osama bin Laden the new Ronald Reagan?
Conservatives like to crow about how Ronald Reagan won the Cold War by increasing military spending to such an extent that the Soviet Union couldn’t keep up, and went broke as a result. Historical shifts on the order of magnitude of the collapse of the Soviet system are usually a little more complicated than that, but for the sake of the argument let’s accept it, for a moment, as true.
Is al Qaeda doing the same thing to the US as the US did to the USSR?
Take a look at Pres. Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal 2011, then meet me back here in a sec.
See that giant portion of pink, in the circle on the right, labeled “defense”? Notice how spending on defense is greater than all other nondiscretionary spending combined?
From 1990-2002, the US enjoyed the “peace dividend” as a result of the end of the Cold War, with defense spending decreasing from $427bn in 1989 to $307bn in 2001 (including several years below $300bn). With inflation, that’s a decrease of 48%.
From 2002 to 2011, it’s gone from $328bn to a staggering $744bn! Even with inflation, that’s an increase of 95%.
The defense spending by this country is now greater than the next 14 countries combined, for 41.5% of the world total (based on 2008 figures). The rise began in the fiscal year following 9/11, and continues unabated today.
The military’s dominance of our budget it now such that even as sage and experienced a reporter as the New York Times‘s David Sanger is unable to contemplate the possibility of its diminution. On Tuesday, he wrote:
Unless miraculous growth, or miraculous political compromises, creates some unforeseen change over the next decade, there is virtually no room for new domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors.
For real? No room at all? How about closing several dozen of the hundreds of military bases we operate in over 100 countries? Bringing home the men and women of our armed forces–gay and straight–from a pointless war in Afghanistan? (Why is the right of Afghan girls to go to school more important than the right of American boys and girls not to die, alone, thousands of miles from home?)
I’ve seen what the drone operators see as they remotely fly UAVs over Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, and I’ve seen how much progress a ground war–which we were told six weeks after it started was over, yet continues today, 8 years later–has made. I feel confident that drones are the way to go. If the Taliban so much as pitches a tent we can see it and blow it up. Tent-pitching in Afghanistan, under this strategy, will be quickly eradicated.
Now I’m really going to generate some comments: How about we actually think about changing the policies that are pissing these people off, who send kids on airplanes to kill us?
I realize that there are many pseudo-Islamist radicals who will never be satisfied because they’re fucking psychos, but I also think that if we enforced international law in the Occupied Territories (i.e., eradicated the settlements and let the Palestinians build a functioning state, or fail trying); stopped killing civilians with abandon in Af-Pak; swore off starting illegal wars; and directed our limited resources to such things as keeping nuclear bombs out of the hands of unstable leaders and keeping college students with explosive briefs from getting visas, we would both have a lot fewer America-haters to contend with and a lot greater ability to deal with those that remained.
So this is the cost of an undeclared war against a group of a few hundred men who live in caves, whose preferred personnel carrier is the Toyota pickup truck, and who do battle with college students carrying explosives in their pants:
For this, we are bankrupting the nation? The future is laughing at us.
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