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February 23, 2011
Spare the Military Budget
Vasko Kohlmayer's article of February 23rd (The Party of Big Government) contains so many factual errors that this rebuttal is necessary.
Kohlmayer has wrongly claimed that "The military is the largest ticket in the budget. If we are serious about doing something about our fiscal bankruptcy, serious cuts must be made there as well." This is patenty false. The largest item in the total federal budget, according to a recent article by Dick Armey and Matthew Kibbe, is entitlement spending, which by itself consumes 56% of all federal spending. Military spending isn't even the largest part of the discretionary budget - as of FY2010, it consumed $664 bn, while annual federal welfare spending amounted to $888 bn.
Serious cuts do not have to be, and should not be, made in the defense budget. The Afghan war is a debatable policy, but cutting the core defense budget would lead to a weakened military and is therefore unacceptable. Secretary Gates has competently explained, in detail, what the consequences of such a folly would be.
Plus, Kohlmayer should note that defense spending has already been reduced, from $542.76 bn (in today's money) in FY2010 to $525 billion (under the FY2011 ConRes) this fiscal year. This cut has already dealt harm to America's defense.
Defense spending, as of FY2011, constitutes only 3.59% of America's GDP ($14.62 trillion according to the World Bank); total military spending constitutes 4.68%. The defense budget is hardly a burden on taxpayers on the economy. Kohlmayer's article suggests that for him, America is not worth defending.
Kohlmayer says, "We need to start using our military only for the purpose for which it was originally intended. It should only be used for defense, and not for dubious ventures such as spreading democracy in dust holes on the other side of the globe." What he fails to under stand that even with such a „minimalist" mission, a military budget equalling 4% of GDP would still be necessary, because the US is a huge country with a huge population to defend, but also because the US has numerous enemies who won't stop plotting against it even if it withdraws from world affairs.
Kohlmayer vehemently opposes the Afghan war. He wrote, "Here is one to get us started: Why in the world are we spending hundreds of billions in Afghanistan? [...]By the end of this year the total costs of that conflict will have exceeded the staggering one trillion mark."
Except that it's not true. Total war costs for Afghanistan and Iraq combined, for FY2010, were $130 bn and for FY2012, the DOD is requesting $118 bn for the GWOT, so the claim about "hundreds of billions" is incorrect. As is the one about the one trillion mark - by August 2010, the cost of the war was ca. $300 bn, so the US would have to spend additional $700 bn to pass it.
And while reasonable people can debate whether this war should be continued, it's clear that the mission is not yet accomplished (OBL, al-Zawahiri and other terrorist leaders are still at large) and leaving Afghanistan prematurely would give Al-Qaeda a perfect safe haven from which to launch terrorist attacks against the US - unlike Saudi Arabia and Yemen (which he mentioned), where local governments are cracking down on terrorist groups (primarily in their own self interest, not America's).
Kohlmayer has endorsed the lunatic foreign policy of Congressman Ron Paul, the isolationist Congressman from TX-14, saying: "It turns out, however, that the elder Paul was onto something. Had we followed his advice, we would not be in the mess we are in today."
Paul's foreign policy is a lunatic's fantasy, a plan to completely withdraw America from world affairs, ignore the threats beyond America's borders and isolate the US from the rest of the world. It will be dealt with in a separate article. For now, it should suffice to say that this policy would fail abysmally if tried again, just like it did in 1812 and in 1941, when foreign aggressors drew the US into wars.
Paul's ludicrous foreign policy is a product of the early 19th century, totally unsuited for the world of today. It's very good that no serious person listens to the ramblings of the Congressman from Texas.
To sum up, cutting defense spending would be penny wise and pound foolish. This policy would not even significantly reduce, let alone, the budget deficit; it would weaken America's defense; and the military budget is not even nearly as big as Kohlmayer claims it is. Balancing the budget requires a different solution: setting priorities for the federal government and closing non-priority programs and agencies.