President Eisenhower receives a report from Lewis L. Strauss, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, on the hydrogen bomb tests (Operation Castle) in the Pacific, March 30, 1954. (NARA photograph via wikimedia commons).
Spending Smarter on Defense Means Spending Less

The United States is in the midst of the largest military buildup since World War II, and far too few voices in Washington are questioning its purpose, necessity, or potential effectiveness. Will all this spending achieve what should be its main goal – making America and the world a safer place? David Rothkopf has addressed some of these points in a new essay in the Daily Beast entitled “If We’re Going to Spend More on Defense Let’s Spend Smarter.”

The piece gives voice to a range of views on how the Pentagon budget should be crafted and spent, from whether to double down on the Pentagon’s $2 trillion nuclear modernization plan to whether to invest in increasingly vulnerable large weapons platforms like tanks and aircraft carriers. But Rothkopf also transmits the views of military hawks like Kori Schake of the American Enterprise Institute, who has called for a 50% increase in the Pentagon’s current $773 billion budget, a move that would push it above $1 trillion per year — far in excess of any defense spending plan since World War II.

Rothkopf doesn’t make choices among the options he discusses so much as put them on the table for consideration. He’s right when he says “[w]e seem to be hurtling without thinking into a new orgy of spending, when questioning choices will again be equated with weakness.” But he largely avoids the further step of directly questioning whether we need to spend so much on the military in the first place, or how we might get a more effective defense while spending dramatically less.

To his credit, Rothkopf cites President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s warning of the “unwarranted influence” of the military-industrial complex and the need for an alert and knowledgeable citizenry to keep it in check. He also favorably quotes Ike’s famous statement on the true costs of spending on the military:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

Read the full article in Forbes.

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