As politicians promise to start cutting spending in Washington after this fall's elections, there's growing talk -- even among some Republicans -- that it's perhaps time to cut defense spending. That has, predictably, generated a backlash within the GOP. Ben and I tackle the topic in our column for Scripps Howard this week. Here's my take:
Yes, America can and should significantly cut its military budget.
Our military isn't built just to defend America and its interests, but to bestride the world like a colossus: There are significant deployments of U.S. troops and personnel in Europe and Asia, and commands charged with readiness to project American military power on the remaining inhabited continents. This has had benefits -- we've helped keep the peace in Europe, by and large, for more than 60 years, which is an extraordinary accomplishment.
But American taxpayers continue to pay dearly for the privilege of maintaining the most awesome military in world history: the base defense budget for 2010 is $533.8 billion -- and that's before costs for "overseas contingency operations" in Iraq and Afghanistan are added to the bottom line.
The result? The United States on its own spends about half the world's total defense budget -- 46.5 percent of the planetary total. The next closest competitor, China, spends 6.6 percent. We're overdoing it.
This moment of history -- a "unipolar" moment with a single dominant military power in the world -- is an aberration. It is already passing, with the rise of China. We cannot afford to sustain it, which is what defense hawks would have us do.
And it hasn't necessarily made us safer: Osama bin Laden went to war against the United States in part because of U.S. troop deployments to Saudi Arabia in the 1990s. Sometimes being the biggest just makes you the biggest target.
Even Republicans -- some of them, anyway -- are starting to recognize the dangers. We should not bankrupt this and future generations in pursuit of unsustainable world dominance. If it is time to start cutting government spending, the Pentagon's budget should be on the chopping block along with everybody else's.