Thursday, September 29, 2005

A bigger safer budget

Does a larger defense budget make our country a safer place? The Skeptical Optimist hints that our reduced spending in the late 90s left the country vulnerable to attack, and could be responsible for our current entrenchment in two wars. Is this believable? Was Iraq emboldened by our cutbacks? Probably not, because evidence has shown that they had not resumed programs to created WMDs. Was Al Qaeda cowed by our impressive array of weaponry? Didn't look like it. We are currently involved in a "War on Terror", which makes our probable opponents terrorists. Terrorists by definition fight against overwhelming odds by attacking soft targets and avoiding direct conflict. Because of this, a military of immense size does little to deter their activities. But when the terror was connected to a state sponsor (Afghanistan's Taliban), surely our ability to shock and awe caused them to cringe? No. They still refused to hand over Bin Laden. We continue to fight insurgents in both of the countries we occupy, despite an overwhelming military superiority. So the War on Terror is not necessarily helped by building new aircraft carriers and stockpiles of missles. We are the world's biggest spender in terms of military budget. In fact, it takes the next 27 highest countries to equal our budget. Are we that much safer? Perhaps its time to focus more on providing security and quick response at home instead of expanding our network of over 700 overseas bases (not counting bases in Iraq or Afghanistan).


Cubicle said...

hah hah looks like he is talking to you.

Though I would like to point out that he puts a rider on the topic of defense spending in that post.

Dave Justus said...

We obviously don't get to know what countries didn't do because they feared our military. That is because they did not do those things.

However, Skeptical Optimist never even implied that more aircraft carries, for example, would have prevented 9/11, but more intelligence might have.

We won't ever know what would have happened. Perhaps nothing would have changed. Perhaps though, everything would have.

Michael C said...

I would say emboldened terrorists by inaction. Lebanon, African Embasies, 1st WTC bombing, USS Cole, etc. Our inaction made us look week.

Cubicle said...


That is the main flaw i have in the basic theory. There are too many what if's.

Also, I see the failures associted with 911 having more to do witht the failure of goverment and not the faiulure of not being prepared. I cite able danger on that point

Sandcastle said...

First for Cube, he does say that "effective" government spending is good. Who doesn't agree with that? I am not saying that the military budget is pork, but that we spend too much on a military that isn't designed to deal with the threats we encounter today. Able Danger supports my point further. We already had organizations in place that not only could have, but in some cases did detect these threats. We failed to act on that information. No one really thought something like 9/11 could happen until it did. Building up a giant Cold War style army doesn't really help anything. As far as preventing wars, it hasn't. A large standing army is often a reason to instigate wars. Otherwise it is useless, and people supporting it will start to lose money.

Dave Justus said...

Able Danger seems to me to be a Red Herring. There is pretty good reason to believe that the 'Mohammad Atta' from Able Danger was not the 9/11/ Mohammad Atta.

Regardless, having a large 'cold war' style army as you put it is still probably a good idea. Yes, our enemies will attempt to attack in an assymetrical fashion and neutralize our strength. They will attempt that regardless of where our strengths are, there will be some place where we are weak. Personally, I would prefer that we were less able to deal with civilians sneaking bombs in than having our weakness be the inability to resist an invading army.

It should also be noted that American military power does a whole lot to allow free trade, especially on the oceans. We benefit tremendously from that.

Sandcastle said...

It also does a lot to promote American business interests in landlocked countries, like when someone wants to build a huge oil or natural gas pipeline through Afghanistan. Do you really believe that a smaller, say Clinton era military, would not deter an invasion? We have enough nuclear weapons to kill everyone in the world several times over.