What Should Obama Do First? Rationalize and Reduce Defense Spending

Sun, 18 Jan 2009 21:56:49 +0000

Continuing the series, we are, using the subtitle of Andrew Bacevich's book, "seduced by war." It seems like an obvious proposition that we could reduce our military spending without compromising our national defense. Plenty of that spending goes to expand our empire, not to protect our citizens. For the right words, I'll turn to page 215 of the book:

A better approach [than pegging military spending as a percentage of GDP], one more likely to limit adventurism abroad while still meeting essential U.S. security requirements, would be to peg U.S. expenditures in relation to what others are spending. To stipulate, for example, that the United States should match the next ten most lavishly spending powers combined would assure U.S. military capabilities not only far in excess of any potential adversary but also in excess of any remotely plausible combination of adversaries. The budgetary impact of such a stipulation--one that if made by another country Americans would view as evidence of rampant megalomania--would be to reap substantial savings. Indeed, at present the United States could earmark for defense as much as the next ten largest military powers combined and still reduce Pentagon outlays by tens of billions of dollars per year.


The book was written in 2005 and cites the following link for worldwide military expenditures. The distinction between national defense, narrowly defined, and national security, which is subject to all manner of manipulation, is essential. That is what needs to be rationalized, so that reductions in military spending remove only the least essential aspects of our military activities.

I posted about Bacevich's book when I first picked it up. Now finding the time to finish it off, I recommend it highly. For those of you in the Hanover area, the Rockefeller Center will host Andrew Bacevich on February 19 for a public lecture at 4:30.