Jerry “Sean” Hughes
The Longest War in American History: Money Well Spent?
For fiscal 2011 President Obama has asked Congress to appropriate $719 billion for the Pentagon, a 4.5 percent increase over the current year. But as Robert Higgins points out, “few appreciate that the total amount of all defense-related spending greatly exceeds the amount budgeted for the Department of Defense.”
Writing about the 2009 Defense Department budget of $636.5 billion, Higgs states: “Lodged elsewhere in the budget, however, other lines identify funding that serves defense purposes just as surely as—sometimes even more surely than—the money allocated to the Department of Defense. On occasion, commentators take note of some of these additional defense-related budget items, such as the Department of Energy’s nuclear-weapons program, but many such items, including some extremely large ones, remain generally unrecognized.”
It’s no mystery why so much is spent on the military. The U.S. government maintains close to a thousand military bases around the world and is engaging in two foreign occupations, not to mention less formal campaigns in Pakistan and elsewhere, including covert operations that never make the papers. This costs money. The Iraq and Afghan occupations consume over $12 billion a month. USA Today reports that the Pentagon has spent $620 billion on the Iraq invasion and occupation and more than $190 billion on the operation in Afghanistan, America’s longest military adventure ever. Other estimates are higher, as much as $300 billion for Afghanistan, according to USA New and World
Report. More spending has just been approved in Congress.
The fiscal question is whether, in the face of the huge national debt and multi-year trillion-dollar budget deficits, we can afford a “defense” establishment more befitting an empire than a republic. That’s not the only question, however. We must also ask if a...