Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, January 06, 2006

How Much Do We Spend on Defense?

RxR may be underestimating the extent of the U.S. military budget... its size is not merely an artifact of a large economy. We are responsible for over 40% of all worldwide military expenditures, and we spend a considerably larger share of our GDP on the military than the next biggest spender (China) and the world as a whole. Here are the figures.

(1) U.S. spent $420-450 on military in 2005 (depending on how you count it--the supplemental Iraq funding was not included in the Pentagon's figures.) This represents 3.6-3.8% of US GDP, $11.75 trillion.

(2) China, the next biggest spender, spent about $31-38 billion. This is 1.9 - 2.3% of PRC GDP, $1.65 trillion. (China claims only about $30 billion, but RAND estimates $31-38 billion as the true figure.) We spend many times what China spends (see NOTE below), and a per capita comparison would be even more startling, since we have only about 1/4 of the population.

[NOTE: one must be careful with foreign GDPs and expenditures. I have used the current currency exchange rate (CCER) for military expenditures and for GDP values above. If you use the purchasing power parity (PPP) values, China's military budget equals $135-165 billion out of a PPP GDP of $7.25 trillion. By this calculation, we "merely" spend 3 times what the Chinese do, rather than 10-12 times (we get the same GDP percentage however). The CIA factbook gives $67.5 billion for military expenditures (RAND sometimes lists $69 billion) but these figures are based on combining the PPP and CCER rates by some formula (for a fair comparison to GDP, one would have to compute China's GDP in the same way). By this more nuanced reckoning, we spend 6 times as much as China does.]

(3) The world as a whole spent about $1.035 trillion (CCER) on the military in 2004. This represents about 2.5% of the CCER GWP (Gross World Product), $43.9 trillion. (The PPP GWP is more like $55 trillion, but the percentage is the same regardless of whether one uses PPP or CCER figures.)

(4) By way of comparison, we are actually less dominant in economic areas. For example, the U.S. consumed about 23% of the world's energy production in 2005, and U.S. CCER GDP is about 28% of the CCER GWP (and U.S. PPP GDP is about 21% of the CCER GWP).

[Sources: military figures from CIA World Factbook, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Yearkbook 2005, and a recent RAND study. Economic figures from IMF World Economic Outlook database. Energy and petroleum consumption figures from U.S. Dep't of Energy report.]


Anonymous said...

Exactly, Strangelove. And we are the major factor in the massive increase in Global military spending. And I quote from a 2003 article (updated in June 2005) on the Global Issues Website  

"The main reason for the increase in world military spending is the massive increase in the United States, which accounts for almost half of the world total.... In the absence of [appropriations for the new war on terror, and on Iraq], US military expenditure would still show a significant increase, but at a much slower rate, and world military spending would show a rise of 4 per cent rather than 11 per cent in 2003."

I have also seen figures that put US Military spending at 30% of the budget outlay. In 2003, Defense spending sucked up 51% of descretionary spending.

Then there is the shell game, where you discover, for instance, that FEMA and NASA re shelling out cash on military-type operations, but those aren't counted as part of the military budget. Then there are the government contracts and research grants that go to work in military technology. Granted, in the end, some of this benefits us. The internet, for instance is the result of military research.  

// posted by USwest

Anonymous said...

But the argument started with the assertion that the US economy and society are being taken over by the military and that we are a militarized society. Quibbling about whether we spend 3.3% or 3.5% of our GDP is ignoring the other 96+% that is civilian.

I do think that there is a group of people on the American right who have always tried to use the trappings of militarism to further their own nationalist agendas. But that's a political problem and if we defeat these people at the poles we will go a long way towards alleviating it. The shere volume of spending (in relative or absolute terms) is not the root of the problem - except for the obvious opportunity costs.

As for out spending the rest of the world. That's a different question from the one we started with (as I recall). I do think it is a reasonable question to ask whether we really need to outspend everyone else by such a wide margin. It's certainly worth looking at. But I wouldn't say it's an obvious problem for us or the world.

US advantages are in money. China's advantages are in masses of labor. We construct our military by building the most expensive, sophisticated weapon systems and training imaginable. The Chinese build theirs by drafting millions and millions of soldiers with less sophisticated equipment and training (suplemented with a handful of fancy show units that really don't represent their military as a whole). But when we consider that the US will have a more capital intensive military than China, China can be a major threat to us without coming close to spending as much as we do.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

I'll also point out that while there are limits to China's military capability (particularly with regard their ability to project power with a blue water navy), the main problem from our point of view is not the size of China's military but rather the tyrranical government that wields that military.

France has a large military and nuclear weapons but we do not consider France a threat because for our disagreements, France is governed by regime that is accountable to its own people and friendly to ours. Neither can be said of our own government at the moment or of China's. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dr. Strangelove said...

Let me try to parse the discussion. RxR summed it up fairly well when said, "My point is that arguing about the absolute size of our military as if that alone is a problem misses the primary political problem while implying that our society is far more militarized than it really is."

I think both USWest and I agree with RxR that our political leadership is the primary driver of foreign policy. (How could we not?) But we feel RxR (a) has not understood the full size of the U.S. military budget, and (b) even taken alone, the size of the U.S. military budget *is* a problem in terms of opportunity cost, and it *is* also a driver of our increasingly aggressive foreign policy.

(I do not see where either of us said our society was becoming "militarized.")

The point of the current post is to counter where RxR wrote, in the same comment quoted above, "Up and coming revisionist powers like China spend far more than we do as a share of their economies. Focussing on the absolute numbers is grossly misleading. The US economy is staggeringly huge. We probably spend more on cat food than all other countries combined."

Here, RxR is wrong regarding military spending, and he now accepts this. Incidentally, when it comes to pet food, RxR is right! The U.S. market is about $12 billion for all pet food (1% GDP) whereas the U.K. is about $3 billion (1.5% GDP) and Canada is $1.5 billion. (1.5% GDP). So while we probably *do* spend more on cat food than many industrial countries combined, we actually spend a smaller percentage of our GDP on it. :-)

Anyhow, the upshot is that RxR accepts--and always has--that the opportunity cost of the military budget is a problem by itself. RxR now understands that we spend a larger share of our GDP on the military than most, and he agrees that is a problem worth looking into. So tThe only remaining disagreement I see is over whether the military budget is also a driver of foreign policy (the reverse is a given) and therefore something to be worried about.

Those of us who fear the military-industrial complex think it has a mind of its own, and fear it is becoming an increasingly large player as we feed it more. And to that extent, raw dollars matter as well as GDP and budgetary percentages. One final note: it's amusing that the two Citizens who argue thus are the two who work most closely with the beast... whereas the one who focuses entirely on the political leadership is those who work mosts in the field of political science. Perhaps we fear what we know most? :-)

Anonymous said...

Well, I haven't completely resigned myself to the idea that we spend a higher percentage of our GDP on the military than China does. CIA World Fact Book gives different numbers for China - 4.3% of PPP GDP - than Dr. Strangelove reported (the source of my statement). I've also heard numerous "experts" in the matter say that this figure is most likely 6% or even higher but that the Chinese government, understandably, hides much of their spending. (caveat: the Chinese government changed their official public accounting method in late 2005 and "found" an extra 20% of their GDP that they hadn't counted before so all measures of both Chinese GDP and spending should be taken with a grain of salt).

But the main point of disagreement is indeed whether one thinks size matters. I have yet to hear any explanation as to why it does. What would take a big step towards actually convincing me is a clear, observable mechanism that links size of the military per se with a particular set of foreign policy decisions. So far such a mechanism has not been provided. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Well, I think RBR is changing the subject slightly and I think we are mixing blog comments, which is OK, actually. And RBR, take it from a woman, size matters. ;-)

It isn't the size of the military, but the amount of resources that are dumped into it and the strategic idea behind it. I know we started out with graphs showing the number of active duty and all of that. But my point in doing that wasn't so much about size, as 1) meeting a request that was placed by LTG to have numbers back to 1900. 2) about how we have changed our stance toward the military over time (i.e. maintained a larger standing military force than in the past 3) to create an example of the increased resources we dedicate towards the military. In the process I learned something. In terms of manpower, we aren't as high as I thought. But in terms of resources, we are right about where I thought we would be.

I ask RBR, why do you insist on GDP? In the end, it isn't relevant and I think a much higher percentage of our GDP goes to the military-industrial complex than the 3.4% indicates. That was my point above. The other 96% you like to consider is laced with Military-Industrial complex. Look, Bush stood up and said on Friday that he was launching a new initiative   to fund language learning at earlier grade levels. That money will probably be given to public schools, however, you know very well that the reason is militaristic. I won't object the money because I believe in the life-enhancing power of learning multiple languages, but the motive of the program isn't to expand cultural knowledge. It's to help form future government linguists. Will that money count as GDP for the military or fore education? Does Lockheed Martin's government contract to build an anti-ballistic bullet count in the GDP as military spending?

Now, you want a link between the size (i.e. resource expenditure) and foreign policy? I am not sure what you mean by a "Mechanism", but there are plenty of examples. The whole Cold War was about using military hardware as a means of achieving foreign policy goals. You hear politicians stand up and brag about having the "toughest, strongest" military in the world. And you hear the current Administration talking all the time about taking the war to the enemy, etc. In the late 1950's, we nearly had a military coup in this country. Military generals were so hot to go after Castro, they actually starting developing a plan, Operation North Woods, whereby they would launch terrorist attacks on the U.S. and blame it on the Cubans in order justify military action there. Kennedy found out about this and put a stop to it. If I remember correctly, he fired the Joint Chiefs and started over.

I think Iraq provides a wonderful case study of how you link military resource and foreign policy. Iraq had an easy army to defeat and Iraq was going to be a test case for a new, lighter, more mobile, more high tech military strategy. We actually went to war in the midst of restructuring the military. Dr. S explained it very well when he pointed out that we are building an offensive military. Why do you build an "offensive" anything unless you plan to use it.

As an addition note: We are throwing more money at the military than even it can spend. My institution has so much money dumped on it that it gave back a huge hunk last year. In an attempt to burn the extra cash (so that it could justify having it re-appropriated for the next fiscal year), it tried to go out and by a wizzy-wig computer software system that it had no intention of using. Luckily, time ran out before they could get away with it. This is my little institution. Imagine what is going on across the huge military establishment. Talk about pure waste.

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

OK, interesting.

I was skeptical of the operation North Woods story so I looked it up and found documentation of it on George Washington U. website . Scary. However, in that case the system worked. Kennedy fired the officiers who were moving forward with it thus asserting civilian control. And that was at a time when the military was far more dominant feature of our economy and society than it is today.

As for education spending. I'll conceed for the sake of the argument that Bush only spends money on education if he thinks it will help the military or make new little evangelicals. But the fact is that only a tiny minority of students who take language classes under this program will ever go into military or intelligence community. So I think it is a huge stretch to say a new foreing language education program is "military." I think a federally funded junior ROTC program in the schools (which I believe exists) would be a better argument.

Lockheed weapons research absolutely gets counted as part of that 3.4%.

As near as I can tell the thrust of your argument is really that having a military around - especially one geared towards offensive operations - inevitably leads to its use. My question is "why?" You have not answered that question yet.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

RbR, have you ever heard military people speak?? With Air Force promotional videos showing fighter capabilities for example -- "knuck-porn" as a friend calls it in reference to the knuckle-heads who fly the planes -- it is an unwritten rule that the backing music is AC/DC. Offensive weapons capabilities attract particular people to operate them, and these people want to use those capabilities. Dare you to find any Air Force general who wasn't a fighter pilot. These people want to be the best at their job, as many people do, and hence they want to use those capabilities.

Isn't it human nature? If the tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Would we be in Iraq if it weren't such a grand opportunity for the US services to expend old weapon stocks? 

// posted by Koala Boy

Anonymous said...

Saying "it's human nature" is not only a cop out, it's pretty cynical. The vast majority of human behavior throughout history and throughout the world is peaceful. Most countries are mostly at peace with most other countries most of the time. War is a pretty rare phenomenon actually given all the opportunities for it to occur.

Besides, if it's human nature than arguing about the size of the military is pointless. Humans would engage in wars if the military budget only allowed for rocks and sticks.

I re-ask my as yet unanswered question. Is there any reason to believe that a large military - especially one based on offensive warfare - is automatically linked to particular foreign policy actions? 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Why? Because why negotiate when you can send your troops in to do the job? Why? Because then, if successful, you control the ground. It is called empire building. And you don't do that without using the military.

I don't object to having a military. I do object for using for things besides defense. Realism in International politics is about the pure use of force to pursue your foreign policy goals.

We use the military every day. We are depolyed in about 170 countries. The military is the boots on the ground that enforce US foreign policy. We train allied armies, we patrol foreign waters, we use the miliatry to back up CIA operations, etc. You don't have to deploy 150K troops to use the military. I don't object to using the military. But I do object to using it for what looks like imperialistic appetites when negotiation would have done the trick.

Remember that Johnson had a peace agreement on Vietnam that was quietly destroyed by Nixon because he wanted to fight a little longer. We trust our civilian administration to use our military wisely and carefully. We got lucky with Kennedy in the Northwoods operation. But we haven't been lucky with this Administration. You are correct RBR when you mention that part of the problem is leadership and politics.

But organizations have to maintain their raison d'etre. The military wants to justify the spending; they want to try their new toys in the field. Hang out with the real dedicated military guys long enough, and you hear it and see it.

Oh, and that language program . . . There are also newly appropriated government grants for college students who major in languages and who agree to work for the government for 3-4 years. That is just one example of many. Poke around your own department and see who many research grants there might be that are funded by government money that may deal with military readiness.  

// posted by USWest

Dr. Strangelove said...

RxR quotes a figure from the CIA World Factbook. I specifically discussed problems with the CIA World Factbook data in my original post, but I did not go into detail. If you check the book (see link in original post) will find these figures for China:

GDP = $7.262 trillion
Military Expenditures, dollars = $67.48 billion
Military Expenditures, % of GDP = 4.3%

These do not add up. The CIA figures would give China a military budget of less than 1% GDP.

The CIA World Factbook data derive from different sources. The "GDP" is the pure PPP GDP, while the military budget listed is a combination of PPP and CCER figures--a figure with which the RAND study I cited fully agrees.

The quote of 4.3% either comes from some unknown Pentagon study or a miscalculation. I find it suspicious that one obtains 4.3% if one compares the combination $67.5 billion not to the appropriately scaled combination GDP but to the pure CCER GDP ($1.56 trillion in 2004.)

Dr. Strangelove said...

RxR asks, "Is there any reason to believe that a large military - especially one based on offensive warfare - is automatically linked to particular foreign policy actions?"

Rumsfeld famously answered a soldier's question about lack of proper armor saying, "You go to war with the Army you have... not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time." [Kuwait, Dec. 8, 2004]

What Rumsfeld's answer obsfuscated was that we would not have chosen to go to war in Iraq at all if the White House had not judged that we had sufficient military might to win a quick and decisive victory... and they bungled the calculation.

Gen. Shinseki had testified to Congress before the war that we would need 200,000 - 300,000 troops for several years for a successful Iraq operation. What Shinseki did not state, but which any fool could see, was that ongoing operations in Afghanistan plus the need to keep reserves on hand (in case an actual threat emerged...) made it infeasible to send in 300,000 troops for an extended period. For daring to give such an estimate, Shineski was shown the door. In order to calculate that we could win in Iraq, Rumsfeld had to argue that we only needed a "smaller footprint" of soldiers in Iraq (much as Christopher Columbus had to fudge the size of the Earth to get the funding for his pet project.)

Well now, after nearly three years of grinding operations in Iraq, during which time we have still been unable to restore a security, the Army is obviously looking a bit stretched thin. For this reason, most observers rule out the possibility an "Operation Syrian Freedom" or other adventure in Iran or North Korea. But surely the neo-cons would be saber-rattling if we had the military strength to do so? Surely a primary motivation behind the current, massive capital infusion in the armed forces is to increase U.S. soldiers' "productivity" to allow more simultaneous operations with fewer and fewer troops?

There is (of course) no "automatic" linkage anywhere in foreign policy. But show me a country with a large army, and I'll show you a belligerent country. And the bigger the army, the more aggressive they get. It's a simple rule supported by a long history, and I'm afraid the U.S. government is proving, yet again, that we are no exception.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I should say, though, that none of this dilutes an important point RxR has made: foreign policy is still very much the result of civilian political leadership (or misleadership). That's the key problem we need to fix.

While the military-industrial complex has an agenda of its own, their do not have nearly enough influence (in my opinion) to have actually caused any wars. So far. Keep feedin' it, though, and that might start to change.

For example, I have to wonder whether the slick videos Koala Boy mentions of stealth bombers, smart munitions, and other expensive new techno-wizardry might have helped convince Bush that we could beat Iraq in a clean, "surgical" strike with Rumsfeld's "smaller footprint"...

Anonymous said...

Civilian leadership (or misleadership) is the key. I don't see how shrinking the military or making it less capable of offensive action will solve that problem or how the opposite will make it worse.

Why negotiate when you have a military? Because negotiating is cheaper most of the time. The overwhelming majority of interactions between countries (even including Bush's America) are peaceful. The decision most of the time is to negotiate.

I think Dr. Strangelove and I are nearing agreement.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

RBR says. "The vast majority of human behavior throughout history and throughout the world is peaceful."

I find that to be an interesting thought because I would say just the opposite. I have to agree with Strangelove.  

// posted by USWest

Dr. Strangelove said...

RxR: well, we are nearing agreement to the extent that I have agreed with your point that civilian political leadership is the key to controlling foreing policy.

Unfortunately, in your very next sentence, you specifically refute the whole notion that sinificantly enlarging and/or increasing the offensive capabilities of our military could have an indirect impact on our foreign policy, i.e. making our foreign policy more aggressive and militaristic. So you have expressed no agreement with me at all.

You also now seem to have dropped the GDP thing entirely... may I presume then that you at least concede that the U.S. military is indeed large (and getting larger) by any measure, relative or absolute?

Anonymous said...

While it is true that there is nearly always a war going on somewhere in the world, the normal state of relations between countries at any given time in any given place is peace. This isn't an impression of mine or a guess. That's an emperical observation.

I think the GDP issue is a distraction. I do agree it is getting larger. I do agree it is large in absolute terms and I agree that the US is extending the advantage it has in this regard vis a vis other countries. However, I don't agree with the implication that 3.5% of the GDP (or 3% or whatever) is an indicator of an overly militarized socieity. I think that is a stretch.

Furthermore, I still have not heard a well laid out reason for why we should assume that a bigger military budget is a cause of particular policy.

All that said, I don't think we're really that far apart in our views on this. We are essentially quibling over details and theoretical niceties. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the most significant factor isn't 3% of GDP, it's 40% of world military spending.

I'm no defense secretary, but it seems to me that any government that doesn't act like America's lapdog has to consider the threat of attack from the US, one of its allies with US aid and support, or a country that's bought arms from the US (Iran, Iraq,...). Insofar as we try to outspend and outstrip the rest of the world, we are forcing other countries (at least, those trying to preserve their autonomy) to (a) increase the priority of military spending and (b) consider developing "asymmetric" means of warfare.

I get the impression that RbR is asking for some socioeconomic argument as to why a foreign policy would be a consequence of having a big military budget. The argument, as I see it, from USWest and Dr. S is not so much an "A implies B" argument as "not A implies not B". That is, certain military elements (nuclear weapons being the most obvious) make certain foreign policy decisions possible.

For example, if the military wisdom holds that we do _not_ have the military resources to simultaneously fight full-scale wars in, say, three military theaters with a reasonable expectation of victory in all theaters, that makes it _very_ difficult to actually pursue war on more than two separate fronts.

Having a large military does not, it seems to me, drive a particular policy, but it enables policies that otherwise might not be feasible.

Some might argue that we shouldn't limit our foreign policy decisions by limiting our spending, but I don't think that anyone here'd adopt that position. That'd be saying that our government should have all possible means at their disposal, and that we depend on the good judgement of our elected officials to choose the right course. I think everyone here already wishes our current government couldn't push some of the buttons it already can. :) 

// posted by Bob

Anonymous said...

Actually RbR I don't think you and Dr S are near agreement, unless by that you mean you've forgotten what he argued earlier in the post. You seem to have a habit of doing that; it must be the upbringing... :-).

I feel you also ignored my point: the main thrust for militaries is dropping bombs. Peace keeping and disaster relief is a meal ticket to abide until the real event for many, and here I refer to flight-jock set. Once they have the scarf and moustache they don't lose them when they get in charge of the air force. They will present bombing the crap out of everything as an option to the civilian leadership, if that is possible. With the US that is certainly an option.

Now a strong leadership would negotiate and see hope for a non-violent solution when all hope seems lost; a weak leadership will use the easy option. Shrub seems to fall into the third category.

BTW I don't see us as a lapdog, more of a lap-wombat. Cuter, but you are never sure what it is going to do... 

// posted by Koala Boy

Dr. Strangelove said...

Thanks, Bob, for your exposition of the main line of reasoning that USWest, Koala Boy, and I were following: "Having a large military... enables policies that otherwise might not be feasible."

Although that is the clearest and most defensible line of reasoning, it is not the only one we have put forth. USWest and I have also argued that the military-industrial complex a very well funded and organized special interest group... and having an aggressive foreign policy is in its interest.

Of course few would be so crude as to directly lobby for war, but (as Koala Boy pointed out) defense contractors certainly pump out a lot of slick propaganda that makes war look like a cheap, bloodless, easy solution to foreign policy problems... and (again, as Koala Boy mentioned) those who have been raised on that pablum will argue for war as a first choice rather than last resort.

Remember the early estimates for cost and casualties for the Iraq war? With the support of industry "experts," the neo-cons talked themselves into believing that we could achieve total victory in a matter of weeks, and it would cost so little that Iraq would be able to pay for its own reconstruction!

Frankly, I have yet to hear a well laid out reason why we should not expect an excessively large military to have an impact on foreign policy. (Honestly, +40% of world expenditures?!)

The one place I definitely agree with RxR is that having strong, civilian political leadership is critical. Nothing else will hold the military-industrial complex in check.

Anonymous said...

I found Bob's statement of the argument much more understandable actually. I can certainly see how not having a large military would preclude a whole range of policy options. It would by the way also seriously alter the value of negotiations as a policy option.

Koala Boy seems to be implying though that the Military gets to decide how it is used. They don't (or at least they aren't supposed to). Civilians decide that.

As for why we might not expect a clear link between military size and agressive foreign policy. Consider a strong civilian leadership with a committment to settling problems through multi-lateral negotiations or by encouraging or discouraging long term trade with various countries. If a civilian government had those preferences, the size of the military wouldn't neccessarily lead them to change those preferences.

I'm not saying "Big Military = peace" I'm saying "we don't know that Big Military = war."

I can see that there might be some indirect effects from propoganda etc. However, such propoganda about the glories of war predates our large military expenditures by 100 years or more. Consider the cheering picnickers at the First Battle of Bull Run watching two hastily assembled (poorly funded) militia armies slug it out in Northern Virginia. They got one hell of an education. It was all "hurah hurah" on the way there and a massive bloody panic on the way back.

Where I think we agree:
1) Military expenditures are so high that our government is taking funds away from other more productive projects.
2) Our military expenditures relative to other countries are so high that we could reduce our military expenditures significantly and still have a decisive advantage.

To me, those are the important issues because they directly relate to plausible policy positions. The other stuff is just quibbling about details and pie in the sky stuff like the nature of humanity.


// posted by Raised By Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...

RxR has explained well where we agree. But I think our area of disagreement has more substance.

I argue the military-industrial complex affects foreign policy in several ways (as previously described) and obtains more influence with more money. RxR agrees that having a large military alters the array of feasible policy options, but contends the military-industrial complex has no significant influence on foreign policy beyond that.

That's more than a quibble about pie-in-the sky details.

Anonymous said...

I think I am agreeing to disagree with RBR. Bob, Strangelove, and Kola Boy, thanks for the post, you encapsulated the point well.

RBR argues that the size of the military would have little influence if civilian policy makers already had a set of policy preferences. He argues that large military doesn't have to lead to war.

Neither Strangelove or I said that having a strong military necessarily lead to war. We did say, however, that we should be concerned about having so much resource devoted to the military-industrial complex because it makes the option of going to war easy to exercise, perhaps too easy. Furthermore, it has too much influence other areas outside of the strict confines of the military establishment.

Words matter, and I haven't noticed RBR using the phrase "military-industrial complex". He seems to focus on the military itself rather than on the whole pie. Strangelove and I are not limiting ourselves in this way.

The Military Industrial Complex isn't just the military. It is business, PACS, and lobbists. It has plenty of lobbists sitting on K street. And military contractors give big bucks to decision makers. 2006 isn't even 2 weeks old and Lockheed Martin  has already given over half a million dollars to politicians. Senators like having military projects in their neighborhood. In 2001, the government awarded over $143bil in defense contracts. Foreign policy is decided, as we will see with the breaking scandal in DC, in a capital covered with money. Money talks.

In addition, RBR talks about civilian leadership. Well civilian is a slippery term because many civilians who currently work in government have military backgrounds. When civilians (non-veterans) work with the military long enough, they aren't really civilian anymore in their view of the world. Don Rumsfeld is a prime example. And there are mandated preferences for veterans in government hiring practices. This isn't a bad thing, nor does it mean that they are all making decision based on military-type preferences. But it means that government places a high value on military experience as a sign of patriotism and skill. And we know that the military establishment didn't much like Clinton because of his lack of a service record. That can be debilitating for civilian leadership.

So I am satisfied with the observable facts that are out there that the military industrial complex is influential and that this influence is growing- especially with wars on abstract notions like Terrorism and Drugs

It is true that decisions are made, and we don't always know why because we aren't part of the decision-making body. I sense RBR wants some sort of empirical data or model to prove that having a large military leads to war or influences the decision to go to war. Well, I imagine we could develop one and study it as an interesting academic experiment. Perhaps, RBR can put his students to that task. But I don't think pounding away at such an idea that "you can't prove it, thus it can't be" is a reasonable argument. And persisting is a fine example of why policy makers get impatient with academics.


// posted by USwest

Anonymous said...

"And persisting is a fine example of why policy makers get impatient with academics."

I'll not participate in this discussion line any more because I getting the impression you're just going to get increasingly insulting now. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

I don't want part of Koala Boy's point to get lost. Leaving aside his very true comments about the present US military being particularly aggressive in its posture, with its glorification of "kickin' ass" to heavy metal tunes, I agree that the military is institutionally  biased in favor of using military force. They train for it and want to use it. Their leaders learn to view the world in military terms. Put another way, to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To a man with military training, world problems are viewed in terms of possible applications of force. As a lawyer, I know I must fight my own tendency to see everything in legal terms.

Also, a big military increases military options. Britain doesn't make war on Iraq because it can't - to some extent, then, the USA did because it could. A man without a "big stick" won't use one.

I also believe a large standing military decreases the burden on the public of war, making it a more attractive option for policymakers.

I won't make hay of the facile correlation between military spending and war, but I pose this question: would the USA have entered either world war earlier if we had had a larger military beforehand? I suspect so, for good or ill. 

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

Koala Boy (earlier comment): "If the tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."

LTG (latest comment): "to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

Now that's agreement! :-)

USWest: please note, it's "KOALA" boy, not "KOLA" boy. (He's writing from Australia.)

Anonymous said...

Oops, sorry, Koala Boy. I've caught myself making that mistake in the past!


// posted by Uswest

Anonymous said...

That's okay. LTG was trying to patronise me with the term "Koala Boy" once. They're just furry stomachs with very metholated poo. 

// posted by Wombat o' Love

Anonymous said...

When I patronize, I use a "z."  

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG's last comment made me laugh out loud. Loved it. (Yes, it's been that kind of day.)

Anonymous said...

With a zed? Is that because you are a pedanticist? 

// posted by Wombat o' Love

Anonymous said...

As Wombat o'Love knows, of course, here in America, it's pronounced "zee" not "zed."

And I think the term you're looking for is pedant. Or crank. 

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

Yes, LTG, you are right. "Pedanticist" was indeed meant as a joke.

Anonymous said...


// posted by LTG

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