Military spending has taken up a large portion of the US federal budget since World War II. This year alone defense spending accounts for 23% of the federal budget– compared to, say, 3% for education and 11% for welfare. Why does the US spend so much money on defense? Does maintaining our national security really require almost one quarter of our federal tax dollars be spent on expensive weapons systems, hundreds of military bases and over a million soldiers?
U.S. military spending is greater than the military spending of China, Russia, Japan, India, and the rest of NATO combined. The United States already accounts for 46.5% of all military spending on the planet. China is next with only 6.6%. How are these other countries able to meet their security needs on a fraction of what the US spends? One reason they are able to do so is the implicit assurance that America will come to their aid if their own security forces aren’t up to the job.
Any discussion of US defense spending has to address the overall purpose of that spending. And in the US, that purpose is not just to protect the US from security threats but to protect much of the rest of the world. In other words, the US has a special mission: to be the world’s policeman.
Many argue that it’s way past time to rethink this role. The Cold War is over. Sporadic attacks by small groups of terrorists don’t justify such a huge military apparatus. It’s time the rest of the world starts to shoulder more of their own defense burden. In an age of declining living standards and mounting government debt, the US simply can no longer afford to be the world’s cop.
Others argue that the world continues to be a dangerous place. No other country has the military capacity or political will to mount credible military action against any number of security threats that exist in the world today.
How about the UN? Can’t the UN take over the role of global cop? No – even on the rare occasions when the UN does vote to take military action, members often refuse to provide the needed military personnel and assets, or provide them, but restrict their use to the point where the U.N. force is impotent.
How about regional organizations like NATO? Unfortunately, NATO (that “hotbed of cold feet”) has shown great reluctance to use military force. NATO also has a much smaller military budget than the US.
Only the US is equipped to play a dominant role in maintaining global security. Like it or not, the world needs a policeman and only the US is suited to be the world’s cop.
What do you think? Is it time for the US to give up its role as the world’s cop? Or is this role a necessary burden - essential to maintaining world and national security?
Join us at the next SFDebate to explore and debate this question. Note that there is a $5 fee charged by the Commonwealth club for non-members to the club.
If you are interested in speaking for or against the motion or want to moderate, just email event organizer - Deborah – and let her know