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Motion: This House proposes that the US stop being the World’s Cop

  • Mar 5, 2013 · 7:00 PM
  • Commonwealth Club - Boardroom

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

Join or login to comment.

  • Peter

    The speaker for the motion argued that the U.S. economy can no longer afford the military spending needed to be the world's cop. The speaker against argued that a cop's presence leads to peace & stability, even if the cop is sometimes abusive and plays favorites; the U.S. is the only country able to play this role at the global level, and it benefits by getting to be the decision maker, while others benefit from the peace it enforces. The speaker in favor countered that influence is wielded through economic, not military power. In floor debate, some objected to the U.S. seeking to control the world as self-appointed cop; others argued that only a powerful "cop" can prevent rogue states from making WMD. Failures in the cop role were noted, such as preventing genocide in Rwanda and African wars, so it might not be accurate to call the U.S. the world's cop. Beginning vote: 3 yea, 1 nay, 4 abstain. End vote (including speakers & moderator): 4 yea, 2 nay, 4 abstain.

    March 30, 2013

  • Joju

    Sorry - a late conflict

    March 5, 2013

  • patricia u.

    I am new to the group and am already enjoying the conversation/ discussion/ debate.

    March 1, 2013

  • Deborah B.

    The Motion is proposing an alternative to the extensive US military presence around the world (given more than 600 military bases in over 100 countries) and a defense policy orientation that is very involved in what is happening in other countries. "World cop" is a short-hand expression for which there seems to be consensus about its general sense, even though the phrase "world cop" may have somewhat different connotations for different people. Although it's normally a good idea to word a debate motion as a positive statement, often what is being proposed is still something against the current status quo (e.g., legalize marijuana, ban gm foods, put workers on corporate boards, restrict gun ownership). In this case, the status quo is extensive US defense presence and involvement in much of the globe, which is a debatable topic. So I wanted a Motion that was a statement against a current status quo and purposely violated the "rule" to always use positive language in a debate motion.

    February 27, 2013

  • Deborah B.

    As the above links show (and there were numerous to choose from), the issue of "should the US be the world's cop" has been an ongoing and well-established issue, worded exactly this way (and most of the people I read in favor of the US playing such a dominant global military role didn't shy away from the phrase of the US being the world's cop). I worded the motion in a way that I thought would elicit less acrimony and more (at least, initial) agreement. I also wanted to shift the debate to a Big Picture issue, rather than merely a matter of US government spending (because how one sees the role of the US military is likely to be an important factor is how one feels US defense dollars should be spent)

    February 27, 2013

    • Matthew M.

      Resolutions for debate (which is really what this is, rather than a "motion" in the parliamentary sense), and particularly value debates, often contain internal assumptions. If they didn't, the debate would devolve into a monotonic, solely moral, up/down argument. For example, one of the National Forensic League's resolutions was: "Laws that protect us from ourselves are justified". This resolution *assumes* the validity of laws that *attempt* to protect us from ourselves (e.g., seatbelt laws), because it assumes they actually succeed at that goal. It's up to supporters of the resolution to support that internal assumption with real-world policy examples, in addition to making the moral argument that such protective measures are justified. This allows opponents to attack not only the moral arguments, but the policies / definitions held up as examples.

      February 27, 2013

  • Steve B.

    Are we talking about (1) significantly reducing U.S. expenditures on military, say by half, but still maintaining the ability to wage a (single) war anywhere in the world, or (2) abandoning such a large-scale overseas intervention altogether and downsizing to something like France does - only very scope and duration limited actions?

    February 27, 2013

  • Matthew M.

    I'd be interested in speaking on this topic.

    February 25, 2013

  • Deborah B.

    Possible alternative to Irish Pub after debate: Louie's Bar and Grill, 55 Stevenson St (at Ecker Pl) San Francisco. Much closer. Good reviews.

    February 25, 2013

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