Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Complex

Ian Welsh has a link to a nice examination of military spending, cost-benefit wise. The costs are, um, large. Benefits? Here's a thought (the excerpt does his piece no justice though; read it all):

Politicians often claim that military spending "makes Americans safer". Let's examine that.

Safe from what? Is anyone going to invade you? Is there anyone who is even remotely capable of invading you? No. Right, so it's not about "defense" as traditionally understood.

Safe from terrorists? There's an argument here, I suppose, but it's not very strong. Certainly the use of military force over the last few years has increased the frequency of terrorist attacks throughout the world, not decreased them. One might argue that by "fighting them there" we aren't "fighting them here." I'm sure the Spanish and Brits might have something to say about that, but in fact, the odds of any attack from Islamic terrorists have always been low. How many terrorist attacks by foreigners (as opposed to Americans) have occurred on US soil over the last 20 years? Not many. It's a low probability event and the lack of an attack since 9/11 on US soil reflects that. Mind you, the attack on Afghanistan did disrupt al-Qaeda, and that was a good thing. But that attack did not require the vast majority of the US military and an expedition multiple times that size could be done even if the US spent much less money on the military.

In fact the majority of actual terrorist captures have been the result, not of military action, but of the sort of police and intelligence work that mostly doesn't require much in the way of military resources (special ops teams at most. And they aren't expensive compared to the big iron.)

While the military has soaked up billions, things that might keep the "homeland" safe, like scanning all cargo containers, pushing the most advanced explosive sniffers out to airports, and so on, have been grossly underfunded.
At some point the US is going to have to make some hard decisions about what's going to give. You can't have all of - low taxes on the rich, a big military, entitlements spending, big deficit spending. One, or probably two, of those pillars, are going to have to go.
The founders argued that large standing armies were inimical to liberty, to democracy, to the health of the economy and to peace itself. I'd say they knew what they were talking about.

At the beginning of the post, he also links to an outstanding essay on guerilla warfare that everyone should read. And that certain people should have read 4 years ago.