Democrats & Liberals Archives

Sole Military Superpower

U.S. is called the sole superpower. After the way we got bogged down in Iraq, I’m afraid we can’t call ourselves a superpower. But we surely can call ourselves the sole military superpower. All other nations spend a pittance compared to what the U.S. spends on its military budget.

Glenn Greenwald opens our eyes:

Global Security has taken the Fiscal Year 2008 U.S. budget and prepared a new chart illustrating the most significant and under-discussed political fact in the United States, one that substantially affects every other issue

He presents a chart of military expenditures, of which these are the first 4 items:

  • World $1100 billion
  • Rest of World $500 billion
  • United States $623 billion
  • China $ 65 billion
U.S. spends over $100 billion more on military matters than all other 192 nations on earth. Which nation are we most concerned about? China, which is second in military spending? We spend more than 10 times as much as China does.

And yet, all the major candidates for president, Republicans and Democrats alike, want us to spend more. Sure, we have terrorism to contend with. But terrorists have attacked many other nations. How come the richest nation in the world is the most scared about terrorism? We are so scared that we keep spending more and more and more on the military - and disregarding all our other needs?

Much of the military spending has been on Iraq. What do we have to show for it besides the vast number of people, Americans and Iraqis, that have died or have been wounded? We are trapped there and are afraid to leave because others may laugh at the so-called "sole superpower."

Sole superpower? More realistically, we are a sole military superpower, in a time when huge military operations do not work and small powers have considerable leverage. It's time to rethink our priorities. It's time to consider the needs of the people: the educational system, the health system, the economic system.

I'm not against the military. It's good because it can keep us strong. But we can have too much of a good thing.

Maybe if we improve the needs of the people, we may become a superpower again. Maybe then we will be able to influence other nations with non-military means.

Posted by Paul Siegel at January 2, 2008 8:00 PM
Comments
Comment #242023

Paul:

I plan to check your link, but are those amounts compared in comparable monetary systems? Then converted to dollars?

Thanks.

Posted by: womanmarine at January 2, 2008 11:35 PM
Comment #242029

womanmarine,

I didn’t bother comparing Paul’s numbers to these but:

http://tinyurl.com/636wh

it’s still scary.

And sad.

Posted by: KansasDem at January 3, 2008 12:21 AM
Comment #242030

Paul,

One of the most threatening things I see is our renewal of hostilities with Russia. Uh, does anyone think when Saint Reagan brought the “wall” down that Russia flushed all those nukes down the crapper?

I’m probably just being foolish. Bush looked into Putin’s eyes ………………

Posted by: KansasDem at January 3, 2008 12:28 AM
Comment #242031

Paul,

Now, take that $623 billion, (which we use to protect ourselves and most of the World), times 3 and 1/2 and you’ll get what we pay on social programs in the United States alone.

Disgusting isn’t it!

JD

Posted by: JD at January 3, 2008 12:47 AM
Comment #242035

The enormous sums spent on the US military are necessary to maintain an empire. It is an undertaking which directly contradicts the values America supposedly represents. The military and corporations act in concert, enriching a very small number of people at the expense of the vast majority of Americans, as well as the rest of the world.

Again and again, we see the most ludicrous justifications for aggression, imperialism, and the relentless quest to exploit natural resources abroad- especially fossil fuels, and most of all, oil.

We pretend the enormous sums spent on the military somehow “protect” us, and steadfastly ignore the the ease with which unconventional attacks such as 9/11 evade the military.

Yet even with porous borders, the US does not suffer attacks from those we subjugate. They do not want our country, or our resources, or anything of the sort; in most cases, they want corporations to stop exploitation at their expense.

Both parties contribute to this situation. It is not a conspiracy so much as a systemic problem. But in recent years it has become so utterly objectionable, we cannot help noticing the US is no longer a force for moral good. We are merely a force, a very powerful military force with a lot of money.

The empire is crumbling. Like the USSR, we are slowly but surely economically bleeding to death in Afghanistan & Iraq. Domestically, enormous tax cuts from the rich have re-allocated wealth from the many to the few, and saddled the many with a burgeoning debt.

The rest of the world sees this skyrocketing debt, and as a result, the dollar is plunging. I really don’t think Americans understand what is happening with the dollar. Other currencies are maintaining their values against one another. They are not rising. The dollar is tanking. Normally, one would expect the replacement of the dollar with the euro to take a long time, but thanks to money squandered on the military, robbed from Americans by unjust tax cuts, and thanks to the outsourcing of jobs & manufacturing, and all that debt, it could happen much sooner than anyone expected.

Maybe John Edwards will save our bacon. But I doubt it.

Posted by: phx8 at January 3, 2008 1:46 AM
Comment #242040

Paul
Those kind of expenditures are prima fascia evidence of what phx8 said. They are to protect and expand an empire. This is especially obvious from a country that is protected by oceans and has no hostile nieghbors.The more candid neo-cons will admit to empire and even believe it is a good thing,spreading democracy,freedom blah,blah.Of course the real aim of empire is commercial. The real danger of empire is loss of liberty at home,constant warfare and eventual failure.
A good deal of the money we pay is not well spent either. We put enormious sums into needless,de-stabilizing weapons systems of not much real utility.2BILLION for one bomber! Please!Perhaps we do have need to worry about the Chinese. Its a safe bet they are getting more value for their paltry 65 billion.

Posted by: BillS at January 3, 2008 3:48 AM
Comment #242044

The empire stuff is just flat out B.S. After W.W.I we went and hid in our little cubby-hole and let the world unfold as it would. We were unthreatening and “nice”- to the effect that the next sixty years were filled with unremitting threat of slavery and imminent annihilation at the hands of emboldened despots.

The spoiled brats who can’t remember that lesson deserve the world they fall into by failing to defend it.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at January 3, 2008 9:34 AM
Comment #242045

Paul-

Military spending as a percentage of GDP is the only way to compare these expenditures. We are spending about 4% of GDP on defense while continuing to protect ally interests in Korea, Japan, Germany, etc. We are also in deployed conflicts on two fronts. The CIA ranks us as No. 28 based on GDP.

Our expenditures as a % of discretionary spending have significantly decreased over the past 50 years. Reagan increased the defense budgets in the mid 80’s and the resulting weapons systems have been the mainstay of our current campaigns (Bradley, M1A2, F-16 and F/A 18, Mavericks, carriers, etc). Bush 1 and Clinton reduced the budget as part of the “peace dividend” (remember Cheney and all of the BRACs), but even if you factor in all of the special funding for Iraq and Afghanistan we are spending no where near our historical highs on defense at about 50% of discretionary.

One last comment, the Federal does not “depreciate” assets like companies do. When the GHW Bush rolls out of Newport News in 2009 she will be fully paid for. Not bad for a ship that will be in service for at least 30-40 years. Therefore, we should see rolling increases and decreases in military spending as weapon systems are updated and replaced.

Posted by: George in SC at January 3, 2008 9:40 AM
Comment #242055

George,
Does anyone even know why we are in Korea, Japan, and Germany?
There are threats to this country. But the military threats pale compared to the economic ones. Some people can only re-live and re-fight last centurys threats.

The soviet union didn’t collapse for military reasons. It can happen.

Posted by: Schwamp at January 3, 2008 12:10 PM
Comment #242056

George in SC,
No, GDP is not a useful measure of much of anything, unless you want to discuss income inequality, and the re-distribution of wealth in the US from the middle to the upper class. Not sure?

What happens if 10 people see their wealth decline by 1%, and one person increases wealth by 14%? Taken together, the group increases its “GDP”.

Lee,
The US possessed an empire both before and after WWII. Not sure? How many South American nations did the US overthrow between WWI and WWII? How many has the US overthrown since? Ever hear of the democratically elected government of Arbenz in Guatemala, and the CIA coup in 1954? The list is too long to continue… Panama… Ecuador…

Should we look abroad, at the history of Iran? Do you know what the Red Line of 1928 is? The Time Man of the Year in 1952 was the democratically elected Mossadegh…

Who here is the “spoiled brat”? You deny the obvious, the nature of American empire, because it lets you justify inequalities which are in your favor.

Clarenec,
How Darwinian, a dog eat dog world. Personally, I believe the United States can, and should, represent something other than the biggest predator, or scavenger.

Posted by: phx8 at January 3, 2008 12:25 PM
Comment #242060

Lee,

We have 75 acres of deck space with our Aircraft Carriers alone, the rest of the worlds navies combined has 15 acres.

If we aren’t hell bent on creating an empire, why are we maintaining an active navy of this size?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_units_of_the_United_States_Navy

It was my understanding that that the right didn’t want us to be the “worlds policemen”, yet we possess the largest military and continue to outspend the rest of the world by nearly 100%.

Why is that?

Posted by: Rocky at January 3, 2008 1:05 PM
Comment #242064

Schwamp-

Treaties….

phx8-

I gave both the %GDP and the % of discretionary spending in case a Slate reader showed up. Both trends are down over historical and are much better comparisons to other countries than real dollars (if those numbers are even adjusted). At least the CIA thinks so.

Posted by: George in SC at January 3, 2008 1:30 PM
Comment #242067


Lee: Korea, Vietnam, El Salvador, Columbia, Beruit, Granada, Panama, Iraq I, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afganistan, Iraq II. Troops stationed in England, Germany, Japan, S.Korea, and at least a couple dozen other countries.

We caved at Versailles and helped create the conditions that led to the Rise of Hitler and WWII. Afterwards we created a world police force that enabled the American people to be the greatest wasteful consumers of the worlds resources.

According to OPEC, we only have 15 years to get our act together. After that, the oil supply will not be able to meet world demand.

Posted by: jlw at January 3, 2008 1:58 PM
Comment #242069


It is true, China and Russia get a much bigger bang for the buck than we do. That wouldn’t have anything to do with profit margins would it?

Posted by: jlw at January 3, 2008 2:06 PM
Comment #242105

Rocky,

We must be the world’s most inept keepers of empire, then. Do we not have more troops in Germany than GERMANY has? Is not the same true of South Korea, and are we not close in Japan? Yet do these nations not frequently enact policies directly contrary to our interest (Think of Germany’s meddling and technology transfers to Iraq prior to 2001, for example.)?

As to small countries elsewhere, I recall that other powers and superpowers have had a continual habit of meddling in the affairs of the world (An interest in history will teach things like that…) an we can either participate in the world as it is, with the cast of characters that exists, or we can be swept into the ashcan history provides.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at January 3, 2008 6:58 PM
Comment #242111

Lee,
You write: “… We can either participate in the world as it is, with the cast of characters that exists, or we can be swept into the ashcan history provides.”

That is a false choice.

Isolationism is obviously not an option. I would not mind seeing the US act as a “world policeman,” as long as actions are conducted multilaterally, and kept within reasonable bounds. Changing the world for the better can be done in many ways. It is very difficult to improve the world by force. A more worthy goal is to support Human Rights.

But we do not. Instead, the US combines military power with political and economic power to pursue an agenda which most Americans find reprehensible. Multinational business interests trump other interests- even basic ideals such as freedom and liberty and so on- and the military is used to enforce this. Abroad, the US acts to support Big Oil, Bechtel, Halliburton, and others, rather than to promote ideals most of us favor. As a result, a small number of people profit at the expense of the many.

Posted by: phx8 at January 3, 2008 8:06 PM
Comment #242113

Lee
Your view of history is quite narrow. The US has been an imperial power sice the 1890s. The Philippines,Hawaihi,Puerta Rico etc.We have military missions in over 150 countries.We get involved in the internal affairs of countries all the time. The great world financial institutions like the World Bank are under American control.Our home land has not been threatened by invasion since WW2 but we have been in several wars who’s outcomes would never effect homeland security but only our sphere of interest.You may find the term”imperialism” distasteful but denial of overwhelming evidence is not conducing of debate.You may point to 9/11. That was a fluke and also a reaction to American imperialism. Your guy,Ron Paul has it right. There is a reasonable arguement being made that American imperium is a good thing,outriders of democracy etc.similar to the imperial British atitude that they were civilizing the world, but there is no serious arguement that it does not exist.

Posted by: BillS at January 3, 2008 8:24 PM
Comment #242114

“Now, take that $623 billion, (which we use to protect ourselves and most of the World), times 3 and 1/2 and you’ll get what we pay on social programs in the United States alone.”

JD,

Baloney, you’ve listened the Reaganite “welfare queen” blather too long. This gives a much more accurate picture:

http://www.warresisters.org/piechart.htm

Posted by: KansasDem at January 3, 2008 8:44 PM
Comment #242117

JD
“Now, take that $623 billion, (which we use to protect ourselves and most of the World), times 3 and 1/2 and you’ll get what we pay on social programs in the United States alone.”

Where are you getting the 3.5 times figure for the social programs? I thought it would be closer to the $6bil figure not $2.18 Tril.

Posted by: j2t2 at January 3, 2008 10:16 PM
Comment #242118

Oops I meant $623Bil not $6bil.

Posted by: j2t2 at January 3, 2008 10:18 PM
Comment #242122

phx8 et al
Another usual outcome of empire is the loss of liberty in the imperial power itself.Empires that do not start out being run by despots most often wind up that way and the fruits of empire are never distributed fairly. Historic examples abound from Ceaser to Napoleon. The major expansion of British colonialism led to the structural inequality of Dicken’s England. Same with the golden age of Holland. Vast wealth but laws were passed to prevent bakers from displaying sweets in their windows because the site riled up the poor.

Posted by: BillS at January 3, 2008 11:46 PM
Comment #242138

Well Walker
you got your wish. Obama won by 8 points.I was happy to see that Edwards came in 2nd. Between the two change candidates it appears that a much needed shake up is in the works.Same could be said of the Rep side. At this point all the artillery of the status quo is about to be brought into play. Should be interesting.
It is rather galling to us Edwards supporters that even after Edwards beats HC the MSM is still talking about the HC/Obama contest with John as a footnote.Shows who signs their paychecks if you ask me.

Posted by: Bills at January 4, 2008 2:44 AM
Comment #242160

George in SC,

Military spending as a percentage of GDP is the only way to compare these expenditures.

I guess you forgot “Per Capita” here, right???
Because without, it doesn’t make that much sense…

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 4, 2008 9:53 AM
Comment #242161

Rocky,

It was my understanding that that the right didn’t want us to be the “worlds policemen”, yet we possess the largest military and continue to outspend the rest of the world by nearly 100%.

Why is that?

Usual business. In this case, it’s about keeping ever increasing money flow between taxpayers and private corporates.

And it works. Very well.
Remember, peace doesn’t sell that great.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 4, 2008 9:57 AM
Comment #242189

Korea, Vietnam, El Salvador, Columbia, Beruit, Granada, Panama, Iraq I, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afganistan, Iraq II. Troops stationed in England, Germany, Japan, S.Korea, and at least a couple dozen other countries.

I listened to something the other night that Jimmy Carter said about 5 years ago about patience preventing wars and making military escapades unecessary. Most of our escapades have involved making sure that our guy was in power or our nemesis was not in power in some country, or doing all in our power to undermine some foreign government. The 2 Bush oil wars are recent examples of our incompetence at getting the people we want in power, but we never seem to learn from mistakes, or even from our successes when we get some idiot in power that has his own agenda, inimical to our our interests as well as those of the rest of the world.

Posted by: ohrealy at January 4, 2008 1:08 PM
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