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Opening Arguments

The cost of peace

With talk of the U.S. leaving iraq and Afghanistan, there are mounting calls for a "peace dividend." But we've been there, done that -- we made major military reductions after the Revolution, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War and the Persian Gulf War. As a result, we were ill prepared for the next conflict, and in some cases it could even be argued our downsizing even  contributed to the next conflict. Furthermore:

It might still make sense to cut the defense budget -- if it were bankrupting us and undermining our economic well-being. But that's not the case. Defense spending is less than 4 percent of gross domestic product and less than 20 percent of the federal budget. That means our armed forces are much less costly in relative terms than they were throughout much of the 20th century. Even at roughly $549 billion, our core defense budget is eminently affordable. It is, in fact, a bargain considering the historic consequences of letting our guard down.

And I hate to keep bringing up something so few care about these days, but entitlement programs, redistributionist schemes and other favored uses for those "peace dividends" are not consitutional requirements for the federal government. "Providing for the common defense" is.


Steve G
Sat, 07/31/2010 - 11:04am

Do you mean that money not spent on the military doesn't need to be spent on something else??? Is that constitutional??? (Please note tongue in cheek!)

Sat, 07/31/2010 - 5:03pm

I'm not sure your explanation holds water. Vietnam, which we lost (or at least gave up on) was at the height of the Cold War and much military spending.
The first Iraq War, which we won easily, followed a period of relative peace.
Dubya boosted military spending again, but we find outselves bogged down now in both Iraq and Afganistan.
I don't see a correlation.
And no, money not spent on the military does not, in fact, have to be spent elsewhere. That's how Clinton balanced the budget.

tim zank
Sat, 07/31/2010 - 7:47pm

Littlejohn: "That