Skip to content

Would the Democrats Cut Defense Spending?

Our reader Pat Patterson commented last night:

And if anyone seriously believes that either of the two Democrats aspiring to be president are actually going to cut defense spending then I own a bridge in Brooklyn...

I might be interested in this bridge. Here are three reasons:

1.) Obama and Clinton sound as if they would withdraw most troops much earlier from Iraq than McCain would. That would reduce the defense spending.

2.) Democrats tend to be less enthusiastic about the expensive Missile Defense program than Republicans.

3.) Obama and Clinton are less likely to go to war with Iran. McCain sounds more hawkish on Iran ever since singing about bombing Iran; very inappropriate for an aspiring statesman and a veteran, who should know better than to joke about war. This song might have meant the end of his campaign in most European countries. Certainly it would have been considered worse than Howard Dean's scream, which ended his campaign.
Anyway, George F. Will has a few questions for McCain in the
Washington Post:

First, he says war with Iran would be less dreadful than an Iran with nuclear arms. Why does he think, as his statement implies, that a nuclear Iran would be, unlike the Soviet Union, undeterrable and not susceptible to long-term containment unless internal dynamics alter the regime?

Then again it was a Democratic president, who got into the Balkans, when the European Union could not deal with them. As our reader Don* pointed out many times, Kosovo and the rest of the Balkans are not vital for US national security, but Bill Clinton invested heavily into these wars anyway. That means Democrats start wars as well, even wars that are not important for US national security. Perhaps Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would start another war -- as most US presidents did in the course of their term(s).

So, perhaps I should not yet buy that bridge from Pat. Read Pat Patterson's full comment at US Presidential Candidates: Who's Good for Europe? 


Related posts in the Atlantic Review:
Defense budget: US spends too much and Europe spends too little? and No Rapid Reaction Force for NATO.


* Don argued that Kosovo was important for Europe, thus Europe should help the United States in wars that are important for Americans. I think Clinton went into the Balkans primarily to push back Russia rather than to help the EU or Bosnians and Kosovars. And right now, Washington is again more supportive of independence for Kosovo than Brussels, London, Paris, Berlin, Rome etc.

Since Kosovo is expected to declare independence in a few hours, check out the Atlantic Review posts:

Sarkozy Makes Premature, Unnecessary, Familiar Statement on Kosovo 

Kosovo: Is the EU Home Alone in the Balkans? and

Where Next for Serbia?

Trackbacks

No Trackbacks

Comments

Display comments as Linear | Threaded

Hattie on :

If Obama wins the presidency, he will have his hands tied. The military is in control. As long as they have enormous amounts of our money to spend, nothing will change. States like the one I live in would collapse without military spending, and Obama knows that, since this state is his home state, Hawaii. Obama is raising hopes that will be dashed.

Joe Noory on :

That's outrageous. The US isn't a banana republic. If it were up to the individuals in the military, there would be no war. They, after all are more in touch with mortaility than the armchair critics hurling uncorroborated accusations.

Zyme on :

"And right now, Washington is again more supportive of independence for Kosovo than Brussels, London, Paris, Berlin, Rome etc." How wrong. You would surely have to cut Berlin and Rome from the list. Both capitals are now sending a total of 1200 civil servants , judges and policemen to create and shape the new state of Kosovo. They might do so for selfish reasons (Rome to regain former influence on the Balkans, Berlin to further its sphere of influence to the South-East and weaken Russia´s allies in Eastern Europe), but they have a lot more to gain from an independent Kosovo than Washington does in my opinion.

Zyme on :

Also Brussels cannot rightly be on the list either. Kosovo will be placed under EU administration after all. Should this plan work, it would be a tremendous success for the EU and could be the precedent for the Eastern European Frontier. Certainly a new way of growth for our non-imperial empire.

Kevin Sampson on :

'Democrats tend to be less enthusiastic about the expensive Missile Defense program than Republicans.' Clinton funded SDI ever single one of his eight years in office.

joe on :

Kevin, That a bit like saying germany is making a significant contribution in Afghanistan.

Pat Patterson on :

Rats, I was planning on retiring from that asset sale though of course minus the 15% capital gains tax. But, as Hattie, pointed out is that regardless of whether there is actually a war defense spending except for a brief period after 1991 has steadily gone up. New systems cost a lot, the Air Force wants twice as many of the F-22 as the current authorization while testing on the newer F-35, which is slated for 3,000 to be built, continues. The Navy wants a whole series of light frigates, destroyers and gun boats built while still supporting 11 air carrier groups throughout the world. And surprisisngly or not many of these defense contractors have either research and testing facilities as well as plants in many states that are considered safely blue, ie., California, Washington, etc. Both Sen. Clinton and Obama have called for the creation of a new division for the Army, or rather reactivation since there still are perfectly good division flags and patches left over from WWII, which at the very least would run another $12 to $15 billion which would not even include its operational costs in the future. Plus the costs of running these hundreds of new posts and bases throughout the ME and the former Soviet republics will more than make up for any supposed savings from cut backs in Europe. As an aside Ft. Drum, the current home of the 10th Mountain Division, is possibly the site of this new division while the 10th might return to Colorado where as a regiment it was originally created in WWII. I don't see Sen. Clinton opposing this move or the fact that some of the displaced NG units will get a new base in exchange for not being able to use Ft. Drum any longer. Hawaii, again as Hattie pointed out has tourism, seven large military bases which include Pearl Harbor, Hickam AFB and Schofield Barracks, big waves on the North Shore and a thriving export of macadamia nuts. Hardly an example of a mixed industrial economy that is not dependent on the stability of the military presence. As an aside I can repeat a probably apocryphal story concerning the threatened closure of a Navy weapons station in California where one of the local city councilman complained about drunken sailors in his nice clean beach town and couldn't the Navy either send a better class of sailors or close the base but still give the city the money it represented. While Illinois, less dependent on military spending than Hawaii due to that nasty old coal, has well connected defense contractors with plants and offices in the state. Boeing, Northrop, NASA, L3 and one of the plants owned by Raytheon that is currently sending the new armored trucks, MRAPs, to Iraq and Afghanistan. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

John in Michigan, USA on :

Unions are critical to the Democratic party. Traditionally, unions in the USA have supported military spending. This is true because they benefit economically (as in manufacturing jobs for weapons, vehicles, ships, etc, but also because base construction, military contracts, etc. generally require as much union labor as possible). But it is also true for cultural reasons. Some union members just seem to get a warm, fuzzy feeling from defense spending. Reagan understood this well. The "Reagan Democrats" had a lot of union members, who normally voted Democrat but who were attracted to his promises of military spending. Today, these union voters are much fewer, and have mostly gone back to their Democratic roots, but they still very much like military spending. If there is a decrease, it will not be the type of structural decrease we saw in the 1990's "peace dividend" (e.g. smaller forces worldwide). Rather it will be a decrease only in the special spending associated with Iraq or Afghanistan. Of course, even under a Democrat, it is by no means certain we will withdraw from either of those countries! Even then, the savings will only happen if, after withdrawing, Iraq and Afghanistan stays stable and no other major region becomes seriously unstable (Pakistan? N. Africa? Sub-saharan Africa? Iran? Balkans? There are so many possibilities!) So it is possible, but very unlikely, that there will be a major decrease in defense spending. Don't be surprised if there is a small, symbolic decrease someplace, however. For example, they probably won't be able to end the SDI program, but they might be able to prevent any growth in it.

David on :

Senator Obama has put nuclear non-proliferation at the top of his foreign policy agenda. While he has not advocated a unilateral disarmament, he has vowed to work towards the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. So the goal is restricting the funding of WMD production. Senator Obama has also voted in favor of banning cluster bombs (Hillary voted against the ban). So it would be nice to eliminate the production of cluster bombs - which mostly kill and maim civilians - from our bloated military budget. Bonus: Read President Eisenhower's [url=http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Eisenhower%27s_farewell_address]farewell address to the nation[/url] as he warned the American people about the "military-industrial complex". Too bad we never heeded his words.

Pat Patterson on :

And yet the same year Pres. Eisenhower gave that speech was the first year where missiles defensive(though describing the Nike Ajax program as defensive was wildly optimistic) and offensive along with further development of the hydrogen bomb as well as chemical weapons were now more than half of the defense budget for that year. That 1961 budget was 9.3% of GDP but 65% of the total Federal outlays for that year. As an aside as a child I was taken to the Palos Verde Pennisula in California to see the remains of the launcher and several acres of brushland from when an Ajax missile accidentally launched over the heads of some hikers, the stations Army personnel and a tanker heading into San Pedro. At the time it seemed like everything was under control. But for some reason the locals didn't like the accidental fireworks and pressured their congressman to close the base. While that warmonger, the current Pres. Bush, defense budget was only 19% of the total Federal budget last year and less than 18% of that percentage was spent on missiles and payloads. And for the first time in US history defense spending went up less than 2.5% in wartime. Speechs are nice but it's what the presidents actually do that is important.

Kevin Sampson on :

Ah, yes, the old cluster-bomb bugaboo. I remember the furor about them (and DU rounds) and the 'Highway of Death' after Desert Storm. And the curious lack of furor during and after Bosnia/Kosovo. Why does this only seem to be an issue for Republican administrations? It seems like the Left actually believes that we maintain two separate inventories; one reserved for the use of Republican presidents (cluster bombs, DU weapons, napalm, kryptonite) and the other reserved for Democratic presidents (the same hardware, but certified non-toxic and environmentally friendly by the EPA, made with 100% post-consumer recycled materials, and absolutely, positively guaranteed not to even frighten civilians).

Pat Patterson on :

Moose and Squirrel are saving the secret ingredient, mooseberries, just for the Republicans to use.

Kevin Sampson on :

Jay Ward was a genius, and Rocky and Bullwinkle a true American classic.

leftclick on :

Since WW2 America has never returned to peace time economy but expanded defense spendings from year to year. America's economy has become addicted to war and arms races. America is willing to spend trillions for unproductive investments in arms and armies, but in return they only gain the miracle of "security". America's budget deficits are legendary - all the more considering that they represent huge amounts of dead capital like tanks, carriers and so forth. Normally, you would judge any investment by its return, in dollars and cents - but not in defense spendings. Here is a taboo, break it, and the whole American system will collapse, given, that the financial value of security must be set at zero. America keeps on struggling hard to justify its defense spending, not only to maintain security as a "world policeman", but even more to maintain security in the financial markets (which usually hate unproductive investments). The problem is not to cut defense spendings or, at least, to reduce their growth rates. The question is how to bring America back to peace time economy, where investments are based on and credits are given for the prospects of real, measurable growth. America needs to replace the military in its financial accounts by something that's a money burner like the army, but highly productive like for example the computer industries. The candidate of choice par excellence is NASA, the exploration of space, with the conquest of a second planet as the glittering price. Other more profane candidates could be education and social security. Any change in America's arms politics would have to start with a change of its international diplomacy - the one thing is unthinkable without the other. Obama stands for a change...let's wait and see.

Pat Patterson on :

NASA? You mean like the guys who brought us Tang, O-rings and adult diapers? Obama stands for creating one new US Army division at an initial cost of $15 billion and slightly accelerating the pace of the dismantling of nuclear missiles and some warheads begun under Pres. Clinton and Pres. Bush. Since World War II's high of 37.5% of GDP spent on the defense budget the percentage has gone down ever year except during the 50's where there was a spike to 9-10% then consistently stayed between an average of 3-4% throughout the the last thirty years of the century. What exactly is the figure that would be acceptable to those arguing for a peace time economy? Plus the use of the term investments has a nice ring but has very little to do with the spending of the government. Else the government would not provide indirect support for abortion clinics in the US nor would it pay farmers to not grow things or pay them a subsidy to grow things that people really have no use for such as ethanol.

joe on :

I find myself in the strange position of agreeing with Joreg. Of course the democrats are going to cut defense. It is not a question of if but by how much. One only needs to look at those periods when democrats controlled both the WH and Congress and the impact on defense spending and the resulting impact on the security of the US. These cuts were made without regard to threats or commitments. Both HilGal and Hussein’s knowledge of defense is only rivaled by that of David. The one thing they all share is contempt and condemnation for the US military. David made the comment on another topic of just look at the numbers. If one looks at the current budget numbers for the US, of the 3 trillion dollar budget two trillion is associated with transfer payments such as social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest on the national debt. The remaining one trillion is divided almost equally between discretionary domestic spending and defense. Hussein has proposed new programs totaling 800 billion dollars. Even if the current tax rates are allowed to expire a huge short fall in revenue for the government will exist. To keep the budget deficit in the range of 200 billion taxes will have to be raised to a level of close to 40%. Even with this tax rate there will still not be enough money. The democrats will use defense spending as the bill payer just as Europe have done and continues to so. If fact Hussein has already said that is his plan. As to how the military is deployed, the left in the US shares much with Europe. Their viewpoint is the military should be deployed in feel good missions – Somali, Haiti, the Balkans or to Chad or peacekeeping missions. So a democrat given the choice of deploying forces to Darfur or deploying forces that reflect a vital US national interest they will always op for the feel good. Like Europe we might not be secure but at least we will be able to feel good about ourselves.

David on :

"Both HilGal and Hussein’s knowledge of defense is only rivaled by that of David. The one thing they all share is contempt and condemnation for the US military." What I condemn is the bigotry contained in this comment. I see the "Obama is a Muslim" smear will be the centerpiece of the swiftboating this time. I won't comment on "Hilgal"...

Pat Patterson on :

Well, if you are going to refer to other people as "dead enders" and followers of "Dear Leader" then perhaps you might want to tone down your own rhetorical devices. Or grow a thicker skin!

John in Michigan, USA on :

Calling Sen. Obama "Hussein" is indeed somewhat bigoted, since the evidence is clear that Obama is not a Muslim. It would be much easier to get excited about correct but obsessive use of Obama's middle name if opponents of Bush would object consistently to nicknames like Bushitler, which doesn't even have a basis in reality. Meanwhile, the Swiftboating of McCain is well under way. The best insulting nickname so far is "Walnuts". This [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3X8dLXvqu8k]YouTube video[/url] explains. It starts out cute and seemingly all in good fun, but turns mean at the reveal. The implication is he is a "broken man" and unfit to serve. Like most insults, it isn't particularly accurate -- McCain's unusual jaw line and cheek profile is most likely a result of surgery from when he beat cancer in 2000, and not a result of the torture he suffered as a POW. He has been cancer-free since then.

David on :

Senator Obama confounds the bigots yet again with a primary victory in Wisconsin, where he drew support from liberals, conservatives and independents.

Pat Patterson on :

"Sen. Obama confounds the bigots yet again..." can only mean that he'll stop giving interviews to Rev. Sharpton because the identifier of "white interlopers" and "blood sucking Jews" is the only bigot I have seen that might be confounded.

David on :

I can sense your frustration, Pat. 650,000 voters came out in freezing weather to vote for Senator Obama yesterday in Wisconsin, while John McCain scored a "decisive victory" with only 220,000. Americans are hungry for change from the failed policies of George W. Bush and the Republicans.

Pat Patterson on :

I have nothing personal or otherwise against the Senator however the name calling and race baiting of some of his followers has finally reached the pont of diminishing returns. If that is how his supporters will argue differences of opinion then it truly will be a long and nasty campaign.

David on :

"the name calling and race baiting of some of his followers has finally reached the pont of diminishing returns" This is hilarious. "Race-baiting" has been the most successful political strategy of the Republican party since Ronald Reagan. Why do you think only 2% of African-Americans vote Republican? But no matter how many times Rush Limbaugh plays "Barack the Magic Negro" on his program, or how often folks like Joe use "Hussein" there is no stopping movement to put Senator Obama in the White House.

Joe Noory on :

David - From the distance you're seeing it from, I'd hardly call your hope that Obama is a shoe-in anything more than just that. It's a lot like the "dialogue" in your blog - it tries hard to say things only go in one direction. What ALWAYS happens in the dynamic between primaries and elections, unless a Democrat soundly captures and rattles the insiders, is that the energentic activists of the left-left out-yell the activists of the center-left that (by virtue of their numbers) matter in the general election. Rught now what appears to be shaking out is that Barack Obama is the nominal choice of the left-left and of people who don't know him very well. Mrs. Clinton has the tradiitional Democrats and most of the adults. That the center-left would be shunned by the left right now is not surprising, especially given that the press are treating Mrs. Clinton the way they treat Republicans in general - that is to say: pretending that they don't really exist. That will lash back at them because it doesn't reflect the broad range and scale of the public's interest. It will also convince the idiot, "provisional wing" of the left that any outcome that doesn't include the subject of nore than half of the press' column-inches and air-time, then it was "stolen". All the better. There will be the ususal talking in circles, the complaints of 'theft', of magically rigging voting machines to tell the difference between one set of ones-and-zeroes from another, and the usual sound of the same people banging their spoons on their highchairs, but so be it.

David on :

You are completely ignoring the demographics of Obama's primary/caucus victories in Virginia, Missouri, Maine, etc where he won among older,blue collar voters. In my phone banking work for the Obama campaign I've spoken to quite a few conservatives who voted for him in the primaries and intend to vote for him in November. They often volunteer that they would never vote for Hillary. I suppose the fact that I work for the Obama campaign in my spare time is evidence enough for you that I "detest America". Maybe I envision a better America?

Don S on :

"Americans are hungry for change from the failed policies of George W. Bush and the Republicans." Americans are hungry for more than that, David! This American is 'hungry' for change from the failed policies of the Democrats for 30 years or more. The reason I'm voting for Barack is because he seems the most likely prospect to lead the Democratic Party into a new and positive role in the nation's political life. The Dems have been the dog-in-manger party sice Carter at least although Clinton (I) provided a bit of relief for a time. I'm also voting for him because I can see at least three ways he could materially change the dynamics of two or three of the most intractable and boring of the nation's spiritual problems. Problemswhich need fresh air let in. Obama is the only candidate this year with a prayer of changing these things. He could also become Jimmy Carter II - that's the risk. But I'm willing to take a gamble on him in the hopes of something better. He's not Carter; he's smarter, more urbane, and a far better presence than Carter ever was. But he's an 'ou8tsider' like Carter was, so the possibility is there. But - we survived Carter. I don't think the Republicans are fit to govern yet, they need time out of power to reflect upon their political sins and learn a few lessons before giving it another try. Too bad for McCain, whom I respect and like. But for me Obama is the strongest candidate still standing. Only if the Democrats lose their minds and nominate HRC will I seriously consider McCain.....

John in Michigan, USA on :

David, I just found [url=http://www.debbieschlussel.com/archives/2008/01/obamas_nation_o.html]new (Jan 30), explosive information[/url] from Debbie Schlussel about Obama's Nation of Islam (NOI) ties. Obama only recently denounced his minister's documented support of NOI, which, if sincere, was a significant step in the right direction. However, if Schlussel's anonymous, insider, non-Clinton campaign source is correct, which remains to be seen, Obama's [b]ongoing[/b], close relationship with the literally hateful, racist, and holocaust-minimizing NOI, not to mention the Islamist Edward Said, means denouncing his minister's actions was probably just for show. As this becomes more widely known, so called "movement conservatives" will flock to McCain. If Obama is the nominee, and assuming there is no explanation or that Obama doesn't manage to do the [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sister_Souljah_moment]"Sister Soulja"[/url] routine, Obama will loose many independents and some Democrats as well. For the record, NOI is not Islam, and Islamist is not Islam. Condemning bigots such as NOI or Islamism is not bigotry. However, some of the comments on Schlussel's site are in fact bigoted, and I condemn them.

joe on :

This is all going to end much like the dot.com or current housing bubble. It is just a question if it will be before or after November. What we have is the same old liberal orthodoxy being delivered by a new messenger. I guess the question of the day is if David like Michelle is finally proud to be an American.

Joe Noory on :

They don't need to be proud, they'd just benefit from getting rid of their reflex to detest the U.S. for whatever miniscule anecdote they can find. I've dealt with that type of pedantry for 25 years.

Add Comment

E-Mail addresses will not be displayed and will only be used for E-Mail notifications.

To prevent automated Bots from commentspamming, please enter the string you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.
CAPTCHA

Form options