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"Let's Cut Defense Spending"

Strange world: Atlantic Review is not just as a reference in an MA thesis, but is also referenced by E.D. Kain of the neoconservative (?) National Review Online to make the argument that the US should cut defense spending. He is linking to our blog in this paragraph:

Americans provide defense for Europe and much of Asia, allowing Europeans to spend almost nothing on defense while spending lavish amounts on generous entitlement programs. And it is not at all clear that these countries actually want our military bases anymore. Europe has largely put war behind it with the advent of the European Union, and save for the Korean peninsula, Asia is largely moving toward a peaceful, global economy as well. Refocusing our defense priorities into regions that have more direct implications for our own national security, such as Africa and the Middle East, would force Europe to take into account not only the defense of its own soil, but the vast expense associated with that defense. Governments already burdened with extraordinarily high rates of taxation will be forced to make cuts in their welfare programs in order to shore up their defense apparatus.

I disagree. I bet that Germany will not increase defense spending, if the US closes another military base. Previous closures did not lead to increase either. Many Americans like to think that US military bases abroad are protecting the host countries, while majorities (?) in the host countries see the bases as serving primarily US interests.

Whatever the US does, German defense spending declines for domestic reasons. Last week, the German legislative even voted to shorten military service down to six months for budgetary reasons. To me that sounds more like a military internship than part of national defense. Quite a few politicians want to maintain the military service since it supports recruitment for professional soldiers. In the 60s and early 70s the military service was three times as long as it is today.

An interesting statistic that the National Review Online author did not get from us: "Each troop we send to Afghanistan costs the public $1 million per year. That's $1 million siphoned out of the U.S. economy and shipped overseas to the mountains of Afghanistan and the Iraqi deserts." Aha! Since this is the National Review I am tempted to ask the author whether the economy is more important than security? They seem to be moving towards the European position on war versus economy. Is America becoming a post-heroic society just like Europe, this was actually the topic of the blogpost to be referenced in an MA thesis.

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Pat Patterson on :

Germany may indeed be spending less as a percentage of GDP but even during a recession the amount of money is still increasing. 2% of x is less than the next year's 2% of x+3. The bill cut the amount of time in service only refers to the conscripts who are less than 9% of the total troop strengh and very few of those are in combat roles much less even in support roles. German confidence, brought about by the dying off of the '69 Generation and the perceived lack of reliability of the rest of Europe will probably increase the demand for more spending. And it would certainly increase the demand for the kind of spending that bolsters national ego. Bigger ships, bigger missiles, better tanks, etc.

Joerg Wolf on :

Yes, but conscription service is just the latest measure to cut defense spending. There is more to come. Re your second paragraph: I doubt whether the post- and post-post '69 generations' want to bolster the national ego with bigger ships, missiles, tanks etc. Winning the Eurovision song contest and bronze medals at the 2006 and 2010 soccer world cup bolsters the national ego sufficiently. Our soccer style is not just successful but has also become more beautiful which appeals to the much more hedonistic younger generations.

Zyme on :

More precisely it is probably the ego of the military high command and the leading politicians that needs to be bolstered by these projects (although I don't object to them) world-wide deployable submarines and the projects for the airforce (including cruise missiles) would prove this attitude. Why develop such systems if not to use them as a threat against developed countries?

David on :

"Bigger ships, bigger missiles, better tanks, etc." You must be very insecure about your masculinity...

Pat Patterson on :

As opposed to bigger government, bigger deficits, etc. Or perhaps you have never heard of TR and his bluff on the world stage of The Gret White Fleet.

Pat Patterson on :

BTW, the German navy has commissioned and started building its own class of destroyers, F125, to replace the old US built Adams-class. Though technically called a frigate it is heavier, longer and wider than the Burke-class of the USN. These are not litoral combat ships but are part of an envisiond blue water navy that doesn't have to rely of the US or NATO for support. Sounds a lot like bigger ships are coming in spite of the expressed love-fest of the German parliament or David. I can't wait to see the addition of the A400 tankers which will also increases Germany's military footprint as well as the new upgraded Leopard due in 2015.

Pat Patterson on :

Sorry, none of these new ships have been commissioned. I meant ordered with appropriated money and are currently being built. Commissioning is the last step before sea trials and her maiden deployment.

Kevin Sampson on :

'Though technically called a frigate it is heavier, longer and wider than the Burke-class of the USN' Not according to the numbers I've seen. Slightly bigger in the beam, but shorter, lighter, and with less draft.

Pat Patterson on :

Yep, old data vs current realities. Good point about the draft as it seems the Germans are trying to have it both ways with enough weight to put to sea but with a shallow enough draft to deliver packages further inland. Still very expensive and since it is modular can support the building of even a much bigger ship if called upon.

Zyme on :

One shouldn't underestimate the influence of the military high command in Potsdam, recently reestablished. It is nothing else than the former Oberste Heeresleitung, and will surely have ambitions on influencing national decision makers in the traditional way.

Marie Claude on :

Mr Schmidt had the impression that Bismarck ist schon da ! I believe that Germany will re-arm

Kevin Sampson on :

‘I bet that Germany will not increase defense spending, if the US closes another military base.’ I agree. The issue is not the size of the US military, but our commitment, through NATO, to defend Europe. So long as that is in place, changes to the size of our military will have no effect on European defense spending.

Joe Noory on :

It's only a masters thesis. If you want to hear real irrelevance and stupidity, read a few PhD [i]magnum opae[/i]. The German public has proven itself to be incredibly short-sighted and small-minded when it comes to risk-laden problems with any kind of international dimension. The rest of the world is scary to them, and they have been conditioned to fear anything with a potentially historical aspect to it. They will never do, or support anything elaborate unless the circumstances threatening them are right in front of them, and will likely fee better to ligitimate their need to act under a Euro-Corps impulse or structure. And the only way that will happen, will be if the state of affairs with teh US is such that they realize that the United States will not necessarily act in lieu of their own defense establishment anymore, in either hostility or peace. There will come a time when the European starlings will have to be booted out of the nest and learn to fly. With that will come an end to the repetition of 'theories' about how their non-existent soft-power can be derived without the existence of any form of hard-power, or that they can somehow let the rest of the world shoulder the burden of having sufficient force to back up the forces needed to maintain stabilization. The chatter is, after all, little more than adaptive self-bolstering, and not a parti by which anyone else on earth (other than the US) will ever play along with. The other thing is that if they want to be half as significant as they keep saying America should pretend them to be - a "equal partner", "conscious", "at the table", and all of the rest of the self-delusions, then they actually need to pretend to be able to make good on that. They will never get respect by simply doing more PR about themselves. No-one will EVER listen to their advise if they keep this charade up.

Marie Claude on :

for once I agree with you ;-)

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