Defense expenditures are a significant cost for most large countries around the world. In 2011, the U.S. defense budget is estimated to be a whopping $895 billion. Some nations have spent much less on defense than other industrialized countries, relatively speaking. Japan, for instance, spent $51.81 billion in 2009. This low defense spending has historically served them well, as more money was available to fund productive projects enabling the Japanese to prosper since World War II. However, the risk of decreased defense spending cannot be overstated. Freedom, liberty, democracy and human rights are protected by military might.
Defense spending is not productive economically. Money spent on fighter jets and bullets is not available for housing and food for the needy. So, aside from the diplomatic and moral issues surrounding an act of war, leaders should consider how much they could afford to spend in an actual military operation before jumping into it.
During the past 10 years, U.S. defense expenditures coupled with separate appropriations for two wars have contributed greatly to the national deficit, as well as to cutbacks in social programs and infrastructure projects. While the generals spend our tax dollars, people are starving and our bridges crumble from neglect.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are petrified about being labeled “weak on defense” and continue to vote for new defense appropriations. Unfortunately, the oversight of these expenditures is such that overruns and padded invoices have become a serious drain. Defense, without a doubt, is an area of the budget that needs to be carefully reassessed. Eliminating waste, not important weapons systems, could contribute greatly to reducing deficits down the road.
The U.S. is at a crossroads. Our government must decide whether it will continue to intervene with human and monetary assets in every new conflict even if it stretches our financial capabilities. Other large military nations know that America always responds, and so it is not necessary for them to contribute to military actions. Ironically, these same countries often make it very difficult for us to obtain global support as we try to keep the peace. To make matters worse, intervention too often morphs into a nation building that can easily span a decade or longer and involve vastly greater resources.
And yet, should Americans turn a blind eye towards genocide and human rights violations as we did during WW II, in the Balkans and in a number of places in Asia and Africa over the years? It is a gargantuan moral dilemma. Apparently, other members of the global community have a much higher tolerance for egregious social behavior than America.
How should the U.S. move forward in Iraq and Afghanistan? These situations are very much alike in some regards and different in other ways. In both situations, the U.S. is mistakenly committed to building de novo democracies. It does not take a foreign relations expert to see that neither country will ever become a true democracy. Neither country has an electorate or an electoral system that is capable of selecting leaders fairly. Both countries are plagued by age-old internal strife, be it religious and/or tribal in nature.
Former Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq for many years and maintained order and a semblance of peace with an iron hand and by brutalizing his adversaries. It is doubtful that order will prevail in this country without the emergence of another strong despotic leader. Afghanistan consists of numerous tribes and the fanatically religious Taliban; both are major impediments to centralized democratic rule.
The main reason why neither of these countries has fallen into total civil chaos to this point is the presence of U.S. forces. If we stay and spend more money and lives, the violence can be controlled. However, the moment we withdraw, anarchy will prevail. Two presidents have been sucked into these lose-lose imbroglios. They are follies that will be derided by historians for decades to come. The lives and money spent have reached criminal proportions.
President Barack Obama should immediately cease all hostilities and bring our brave soldiers home. It is unacceptable that one more American dies in the region. Our presence is a ruse and the expectations foisted upon us are fraudulent. There will be no peace in these violent places, ever. National security excuses for continued occupation no longer have any basis.
The two million soldiers and reservists who are sacrificing for the rest of America are all volunteers, generally from poor backgrounds. Being in combat for so long is ruining their lives while the rest of us go about our daily routines. Additionally, we continue to treat veterans just as horribly as we always have in this country. Unemployment and suicide are rampant among veterans.
Please, Mr. President, end these terrible conflicts now.
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