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Paying not to quake in our boots
Posted by on March 11th, 2010

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By Dave Anderson:

Conservative defense analyst Loren Thompson projects defense spending will start to decrease in real terms because there is nothing in the pipeline sufficient scary for the American public not to question the guns or butter trade-off in favor of more guns:

I perused the threat section of this year's Quadrennial Defense Review, which is called "A Complex Environment." The section's bland title matches the content. The document says that America faces a "complex and uncertain security landscape in which the pace of change continues to accelerate." It cites the rise of China, the transforming effects of globalization, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction….

Friends, this is not the kind of threat assessment that is likely to keep U.S. defense outlays at $700 billion annually….

It wasn't like this during the Cold War. Whatever differences policymakers may have had about the threat, the fact that 10,000 Soviet nuclear warheads were aimed at America helped us to focus our deliberations on which dangers really mattered.

Now Time Magazine looks at Chinese defense spending trends. 

China's 2010 military budget, which is awaiting legislative approval, will be $78 billion. That would make it second only to the United States, which for 2010 has a total budget of $663.8 billion. U.S. spending is equivalent to 4.7% of the nation's GDP, while China's defense outlay equals about 1.5% of its estimated 2010 GDP.

But military observers have long cautioned that China's official defense budget figures shouldn't be taken at face value, and that actual spending could be two or three times higher than what is reported

The PRC is the largest non-NATO, non-major US allied defense spending nation.  Even applying an adjustment of doubling the Chinese defense budget, the PRC would be spending only 2/3rds as much of their GDP on defense, and about a quarter of the actual dollar figure on their military.

The US can outspend insurgents 100:1 and be fought to a strategic draw that has forced the US to trim its previously maximal goals towards a negoatiated settlement where the Pashtun Taliban and Karzai governments can reach a working power-splitting agreement.  And that is on a tertiary threat on the whole as the US intelligence estimate is that the vast majority of the men shooting at US soldiers are doing so purely for local reasons and have no desire to participate in long distance, far enemy strikes. 

Our defense budget is the price that we pay because we as a nation are too damn ready to shit in our pants.  There are no realistic existential threats to the United States that can be solved by throwing another hundred billion dollars to the DOD baseline appropriation.  We need to grow out and rationally assess threats and responses instead of throwing money that we don't have and have not had at the monsters under our beds. 

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