One line continues to be repeated during the discussion between the White House and Congress, from both Republican and Democratic sides, over the budget and the partial government shutdown drama: Action is essential so as not to leave Department of Defense financing up in the air.
This particular chord usually also has a note in it about the importance of U.S. national defense and another about supporting our soldiers.
There is no reason to quarrel about either point, although focus on those two relevant factors usually leaves out two others, which should be looked at more vigorously, by the White House, Congress and the public.
The first is that American arms manufacturers and defense-related contractors take away buckets of taxpayer money from America’s wars. The second is that the wars that gobble up this money are seemingly endless. In addition, virtually nothing is being done by the U.S. government to bring the wars to a conclusion, thus bringing to an end the bloody conflict and the risk to life and limb involved for our sons and daughters. Less important but nonetheless relevant is the high level of government expenditure that goes into perpetuating these wars. Is this incidental or deliberate?
The colossal size of the U.S. defense budget has almost come to be taken for granted. At some $600 billion, it dwarfs the budgets over every other nation in the world. Saudi Arabia does take the honors in defense spending per capita, and a lot of that goes to buying U.S. weapons. Still, the United States’ defense budget is greater than the next eight top-spending countries combined, and it’s hard to find anyone in Washington with the will to restrain it.
The money is particularly important when it is understood that the overall budget covers not only defense expenditures, but also money for Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, not to mention the tax cuts. Do we really want to see big bites taken out of these programs, most of which benefit American children, disabled and old people, to keep U.S. involvement in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen going?
The Afghanistan War started in 2001; Iraq in 1991, to be continued in 2003; Libya in 2011; Somalia in 1992; Syria in 2012; and Yemen in 2015. We can leave out the point about how American diplomacy also shouldn’t be a victim of budgeting disputes, but it is, in fact, very much to America’s advantage to be playing an active role in bringing these conflicts to an end, to save American lives and money if for no other more global reason.
Are none of these wars susceptible to a constructive effort on America’s part to bring them to an end? Or are some sectors of American society making too much money from them, to our shame?
— The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette