Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Can we justify America's bloated military budget?

I don't know if anybody's seen the article, but a lot of newspapers and websites are talking about a new missile China has developed that could be a 'game changer.'

The Dong Feng 21D is a guided missile that can target a moving aircraft carrier from over 900 miles away – and hit it at such speed, and with such devastating impact that counter measures would be next to useless. It's been nicknamed the 'carrier killer' because of its intended purpose.

Fired from the back of a truck, it's tough to 'knock out' the DF 21 before it launches. At least, that's what I learned from playing Command & Conquer

And that, many military minds argue, changes everything. For decades, America has ruled the skies and the waves thanks to aircraft carriers. These immense ships can deliver an entire air force to within striking distance of any coastline on Earth – and deliver death and destruction with relative impunity. The sheer might of an aircraft carrier, and that of its surrounding fleet, make it a moveable 'standing army' that most countries are unable to resist, and those that theoretically could (such as China) would nevertheless be unable to do so without declaring all-out-war with America.

But no longer…

Because the DF 21D means that America's aircraft carriers are now vulnerable – and that significantly impacts America's position of power; especially in disputed waters around China. Normally, America would be leading the charge to enforce the status quo in Korea or Taiwan. Now, there are serious risks and heavy consequences attached to making that call.

I'm not a military expert, so I'd be interested to see whether anybody thinks that the DF 21D does actually change things or not. If it does, though, I think it raises a very significant issue: The United States military budget.

In 2011, the federal government assigned $895 billion as the Department of Defense budget. This was not much less than the combined military budget of every other nation on Earth.

Note: Not "More than any other country in the world" but "More than every other country in the world. Combined."

And we used to get some value for that money – relative military impunity anywhere in the world. But if that is no longer the case – if countries like China can now dismantle the Pax Americana – is it right that we keep spending this absurd amount every single year?

Just look at China – a nation that has more soldiers than we do, a massive air force and now (apparently) the ability to knock out our aircraft carriers before we get within striking range. They can, in no uncertain terms, kick our ass in anything but an all-out world war. And their military budget for 2011? $77 billion.

Yes, that's 1/11th of ours.

$77 billion. That's less than the money we've recently trimmed from the 2011 federal budget. In American terms, it's spare change. So why the hell have the Chinese been able to one-up us so spectacularly when they're spending the sort of money federal audits admit is 'misspent' every year in America?

I have no idea – but it does make me wonder what exactly we Americans get for our nearly trillion-dollar military budget; and in an era of trillion dollar deficits, whether that kind of spending is even remotely justifiable.

What do you think?

No comments: