A few more notes on cutting defense spending

Joerg Wolf, of the Atlantic Council, disagrees that European nations would increase defense spending if America decreased its presence in Europe and around the globe as I noted in my defense-spending piece at NRO. He notes that countries like Germany will increase or decrease spending for domestic reasons.  That may be. However, I would note that the world has become increasingly globalized, and while Americans may not be able to maintain such high levels of defense spending, other first-world nations may not be able to keep their defense spending as low as they have managed post World War II. That being said, perhaps the world really is moving inexorably toward a more peaceful, globalized future. Perhaps free trade will save us from ourselves.

Which brings me to Wolf’s second point. He asks:

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.

I certainly can’t speak for National Review. Personally, I think that the economy is much more important than defense, and in a perfect world we could have the former without the latter. In our world, however, imperfect as it is, we can’t very well do without either.

The economy should not, however, suffer needlessly from absurd levels of defense spending. I will once again invoke the estimable Frédéric Bastiat, whose writing on demobilization is an important illustration of the broken window fallacy. Maintaining a strong defense makes perfect economic sense until the spending on defense is no longer for reasons related to legitimate national security concerns. As soon as the argument about defense spending turns into an argument about jobs you’ve more than likely waded into that fallacy.

I’m not sure what Europe would do if America drastically cut back defense spending. I suppose it depends largely on whether that part of the world remained peaceful or whether some new threat emerged. My crystal ball is rather murky on these points.

Oh, and I doubt America will ever become a post-heroic society, for better or worse.

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3 thoughts on “A few more notes on cutting defense spending

  1. Good stuff. When people talk about military spending and defense what many people don’t realize is the huge difference between a basic armed forces to defend your country and a huge armed force to project power. The big Euro countries except for the UK, have militaries focused on preventing an invasion, that is a relativity simple requirement since invading a neighboring country is really really hard. It requires at leas a 3-1 advantage in men at least at point of attack, a massive logistical advantage and surprise really helps but is almost impossible nowadays. Even then the costs of maintaining an occupation are huge and be long lasting. Americans, with our huge military, have lost any conception of what we need to defend ourselves ( protip: two big oceans helps). Almost all our military is focused on power projection in other places.

    Europeans also seem to remember the costs of their wars and tend to shy away from them. Here is America some people weep over Europeans not wanting to fight more wars. That in itself should mark a person as someone cosmically ignorant of history.

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  2. Not too mention, with all the armed citizens we have in this country who would just LOVE (GO WOLVERINES!) to go shooting at invaders (at least, until the invaders started shooting back, then it’s not so much fun anymore, and a lot more like very dangerous work), any attempt to put boots on the ground would be costly.

    Seriously, with this country, best to nuke us from orbit. it’s the only way to be sure.

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