America’s Huge Military Budget Doesn’t Make Us Safer

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U.S. Marines in Iraq. ( ( Defense Visual Information Center)

have a friend who constantly rails against the cost of social welfare programs. He thinks they are a huge waste and a drain on the economy. I calmly explain to him that food stamps (which are including in food and agriculture) make up a small fraction of the budget (4 percent,) according to Politifact. And I also added that if America wants to get serious about cutting the budget they would cut the military budget.

According to CNBC, the last military budget was more than $800 billion. President Donald Trump, who claimed that Hillary had left the generals in “rubble,” increased the military budget.

In addition, the Guardian reports the military plans to spend $1 billion per year on a program called Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI.) This program will use Artificial Intelligence to monitor troubled places. Apparently, JEDI will use algorithms to assess potential dangers and then automate the response. (This sounds awfully like the scenario in “Captain America: Winter Soldier.”)

Over a 10-year period, this program would cost $1 trillion. I have to think there are better ways to spend taxpayers money. Also, I’m pretty sure this high-tech system might be vulnerable to hackers.

There are several other problems with this scenario. Firstly, while the American military is very good at overwhelming other forces with their superior technology, they aren’t good at the aftermath. In many cases, America wins the war and loses the peace. This is what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan.

American forces dispatched Saddam Hussein’s military in about a month but failed to cope with the chaos unleashed by the end of his reign. We got rid of Saddam, and that was followed by the rise of Al Qaeda in Iraq and then ISIS. The security situation is much worse in Iraq than it was during Saddam’s reign. At least then Iraqis were able to walk the streets at night. The situation is the same in Afghanistan, where the Taliban now controls more land than they did during the beginning of the war, and there are almost daily murders in Kabul.

The American military is really good at fighting wars, but not very good at peacekeeping and nation building. I don’t think the high-tech JEDI system is going to send robots to build roads and schools, hand out food and make former enemies sit down at the peace table. It might be good at zapping terrorists, but killing terrorists often turns into a game of whack-a-mole. Guardian writer Ben Tarnoff says JEDI will just make it easier to carry out never-ending wars.

“The US military knows how to kill. The harder part is figuring out whom to kill. In a more traditional war, you simply kill the enemy. But who is the enemy in a conflict with no national boundaries, no fixed battlefields, and no conventional adversaries?” said Tarnoff. “This is the perennial question of the forever war. It is also a key feature of its design. The vagueness of the enemy is what has enabled the conflict to continue for nearly two decades and to expand to more than 70 countries — a boon to the contractors, bureaucrats and politicians who make their living from US militarism.”

Additionally, if the government opts to sink $1 trillion into a high-tech weapons system, they’re probably going to want to use it. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson makes the same point in an interview on “Background Briefing.” He said people think America’s huge military budget makes us safe, but they’ve got it all wrong. According to Wilkerson, if you have a military brimming with high-tech toys, they’re going to want to use them.

President Barack Obama also acknowledged the limits of military power and realized that spending more on diplomats was a better way to resolve international problems. Some Israelis also understand the limits of military force.

“Israel’s great victory in 1967, in a war of self defense, turned into a curse, as we were left with the rule of over three million Palestinians, who, over the years gained the world’s support on our account. As the French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre said: ‘Once you hear the details of victory, it is hard to distinguish it from defeat,” said The Jerusalem Post. “IT IS diplomacy by peaceful means that can achieve important goals at a time when the ability to use power is limited. In war there is a winner and a loser, or rather two losers; in good diplomacy all sides win.”

Several years ago I read an Economist article that said the reason why Europeans are able to afford universal healthcare and other social services, is because they’re not spending a large chunk of their budget on their military.

And that’s one area were do agree with Trump. The Europeans need to spend more on their defense. But we also need to spend less.

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Manny Otiko writes about race, politics and sports. He has been published in Salon and LA Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @mannyotiko.

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