Defending the Nation: Resources

Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Image credit: 
Poster Collection, US 6265, Hoover Institution Archives.

Image credit: 
Poster Collection, US 6265, Hoover Institution Archives.

It is unremarkable to observe that America will fight a future war against an enemy much stronger than Islamist terrorists. War continues to be a central feature of world history due to the immutable nature of the human being. Understanding this, the leaders of all nations maintain armies to protect their nation states.

America emerged from World War II as a superpower. In the seventy-three years since then, our prosperity has quintupled. We have gradually increased taxes to redistribute wealth to those less affluent, while reducing the amount of resources for the common defense from 7% in 1970 to 3.1% today.

The question is how low resources can be driven before America’s security is jeopardized. Over the past three years, both political parties in Congress have become uneasy about further reductions. Last year, Congress commissioned a panel of experts to examine the issue. The National Defense Strategy Commission presented its findings on 14 November. It concluded that America’s military superiority has “eroded to a dangerous degree,” leaving the U.S. in a “crisis of national security…It might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia.”

How do you avoid losing a war? According to General Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the military “requires sustained, sufficient and predictable funding.” He and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis requested a budget with a three to five percent increase each year. But is that likely?

Within the next five years, our $16 trillion federal deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will require spending more on debt interest than on the Defense budget. Within a decade, interest spending will exceed $900 billion. It is not possible to expand transfer payments (such as steadily increasing Medicaid), service the debt, and maintain a strong defense. Something has to give way.

“In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security,” Edward Gibbon wrote. “They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all—security, comfort, and freedom... when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.”

Let us hope such an epitaph is never written about the United States.