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Does the United States Need 12 Aircraft Carriers?

300px-USSRONALDREAGANgoodshot.jpgMy post over the weekend about the absurdity of Obama calling for an even larger military at Annapolis drew this response by Richard Smith at VetVoice.

While Blue Texan has a point that high-tech fighter aircraft and naval vessels may not be the best thing to be spending money on right now, I’d like to take this opportunity to address a current amongst my fellow progressives that has been bothering me for a few months.

Back in October Barney Frank made an argument for cutting the DoD budget by 25 percent. I thought, and still think, this is a pretty ridiculous idea.

In truth, Barney Frank is one of my favorite members of Congress (and yes, I am nerdy enough to have favorite members of Congress) but this idea is totally off base. Likewise for the current attitude that same to be prevalent in the progressive community with regards to military spending.

Here is a hypothetical: what if we cut a $20 billion dollar program from the defense budget, but spent $30 billion to establish a counterinsurgency school? This would be an increase in defense spending, but it would replace obsolete programs with a program that would be beneficial to combat leaders. Would the progressive community challenge such an idea? While I won’t venture a guess on that, I would sincerely hope that we can move past the idea that the military industrial complex must be suffocated and instead, start thinking about making smart cuts and not throwing out arbitrary numbers.

See, to me, the United States operating 12 aircraft carriers (11 active, 1 on the way) — while no other country in the world has more than 2 — strikes me as pretty ridiculous and off base.

And consider: back in 2002, before the Bush/Cheney escalation, historian Paul Kennedy (The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers) took a look at our defense spending during that time and found that we spent more than the next 9 countries combined.

Nothing has ever existed like this disparity of power; nothing. I have returned to all of the comparative defence spending and military personnel statistics over the past 500 years that I compiled in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, and no other nation comes close. The Pax Britannica was run on the cheap, Britain’s army was much smaller than European armies, and even the Royal Navy was equal only to the next two navies — right now all the other navies in the world combined could not dent American maritime supremacy.

Now let that sink in for a minute. Five centuries. Think about all of the great military powers over that time. The empires of Spain and Britain, Napoleon’s France, Hitler’s Germany. And nobody comes close.

The rationale for this historically-unprecedented military machine simply isn’t based in reality. Any cuts, including the kind Barney Frank proposes, are perfectly sensible.

Don’t believe me? Go read Andrew Bacevich.

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