Monday, October 24, 2005

military spending

The us military budget of roughly $500 billion is insane. the capabilities of the us military are so far beyond any of its competitors that it begs the question of whether there really is a need for so much spending.

The US military expects to be able to respond to a crisis anywhere in the world within a week or so. For this purpose the US has 12 carrier battle groups, each capable of taking on the entire airpower of all but perhaps 10 countries. On the seas, in opposition to these 12 carrier groups, the rest of the world could put together perhaps 10 of their own, among which number are included carriers of friendly countries - the Brits (2), the French (1), the Italians (1), the Spanish (1), and the Thais (1). The Russians have one and the Chinese, though they have been buying old Russian carriers and playing around with them (literally) haven't commissioned one of their own. In addition, the non-US carriers are smaller and carry fewer aircraft than American carriers, leading to a situation where out of the roughly 1250 aircraft carrier based aircraft 1000 are American.

In other words, there is no threat to global US navy supremacy. The basing of the carriers, as well as of the US army and air bases definately feeds the conspiracy buffs world-wide with plenty of ammo for their theories of US world domination. Though the US has no colonies, the number of bases it has worldwide is amazing. 20 years ago these could be justified by arguing the need for the ability to deploy anywhere in order to stop a Soviet advance. At present these arguments no longer have any validity. In addition to the omnipresence of US naval reach there is also the fact of US rapid-deployable forces. The special forces, the airborne divisions and the marine expeditionary forces can each be deployed within days to anywhere in the world. The air power needed to dominate any enemy is likewise available in bases world-wide. After a bit of research I am ready to argue that the US can take on all comers without any assistance from allies.

The problem with such a situation is that there is very little gained from this ability. If its not utilized its a lot of money being wasted on the ability, and if it is utilized it is even more money wasted on its utilization. In either case what is it exactly that US gains from such a global reach?

At least the Brits used their military power to extend their economic sphere of influence. Anywhere they went they signed semi-exclusive trading contracts with the locals. Over time these contracts had the effect of pauperizing the natives while creating wealth and export markets for British industry. In any case the army of the British empire was largely subsidized by the natives. This was of course true when the British posessions world-wide were run by quasi-independent private companies (the East India Company for one), but even when these colonies was handed over to the state the profits were still made and kept within the British empire. The British collected taxes and sold their products in their controlled territories. At the same time the British had large numbers of surplus people they could use to control colonies and colonize those most suitable for economic exploitation. Tens of millions of people left the British Isles for settlement abroad. Millions more ran the British colonies abroad, always at the expense of the native populations. The British empire fell apart when they no longer had the excess population to run the empire and when revolts and civil disobedience drives made the colonies unprofittable. Changing morals (the decline in the willingness of the British to slaughter the natives) also contributed to the changes.

What does the US get from its global military presence??? A big bill... Its absolutely insane. Does the US really need 12 carrier battle groups when the closest naval competitor is Britain with 2 small carriers? Does it really need to keep supposedly protecting the Japanese and the Koreans who are perfectly capable of protecting themselves? Against whom do they need protecting? Is there a military commitment to Taiwan and is it worth it? How many aircraft carriers does it take to fight a global war on terrorism? What is the job of the US military in today's world?

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