A Large Military Budget Is Supposed to 'Restore Deterrence,' but the US Already Deters a Threat-Filled World

What is Washington doing with the billions of dollars coming into the Pentagon? Defending the interests of other nations.

According to Washington's inflated military budget, the US has never been in such danger since World War II. Outlays for "defense" have long since ceased to be about defense in the traditional sense, at least in the United States.

The military budget measure passed last year totaled $768 billion. Even with Ronald Reagan's substantial expansion, it was larger than during the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the whole Cold War when adjusted for inflation. "The only time this cost has been greater, adjusted for inflation, was in 2011, at a time when the US had a peak in troops in Afghanistan and Iraq," Jonathan Guyer of Vox said.

Total "national defense" budget, which includes non-DoD spending, paints an even more dramatic picture. Last year was the highest ever, surpassing even the years of the Iraq/Afghanistan war. And it's increased a whopping 28 percent since 2017, with the Biden administration pledging more money and the Republican war lobby demanding even more. With the exception of a few states, America's annual increase in military spending is often more than the overall military expenditures of the rest of the world.

Naturally, the president asked an additional almost $32 billion on top of this year's spending, which were already greater than those for 2021. And, predictably, the Biden administration talks about the money as if it were intended to safeguard America. "Our budget request reinforces our commitment to the idea of comprehensive deterrence," the Pentagon declared. Deterrence is, in reality, an often mentioned military goal. Officials and analysts agree that a significant increase in funding is required to "restore deterrence," "keep or restore deterrence," and "deter attacks" and "violence."

But who is Washington trying to deter? Who is it that America is "defending"? Terrorism remains a concern, but it is not existential, and military intervention is increased rather than reduced. Other types of warfare, most notably information and cyber warfare, are real and dangerous, but they are of a different sort. Most importantly, no one has ever attacked or attempted to attack the United States militarily. Nobody is likely to do so.

Not the Europeans, who were resolved to do as little as possible militarily until the invasion of Ukraine, putting the burden of defense on Washington. Not China, which has a significant nuclear capability gap and is pursuing an anti-access/area denial policy to keep the US from invading it. Not Russia, whose conventional military lacks global reach and has severe limitations, as evidenced by its disastrous assault against Ukraine.

North Korea, on the other hand, is attempting to construct a nuclear deterrent capable of striking the American mainland in order to avoid US intervention. And not a smorgasbord of other hostile Third World countries, the majority of which couldn't even withstand the ill will of a single US aircraft carrier, let alone the complete force of the American government.

Deterrence works and does not need to be reestablished.

The United States is, without a doubt, the most secure great power in human history. Its northern and southern neighbors are weak and pacific, having long been subjugated by the American colossus militarily, politically, and culturally. Throughout America's history, wide oceans to the east and west have separated it from the world's most powerful nations. A robust navy and air force keep an extended defense perimeter, safeguard distant territories, and keep maritime passages safe. Indeed, the US navy's 11 carrier groups are more concerned with coercion than with protecting American land or commerce.

The only practical existential military danger to America today is nuclear, which is posed by a small number of countries that have ballistic missiles with the range and numbers to destroy the United States. (Long-range bombers could also pose a threat, although missiles are more likely to make it through.) Few of these states are hostile, and those that are would be subjected to terrible reprisal in the event of an attack. Despite the Russian attack on Ukraine, the nuclear threat is still far lower than it was during the Cold War.

After acquiring its part of North America, America's wars were nearly all self-initiated, and rarely fought over objectives that could be described as major, let alone crucial. (Not the Spanish-American War, World War I, Vietnam, or any of the post-Cold War battles, for example.) Only World War II and the Korean War, both of which were precipitated by previous US military engagements, could be considered genuine strategic endeavors.) Washington's conflicts could and should have been averted in the majority of cases.

When compared to America's most obvious competitors, this is a win-win situation. China shares land borders with 14 countries and shares water borders with six others. It fought Japan, the Soviet Union, South Korea, India, and Vietnam over the last century. During the same time period, Germany and other other governments invaded the Russian/ Soviet Empire twice. Moscow waged wars in Afghanistan and against China as part of the Soviet Union, and engaged militarily in Eastern Europe. India lost a war with Beijing but conquered Pakistan three times, with some battles ending in a draw. Europeans fought for ages in a kaleidoscope of continuously shifting alliances before, luckily, losing their will to fight. Regrettably, they misplaced their desire to defend themselves as well.

So, what does Washington plan to do with all of the cash flooding into the Pentagon? Defending the interests of other countries. This can be seen in Europe and Asia. Indeed, the Biden budget allocates $4.2 billion to the "US European Command, European Deterrence Initiative." "The 2023 Pacific Deterrence Initiative highlights some of the important investments that the Department of Defense is making to bolster deterrence in the Indo-Pacific area," it says.

Why are Europeans still reliant on America nearly eight decades after World War II ended, when Western Europe has recovered from the war, Central and Eastern Europe has been liberated and joined the West, and the Soviet Union has collapsed? Why is Tokyo still reliant on America nearly eight decades after World War II ended, when Japan had the world's second-largest economy and still has the third-largest? Why is the Republic of Korea still reliant on America more than seven decades after the Korean War ended, with an economy more than 50 times the size of the North's and a population twice as large?

The solution is straightforward. Because the United States continues to consider these and other countries as hapless wards of the United States. Indeed, American strategy has traditionally been to prevent Europeans from acting independently. Sure, Washington encouraged them to spend more, but only under its supervision and control.

In the case of Japan, the United States initially disarmed the island nation, only to realize later that the United States could use some assistance in defending the free world. Despite this, Marine Corps Gen. Henry Stackpole reportedly stated in 1990 that US forces must remain in Japan as an informal occupying force. He said, "No one wants a rearmed, resurgent Japan." "To put it another way, we're a cork in the bottle."

The United States retains operational authority of the South Korean military during warfare, a significant loss of sovereignty. Some ROK officials are wary of relinquishing control of their own military for fear of signaling to Washington that the South no longer requires American defense assistance. It is preferable for South Korea to save a few won by remaining helpless dependent than to stand alone.

And no one in Washington appears to have any plans other than to expand America's global welfare system. With China on the rise and Russia at war, Washington's foreign policy establishment, dubbed the "Blob" by Ben Rhodes, President Barack Obama's deputy national security advisor, is naturally heading in the wrong way. With plans to increase the military budget, put American troops to new, permanent garrisons in Europe's east, and make equal force increases in East Asia, the Biden administration is pressing on even greater US commitment and control.

Indeed, the new conservative government in Korea wants Washington to return both tactical nuclear weapons and "US strategic assets, such as nuclear bombers and submarines, to the Korean peninsula." As North Korea's nuclear arsenal improves, the US will be forced to risk its cities to safeguard Seoul, a risky bargain for the US and an unbelievable one for the ROK.

If the Russian attack on Ukraine has done anything beneficial, it has deflated the fearmongering that has been used to justify ever-increasing US military budgets and European deployments. So far, Moscow has been unable to subdue Ukraine. Vladimir Putin's boast that he can pivot from Kyiv, pull an Adolf Hitler, and launch a blitzkrieg across Europe to the Atlantic must now be dismissed as a Hollywood fantasy.

Simultaneously, European nations, particularly Germany, have been pushed to take defense more seriously. For the first time since WWII's end, there appears to be widespread public support for doing more. After decades of pretending to be the all-seeing, all-knowing indispensable nation, the US should finally do less to support this transition. Only then can Europeans see the value in taking responsibility for their own security, as well as the necessity of doing so.

The defense budget of the United States should be spent solely on defending the country from attack. Ukraine's valiant and tenacious fight against Russian aggression demonstrates that Europeans can protect themselves. Likewise, America's Asian allies may be able to help. It's past time for the US government to demand that they do so.

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