Scuttlebutt: Is Bigger Better?
News organizations have become really good at creating click bait. I recently saw a headline that read “Is America's Military Big Enough?”. I had to read and see who would ask such a crazy question. It turns out the article was about Trump's desire for a large military build-up and an analysis of what that would mean and why he would propose such a thing (other than to pour money onto the military contractors' profit column).
It turns out that there is no real justification for such an increase, proposed to be around $54 billion, which, by the way, is a little less than what the feds spend in discretionary spending for the Dept. of Education. Meanwhile the EPA budget will decrease 24 percent.
U.S. military expenditures of $596 billion are roughly the size of the next seven largest military budgets around the world combined. Next is China at $215b, then Saudi Arabia $87b, then Russia at $66b. We have 1.3 million troops under arms, slightly less than India and China's 2.2 million. But we also have 865,000 trained reserves, Many service members are stationed in allied nations in Europe and northeastern Asia. Trump has criticized these alliances, saying the United States does too much to defend its allies, but he still wants to add 70,000 more army and marines, despite his call for defusing tensions with Russia. Meanwhile, we have 200,000 troops in 170 countries.
The United States has around 2,200 fighter jets, including about 1,400 operated by the Air Force. Mr. Trump wants to add at least 100 more fighter aircraft to the Air Force. Russia is second with less than 1200. The military already has plans to spend an estimated $400 billion on new F-35 fighter jets.
This list goes on: The United States Navy has 275 surface ships and submarines. Mr. Trump wants to increase that number to 350, including two new aircraft carriers. The US has 10 large aircraft carriers. The rest of the world each have one (Italy has 2- why I don't know). Trump wants two more at several billion a piece. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that building a fleet of around 350 ships could cost about 60 percent more per year, with a completion date of 2046, when Trump will be 100 years old. We already have more cruisers, frigates, destroyers and submarines than any other nation.
Trump has said, “Let it be an arms race”, but who are we racing? We are already miles ahead. Mr. Trump has not articulated a new mission that would require a military spending increase. Erin M. Simpson, a national security consultant, called Mr. Trump’s plans “a budget in search of a strategy.” Michael C. Horowitz, a University of Pennsylvania professor who studies military leadership states, “To the extent that tangible pieces of military equipment symbolize strength, those are things that I think the administration is interested in investing in.” Shiny objects always fascinate the infantile mind.
And let us not forget the “Space Force”. Mike Pence has declared space the “next battlefield” and a Space Force is needed to ensure America's “dominance” in space. Domination seems to be a big theme with this administration.
US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who once opposed the proposal to create a new branch of military, has recently told reporters he supports the plan's goal to address "space as a developing war-fighting domain". In a moment of patriotic fervor Pence further stated "Since the dawn of the space age, America has remained the best in space." I guess that is why we are using Russian launch vehicles to get there. Trump wants Congress to appropriate $8 billion to launch the effort. Where will that money come from- his tax cut?
Someone should mention to our President that in 1959 the UN General Assembly established the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). Since that time there have been 7 treaties signed by Republican and Democratic Presidents to insure the peaceful use of space and prevent the introductions of weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Trump criticized the latest of those treaties, a 2010 agreement with Moscow called New Start, as “just another bad deal,” according to Reuters. It must be—Obama agreed to it!
Although these treaties ban the placement of weapons of mass destruction in space, they do not prevent states from placing other types of weapons in space.
However, under the draft treaty submitted to the Conference on Disarmament (CD) by Russia in 2008, State parties would commit to refrain from placing objects carrying any type of weapon into orbit, installing weapons on celestial bodies, and threatening to use force against objects in outer space. The treaty would prevent any nation from gaining a military advantage in outer space.
On 4 December 2014, the UN passed a Russian draft resolution on banning arms race in outer space during the assembly's 69th session with 126 votes in favor and 4 votes against. Guess who was one of the countries that opposed the draft resolution. You probably guessed right. China and Russia have been introducing this resolution since 2008. With its large missile defense program and technical advantages in potential space weaponry, the United States has consistently refused to negotiate PAROS in the CD. More recently, in April 2016, the Russian Federation and Venezuela released a joint statement to the Conference on Disarmament declaring that they will not be the first to deploy any type of weapon in outer space. How long will they stick to that if we start deploying space weapons?
I know that logic and reason play no part in this administration, plus a frighteningly large part of the electorate, but how long are we going tolerate this foolishness? The Trumpsters wanted to release a bull into our national china shop, but who gets to clean up all the broken glass?