Military Spending

We’re out of Afghanistan. Good. We should have gotten out before.

Our involvement there was America’s longest war, longer than the Civil War, World War I and World War II combined. We accomplished little good and plenty of bad. Tens of thousands killed. A trillion dollars spent.

Now the Taliban wear American uniforms and fly American planes.

Hawks say, “If we just stayed a little longer … “

It’s not true.

Yes, there had been a drop in violence in Afghanistan. But that did not mean we were winning. The Taliban were just waiting because former President Donald Trump announced we were going to leave.

Now what?

Will we continue to try to police the world?


Washington defines U.S. national interests so broadly, says the Cato Institute’s John Glaser, “that virtually no region of the world (is) considered nonvital.”

This grandiosity started after WWII.

“No longer would we canonize George Washington’s warning against entangling alliances,” writes Glaser. “Or extol the counsel of John Quincy Adams that America ‘goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.'”

Now we repeatedly go abroad, searching for monsters.

Many Americans believe the military and our use of military force shrank after WWII and after the Soviet Union collapsed. But it’s not true either.

“The United States has engaged in more military interventions in the past 30 years than it had in the preceding 190 years altogether,” Glaser points out.

We post soldiers all over the world: 50,000 in Japan; 35,000 in Germany; 26,000 in South Korea. Why? Is it America’s job to protect South Korea from North Korea? Taiwan from China? Israel from Iran?

We spend more on defense than the next 10 countries combined.

We can’t afford to keep doing that.

We can’t afford to keep funding defense contractors’ cost overruns.

In my new video, Cato defense analyst Eric Gomez explains why Congress never does anything about that.

“A lot of members of Congress don’t want it fixed,” he says.

Defense contractors cleverly produce weapons in different states. Lockheed Martin boasts that F-35 parts are made in 48 states.

“If you’re a member of Congress,” says Gomez, “they’re spending that money in your district … You don’t want that taken away from you.”

An earlier draft of President Dwight Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” speech called it the “military-industrial-congressional complex.”

In Afghanistan, America spent $43 million to build a gas station (normal ones cost $500,000). Why? Some central planner decided this gas station should dispense natural gas, even though almost no cars can use it.

At least in Afghanistan our government did try to limit American involvement. Instead of having U.S. soldiers fight … forever, America would train and equip Afghans so they could defend themselves.

But that didn’t work either.

The U.S. spent $200 million trying to teach Afghan soldiers to read. Five years later, half still couldn’t read.

The problem, says Gomez, is that American officials don’t “have any clear sense of where things are going to go, what our objective is.”

“We have an objective,” I push back. “Make the world safe for democracy.”

“In Afghanistan, we had objectives of making it safe for democracy,” says Gomez. “We had objectives of turning Iraq from Saddam Hussein into a democratic and rich society. The record has not been very good.”


Now the military budget exceeds $700 billion, and the Defense Department says it will spend more money fighting climate change because the “climate crisis” is an “existential” threat.

Give me a break.

Spending patterns are driven by inertia. Year after year, they give about the same share of money to the Army, Navy and Air Force, even though today’s threats from places like China mean the Navy and Air Force are much more important.

Politicians and the Pentagon need to make some choices. What exactly is the military’s mission?

If America hopes to be both safe and prosperous, the military should focus on defending America itself.

Image by Defence-Imagery from Pixabay

15 thoughts on “Military Spending

  1. This is the root of
    almost all problems today. Scratch my back and I will scratch yours. Plain stupid.

  2. The “Climate Crisis” is the only existential threat to our country/world that exhibits no signs of any impending danger. So sad that people can’t just see that it’s just another way to spend trillions of American dollars on waste that does nothing. Even the “Climate Scientists” admit that if we stop all use of fossil fuels today, it would make virtually no change in global temperatures over the next 100 years. Why are the leftists spending so much money on it then? Why are they trying to stop the use of fossil fuels that provide 80% of our energy? These efforts are going to make energy far more expensive and that on top of the trillions spent to promote “green energy”, will just further impoverish our country.

  3. I was attached to a fast attack nuclear submarine and I saw first hand the waste of tax dollars. It was amazing how many ways we could find to waste money.
    After the military I worked in the construction industry. I was a commercial construction estimator for 40 years. Any government project we did we would do a “ for real” take off on it and than double the price for the bid, and we did get some of the work. They would always end up with huge changes and whenever I worked up the price I would have to charge five times as much as I normally would due to the way the government handles their jobs.

  4. TOTALLY AGREE! We have about $28.43 TRILLION in debt and yet keep giving foreign aid in BILLIONS and wasting military budget in TRILLIONS! Fix the education system, the infrastructure, healthcare, homelessness, poverty and other issues!!!

  5. Re: “Spending patterns are driven by inertia. Year after year, they give about the same share of money to the Army, Navy and Air Force…”
    The budgets are based off of what was SPENT in the prior year, so departments scramble to use up money at the end of the FY to keep getting their whole budget.

  6. John you could do a story on just the costs of the DOD’s golf courses. It boggles the mind the sheer number of golf courses that they have. Another is Government Furnished senior officer’s housing. Mansions for them, row housing for the enlisted. Anthony Seats is correct I to was in Government contracting, we built stuff and then tore it down before our contract was up! Sheesh

  7. John, you’re posts are great. IMO, the absurdity of nearly all are rooted in the same dysfunctional laws that Congress refuses to correct. Here they are: 1) campaign finance, 2) term limits, 3) gerrymandering. I think you did a piece on issue 3. Would love to see a piece on how these three laws affect all that ails our country. I would argue that these laws coupled with social media fomentation are the single greatest source of our divided country’s discontent.

  8. “An earlier draft of President Dwight Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” speech called it the “military-industrial-congressional complex.” Best quote ever!

  9. I understand it was costly and the U.S. Govt did not go through with it the right way…but it was necessary…but let’s not just blame this on the war and blame it on the U.S. Got overspending in general on things such as unemployment when there are plenty of jobs for the lazy…and for food stamps for people that drive.around in Mercedes cars and pa for food with food stamps!

  10. I, like most other Americans agree we needed to get out of Afghanistan. But what you are failing to acknowledge is it was not the departure in itself that was controversial and a failure, but the logistics of the exist.

    You do not leave your weapons Arsenal behind for the enemy to grab for their own means. You do not just leave all those American citizens behind to be captured by the Taliban and now enslaved. You do not leave without informing your allies’s forces in the region so that they can plan for your exist so they aren’t caught off guard and can take the necessary steps to safely secure what needs to be secured. You need to allow your partners to prepare for such an exist.

    It is not about the idea of departure and exist that’s in question, it was about the awful and treacherous, irresponsible logistics.

    Guess what? After the Taliban started retaking control (because our allies in the region were not warned and prepared for a US exist and our weaponry was abandoned) they made a partnership with the Chinese in August and then in September China sent $31 million as “foreign aid” to Afghanistan, which we know was just a gift to the Taliban. Right, the same country in which Joe Biden has been a puppet for and in the pockets of going back to the 1990’s, is the same country making a deal with the terrorist group that is now in possession of our military Arsenal? How does that sound for you? Sounds like treason to me. Especially since our own citizens were unable to get out of Afghanistan before our exist, which was asinine. Not even our allied forces were able to protect our citizens as a result.

    Let’s also not forget about the Sergeant Colonel who had the courage to speak out about all this (was not against the concept of exist/departure in itself, but the logistics) and was fired for doing so. He believes everything we tried to do in Afghanistan for the last 20 years and all the strides we made in that time were for nothing and will now be completely undone. All the hundreds of billions if not trillions that was invested in that country went to waste. Yes, all that money was probably a lost cause for years now, but since that large scale investment was already in place before Biden became president it was only responsible for him to make sure it didn’t go to complete waste by not doing anything stupid. But with our recent choices we have only assured that money, US taxpayer dollars, went to complete waste only because we did not take the time to do it right being the exist. 20 years of investment all thrown down the drain and gone to waste only because of our leaders’ desire to make a political statement.

    And now China looks to have some new power and influence in the region since they are now working with an in control Taliban. The same country that also leaked COVID-19 into the US who wanted nothing more than Trump to be taken down and ousted as president and for Biden to get in, their puppet master. Now China has all this free reign and they are taking advantage in Afghanistan with the Taliban.

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