By Juan Cole / February 25, 2010
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates decries Europe for general anti-war sentiment, unwillingness to beggar itself with expenditures on war.
But as far as I can tell, Europe is the world’s largest economy and got there without any recent substantial wars except those the U.S. dragged it into. Moreover, the fastest-growing economy for the past nearly 30 years has been China, which spends a fraction on their military of what the US spends on its, and, aside from a skirmish with Vietnam in the early 1980s, has been at peace. Apparently massive war expenditures are unrelated to economic growth or prosperity.
In contrast, the U.S. has been at war for 19 of the last 47 years (not counting U.S.-backed insurgencies such as 1980s Afghanistan, on which we spent billions) but has not grown faster than the other two economically.
Moreover, the increasingly unwieldy U.S. national debt, deriving from the U.S. government spending more than it took in in recent decades, would not exist if the U.S. military budget had been the same as that of the European Union since 1980. The U.S. overspent on its military because Washington mistakenly thought the Soviet economy was twice as big as it actually was, and vastly over-estimated Soviet military capabilities.
The bloated military budgets continue now, apparently because of a couple thousand al-Qaeda operatives hiding out in caves in the Hadhramawt and Waziristan.
Some statistics to ponder:
U.S. Military Budget 2009: $711 billion
European Union Military Budget 2009: $289 billion
China Military Budget 2009: $122 billion.
U.S. GDP 2009: $14.4 trillion
European Union GDP 2009: $16.5 trillion (PPP)
China GDP 2009: $8.8 trillion (PPP)
U.S. economic growth 2009: 0.2%
European Union economic growth 2009: -4%
China economic growth 2009: 8.7 %
The real military-related expenditures of the U.S. are closer to $1 trillion. If the US cut those back to the level of the European Union and spent the money on promoting solar energy and making it inexpensive, America would have a chance of remaining a great power in the 21st century. If it goes on rampaging around the world bankrupting itself by invading and occupying other countries, the Chinese will laugh at us all the way to world dominance.
Source / Informed Comment