U.S. Defense: Spending a lot, buying very little

Here’s a fact about America.  We have five percent of the world’s population, and we spend forty-one percent of the world’s defense budget.  We spend seven times as much on defense as China, and more than ten times as much as Russia – four times as much as China and Russia put together.  We spend more on defense than the next fifteen countries in the world combined.

Who is it we are defending ourselves from?  It must be the other people who spend a lot on armies and weapons, right?  Then who are they?  Well, there’s China at number 2.  Then there’s France (Napoleon?).  Then there’s England (they want their colonies back?).  Russia (aren’t they friends now?).  Then there’s Germany, Japan, Italy, Saudi Arabia, India, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, Spain, Australia.  They really want to have a go with Uncle Sam?  I thought they were buddies.

And what is it we’re defending ourselves against?  The only attacks on the U.S. since World War II have been 20 guys with box cutters, one guy with a shoe bomb, and a dufus who tried to blow up his underwear.  All of those guys were on airplanes, and we have the TSA to deal with that.  TSA is not in the defense budget.  Apparently they should be.

Speaking of which, where was our defense budget on 9/11?  9/11 was a clear day and they hijacked four big, slow airplanes.  Our Defense Department has hundreds of small, fast airplanes that have all sorts of radars and missiles and guns, and they have other radars and satellites that can count the flowers in your back yard.  But they couldn’t find four big slow airplanes heading for NYC, the White House, and the Pentagon?  The Pentagon?  For $900 billion a year, they couldn’t defend their own headquarters?

We spent trillions of defense dollars in Iraq.  Our President told us that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction, which he didn’t, and was poised to use them in cahoots with Al Qaida, which he wasn’t.  Either our President was making things up, coincidentally in time for an election, or our defense budget isn’t buying us much in the way of intelligence.  I don’t know which I want less to believe.

We’ve spent another trillion or so in Afghanistan, where the biggest threat to the U.S. was some camps in the desert where they taught people to make shoe and underwear bombs.  Now I think they run those camps on the internet.  And if we wanted to get rid of camps in the desert, don’t we have those satellites to find them and drones to take them out?

So what is it again we’re defending ourselves against?  Well, there are many real threats to the security of the United States?

There’s poverty.  Poor people envy rich people and try to bring them down.  But the U.S. spends proportionally less on peaceful foreign assistance than any other developed country on earth.

There’s overpopulation.  The biggest threat to humankind is too many humans competing for limited resources.  But our government spends virtually nothing on population programs.  (The best population control, by the way, is poverty relief, but see above.)

There’s our own spending and debt.  The biggest direct threat to U.S. security is the fact that we owe so much money to so many countries (particularly that one called China), and are so utterly reliant on them to pay our bills.  Defense is the biggest item in the U.S. budget, and, by far, the big item over which we have the most control.  But it’s a sacred cow.

There’s international relations.  Friends don’t attack you, they don’t support terrorists, and they back you up if you need help.  But our foreign policy in the past decade-plus has made outright enemies of much of the world, alienated most of the rest, and created multiple terrorist breeding areas.

There’s dependency.  As long as we depend on other countries for the things we need most – like oil – we’re at their mercy; we either have to appease them or bully them.  But in 40 years since the first oil crisis, we have done practically nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  And in the name of “defense” we have made enemies of much of the Middle East, where most of that oil comes from.

Why again do we spend so much on defense?  Or, more precisely, why do we mis-spend so much on defense.  We spend a lot, but we buy very little.