Wednesday, October 29, 2008

defense spending and defense under Bush/McCain vs. Obama

From Bret Stephens in the WSJ, an essay on Obama's impact on the defense budget....

The article is reasonably interesting, but it's the graph that caught my eye: defense spending as a percentage of GDP since 1940.

What do we see?

-The big boosts for WWII and then increasingly modest increases for Korea, Vietnam, the 1980s Cold War, and the "War on Terror". (Of course, spending may well have increased, but as a percentage of GDP-- the country's "ability to pay"-- the level has grown more modest over time.

-The flip side of that observation is that non-defense spending has risen more and more.

-The Clinton era has the lowest rate of defense spending, part of what allowed Clinton to have smaller budget deficits-- and even, a tiny budget surplus one year.

[Global View]
As for Stephens' comments on Obama, this is the most interesting:

When it comes to defense, there are two Barack Obamas in this race. There is the candidate who insists, as he did last year in an article in Foreign Affairs, that "a strong military is, more than anything, necessary to sustain peace"; pledges to increase the size of our ground forces by 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines while providing them with "first-rate equipment, armor, incentives and training"; and seems to be as gung-ho for a surge in Afghanistan as he was opposed to the one in Iraq.

And then there is the candidate who early this year recorded an ad for Caucus for Priorities, a far-left outfit that wants to cut 15% of the Pentagon's budget in favor of "education, healthcare, job training, alternative energy development, world hunger [and] deficit reduction."

Beyond that, it should be noted that Obama has (sadly) pulled away from his aggressive approach to getting out of Iraq.

And from what he's said, one would expect him to implement a Clintonian form (and significant level) of military activity-- intervening in "trouble spots" around the globe as the world's policeman. I'm not sure how this compares to the Bush years of foreign policy (or what we would experience under McCain), but it is certainly no cause for (great) celebration.


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