Whilst discussing United States foreign policy and military spending on facebook, I ended up having the following exchange. I felt it was worth posting here as well. Corrections appear in [brackets].
[Phillip] The cost to your country for being the only democratic Superpower, is incredible. The numbers that I have seen is that you spend appx one trillion dollars, and the next country in expenditures is China at $100 Billion.The spread is incredible, but I believe that is because you are in with troops in many , many countries. I don’t know how many? You are the “policemen” to the world, and the cost is massive!
[Phillip] A massive reponsibility that your country has taken on. The damn countries that have Presidents “for life” or Kings do not deserve your help and the dumb-ass residents end up hating you because they blame you for interfering in their country. (Al Queda, Bin Laden, etc) . I wish that you could spend that money on butter not guns, because you would have eliminated poverty, lack of medicines, and lack of water and housing in the world.
[Herschel] I doubt it Phil, sending money to basket case countries only makes Swiss banks and richer,
Foreign policy is massively complex and defies simple explanation and conversation. The first remark is about the cost, it’s nowhere near as high or as far of a spread as you’ve suggested.
Currently, with 2 active wars, the US spent $687,105,000,000 which is about 4.7% of our GDP. The world average is about 3% of the GDP. China is in fact next in line as you mentioned at $114,300,000,000, which is 2.2% of their GDP. 1
It boils down to a very simple concept, which is that wealth requires defense. The United States is the largest in just about everything in the world. It’s a massive footprint, a massive infrastructure and a massive responsibility.
Not just a responsibility to the US itself, but also a responsibility to it’s diplomatic and trade partners around the world. Which brings us to the large US footprint around the world. [First] of all, it’s not really that large. Part of our spending is technology which is used to replace much of the human military factor. Also, a lot of what we do around the world is not for the direct benefit of the other nations, but to the stability of the region(s) and to facilitate defense of the US & our allies, and of trade routes.
For instance, in Europe the US does have a fairly large military footprint. And yes, much of it is what I call defense welfare. That is, the US providing much of the defense for the nations there. Some of this is [simply] due to the results of WWII and subsequent treaties. [M]ost of it, however, is simply to ensure that the US is in a position to respond to and even prevent certain threats to the US mainland. The world wars changed the world in more ways than one, the biggest being the reach of military forces around the world. Just about any nation can reach another nation, if not with troops and aircraft, then with missiles. The US can best defend against such things near the threats, or at least in the same sector of the world. Much of that threat was either the Soviet Union or the Middle East, so strategic alliances with nations in such regions are of tremendous value.
One great example is with missile defense systems around the world such as in the northern Middle East and in Europe. It is far safer and cheaper to address the threats of missiles near their source. It is also far more effective. So we place some military assets in such places.
Part of this approach is that other nations can benefit from the US presence and take advantage of it in terms of defenses. That’s just part of the trade-off really. And yes, sometimes it is with nations that do not meet our standards in many areas such as human rights. The choices could be that we simply do not deal with them at all. Or we could deal with them and over time exert some influence with them without the need to resort to force. I believe that to be a far better approach.
Okay, so now that I’ve droned on and on, I’ll touch on the original cost point in conclusion. Many other nations around the world spend far more in terms of the size of their economies or populations on military spending than does the US. Some examples are:
-Saudi Arabia at 11.2% of it’s GDP — $42,917,000,000
-UAE — 7.3% of GDP — $15,749,000,000
-Israel — 6.3% of GDP — $13,001,000,000
-Oman — 9.7% of GDP — $4,047,000,000
Some are as high as 10-20% Such as the nation of Eritrea which spends a whooping 20.9% of GDP ($469,000,000).
Additionally, the US spending has increased through the years, especially post-WWII. However, the spending in terms of economic size has remained flat or decreased. It is also considerable lower (as is the rest of the world) than military spending throughout history.
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Roman Smith re “…the dumb-ass residents end up hating you because they blame you for interfering in their country. (Al Queda, Bin Laden, etc).”
The US will be hated by many no matter what we do. Our size alone (economic) is enough to make most people hate us. It’s sort of like the richest guy in town is blamed for all the problems. there is little to nothing we can do about that.
re “I wish that you could spend that money on butter not guns, because you would have eliminated poverty, lack of medicines, and lack of water and housing in the world.”
Unfortunately that is not true. The ONLY way to lift nations and regions our of poverty is to allow them to develop and become self sufficient. Simply buying them butter will not do this.
However, the more we grow and spend, the more we trade and travel about the world, the more the smaller and developing nations can benefit. This includes military growth and spending. Also, the more stability a region has (which happens with a long term US military presence, the more they can grow and take care of themselves.
So yes, we could simply stop all the military spending and buy food and medicine for the poor nations. (we already by most of it anyway) But that would only be a temporary thing and the nations would not develop on their own to take care of themselves.
And As Herschel stated, the costs later would be devastating at best. It is far cheaper in terms of treasure, but most importantly, in terms of lives, to have a large presence for peace. The costs of another world war would be far greater.