I’m not a fan of the United States engaging in excessive wars. We’ve had many casualties and in hindsight we haven’t always achieved our goals in war. However, many Americans who are staunch opponents to military spending take the benefits of having a large military for granted. The United States military, and many of the things it does, benefits our country hugely and plays an important role in protecting our freedom.
Our country became a world power in large part due to the expansion of our military. In the twentieth century, the world powers in Europe all had large militaries and military engagements. Imperialism was benefited by military power, as were other things. If not for the military, we would not play the large role we do now in Europe and the rest of the world.
Our economy and industry alone could not propel us to world leader status. Particularly because our military has helped form our economy. Our occupation and treaties with places in East Asia helped us get a foothold in the Chinese economy and trade. If not for this we would not have much of the industry and goods we do today. To be a world power, leaders must have an army to back up what they say and promise with action. If we want to promote democracy, we must be willing to help other countries with our military and intervene if necessary.
Many people also take for granted the security our military gives us. It is easy to fight against military spending when we are safe and protected in our homes. While we have shootings and the occasional terrorist attack, things would be much worse without our military. When we look at other countries without large militaries that are successful in other regards we see many patterns. Many areas without military power are easy to occupy. Many Scandinavian countries were occupied in World War II by stronger countries such as Germany. Belgium, which proclaimed neutrality in World War I, was also occupied.
Countries have to make the decision to be a world power, or to focus on their own internal issues. Most places cannot successfully do both. The countries with the best education systems don’t have the strongest militaries.
Based on American ideology it makes sense for us to spend more on our military than on other things. We value freedom and democracy. Since the founding of our country we have also valued setting an example for the rest of the world. The best way to achieve these values is through our military. It doesn’t make sense to set an example for others if we cannot help others achieve our standards of government. While some of our attempts have not been totally successful, many have.
I do not necessarily believe that we should keep military spending the same. We could cut military spending a small amount and still let our military have the same power and effect. The problem comes with rhetoric and ideologies that are anti-military altogether and that advocate for cutting our military drastically. Our military makes us feel safe.
With a much smaller military we may have more funding for certain special programs, but we would also likely be debating much more serious problems. At this point, it is not realistic to talk about cutting military spending by as much as some propose. Our entire culture is shaped by our military and our role in the global community. It is okay to debate priorities, but next time we are debating military spending, we should consider the privileges that having a large military gives us.
Featured Art Credit: Jenny Chang/The Foothill Dragon Press