War has been a constant of human history rooted in immutable human nature. Our best defense is a superior U.S. military second to none that presents a credible deterrent for would be aggressors. Ronald Reagan termed this “peace through strength.” But force and will are multipliers. If will is zero and perceived as such by our enemies, force is irrelevant as a deterrent.
In the words of Leon Trotsky, a founder of the Soviet Union, “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” And to quote Winston Churchill, “The only thing worse than war is losing one.” Permanent universal peace, imagined by utopian wishful thinkers, is achieved only in their mind —and in the grave. If you disagree with these premises, you needn’t read further, you’re beyond the reach of reason and reality.
As are Reps. Barbara Lee and Mark Pocan, co-chairs of something called the Defense Spending Reduction Caucus in the U.S. House. Not surprisingly, both are also members of the Progressive Caucus, the Democrats’ radical left-wing fringe. (Now, with 100 members, almost half of House Democrats, that radical left-wing “fringe” has become the party’s core.)
Lee and Pocan have sponsored legislation, the “People Over Pentagon Act, slashing $100 billion from the defense budget to spend on their preferred agenda. They claim, our “astronomical defense budget” doesn’t make us safer but “guarantees the military-industrial complex will continue to get richer.”
First, let’s put their absurd claim about our defense budget as “astronomical” in historical perspective. When President John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960, the world was at relative peace. World War II and the Korean War were behind us. The conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was a political “Cold War,” not a shooting one. And the Vietnam War was yet to happen.
U.S. defense spending in 1960 was $48 billion accounting for 52% of the federal budget and 9% of GDP, the measure of our economy. Fiscal Year 2023 defense spending is projected at $858 billion. Today, that’s just 15% percent of the budget and 3.3% of GDP.
Six decades of inflation and a massive expansion of government’s role in our society, creating a womb-to-tomb welfare state, make the numbers difficult but not impossible to grasp. That requires an understanding of the shift in government priorities.
What’s truly “astronomical” is the increase in nondefense spending that is propelling our spiraling national debt and driving us toward fiscal insolvency. Eighty percent of that is what the government calls “Payments for Individuals,” dominated by Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, on top of a cornucopia of other means-tested entitlement programs.
Using that 1960 benchmark — when our welfare state was in its infancy — payments for individuals were a mere 26% of the budget and only 4% of GDP. Today, that’s 68% of the budget and 16% of GDP.
In dollars, 1960 defense spending was $48 billion. In 2023, it’s $858 billion. By comparison, payments to individuals were $148 billion in 1960. In 2023, they’re budgeted at $4 trillion dollars! Memo to progressive Democrats: That’s what “astronomical” really looks like.
Defense spending is too low. These goofy progressives are oblivious to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the depletion of U.S. and NATO weapons and munitions in supporting their resistance; Russian expansionist goals in eastern Europe; China’s imminent invasion of Taiwan and escalating hostility toward the U.S.; North Korea’s nuclear threat to South Korea (and the U.S.); Iran’s nuclear weapons program ambition and ongoing funding of Islamist terrorism in the Middle East.
Biden plans to shrink the Navy from 298 ships to 280 by 2027, way down from over 500 in the 1980s and 90s. Meanwhile, China is expanding its Navy from 355 ships to 460 by 2030. Our air forces need more planes. And all branches of our military are losing troops with recruitment and retention problems as Biden’s mandate of woke, identity politics indoctrination undermines morale and unit cohesion.
Lastly, compounding their malfeasance, these progressive Democrats have disgracefully drafted General and President Eisenhower in their anti-military cause.
Yes, in his 1960 farewell address, Ike did express concern about “unwarranted influence by the industrial-military complex.” And ever since, the pacifist left has wielded that label as a mindless slogan, conveniently ignoring the rest of Ike’s speech in which he noted the reality of modern warfare, asserting that “we can no longer risk improvisations of national defense; we’ve been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.”
Certainly, the military and our defense industry warrant scrutiny. But they’re sure nice to have when we need them. During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt even praised that vital partnership as the “arsenal of democracy.”
Mike Rosen is a Denver-based American radio personality and political commentator.