Libya and our budget

From Ezra Klein’s Wonkbook:

The war in Libya is making defense cuts less likely, reports Carrie Budoff Brown: “For once, the unthinkable in Washington seemed within reach. From liberals to tea party conservatives to a defense secretary who served in a Republican administration, all agreed — it was time to begin reining in the Pentagon budget. Then along came Libya. Just as the debt debate ramps up on Capitol Hill, the lead role the United States is playing in the military action against Libya threatens to scramble an emerging consensus over the need to trim defense to reduce the deficit…The airstrikes are already being used by some in the Republican establishment to blunt momentum in favor of the cuts, long considered heretical in a town in which defense contractors constitute a formidable lobby and members of Congress view the Pentagon budget as a jobs program and fear being tagged as unpatriotic.”

Comments

Amazing. A humanitarian crisis occurs right when the military Industrial complex has it's precious endangered.

A (as in singular) crisis? If not for Libya, there's Bahrain. Or the Ivory Coast.

Are you suggesting "hope and change",the Nobel Peace Prize winner launched a war because he's in the back pocket of the defense industry?

The US intervention into the Libyan conflict seems tiny so far. Is the cost of weaponry etc. significant enough to make much difference to the defense industry?

No it is not.... if this continues for a year then we might have issues... but we have sent in a fraction of what we sent into iraq. This is a bogus article and anyone that suggest that this is real needs to find a article that as some factual backing and not just word of mouth crap!

Ideologically, it has a huge effect. Obama launching a war, without the approval of congress, without any sort of clear and present danger to the United States, creates a precedence. Even if it is a small conflict now, giving the president unchecked and near-total power to wage war will lead to far bigger conflicts in the future.

Also, Obama has given a politically correct smokescreen to war. It isn't about attack the leader of a country we don't like, it is about "humanitarianism" and "democracy".

Like Reagan invading Grenada or bombing Libya.

But the SecDef was the one resisting the operation. At least publicly -- it's possible he was pushing it internally, I guess.

Economically, doesn't the American military have a comparative advantage when it comes to blowing stuff up? Meaning, we can destroy a specific patches of land for lower risk and cost than almost any other first world country. If you are going to have a no-fly zone in Libya, spreading the workload by having the US obliterate stuff, while other countries run fighters, seems the most efficient use of resources.

Of course there are domestic politics and optics involved, too. Even if this wouldn't cost the US that much, it's harder to triangulate on decreasing military budgets.

I doubt the US has any advantage in cost, unless you were counting in human lives. A Tomahawk is one of the most expensive ways to deliver a ton of explosives.

Dan:
"...we can destroy a specific patches of land for lower risk and cost than almost any other first world country."

As the country that reintroduced the term "friendly fire" to the modern lexicon, we may want to be careful about touting the "lower risk" aspect to the rest of the world.

As far as cost, al Qaeda, not even a country, let alone first world, took down a couple of our assets for a whole lot less money than we're spending. ;-)

Our first attack made 124 explosions for a cost per explosion of about $125 million dollars per explosion. That's half Libya's normal monthly military expenditures.

No, we cannot do anything aside, maybe, from taking pictures cost effectively compared to other countries

screwed that up, 124 and about $1.066 million per for about $125 million. and that's without counting deployment costs, etc

But 16 US military deaths fewer than in the same time of the invasion of Grenada, 18 fewer than the invasion of Panama.

I think we can add a corollary to the saying "If all you have is a hammer, everything in the world looks like a nail", and that is since everything looks like a nail, you will convince yourself you need to buy an ever increasing number of hammers.

Two responses to this:

First: The Arab league asked us to intervene. We spend (both directly and indirectly money being fungible) billions on oil. Many in the Arab league are major oil producers. Have the Arab league pony up bucks if they cannot pony up planes, bombs, tanks etc. Have them pay we and deliver. We being NATO of course (note irony here).

Second: Cut military spending to the amount that the next three countries combined spend. As I understand it we spend as much as 2-6 spend combined. You cannot convince me that we cannot survive "only" spending as much as countries 2-4. Make that number the benchmark for current and future budgets. I know it will never happen, but we would spend 100s of billions less and get much the same result.

Does the US really get a better deal on crude oil than other nations?

a more consistent measure would be to restrict military spending to a certain percentage of GDP. the US military spending is approaching 5% of GDP, so putting in a cap of 3% would force the DoD to be more cost-efficient, rather than the current situation where they struggle to spend every dollar in their budget, in order to request even more money the following year.

We could limit military spending on
1) weapons that work - nix star wars which just can't work as promised
2) weapons that will be used - nix the spending on Marine beach landing craft and nuclear weapons and stealth bombers

But defense contractors create jobs. Reagan figured that out and it worked. If you call deficit spending Keynesian, you sound like a bunch of pansy liberals. If you call deficit spending fighting the evil empire, it sounds tough. Even Roissy might approve.

It's not like military-industrial complex doesn't exist or its influence has been overestimated.

Welfare spending is just white liberal guilt. Building a war machine to fight the brown people is America at its best. Bring back the 50's! When times were good, men were men, and women dreamt of being bent over a typewriter.

It's just so much less picturesque, being bent over an iPad....

dirk:
"Welfare spending is just white liberal guilt."

Do you really think so? I always thought it was just the practical solution to what the Europeans taught us. If you allow the plight of the peasants to degenerate to the point where they believe they have nothing to lose, don't be surprised if they show up at your Bastille one morning. If, however, you give them just enough to make their lives worthwhile, anarchistic rebellion isn't worth the risk to them. Even the British aristocracy were bright enough to work that one out. It's value is in the form of an economic investment in the best interest of everyone.

Welfare spending is the price the rich pay to convince the poor to respect property rights.

Modern political speech emphasizes what people Deserve, representing what people Want, disregarding the stability of the state.

Except that it isn't the "peasants" who benefit from most "welfare" spending. We give far more money to old people who already have money (via Social Security and Medicare), than we do to the actual poor.

Good point, but if we're going to extend the definition of "welfare" to anyone who is a net beneficiary, we also have to include farmers. They farm land they were given by their ancestors, who acquired it for nothing as part of a federal government stimulus package to encourage western settlement. They have to be bribed with tax dollars NOT to grow certain crops because they don't have the business acumen to know that if they all grow the highest margin crop from last year, they will cause it be the lowest margin crop this year. If it doesn't rain enough, they want fed money. If it rains too much, they want fed money. If it's too cold or too hot too early or too late, they want fed money. I can't think of a group that gets any more welfare than that. Man, I sure hope they're loyal, staunch supporters of big government, or they'll all go out of business... and then they'll demand more fed money because it's the governments fault.

Looks like this is a strategy to get more bang for the buck: keep the budget constant and do more activities. What a way to increase military efficiency!

Is this also ultimately a strategy to reduce military spending: have a skirmish, force a cutback in other areas in the defense budget to fund the skirmish, and end the skirmish and next year pocke the savings when there is no skirmish, and declare a peace dividend.

Maybe we can even get the Saudis to pay for this skirmish and get a twofer.

"Building a war machine to fight the brown people is America at its best."

Those damn Nazis, if they were just white like 'Mericans, we wouldn't have needed to kick their asses!

You tell 'em, sport.

As Benjamin Franklin pointed out in 1751, the Germans are considered to have a swarthy complexion compared to the Saxons and the English. People don't talk about it now because they have gotten used to the dilution of the white race.

When the USA was Germanized we became a country of technocrats, because that is all Germans are good for. Send the Germans packing and we will be a great nation again.

Best Steve Sailer parody ever.

One of the few times I seen someone remember the founding fathers in the nazi-like ideas they had. This was one of the justifications for not allowing Germans into the thirteen colonies. They regarded Germanics as being "mongralized" and that oddly enough the English are pure and untainted by Celts and what not.

The same was said decades later to justify the war on Mexicans by among others, Walt Whitman, because they were regarded as brown people unfit to rule the Americas.

The Spaniards and Portugese don't think brown people are fit to rule the Americas either.

Man, you really are in love with Sailer.

Yes, Ben Franklin's opposition to mass-immigration of Germans was exactly the same thing as Hitler's killing of millions. And since the U.S declined to let in refugees during WW2 (see Baker's "Human Smoke") we were exactly like Nazis then too. Every generation prior to those alive today were nothing but Nazis.

The cost of the war won't increase military spending. But military conflicts have the odd effect of making the point that weapons of war is still a necessity. There was a significant decline during the Clinton era, but the rate of decline quickly flattened upon bombing Serbia and what not. Now that war seems to possibly be unwinding, the same thing might happen.

Yeah, it's embarrasing to run out of bombs during a minor war.
At least hat put an end to neglecting the military.

Happiness is an imaginary condition, formerly often attributed by the living to the dead , now usually attributed by adults to children, and by childuren to adults.
Szasz Thomas, American psychiatrist

America may have introduced the expression "friendly fire" (or may not have), but in almost any violent conflict of any kind or size (including family squabbles), by-standers are apt to get hurt, and people on your own side are apt to get hurt by other people on the same side. That isn't anything uniquely American.

Juat saying, is all.

Yep. I agree completely, but I purposely used the term "reintroduced", and I didn't mean to imply it's only us that does it. I just know the rest of the world doesn't always see us in the same light we see ourselves.

"The airstrikes are already being used by some in the Republican establishment to blunt momentum in favor of the cuts"

I love the idea that the bizarre invasion of Libya is going to cost us money, but it is somehow the Republicans that we need to fault for this.

It's a logic that only Ezra Klein could love and propagate.

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