The U.S. Defense Subsidy

Matt Yglesias writes:

[B]oth Cato’s Will Wilkinson and Joseph Heath from the University of Toronto agree that America’s massive defense spending is, in effect, subsidizing the national defense of other countries and both agree that it’s perverse that American conservatives like this. As they say, the right would be none-too-keen on the idea of the United States paying for Italians’ health care, so why should they like paying for Italians’ defense?
I like the conclusion of this argument (that defense spending should be cut) and I like the subsidiary thesis that conservatives are stupid and hypocritical. But I’m not 100 percent satisfied with the conclusion. Is it really the case that cutting U.S. defense spending would force Canada to increase its defense spending? In a generic sense, it’s hard to see the argument. If our military were smaller, Canada would need a bigger military to defend it against . . . what? Invasion from the United States? An amphibious attack mounted by Peru?
It’s even harder to see when you pour into the details. Right now our nuclear arsenal has about 4,000 warheads. If we entered a bilateral agreement with Russia that cut that arsenal down to about 1,500 warheads we could spend money. But obviously that wouldn’t imperil Canada’s defenses and require it to build up a nuclear arsenal. Or say we had one fewer carrier group what would the implications of that really be for, say, Portugal.

I think Matt's overlooking Canada's proximity to a potentially truculent Russia, and thus badly overstating the superfluity of Canadian defensive capabilities. As I understand it, there's a real possibility for conflict between Russia and Canada (and Denmark and Norway) over claims to arctic territories, waters, and potential shipping lanes. The Russians have acted pretty boldly so far, planting a flag on the arctic seabed and making noises about a military buildup in the Arctic (which it has subsequently backed away from.) I think it's pretty hard to conclude that Russia would not likely be more aggressive about this if Canada and other Nato members were not so thoroughly backstopped by American power.
Canada's likely to scale up in the north in any case, but I'm pretty sure their efforts would be greater in the absence of the American insurance policy. Canadians, Danes, Norwegians, etc. would be pretty unhappy to spend significantly more on the military, but I think that's partly because the persistence of the American subsidy over decades has allowed them to pretend that they are, unlike the warmongering Americans, spending their budgets on things they value more than the military, instead of acknowledging that they depend upon, but largely take for granted, their U.S.-subsidized defense. Likewise, Americans have become so accustomed to subsidizing much of the world, and to the immense negotiating power that gives the American state, that they are loathe to become but one middle power among others with a merely sufficient defensive capability. So we continue to spend insane amounts of money on the military. Much of this is, as Matt argues, pure waste. But a good deal of it is actually necessary if we're going to continue to do so much of the work in protecting our allies and thereby maintain our strategic advantage in imposing the American state's will in the name of the “serious” foreign policy establishment's idea of “the national interest.” USA! USA! It's a dismal truth that many, many Americans really believe that they would be put into mortal peril should the U.S. put an end to other states' dependency on it's military power.

6 Replies to “The U.S. Defense Subsidy”

  1. Why do you think this?

    So, this is a puzzle. If you look within the United States, religion seems to make you a better person.

    Do you have evidence for this? (And what do you mean by “better” exactly?)

  2. “I would suffer and die before I became an atheist again, at least I think I would, for a great amount of what you call happiness.” – Wesley
    At least you think you would? So what if you didn’t die? And you did find a never ending happiness because Christ wasn’t always bringin ya down and telling you you’re always wrong, and that you need to cleanse your sins for your mistakes, instead of thinking about them in a way to learn from your mistakes?
    It’s like if you see a kid seeing or watching something they shouldn’t be watching for their age. If you just punish them, send them to their room crying, telling them they need to cleanse themselves and that they are sinful, they won’t understand anything about what was wrong about seeing it in the first place. They will just be sad that they are now considered less of a human. If you just talk to them and ask questions to figure out why or how they were able to see it then you can explain to them WHY they shouldn’t be seeing it in the first place, and they don’t bear all this filth and guilt and disgust and uncomfortableness of their own being for just being curious.
    I don’t think its right that people live feeling like at the end of their life they will be judged by someone they’ve never physically met. I’m much more content dealing with what I would think of myself if I were to do something that would hurt or disturb someone’s life in a bad way. And that judgment is consistently there in my own mind, and I don’t have to rely on someone/ something else to do that for me. This is why people are happier in secular states. They have to deal with their sins right THEN, not at the end of their life.
    Also – Don’t you think atheists would value life more than someone who thinks that they will just have an eternal life of paradise AFTER they die? I cherish every second of every day, I cherish the words I type right now, because I am expressing myself. I just started reading “The Ancestor’s Tale” by Dawkins himself, which is a very big book for me, but it made me want to see where Dawkins is right now. I wanted to know if it would be possible in my lifetime to meet the man, and if possible take a class under him or something and I stumbled onto this site. Of course, if I were religious, I would think that everything is planned out for me already. How boring. No, I can make my own choices, and nothing is laid out for me yet. I can change my life at any given moment.
    This is an extremely touchy subject for me personally, as my mother’s side, every one of them, is religious. My father’s side, is all atheist. Me and my only sibling, my sister, were raised under no specific belief, and my mother decided NOT to indoctrinate us and let us literally choose if we wanted to be religious when we got into our teen years. How amazing. I love my parents for this. Letting me choose my own life, and not getting in the way of my own personal realizations. My mother’s side is uptight, and I cannot voice my own opinions around them without creating a hostile feeling environment, which is not enjoyable to them. I love to debate, but it makes them feel insecure and act as if I am attacking them personally. And I’m not. I just really want to understand their point of view, but they would never let me. I don’t even think that they know I am an atheist. This is how much of a lack of communication there is. My cousin, stationed in Hawaii, was not visited by his own grandparents when they happened to vacation there because he decided to become a Muslim in his years oversea. this is rejection of their own blood because of a different prophet. Sad. I would have LOVED to visit my cousin, I have not seen him in years since he enlisted. But I can’t. Sad. My dad’s side is very laid back. They mostly went to college or joined a union. No one on my mother’s side has done either. Of course this is just my family, and by no means represents any other family with the same views in any way. I am just merely sharing my own personal experiences in being in the middle of both sides of my family, and being in the middle of this insane debate that will take many a lifetime for human beings to actually figure out for sure.
    And to Paul Sand and webgrrl, this is true. I live in Alaska and it is much the same situation. Unless you keep your mind busy learning or with other activities, you can become depressed in the winter in a snap! We have those sunlight lamps here, too, but I don’t think I’ve seen them in public places, only in homes. Along with the natives here being more susceptible to becoming alcoholics, you have a recipe for a lot of sad people, and depression. And this is all chemically, not because of beliefs or moral differences among people.
    I would not want you to change your own beliefs. If you were to change beliefs, I would hope it would be because of yourself, your own learnings, and not because of anyone telling you what to do. The same as if you yourself chose to be a Christian.
    What I do not agree on is the indoctrination of children into organized religion. I think children should be allowed to choose for themselves when they find the time is right to accept whatever god/gods and prophets to believe in, according to what kind of person they grew up as. For all I know, I may become a Buddist or a Janeist after a few years. I see myself as continually maturing, continually become ripe with knowledge and I accept any differences that I may find with what I believe in my life and combine all these experiences into my own personal knowledge. We will all have different histories when our final days come, why should any of them be even remotely the same? Okay I really have to stop, Thanks to anyone who reads this 😀
    Kristin

  3. Have you read ‘the’ bible in its entirety ? Have you read extensively on the pagan origins of Christianity & the first 3–4 centuries of Christianity ?
    Are you aware that divinity was conferred on JC by emperor Constantine ?

  4. I don’t think your suggestion makes sense. If you think it will make a difference if we only compare people of Swedish decent, then you’re also saying (though maybe not intentionally) that different ethnic groups have certain inherent traits unique to them. I think it’s good to stick to comparing countries. Suicide rates and economic progress are a good measure of conditions of the country.

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