With the same confidence President Bush had in Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, Jamie Weinstein has asserted that the nation’s bloated defense budget is not fueling the deficit crisis. With similar confidence, Weinstein also seems to believe that Ron Paul’s foreign policy arguments are “fallacious.”
Let us examine some of the assertions that Weinstein made in his recent Daily Caller op-ed, “Ron Paul’s foreign policy fallacies.”
On the national security budget, I will trust the judgment of readers. Below are some figures from President Obama’s 2012 official budget request.
The baseline request for the Department of Defense (DOD) is $558 billion. The supplemental request to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is $118 billion. The request for the Department of Energy’s development and housing of nuclear weapons is $19.3 billion. DOD has $7.8 billion requested for “Miscellaneous.” The State Department requests $8.7 billion for counterterrorism programs. An additional $71.6 billion is requested for homeland security counterterrorism, including $18.1 billion for DOD and $53.5 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services. National Intelligence Programs are budgeted for $53.1 billion. The Department of Veterans Affairs requests $129.3 billion to treat wounded veterans, a figure that is climbing exponentially as soldiers return from Iraq and Afghanistan with mental and emotional traumas.
The foreign affairs budget, including both its military and counterterrorism components, is $18 billion. Payments to military and DOD civilian retirees are budgeted at $68.5 billion. Interest on the national debt attributed to past borrowing to fund the Pentagon is $185 billion.
This brings the national security budget of the United States for FY 2012 to a staggering total exceeding $1.2 trillion, or approximately one-third of the entire budget and almost 100 percent of the projected budget deficit.
If the nation embraced the founding fathers’ creed of “Millions for defense, but not one cent for empire,” the national security budget could be slashed by 75% to $300 billion annually without impairing the safety of the United States from foreign attack. It would still leave America with the largest defense budget in the world while diminishing its foreign enemies — precisely because the vast majority of our enemies become such because they resent the U.S. for doing things like propping up foreign despots and using predator drones to indiscriminately kill people in the name of democracy and human rights.
Ron Paul is absolutely correct that the United States cannot afford its current national security budget — most of which is spent on little to nothing that actually keeps the nation secure. Not only do the financial numbers above speak for themselves, but our current foreign policy consensus (which Mr. Weinstein apparently finds it his duty to defend and reinforce) takes a toll on our budget in unprecedented ways.
The United States, for the first time in history, is engulfed in perpetual global warfare. Neither the president nor any national security official has even hazarded a guess as to when it will end. There will be no surrender at Appomattox Courthouse or Tokyo Bay. A tactic, which is exactly what terrorism is, cannot be killed like Osama bin Laden, nor can it be confined within geographic limits. And no political figure will take the risk of announcing the end to the war against international terrorism because the risk of another terrorist incident cannot be reduced to zero.
In addition, the Military-Industrial-Terrorism-Complex (MITC) has frightened political leaders and the American people into believing that al Qaeda is a greater threat to our security than Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Hirohito, Hitler and Mussolini combined. The MITC argues that in the absence of ever-greater domestic security measures — for example, surveillance drones and upgraded airport screening devices as well as wars against every country in which al Qaeda dwells — Sharia law will displace the United States Constitution and a caliphate will soon be installed in the White House. I only wish I was exaggerating.
In accordance with such fears, indiscriminate spying on innocent citizens by the FBI will climb, the national intelligence bureaucracy will expand to produce an endless volume of worthless reports, and dossiers that include Internet information about individuals unprotected by the Fourth Amendment will thicken.
A big-brother government worthy of George Orwell’s “1984” is inescapable unless the MITC is dismantled, as Ron Paul has urged.
Finally, the war in Libya entrenched the counter-constitutional principle that the president is unilaterally empowered to initiate war without congressional authorization and to fight wars without funds appropriated by Congress — for virtually any reason he ordains worthy of his belligerence. This principle makes it even more possible, and probable, for presidential wars at prodigious expense against Iran, Yemen, North Korea, Syria and possibly China, in hopes of heightening political popularity and expanding the American empire.
The idea that all of this does not bear any significant financial cost, much less the cost of our founding and moral principles, is patently absurd.
In sum, our nation now confronts a choice between empire and financial solvency. It cannot have both. And neither can Mr. Weinstein.
Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer who served as an associate deputy attorney to President Ronald Reagan and is a senior adviser to the Ron Paul 2012 campaign. For more information, please visit www.brucefeinlaw.com