A companion report by the Costs of War Project tallies the immense human costs of the post-9/11 wars: over 240,000 civilian deaths, more than 21 million people displaced, widespread environmental devastation, and over 300,000 veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries, to cite just a few examples. In the face of this catastrophe, the idea that a more militarized US policy is the answer to the world’s security challenges is absurd.
The United States spends more on its military than the next seven countries in the world combined (five of which are US allies). The increase in Pentagon spending in the past two years alone is greater than the entire military budget of Russia. And that’s before the massive increases proposed by the strategy commission.
The members of the National Defense Strategy Commission followed a time-tested playbook. They start by enumerating a long list of potential threats, exaggerating them in scale and importance; then they assert that the best way to address these challenges is to double down on the military-first approach that has characterized US foreign policy throughout this century. Yet this argument ignores the fact that the greatest threats we face cannot be solved with military force, and that attempting to do so will have disastrous consequences, as America’s nonstop wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and Somalia have demonstrated. The commission report gives lip service to diplomacy, but only as an adjunct to military power, not as a value in its own right.
We should be spending less time figuring out how to fight wars with Russia, China, Iran, or any other nation, and more on how to forge partnerships to address the biggest challenges to continued life on this planet: climate change and nuclear weapons. But the new report is silent on the first problem, while on the second, it has not one discouraging word for the Pentagon’s dangerous, counterproductive plan to spend $1.2 trillion on a new generation of nuclear weapons over the next three decades.