Cut military spending

America can no longer afford to be the world’s peacekeeper

In all of the debate about the federal deficit, one of its main causes is rarely mentioned: military spending. And yet the Pentagon budget for 2010 is $693 billion, more than all other discretionary spending programs combined and more than the military spending of all other countries combined.

Americans believe all that money is going to protect this country, but that’s not the case. The United States now has more than 700 military installations around the world, most of them protecting other countries, not ours. The nations of Western Europe, for example, continue to depend on the United States—and American taxpayers—to provide for their defense, even though collectively they are wealthier than we are. As a result of our willingness to spend our national treasure in this way, they are able to provide their citizens with enhanced social benefits, including early retirements, universal health insurance and extensive welfare benefits.

Of course we must maintain sufficient military strength to support our democratic allies when they are threatened by larger, hostile powers. But the Cold War is over; our enemies now are stateless terrorists practicing asymmetrical warfare, not great nations with vast weapons systems requiring that we be similarly armed. Besides, the notion that somehow we alone are responsible for maintaining peace worldwide is not only wrong and dangerous, it’s also something we can no longer afford.

In one of those rare pairings that Congress sometimes produces, a certified liberal, Rep. Barney Frank, has teamed up with a libertarian Republican, Rep. Ron Paul, to convene a Sustainable Defense Task Force composed of military spending experts with a range of ideologies. It has produced a detailed report with specific recommendations that could cut Pentagon spending by $1 trillion in 10 years—primarily by eliminating certain outdated Cold War weapons and scaling back U.S. commitments overseas. Neither move would make America less strong.

Frank and Paul are working to enlist the support of other legislators, and they have sent the report to the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. They’re up against the military-industrial complex and its high-powered lobbyists, however, and need our support. Write, e-mail or phone them and let them know you agree that reductions in military spending must be included in any future deficit-reduction strategy.