Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Lunacy of Defence Spending

You don't need my blog to recognize that the money spent on defence in our world is ridiculous. Upwards of a trillion dollars a year is spent on weapons. The biggest spender is, of course, the United States followed by countries like Russia, China, Britain, France. What is military spending? Ultimately these days, it is an investment that allows or ensures (depending on the amount spent) that a country can protect and exert its interests around the globe. Often ruthlessly so. However you happen to feel about the American war in Iraq since 2003, you must recognize that it cost a tremendous amount of money (figures upwards of $3,000,000,000,000 or three trillion dollars are batted around). What did that money provide? National interests were protected. Whether those interests were control over oil or protection of freedom, they were national interests. The U.S. would not have invaded Iraq if it had not been in its national interest. Americans should be rightly nervous about how their national interests will be protected through the coming century. The current level of funding simply isn't sustainable. China will almost certainly outspend American on defence in the coming decades. America will likely try to keep up, but futily so. The overwhelming debt will eventually bankrupt the country if defence spending is continued at the current percetage of GDP (maybe around 5% or so).There is simply no doubt about the fact that China will exert its will and influence around the globe more and more powerfully in the coming decades. It will get to the point that China has the ability to thumb its nose at anyone who doesn't agree (as the United States has been able to do effectively for a long time, and unabated since the end of the Cold War).

Canada is currently planning the purchase of a number of high-tech fighter aircraft. There is a lot of conflict over the necessity of the purchase. Critics point out that it will cost billions of dollars and will do little to actually defend the country or its interests. Who is Canada likely to have to defend against in the coming generation of fighter jets? That's a tricky question to answer, but I read a viewer's comment on this CBC news story on the issue recently, and I thought they put it very well:

BackBushBilly wrote:
"10Billion dollars for war planes than Washington, Moscow or Beijing can obliterate in under 3-minutes. Hell, for $500, I will be glad to shoot each of you in the foot!

For $10B, we can build 143,000 homes (11,000 homes per province and territory) and end homeless for ever

For $10B, we can employ 1000 surgeons for 20 years ($500,000/yr?)

For $10B, we can buy 3334 MRI machines

For $10B, we can feed 10Million starving Africans for a year

Another viewer wrote an even more succinct response, given the tight economic times: 

artonibus rex wrote:

"For 10 billion, we could spend 10 billion less."

Hard to argue against that one.

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