On Military Overspending

Art by Janice Tjan

Right now, there is an American out there wondering what he or she could possibly sell in order to scrape up the funds needed to pay their $300,000 hospital bill. 11,000 kilometers away, there is an Iraqi parent crying over his or her dead child’s body after a U.S. airstrike. Their fates are intricately interconnected, and one’s plight most likely wouldn’t exist without the other’s.

 Whenever anyone suggests that college or healthcare should be free in the U.S., a flurry of pessimistic dissent arises, with issues cited such as the supposed need for higher taxes. However, one gluttonous behemoth is never mentioned: the United States military.

If one were to consider the top 15 countries with regard to military spending per capita, one would see that this is hardly a flattering statistic to be near the top of: three of the countries are currently at war and most of the others were recently engaged in an armed conflict. Those aren’t the countries the U.S. should be comparing itself to, and this is also the statistic that separates the U.S. from the countries which truly epitomize socioeconomic development. For example, Norway, a paragon of social equality, spends 1.4 percent of its GDP on the military, compared to the U.S.’s 4.35 percent, according to Index Mundi.

This significantly lower military spending allows funding to be directed toward organizations and projects that help the public, which, some radicals might even argue, are more beneficial to a given country’s residents than slaughtering foreigners by the droves. Even more stunning is how much of that money comes out of taxpayers’ pockets. A staggering 59 percent of American taxpayer money is spent on the military, compared to a paltry six percent on education, according to the National Priorities Project.

Perhaps this exorbitant spending could be deemed acceptable due to the fact that the U.S., owing to its status as a great power, needs to have strongly protected borders to prevent any threats to its sovereignty. However, in actuality, only half the military’s budget is spent on defense; the rest is used on military actions abroad.

Another problematic consequence of the U.S.’s great power status is its self-assumed role as the worldwide protector of democracy or, more accurately, the worldwide protector of capitalist interests, disguised beneath the pretext of defending democracy. U.S. interventionism abroad has not done anything to benefit anyone outside the American oligarchy. American wars have repeatedly been shown to be corporatocratic rather than democratic in nature, and any popular support about said wars is brought about by lies regarding their intent and purpose from those in power.

The most notable example of this is Iraq, where George W. Bush famously lied that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which ended up simply being a pretext to benefit defense companies that steal Iraq’s natural resources for the profit of a few, all at the cost of many American and Iraqi lives. The view of the American government and, by extension, its military, toward the lives of people in third world countries is that they are expendable so long as the pockets of the rich are kept lined.

To make matters worse, the U.S. is also responsible for the creation of terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaeda, precisely through military actions in the Middle East. By butchering vast amounts of people in the region (370,000 were directly killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), the United States alienates the populace and turns them against the West. It is no coincidence that Osama bin Laden referred to Westerners as “crusaders,” drawing a parallel to the Holy Wars and deliberately presenting the War on Terror as an Islamic struggle against Western aggression in order to take advantage of growing disdain toward America among Middle Easterners and channel it into his jihadist cause.

In addition, the U.S., in its attempts to appear to be the people’s liberator, usually installs a weak, faux-democratic puppet government, which in its predictable failure tends to create a power vacuum that is seized by terrorist groups (a prime example is Iraq, where ISIS came to power in the space left by the U.S.).

With the aforementioned factors in mind, it’s unreasonable that American students should have to pay exorbitant amounts of money to receive a university education, given that almost 10 times as much money is spent on the military than on education. It’s unreasonable for this country to have spent $4.8 trillion to butcher Iraqi civilians, while its own citizens are often forced to pay thousands of dollars for medical care for something as simple as a broken leg. It’s unreasonable that Americans lack access to so many first world givens, when all it would take for them to be available to the public would be a reduction in the budget of the military, not even a tax increase. The spearhead of American imperialism and, by extension, the American corporatocracy, simply needs to be trimmed down, for it benefits no one but the wealthiest in our society at the cost of the lives of many.

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