Why America Actually Kinda Needs its Fantastically Huge Military, and why it affects you
It’s a common question. Really more like a common inquisition. Why does America need its huge military? Especially given that the US military expenditures amount to more than the 5 countries behind it combined. It spends $754 billion a year on its military, or 4.4% of its GDP, while countries that are no slouches themselves like Germany, France, and the UK are all content to spend under 2.5% of their GDP on their militaries.
Because what exactly does our military do? What its most typically associated with is embarrassing the rest of the country in absurd farces abroad, which in turn lead to the US bleeding even more money. Do we really need a means to pulling another Iraq?
Perhaps quite surprisingly, yes, and the military’s impact on your day to day life is more profound than it might seem. There are ways to contemplate how we could possibly reduce the size and spending of our military, but they could only be done under great negotiations with our allies and over a considerable period of time.
First, you might wonder, why is the military important to me, what justifies this awful, alien remnant of imperialism. The military’s chief purpose is not in conquering foreign lands, or blustering in where it is not invited. Truly, it is in defending the seas. More specifically it is in assuring that there is a universal truth on this earth; that all commerce as well as leisurely transportation across our waters is accessible to all. Piracy did not fade from this earth because we all decided we were too civilized for it and it was better suited to stories anyway. Indeed, as anyone with half a brain can tell you, for a number of years until recently it was relatively common in the Gulf of Aden, near the north-east of Somalia, where the Suez Canal is linked to the oil rich fields of the Middle East. Around 21,000 ships a year frequent the area. That they still do despite the late 2000’s jump in piracy is again, because our navy ensured they could.
The Pacific and Atlantic are safe for seafaring largely because the unbelievably mighty United States Navy is so magnificently powerful that it seems laughable to consider piracy in the waters they patrol so zealously. This is no small matter in the typical day of one’s life. If you are wearing clothing while reading this, on a computer, perhaps after drinking from a water tap made of some metal that mysteriously found its way to the United States, if you fit into this category that you may be of that small sliver of people for whom it is a total necessity that there is a safe and effective system of global commerce enforced through military power.
Some will deride this is merely justifying an imperial capitalist system that they feel they would much rather do without. I cannot possibly understand how you can be a socialist, capitalist, monarchist, or much of anything and say that it isn’t important that the seas are safe to transport goods. Ensuring this marketplace isn’t important because it allows goods to be cheaper to furnish the materialistic lives of know-nothing fat cats. It’s important because it allows our most basic goods to be just that, basic. So affordable that it would be ludicrous to imagine insisting whole classes of people go without them. We live in a society now where we do not stop to think that good workpants are affordable, and it seems that all people have socks under the shoes they wear. People are so complacent in their assumption that the concept of globalized sea-trade is a given, that they forget it has been hard fought, and the result of a free-market ideology prevailing as the dominant system of thought in our age.
It is also at times surprisingly fragile. The worst China-phobes are a particularly dislikable and pernicious breed. They are cowards and racists who insist on American supremacy not out of pride but out of fear and being accustomed to platitudes to their own greatness. Perhaps the greatest mind to consider the character of our country, Alexis de Tocqueville once bemoaned the “cupidian” love Americans had for their country, and their bizarre tendency to take credit for everything it had ever done, no matter their involvement in it, not limited to even the weather. It is these kinds of insipid people who spout the most senseless dribble about China, who they fear surpassing the United States in spheres economically, militarily, and culturally, for which they have played no part. But indeed, there are some legitimate differences of opinion between America and China, most seriously right now as does apply to the governance and usage of seaways that must be resolved, and with our way preserved.
The Chinese trade ships are happy to steam across the Pacific to San Francisco to sell goods, or to climb through the straits of the Middle East to get access to oil under the globally free concepts of international law based off the Atlantic ideal of trade. But they have become unbelievably pugnacious, even childish, when it comes to the rules of the sea near their own territory. They have slowly insisted on gaining small tracts of land in the China Sea while bullying or picking fights with Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Korea. They never go so far in a single stroke to justify the other side alighting a fight, but incrementally put together multiple steps to do so. In the past year they have dangerously intercepted American planes and boats carrying out routine procedures in what they insist, to a distance no other country can reasonably claim, are their territories.
These sorts of behaviors from a rising possible superpower are alarming and have real consequences if they go unchecked. As this article’s point is staked on, our entire system of trade is reliant on a system where the seas are generally acknowledged as a shared resource. This may sound like a boring business matter, but it is something that is mainly of concern to the poor, not the rich, but of course to the rich as well. Keeping our goods affordable and our trade regular is vital. We cannot accept this sort of alternative to how force is employed to rule the seas; it is to act as a deterrent against piracy, not an arena to show off power.
There are ways where it is conceivable that America is not basically entirely responsible for this themselves. The most obvious simple example of how to pursue this is NATO, which should theoretically progress over time to operate more and more like a single unit. As of right now it is in shambly chaos, essentially a vehicle for the US, the UK, and France to cooperate with limited help from some other member states. While there are 28 members of the organization, only four pay the mandated 2% of GDP minimum on military expenditures. We are footing the bill for the posturing and laziness of our European (and Canadian) contemporaries. Those states, along with other nations with an interest in retaining our system and at that stage of development in which you begin to bear responsibility, like Japan and Australia, must also step up to plate and lower the burden of America.
But as it stands if you wonder why it is the US must have such a developed military, there it is. It is not primarily there for wantonly attacking others. It is there to defend a system that is an underpinning of equality of opportunity on this earth for our nation, and all others. Peace indeed comes at a high price. Apparently a couple hundred billion dollars a year.