Currently, the number one spender on the military at approximately 50% of the world total, we are also set to spend $1 trillion on an updated nuclear arsenal, partly justified by a rivalry with the Russian Federation that is recognized as largely contrived by those who have a true understanding of post-Soviet US-Russia relations.
As a nuclear superpower that enjoys the protection of a vast ocean on either side and relatively cordial relations with our neighbors to the north and south, the US has not experienced a war on its soil for 150 years and the civil war did not involve any foreign invasion.
Further, according to research by ex-CIA agent Philip Giraldi, only 2 Americans died overseas in terrorist attacks outside of war zones and only 26 deaths occurred domestically from jihadist terrorism since 9/11 -- averaging less than 2 deaths per year. This is far fewer than the number of victims of domestic terrorists.
So how does a virtually non-existent threat of invasion or the issue of terrorism justify billions of dollars wasted on militarism, thousands of deaths and injuries of American military personnel and millions more non-Americans (mostly civilians), and loss of civil liberties? Where is the logic and conscience in this equation?
Given the fact that Russian leaders Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev have reached out repeatedly since 2000 to cooperate toward the resolution of security issues that would include and respect everyone's interests on the greater European continent, coupled with the fact that any terrorist threat from Middle East jihadists has been greatly magnified, if not initiated, by Washington's militarist policies in that region, it is safe to say that our country's policymakers have the capability to greatly minimize what little foreign threat there may be to the US through a shift in policy.
It is incumbent upon the US to make this shift as its policy actions over the past 25 years have created or exacerbated the worst problems of instability in the international arena. Moreover, they have done so by running up an astronomical debt to foreign countries that they are now working to antagonize. They have also done all this at the expense of the well-being of the majority of Americans by wasting huge sums of money that could be used to improve our D+ level infrastructure, to raise our medical standards from the bottom of the industrialized world and to address the true unemployment rate of 23%.
Costs of US Imperialism and Militarism
Military Bases and Blowback
There is something else at work, which I believe is the post-Cold War discovery of our immense power, rationalized by the self-glorifying conclusion that because we have it, we deserve to have it. The only truly common elements in the totality of America's foreign bases are imperialism and militarism -- an impulse on the part of our elites to dominate other peoples largely because we have the power to do so, followed by the strategic reasoning that, in order to defend these newly acquired outposts and control the regions they are in, we must expand the areas under our control with still more bases. To maintain its empire, the Pentagon must constantly invent new reasons for keeping in our hands as many bases as possible long after the wars and crises that led to their creation have evaporated. As the Senate Foreign Relations Committee observed as long ago as 1970: "Once an American overseas base is established it takes on a life of its own. Original missions may become outdated but new missions are developed, not only with the intention of keeping the facility going, but often to actually enlarge it."
-Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire, p. 152
The US currently has hundreds of military bases on every continent except Antarctica, costing $250 billion annually to maintain. Ironically, these bases tend to create the need for still more bases. They promote resentment in areas where American GI's live in pampered bubbles, located on prime real estate, and in culturally divergent ways relative to the natives. At the time that Chalmers Johnson wrote The Sorrows of Empire in 2004, the Department of Defense (DOD) publicly acknowledged 725 bases around the world, although there were understood to be significantly more due to secrecy and various means of obscuring the presence of a military installation by using euphemisms in different documents (e.g. in connection with Israel). Despite the official tally by the DOD having dropped somewhat in recent years, there are undoubtedly many more bases now with the accession of nine more countries to NATO, along with bombing campaigns extended to several more countries and covert military operations expanded into numerous others as well as the proliferation of smaller "lily pad" style bases.
Billions of dollars are spent annually on constructing and maintaining these bases just in the Middle East where estimates of the number of military bases in Afghanistan alone had ranged up to 411 at one point. Bases in this region are mostly on behalf of the goal of protecting Persian Gulf oil supplies. Indeed, $40 trillion is estimated to have been spent on this over the past 40 years. This begs a couple of questions: (1) wouldn't it be cheaper and more humane to simply invest in energy efficiency and renewables that would create American jobs? (2) or, how about just paying a fair market price for these fossil fuels? Regardless of any particular regime's rhetoric against the US or the West, they'd still want to make money at the end of the day. Not to mention, we'd be supporting the concept of markets, which we claim to hold in such high esteem as to border on the religious.
Moreover, as Michael Scheuer, former CIA specialist on the Middle East for 22 years, argues persuasively, one of the primary reasons that young Muslim males in the region are motivated to blow themselves up in terrorist actions against the US is due to the presence of American military bases on sovereign and Muslim lands. Virtually no Muslims -- no matter how radical -- are motivated to commit such acts because of the way we live within our own borders.
American Victims of Empire
Over 6,800 American military personnel have lost their lives so far in Iraq and Afghanistan. 56% of veterans are receiving treatment with the VA, half have applied for permanent disability and a third are being treated for PTSD, anxiety, and/or depression. 250,000 have suffered a traumatic brain injury and close to 2,000 have had limbs amputated. Approximately 175,000 veterans are 70 -- 100% disabled. It is estimated that care and compensation for veterans of these wars over the coming decades will reach $1 trillion.
The overall cost of these wars is projected to be $6 trillion, enough for every American household to receive $75,000. Although, military investment does produce some jobs, investment in other sectors of the economy, like healthcare, would produce more.
According to geopolitical analyst, Conn Hallinan, "We spend more on our "official" military budget than we do on Medicare, Medicaid, Health and Human Services, Education, and Housing and Urban Development combined."
In fact, if that $6 trillion spent on wars in the Middle East was to be invested in projects that improved Americans' lives, we could achieve the following and still have some left over: