The recent outbreak of Covid-19 shrunk the size of the world we live in.
The Covid-19 virus knows no boundaries and is impacting populations all around the world. The threat of the virus, like the threats of nuclear weapons and the greenhouse effect, won't be won on a battlefield with troops, ships, or in a nuclear confrontation. The future threats that face humanity require cooperation on an international scale. It's time for the nations of the world to set aside their differences to ensure their survival.
Since the end of the Cold War, our world has divided into two blocks. The United States, the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, and our allies in the Quadrilateral Security Dialog Australia, Japan and India, - are squaring off against a China/Russia block led by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes both China and Russia as well as Iran, India, and Turkey. Turkey and India belong to both blocks.
The nature of future threats - pandemics, nuclear proliferation, and climate change - don't have national boundaries and make the forming of security blocks dangerous for our country and the world in general. The power-balancing act has led to massive defense budgets in an age when defense budgets are counterproductive. The 2020 military budget in the United States was $738 billion.
Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, our country has gone from $300 billion a year in military spending to the stated $738 billion a year. We've spent over $11 trillion on foreign wars, military equipment, pay, and operations since an attack that took its perpetrators less than $1 million to carry out. The total U.S. budget for public health is just $11 billion. Jessica Matthews, former President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the current defense budget is "indefensible" and that our levels of defense spending "crowd out everything else a prosperous economy and healthy society need".
The military budget is considered by some to be politically untouchable. Aside from a brief decrease in the Budget Control Act of 2011, military spending has gone up and is now more than we spent in the Vietnam or Korean Wars or in the Reagan buildup of the 1980s. The cost of fighting Covid-19, and the recession or depression caused by social distancing, will be enormous. Just look at the recent $2-trillion-dollar stimulus package. Our country needs to invest in real security, which means a greater emphasis on public health, unemployment insurance, and other recession-fighting mechanisms, as well as the low and no-carbon sources of energy required to fight climate change.
The U.S.'s best weapon against the current threats is international cooperation. We should take the lead in easing the tensions with the Chinese-Russian block. In addition, we should also downsize our nuclear arsenal and lead an effort to downsize the size of the world's nuclear arsenal via arms-control treaties. President Donald Trump's nuclear-weapons policy has been based around abandoning treaties and spending more on our bloated arsenal. He's abandoned the Intermediate Nuclear-Forces Treaty and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and has said he might not renew the New Start Treaty. We currently spend $35 billion on our nuclear forces. Our country could provide 300,000 intensive-care beds, 35,000 ventilators, 150,000 nurses, and 75,000 doctors for the cost of our nuclear arsenal. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo currently talks about escalating tensions with Iran, which makes little sense when millions around the world are threatened by Covid-19.
Our conventional-weapons policy also leaves much to be desired. The F-35 fighter has been criticized for being both costly and not fully operational. For the price of one F-35, we could purchase 2,200 ventilators. The Center for International Policy's Sustainable Defense Task Force, a group of former White House staffers, military officers, congressional budget analysts, and congressional staffers from across the political isle, has estimated we can save $1.25 trillion over the next decade and cut our military by 10 percent by cutting excess bureaucracy and moving away from our dangerous nuclear-weapons buildup. Moving resources to support unemployment insurance and keep small businesses afloat (small restaurants employ many people) would provide lots of security and give our economy a boost when our country needs it. The U.S. needs a change in direction on security or we will become less secure on the long run.
Jason Sibert is the Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project in St. Louis.