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Trump’s Weak Justification for More Military Spending

The justification Trump has given for increased military spending isn’t persuasive:

“This budget follows through on my promise to keep Americans safe,” Mr. Trump said. “It will include an historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States.”

He added that the budget would send a “message to the world in these dangerous times of American strength, security and resolve.”

The military hasn’t been “depleted,” but if it were the more obvious solution would be to reduce the strain placed on it by cutting back on the missions it is being asked to perform. Military spending has been at or near all-time highs in real terms for over a decade, so the problem is not lack of funding. It is the constant frittering away of resources in desultory warfare. The military has been given some costly missions for which it is ill-suited, and it has been used to pursue objectives that have little or nothing to do with the security of the United States. Allocating more money to a department that has been tasked with implementing a decade and a half of misguided and disastrous policies can’t fix these problems, and just encourages more of the same. That doesn’t send a message of “strength” or “resolve,” but instead tells the world that our government rewards failure.

Trump went on to say this:

“We have to start winning wars again — when I was young, in high school and college, people used to say we never lost a war,” the president told the governors. “We need to win or don’t fight it all. It’s a mess like you have never seen before.”

It doesn’t seem to occur to Trump that the U.S. may not know how to win certain kinds of wars. Simply throwing more money at a conflict won’t change anything if the goals are unreachable, and even if “winning” is possible it may come at too high a price. We can learn that lesson now before we waste even more money and lives on unnecessary wars, or we can learn it later after they have been wasted.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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