RFK Jr. Is Right: America Needs a Long-Delayed ‘Peace Dividend’
The uniparty in Washington bent on escalating the disastrous war in Ukraine has a new argument: Shoveling more billions into the conflict is the best possible use of taxpayer dollars.
The Biden administration has requested an additional $14 billion for Israel in the wake of the recent Hamas attacks, and Congress seems poised to meet, or even exceed, that request.
We are now accustomed to such reports of massive new military spending; given the deteriorating state of the American homeland, it is nevertheless extraordinary. Calls for fiscal accountability with regard to Pentagon spending are exceedingly rare, even on the “fiscally conservative” side of the aisle. After $113 billion already devoted to prolonging the catastrophic proxy war in Ukraine, with more billions recently pledged by the Biden administration and supported by the chickenhawks on Capitol Hill, do the American people believe they are getting their money’s worth?
Recent polling data show a marked turn in public opinion away from open-ended support for further military escalation of the bloody conflict, and no wonder. Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has pointed out that while President Biden offered a $700 payment per household to Maui survivors of the deadliest wildfire in recent history, he simultaneously requested an additional $25 billion in funding for the Ukraine war, which comes to the equivalent of $500,000 per Maui household. “That gives you some idea of what this nation is sacrificing to fund the war machine,” he writes.
It’s an argument that resonates with American voters weary of forever wars, but the uniparty in Washington bent on escalating the disastrous war in Ukraine has a new argument: Shoveling more billions into the conflict is the best possible use of taxpayer dollars.
“Russians are dying…. It’s the best money we’ve ever spent,” crows the Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
“We’re getting our money’s worth on our Ukraine investment,” asserts the Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
“It’s the best national defense spending I think we’ve ever done” bragged his colleague, Utah’s Republican Mitt Romney. “We’re losing no lives in Ukraine…. We’re devastating the Russian military for a very small amount of money relative to what we spend on the rest of defense.”
Let’s leave aside for a moment the assertion that the war is actually weakening Russia, which is manifestly not the case. Let’s also leave aside the callous disregard for Ukrainian lives being sacrificed for U.S. geopolitical ends. These remarks also betray a striking ignorance of the relationship between U.S. funding of “forever wars” abroad and deteriorating conditions here at home.
The fact is that American taxpayers’ funding of endless foreign conflicts at the expense of urgent domestic needs extends far beyond the current crisis in Ukraine. American spending on the post-9/11 regime change (Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya) has been estimated at an eye-popping $8 trillion.
In the meantime, as Kennedy notes, conditions at home have measurably deteriorated over the past three decades, with “crumbling cities, antiquated railways, failing water systems, decaying infrastructure, and an ailing economy.… We maintain 800 military bases around the world. The peace dividend that was supposed to come after the Berlin Wall fell was never redeemed.”
The “peace dividend” Kennedy refers to is the savings in defense spending that was supposed to come with the conclusion of the Cold War and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe. Finally, the peace economy would be restored. Defense spending as a proportion of GDP could return to the 1–2 percent levels that prevailed before WWII.
While military spending moderated in the 1990s, the promise of a peace dividend never materialized. Instead, the defense budget increased dramatically after 9/11, and it has remained high ever since.
Today, excluding veterans’ benefits and foreign aid spending, the annual defense budget is about $900 billion. In 2000 it was $294 billion. In constant dollars, that’s a 60 percent increase.
The threat of the Soviet Union was replaced with terrorism, and then, mere months after the inept American withdrawal from Afghanistan, a new source of defense contracts fell into the lap of the defense industry—the Ukraine war. The gravy train has chugged on uninterrupted.
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What’s the next stop of the gravy train? Already the foreign policy establishment seems to be trying to engineer a war with China, using the same playbook. Bellicose rhetoric, provocative military maneuvers, encirclement, and economic warfare accompany the arming of Taiwan, the obvious vehicle for another Ukraine-style proxy war. Now Congress is promising yet more billions for a new conflict in the Middle East.
Americans’ willingness to finance the forever wars is wavering. Financially-strapped working-class families are going into credit card debt at record levels just to make ends meet. Americans’ credit card debt for the first time ever has surpassed $1 trillion, according to data by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Now, with Ukraine in ruins, nuclear tensions with Russia escalating, and a decaying domestic economy plagued by exploding federal deficits, it is long past time to focus on healing our society and becoming strong again from the inside. Let’s broker peace wherever possible, end the Ukrainian conflict, and use the resulting peace dividend to address our problems here at home...before it’s too late.