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Trump’s Massive Giveaway to the Pentagon

Everyone in Washington was so desperate to have the generals rein in Trump that most of them never thought through what it meant for Trump to be the military's unthinking yes-man.

Judah Grunstein dubs Trump “the generals’ president” because of his total capitulation to whatever the current and former generals around him want:

Trump’s generals have instead gone back to the future, restoring the model of a U.S. military that faces no fiscal or strategic constraints, while preparing for a conflict—a conventional war with either or both of its nuclear-armed big power competitors—that is not just unlikely, but unwinnable.

While it is true that Trump voiced some objections to foreign wars long after they were over or when it was no longer very risky to do so, it is important to remember that he was always in favor of throwing more money at the military from the beginning of his campaign. He seized on the nonsense talking point that the military had been “depleted” under Obama, and he has continued to use it until now, and he made undoing the imaginary “depletion” one of the main planks of his platform. Since Trump is a militarist, and since he now comes from the more hawkish of the two parties, it was more or less a given that he would waste huge sums on higher military spending while agreeing to the policies favored by Mattis, McMaster, et al. Add to this his fetish for “strength” and “greatness,” and you have a recipe for massive wasteful spending on weapons and programs that the U.S. doesn’t need. When there are already Pentagon agencies losing track of how they spend hundreds of millions of dollars, throwing more money at a huge department with inadequate oversight is pure folly.

The increase in military spending that Trump has endorsed reflects his impulse to give the military whatever they want. In addition to being completely unnecessary, higher military spending will indulge the Pentagon in all its worst habits:

The Pentagon budget request for 2019 puts the military on a course of spending unmatched since the Reagan-era buildup, boosting the number of troops, warplanes and bombs, according to documents and analysts.

But, defense analysts say, the $716 billion spending plan risks flooding too much money into a Defense Department that may not spend it wisely.

“The risk is that when the budget is flowing freely, policy makers are usually reluctant to make hard choices,” said Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a non-partisan think tank.

“While this is not a record increase, it comes on top of a budget that was already higher than the peak of the Reagan buildup when adjusted for inflation [bold mine-DL],” Harrison said.

The fantasy claim that the military budget suffered significant reductions in the last decade has been one of the standard hawkish criticisms of the previous administration, and Trump takes that falsehood as gospel. The truth is that an already bloated military budget has continued to grow, and Trump proposes to make it grow even faster. Everyone in Washington was so desperate to have the generals rein in Trump that most of them never thought through what it meant for Trump to be the military’s unthinking yes-man.