The President’s Threatening To Pull U.S. Military Support From Europe, While At The Same Time Insisting U.S. Military Spending Needs To Go Way Up. Then Again, The “Military Industrial Complex” Is One Of The Easiest Places To Grow Jobs In The U.S., For A Lot Of Reasons…
One of the reasons the President is in such a rush to name a nominee for Supreme Court Justice by Monday, (our money right now is on Amul Thapar, but we’ll have more on that at a later date) is he’s headed to Europe right after that, with an intent to destabilize NATO. Trump’s confrontational approach is telegraphed by letters he’s sent to several NATO members ahead of a series of meetings, reiterating they’d better pay more into maintaining the treaty, or expand their own defense forces, or else the U.S. might consider pulling troops and resources out of the pact. And, according to the Washington Post, Trump was “taken aback” when he learned there are 35,000 active duty U.S. troops in Germany. Of course, there’s one obvious reason for that–at least obvious to everyone but Trump–those 35,000 U.S. troops are not there about Germany: they’re there about Russia. And of course, Trump’s Europe swing ends with a one-on-one with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Trump is actually right about some of this: some NATO countries have been slow to come through with additional financial commitments made after Russia just went in and took Crimea in 2014. What’s contemptible to us is the President’s larger pattern of behavior: raining fury and bile upon U.S. allies these days on all kinds of issues, while at the same time cutting a lot of slack and showing a lot of good will and trust toward countries and regimes the U.S. usually doesn’t (and with good reason).
And that might lead one to ask, as many did on Twitter, and other places, something like: “If Germany, Japan, South Korea, Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, etc., etc., etc., are unfairly taking advantage of/ laughing at/getting a free ride from the U.S., and need to take on more military responsibility of their own, why does Trump simultaneously insist U.S. military spending must be pumped up to record levels?”
We think there’s a simple answer to this question: the economy. And Trump’s unprecedented increase in military spending is really just a massive jobs and corporate welfare program.
Ask yourself this: if you were President and you’d promised a huge number of new jobs without really having a plan to deliver them, would it be easier to:
1. Try to persuade a whole bunch of consumer goods manufacturers that might not even have any factories left in the U.S. at all to bring back a few hundred jobs here and there?
2. Give a bunch more money to the biggest group of manufacturers who–for security reasons–never left?
And that’s exactly what Trump is doing, with a huge helping hand from Congress. In fact, there’s no way Trump is successful at growing the U.S. economy without this, and he knows this. (Especially since U.S. companies seem more interested in doing stock buybacks than investing in new personnel with the windfalls provided by the new tax law.)
What does $700-billion in defense spending mean, with continued increases on the horizon? Jobs. Lots of them. And near-sure votes from both parties. The last big defense spending bill passed in the Senate 89-8. Meaning Democrats did not want to risk being seen as “not supporting our troops.” In fact, 3 of the 8 “no” votes were by Republicans, and 2 other Republicans did not vote.
Actually, Trump would also like to do the same for construction companies: showering them with money to build bridges, improve roads, airports, etc. (Though not trains for some reason). And of course build his wall. But Congress is less forthcoming with money for those things.
All of which brings us to President Eisenhower’s warning back in 1961 of the growth of the “military industrial complex.” What he was talking about at the time is how prior to World War II, there weren’t really specifically defense companies. During wartime, companies with other capabilities would improvise and shift their production over to war machinery. After World War II, with the Cold War looming and huge numbers of troops permanently stationed in Japan and Germany (and later Korea) who needed continual support, the need for full-time, dedicated manufacturers arose. Eisenhower put it more poetically than we just did:
“Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of ploughshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.”
The former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe adds:
“The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”