The American War Obsession

Since its creation, the United States has virtually been involved in perpetual war. Specifically speaking however, militarization has especially escalated, and remained high, since World War II.

As of 2011, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States accounts for 41% of the world’s military spending — spending roughly 711 billion dollars, accounting for roughly 5% of GDP. These statistics are troubling as is, but perhaps even more troubling is the stranglehold the military has on the American economy. Let’s break down the facts, piece by piece.

  • More than one-third of all scientists and engineers are engaged in military related jobs [Sato, 8].
  • Many industrial sectors are intertwined with military spending, the main two being aerospace and shipbuilding [Sato, 8].
  • Shipbuilding is heavily dependent onmilitarization. In 2002, shipbuilding brought in 11 billion in profits — only 3.8 billion of this was from commercial shipbuilding [SCA, 1].
  • In total, based on 2001 data, the top 11 aerospace and defense corporations employ over 900,000 people [Sato, 9]. This number can only be assumed to have increased since the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
  • War-profiteering is high, especially in the last decade. To name one, Halliburton’s KBR, Inc. division profited $17.2 billion from the Iraq War during 2003-2006 alone. More information can be found here.
  • The arms trade in the United States is a multi-billion dollar industry. It accounts for roughly 39% of the total world market, ranking in 170 billion dollars from ’03 to ’10.
  • The top sellers are ironically 5 permanent members of the UN security council; U.S, France, China, Russia, and the UK. The majority of the buyers are developing nations.
  • Many U.S taxpayer subsidies go toward the arms trade as well.

The United States is also a main supplier of foreign aid to other nations, especially military aid. As of 2010, much of it is allocated to Israel and Egypt.

  • Israel was given 3.2 billion U.S dollars in 2010, while Egypt was given 1.6 billion. However, there is little consistency; West Bank/Gaze was given 69 million in aid and other Middle Eastern states are given upwards of 100s of millions of dollars to essentially “leave Israel alone.”
  • Certain regions also are heavily funded. 3.3 billion U.S dollars were allocated, for example, to South and Central Asia, however that is minuscule to the total combined amount given to Egypt and Israel.
Based on 2007 statistics
As percent of federal spending (2007)

The issue with looking at American military spending is that much of it is withheld and convoluted. When military space expenditures, veteran payments, foreign aid, and other military-related costs are added in, the total actual budget is much higher than what was mentioned earlier in this post — surpassing 1 trillion U.S dollars. Moreover, the percentage of federal spending is also misleading if taken at face value; it also includes transfer payments, such as social security and medicare, which are self-financed and do not use income tax revenue. The actual military spending curve shown to the right takes this into consideration. Keeping this in mind, GDP and budget percentages soar to shocking levels.

Equally disheartening, though, is the effect this has had on poverty in the United States. There is a correlation, in recent years, to war spending and individuals living under the poverty threshold.

Fundamentally, this all of this is a reason for concern. With the United slipping from the economic dominance it once had, will it be forced to resort to military bullying to stimulate its industrial sectors and to maintain its intentional prestige? Although high military spending has been a staple in American policy for decades, it has spiked in recent years — and since the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union, the political machine is promoting it quite overtly since now it has little reason to hide. Frankly, using militarism to promote imperial ends must cease — there is much blood on American hands, and fostering success through war is both inhumane and unsustainable. All great empires collapse by overreaching its boundaries, due to excessive military budgets and overly-ambitious expansionist interests. The United States is on the path to be doomed to a similar fate if this jingoistic culture persists.

***

 

– Sato, Eiko. Culture of Peace: Rediscovery of Human Innate Potential and Capability for Peacefulness: Culture of Peace and Violence in the United States. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Library, 2005. Web.
– Shipbuilders Council of America. Economic Contribution of U.S Commercial Shipbuilding Industry. Washington D.C: , 2002. Web. 
– The actual military figures were acquired from an article titled “U.S Imperial Triangle and Military Spending” from the Monthly Review.
– The written manuscript of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech titled “Why I am Opposed to the War in Vietnam.”
– A relevant article that provides more insight: U.S Military Industrial Complex: Profiting from War
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