The Pentagon Budget and the Cold War

Recent­ly, though I can­not remem­ber where, I came across an argu­ment for cut­ting the pen­ta­gon bud­get. The speak­er was aghast that, adjust­ed for infla­tion, the pen­ta­gon was spend­ing more mon­ey now than it did at the height of the cold war.

There actu­al­ly is a good rea­son for this.

If you think about it, the whole Mutu­al­ly Assured Destruc­tion con­cept is a bit on the nut­ty side, although it did get us through the cold war. Why would coun­tries “at war” invest in such a con­cept? Because it saved money!!

Main­tain­ing a nuclear deter­rent was sig­nif­i­cant­ly cheap­er than what it would have cost to main­tain enough non-nuclear mil­i­tary to deter the USSR. Now we are faced with secu­ri­ty chal­lenges that are spread out over many coun­tries instead of con­cen­trat­ed in one. It is going to cost more.

Add in the fact that for most of the cold war, we draft­ed most of our sol­diers. Now it is an all vol­un­teer army. I coiuld be wrong, but I’d wager that the pay for sol­dier is high­er today. It is true that there are few­er sol­diers, but that just means that many of the tasks that used to be done by sol­diers are now done by con­trac­tors at what I believe, I could be wrong here too, is a high­er cost.

Is there mon­ey to be saved in the Pen­ta­gon? I have to believe that there is. But giv­en the world we still live in, there is prob­a­bly not as much to save as one might think. Even with the mon­ey we have been spend­ing on defense, we were not able to wage two wars at the same time. We fought in Afghanistan, then we let up in Afghanistan so we could fight in Iraq, and we did not again get seri­ous in Afghanistan until we had let up in Iraq.

I wish I could say that the days of wag­ing two wars at once are past (or the days of wag­ing one war!!!), but I am not that naive.

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