Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Soft Power vs. US Military Budget

President Obama has proposed a freeze on 17% of the discretionary items in the federal budget over the next three years. These cuts affect domestic social expenditures that improve conditions of living in the United States. They are regrettable because they diminish US standard of living and reduce part of the government stimulus to our faltering economy.

At the same time, the President increased the US military budget significantly. His budget request for defense is 708 billion dollars but this number does not include spending for nuclear weapons and other military expenses tucked neatly into the budgets of other departments. In addition, every year the Congress makes supplemental appropriations to pay for current wars. The grand total for the year will be at least $1 trillion, spending more on the US military than all other nations on earth combined.

Since September 11, 2001, the Pentagon's budget has more than doubled in just nine years and a significant portion is spent outside the US to finance two unpopular wars and 761 American military bases in 147 countries. The size of America’s armed forces is about one and one-half million (1,500,000) and about five hundred thousand (500,000) are stationed overseas The people of every nation dislike military occupation by foreign soldiers. But American soldiers in foreign countries can give the rulers of these countries, dictators or democrats, a sense of security in the implied promise of US military support in crises. Is this an involuntary commitment to intervention? Does the American military presence inhibit those seeking change?

With President Obama's 2011 budget, 42 cents of every dollar the federal government spends will have to be borrowed. Foreign investors are lending us about half of our national debt and China and Japan provide half of that sum. China’s share is growing faster.

Some at the Pentagon are worrying that America's destiny, financial and political, may be in the control of a potential rival - and all without a shot being fired. Can we afford to be the policeman of the world? Are we overextending ourselves financially and militarily? Or do we believe that we can take unnecessary risks because we are too big to fail?

From the dawn of recorded history, no nation has surrendered its preeminence – and the United States shouldn’t and wouldn’t. Is there an alternative to our current outrageous waste of lives, money and resources? Joseph S. Nye Jr, Professor at Harvard University with hands-on experience in statecraft, advocates Smart Power, combining hard and soft power. "The United States can become a Smart Power by once again investing in global public goods - providing things that people and governments in all quarters of the world want but cannot attain on their own. Achieving economic development, securing public health, coping with climate change… all require leadership from the United States. By complementing its military and economic might with greater investments in its soft power, the United States can....... tackle tough global challenges.”


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