Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mitt Romney's No Apology 4: Defense Spending

In my latest reading of Mitt Romney's No Apology: Believe in America, Romney criticizes President Barack Obama for cutting defense spending and argues that defense spending should be increased.

When I was at Jewish Theological Seminary, a left-leaning lady showed me a couple of graphs about U.S. defense spending.  One graph said that we spend far more money on defense than we do on domestic concerns.  And the other graph was contending that we spend far more money on defense than do other nations, even the rogue nations that we like to criticize.

Romney's argument in my latest reading is that both of these claims are bogus.  Regarding the amount that the U.S. government spends on defense in comparison with domestic concerns, Romney says that the chart that he saw only factored in discretionary spending.  Romney states that "When all federal spending is included, defense is 20 percent of the total" (page 97).  Regarding the amount that the U.S. spends on defense in comparison with other countries, Romney states that China has a large military for a comparatively lower cost, and so we cannot look at how much each country spends on the military to determine whether or not its military is big or small.

Another argument that is often made against increasing defense spending is that we do not live in the days of the Cold War anymore, and so a large military is not needed.  But Romney's response to that argument is that we do not know what dangers lie ahead, and so we should have a strong national defense so that we are prepared for whatever may come.  Romney states that one reason that people from the National Guard were sent to Iraq, and that some Americans were sent on multiple missions there, was that we had cut spending on the military and thus did not have enough prepared ground troops when the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began.  Our military was unprepared and lacked the resources that it needed, in short.

I remembered reading a blog post by Paul Phillips of Sparking the Left that criticized an op-ed piece that Romney wrote about NATO.   Romney said in that piece what he also said in No Apology: that Europe should assume more of the cost of its own military protection rather than expecting the U.S. to assume a big chunk of it.  For Romney, Europe passes on a lot of the cost to us because it wants to preserve its social welfare programs, and that has to change.  Phillips makes a point in response to Romney's argument on NATO, and a point in response to Romney's call for increased defense spending.  First, Phillips contends that Romney will not make friends with Europeans by telling them what to do.  That reminded me of what I read about Romney's governorship in The Real Romney, by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman: that Romney as governor alienated legislators because he regarded them as underlings for his agenda, the same way that he viewed those who worked for him when he was a CEO.  Second, Phillips argued that we can have a strong military at a lower cost due to drones.  I was a little surprised to see Phillips referring to drones to uphold his argument, since I thought that many on the Left were quite critical of drones.  But his argument raises an important question: Can we have an effective military, without spending a lot of money?

As far as my views on defense spending are concerned, I briefly mentioned them in my post here.  While Romney and Phillips have given me things to think about, my views have not changed radically since I wrote that post.

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