Opinion: How Is A $716 Billion Defense Budget Conservative?
Just imagine yourself as a spectator of a political debate over which the subject is the funding and the role of the American Military, being discussed between two men of unknown ideologies. You know for certain that at least one of those men is a conservative, but you do not know which one. The first man says “The United States of America is the greatest force for good in the world, and the importance of ensuring funding for its military cannot be underestimated.“ He continues “The world is a better and safer place, when the United States is the strongest military power in the world”. The second man replies in frustration, “How can you possibly pretend to care about being fiscally responsible or Conservative? You are willing to spend gratuitous sums of money we don’t have, just to redundantly secure our place as the strongest military power.” Which one of these two is a conservative? Are they both? This paraphrased dialogue is actually from a Republican Debate during the 2015-2016 Presidential Primary between Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, and it seems to represent a clear split between certain camps on the right wing aisle. President Trump has now asked for $716 billion for national defense spending in 2019, a request that has just followed his recent tax cut victory. Can conservatives continue to justify a repeatedly increasing military budget, while continuing to ask for lower taxes and lower spending cuts overall? This will require conservatives and Republicans to make a clear ideological choice, and choose between being the party of fiscal conservatism, or the party of militaristic Nationalism.
Secretary of Defense Mattis recently spoke about the proposed budget increase for the military and called for a more “lethal“ military. He warned against the supposedly declining military, and the imperative demand to update our current tools of warfare. However, we already spend more than the next 10 largest militaries combined, and we continue to appear be the undisputed world power on every ranking. The apparent “need” to raise the military budget doesn’t seem to be crucial given our dominance. I’m definitely not arguing that we shouldn’t strive to be the most exceptional military, but that we should be realistic as conservatives about the nature of our budget after having our taxes cut. Republicans like Rubio will have to recognize how it is inherently contradictory to advocate for both indiscriminately increasing the military budget, and to decreasing the overall scope of government.
Most Americans take pride in their Military and soldiers, and in the fact that we continue to be the most powerful force in the history of all civilization. However, this does not justify the position that Rubio along with many others in the Republican camp seem to maintain. It almost seems like there is no limit to how expensive American exceptionalism should be, and that it should always override our fiscal prudence. The problem with this thought paradigm, is that they [Republicans] will never have the credibility to criticize the Democrats on issues of National Debt and Deficit. Progressive Democrats will simply say, “Republicans act like there is no money when it comes to social programs, but are always magically able to produce the funds for an ever-growing Military Industrial Complex.” Our funding of the military should be consistent with the prospects and standards of its continued global dominance, but never to surpass the point of the needless bolster of our already undisputed position.
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