U.S. Military Spending in the Past 70 Years
Military spending in inflation-adjusted dollars is greater now than during most of the time since World War II — greater than during the peak spending years of the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and the Persian Gulf War and greater than during the entire Cold War (see the chart below — data from Table 6.1).
The United States is now the largest supplier of weapons to the world. According to a Congressional Research Service report (pdf), in 2011, the U.S. sold $66.3 billion in arms to other countries — 77.7% of all weapons sales around the world. These weapons, promoted by the U.S. government and often sold to undemocratic countries and human rights abusers, may lead to future wars. Some of these weapons may end up being used against the U.S. military or against civilians, as they have in the past (for example: Iraq 2004/5, Afghanistan 2009, Israel 2009).
Is Massive Spending on the Military Needed?
Since the demise of the Soviet Union over twenty years ago, the United States has no significant military adversaries. The only countries or groups that express hostility towards the United have small military capabilities.
This contrasts with the period just before World War II when Germany and Japan had massive military forces and the United States had relatively few, many of which were destroyed in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Now, the United States has the most powerful military that has ever existed in the history of the world. The United States has more than enough firepower to obliterate any enemy. The nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal are powerful enough to destroy much of the planet and make our world completely uninhabitable. Moreover, U.S. conventional military force is mighty enough that the U.S. can wage two large wars simultaneously far from our shores. The U.S. has over 1,000 military bases around the world and 10 aircraft carriers circling the planet (and no potential adversary has more than 1). The U.S. spends more on the military than the next 14 countries combined and vastly more than any possible enemies: roughly 5 times more than China, 10 times more than Russia, and 95 times more than Iran. The United States and its strongest allies (the NATO countries, Japan, South Korea, and Australia) together spend about $1.2 trillion on their militaries, representing 70 percent of the world’s total.
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