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Why we must reduce military spending (Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul)

It is irrefutably clear to us that if we do not make substantial
cuts in the projected levels of Pentagon spending, we will do
substantial damage to our economy and dramatically reduce our quality
of life.

We are not talking about cutting the money needed to supply American
troops in the field. Once we send our men and women into battle, even
in cases where we may have opposed going to war, we have an obligation
to make sure that our servicemembers have everything they need. And we
are not talking about cutting essential funds for combating terrorism;
we must do everything possible to prevent any recurrence of the mass
murder of Americans that took place on September 11, 2001.

Immediately after World War II, with much of the world devastated
and the Soviet Union becoming increasingly aggressive, America took on
the responsibility of protecting virtually every country that asked for
it. Sixty-five years later, we continue to play that role long after
there is any justification for it, and currently American military
spending makes up approximately 44% of all such expenditures worldwide.
The nations of Western Europe now collectively have greater resources
at their command than we do, yet they continue to depend overwhelmingly
on American taxpayers to provide for their defense. According to a
recent article in the New York Times, “Europeans have boasted about
their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements,
its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits,
contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism.
Europeans have benefited from low military spending, protected by NATO
and the American nuclear umbrella.”

When our democratic allies are menaced by larger, hostile powers,
there is a strong argument to be made for supporting them. But the
notion that American taxpayers get some benefit from extending our
military might worldwide is deeply flawed. And the idea that as a
superpower it is our duty to maintain stability by intervening in civil
disorders virtually anywhere in the world often generates anger
directed at us and may in the end do more harm than good.

We believe that the time has come for a much quicker withdrawal from
Iraq than the President has proposed. We both voted against that war,
but even for those who voted for it, there can be no justification for
spending over $700 billion dollars of American taxpayers’ money
on direct military spending in Iraq since the war began, not including
the massive, estimated long-term costs of the war. We have essentially
taken on a referee role in a civil war, even mediating electoral
disputes.

In order to create a systematic approach to reducing military spending, we have convened a Sustainable Defense Task Force consisting of experts on military expenditures that span the ideological spectrum. The task force has produced a detailed report with specific recommendations
for cutting Pentagon spending by approximately $1 trillion over a ten
year period. It calls for eliminating certain Cold War weapons and
scaling back our commitments overseas. Even with these changes, the
United States would still be immeasurably stronger than any nation with
which we might be engaged, and the plan will in fact enhance our
security rather than diminish it.

We are currently working to enlist the support of other members of
Congress for our initiative. Along with our colleagues Senator Ron
Wyden and Congressman Walter Jones, we have addressed a letter to
the President’s National Committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform,
which he has convened to develop concrete recommendations for reducing
the budget deficit. We will make it clear to leaders of both parties
that substantial reductions in military spending must be included in
any future deficit reduction package. We pledge to oppose any proposal
that fails to do so.

In the short term, rebuilding our economy and creating jobs will
remain our nation’s top priority. But it is essential that we begin to
address the issue of excessive military spending in order to ensure
prosperity in the future. We may not agree on what to do with the
estimated $1 trillion in savings, but we do agree that nothing either
of us cares deeply about will be possible if we do not begin to face
this issue now.

Cross-posted from The Huffington Post

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