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'America's Dangerous Rush to Shrink Its Military Power'

11:05 AM, Dec 27, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Mark Helprin writes in the Wall Street Journal

From the president on down through his secretary of defense, the service secretaries, and a cast of generals whose decorations would choke an alpine meadow with color, we are told that further reductions in American military power are warranted and unavoidable. This view is supported by the left, the right that unwisely fears accounting more than war, by most of the press, the academy, and perhaps a majority of Americans, and it is demonstrably and dangerously wrong.

Based upon nothing and ignoring the cautionary example of World War II, we are told that we will never face two major enemies at once. Despite the orders of battle of our potential adversaries and the fact that our response to insurgency has been primarily conventional, we are told that the era of conventional warfare is over. And we are told that we can rest easy because military spending is an accurate index of military power, and we spend as much as the next however many nations combined.

But this takes no account of the nature of our commitments, the fading contributions of our allies, geography, this nation's size and that of its economy, conscription or its absence, purchasing power parity, exchange rate distortions, the military trajectories of our rivals individually or in combination, and the masking effects of off-budget outlays and unreported expenditures. Though military spending comparisons are of lesser utility than assessing actual capabilities, they are useful nonetheless for determining a country's progress relative to itself.

Doing so reveals that from 1940 to 2000, average annual American defense expenditure was 8.5% of GDP; in war and mobilization years 13.3%; under Democratic administration 9.4%; under Republican 7.3%; and, most significantly, in the years of peace 5.7%. Today we spend just 4.6% of GDP—minus purely operational war costs, 3.8%. That is, 66% of the traditional peacetime outlays. We have been, and we are, steadily disarming even as we are at war.

Whole thing here.

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