Afghanistan Weekly Reader: U.S. Spends More on Military Than Medicare

The budget debate is heating up in Washington. With a national debt of over $15 trillion, the question is not whether to cut government spending, but where to make those cuts. The Department of Defense budget is a logical target. Military spending came close to $700 billion last year – that’s $200 billion more than the amount spent on Medicare and more than ten times the Department of State’s budget. The Pentagon has committed to finding $500 billion in savings over the next ten years, but defense analysts say they could cut another $500 billion without risking national security.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been a big factor in defense spending increases. Last year we spent $120 in Afghanistan alone; this year’s budget request of $110 billion is only slightly lower.

Ending the war in Afghanistan won’t solve the fiscal crisis. But it is a good place to start. And it’s certainly preferable to cutting spending in other areas.

From ASG
New Strategy Looks Forward, But We’re Still Stuck In Afghanistan
Afghanistan Study Group by Mary Kaszynski
The new defense strategy guidance takes a step in the right direction by acknowledging that Afghanistan and similar conflicts should not be a part of future US strategy. Whether this strategic reality translates into a more disciplined budget remains to be seen.

Panetta Said Ready to Release First Budget Numbers Jan. 26
Bloomberg by Tony Cappacio
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is scheduled Jan. 26 to release the first details of the Obama administration’s fiscal 2013 defense budget…The administration plans $82.54 billion in funding for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars for 2013, according to OMB.

Security transition in Afghanistan ongoing
Army Times by Michelle Tan
As it looks to bring all U.S. forces home, the military continues to apply the Iraq playbook to operations in Afghanistan.
Beginning this spring, elements of four brigade combat teams will deploy and organize — not as combat units, but to advise and assist Afghan army and police units as the U.S. looks to withdraw its forces after more than 10 years.

Karzai’s Ultimatum Complicates U.S. Exit Strategy
New York Times by Matthew Rosenberg
President Hamid Karzai’s denunciation last week of abuses at the main American prison in Afghanistan — and his abrupt demand that Americans cede control of the site within a month — surprised many here. The prison, at Bagram Air Base, is one of the few in the country where Afghan and Western rights advocates say that conditions are relatively humane.

How to Save the Global Economy: Cut Defense Spending
Foreign Policy by Barney Frank

One major change that can reverse this: a substantial reduction in America’s military spending. In the current fiscal year, the United States is spending upwards of $650 billion on its military, including the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is far more than it spends on Medicare and, more importantly, considerably in excess of what is required for America’s legitimate national security needs.

Why the new Defense Guidance is still interventionist
Foreign Policy by Stephen Walt
These changes do not herald a philosophical shift away from a highly interventionist outlook. The new DG [defense guidance] says the United States will still “take an active approach to countering [terrorist] threats,” meaning continued drone strikes, night raids, and various forms of covert action. The decision to “invest as required to ensure [our] ability to operate in anti-access and area denial environments” tells you that the U.S. intends to retain the capability to use force just about anywhere it decides it wants to. And although it declares that the U.S. “will continue to promote a rules-based international order,” we will undoubtedly reserve the right to ignore any of those rules if they prove to be inconvenient.

Beaufort: Why We Must Leave Afghanistan Now, Not End 2014
Atlantic Council blog by Julian Lindley–French

Afghanistan was always a risk but the essential failing from the outset was to equate ridding the space quickly of Al Qaeda (achieved relatively quickly) with ‘doing good’ by Western liberal criteria and then to organise poorly both the effort and the resources.

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