America's Economy Is Not Here to Pay for Wars

by Jason Ditz

In a recent speech at Wayne State University in Detroit, America's top military commander, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen declared that the most serious threat to America's national security is the national debt. His argument for this was that the debt and its deleterious effect on America's economy could hinder the growth of military expenditures.

Mullen further lamented that current estimates have the federal government paying some $600 billion in interest on the debt in 2012 adding, "That's one year's worth of defense budget."

But America's civilian economy isn't just something to be taxed to pay for war, and America's civilian population is not just a collection of potential recruits and sources of revenue for the military. The military is supposed to be here to serve America, not the other way around.

And without downplaying the various serious economic consequences of America's national debt, Admiral Mullen's comments betray a very disturbing (and increasingly common) view of the American economy as little more than fuel for its ever-growing war machine.

In fact the $600 billion interest payment is coming in no small part because Admiral Mullen and the rest of the military's leadership has been pressing for unprecedented increases in military spending. Now, having spent America's economy to the brink of ruin, Admiral Mullen has the nerve to complain that the harm he has already done is hampering the harm he intends to do.

It isn't even true, incidentally, that the $600 billion is "one year's worth of defense budget." Not anymore it isn't. In fact President Obama is seeking over $700 billion for fiscal year 2011, and that is one budget item that, whether there is a Republican or Democrat in office, we always expect to grow.

But just 10 years ago it would've been two years worth. In 2000 America was spending around $300 billion on its military. That was by far the biggest military budget on the planet. If America still has a $300 billion military, it would still be the largest by far.

Instead America is barreling into the future with a military budget that rivals the rest of the world combined, and an endless wish list of very expensive new military goals. Is it really such a mystery that this is unsustainable?

The purpose of Admiral Mullen's visit and his assorted talks in Detroit were to admonish local industry leaders that the "patriotic" thing to do was to hire more former soldiers, while insisting that "industry, community and military leaders share the same goals." One wonders how industry and community leaders feel about and endless series of wars bankrupting the nation, but it can only be assumed that they feel differently than the admiral does.

Though many Americans are reluctant to openly criticize the nation's military leadership in time of war, Admiral Mullen's comments make it very clear how little regard he has for us and it is high time we, as Americans, make it clear that this country cannot and will not be sacrificed at the altar of a series of wars whose only goal seems to be fleecing the American taxpayer of an ever growing portion of what he produces. We've been down that road for the past decade and we can all see where it has led.