The United States already spends more on military forces than the next eight to eleven other countries combined. Before Russia's attack on Ukraine, Congress had already appropriated billions more for the Pentagon than the military had asked for.
Yet members of Congress from both parties are now demanding even vaster increases in military spending.
Defense industry lobbyists are understandably trying to cash in. That is their job. But it is the job of the press and the public to put reins on unnecessary military spending, on dollars going out only to please the military-industrial complex.
Americans should regard these proposals to increase military spending with great suspicion.
Despite our existing huge military forces, the U.S., quite properly, is unwilling to employ them in defense of Ukraine. As John Peeler, a fellow political scientist, puts it, "Assuring the victory of Ukraine is not Biden’s highest duty. Preventing World War III is."
Spending more on our current military posture will not improve our ability to protect Ukraine or any other victim of aggression. The war, however, does suggest that we need to reconsider how we have been spending our military budget.
It might even be a good idea to reduce the military budget substantially, which we could do by radically changing our defense posture and making diplomacy primary.
Obviously, we should retain a robust enough air force and missile program to deter other powers from nuking us. For the same reasons, we need to retain the missile-launching atomic-powered submarine fleet.
However, we could make substantial savings, without endangering ourselves, by reducing our Army and other ground forces to about one quarter of their present size. Such a reduction would shout out to the world that we have no interest in military conquest and would therefore strengthen efforts in other countries to reduce their budgets and to follow our example by eliminating the military slavery called conscription.
Vladimir Putin claimed that no Russian draftees were fighting in Ukraine, but he was clearly lying. (What? Putin, lying?! I'm shocked! Shocked!)
The remaining American ground forces would become the logistical and command structure for a guerrilla-style defense of U.S. territory in the event that some other country were unwise enough to try to occupy us, like Russia is trying to occupy Ukraine.
In Ukraine, the professional military forces are working closely with armed civilians to frustrate Russian force's attempts to advance. And if there is one thing with which America is well supplied, it is armed civilians.
Thanks to gun industry lobbying and the Supreme Court's unhistorical reinterpretation of the Second Amendment, privately owned firearms are widely distributed. We have paid for the ready availability of military-style rifles with massacres of school children, people in shopping malls and many other places.
But if we are unable to outlaw ownership of these guns, we might as well employ them for constructive purposes, like allowing a vast reduction in national military expenditures.
The people who wrote the U.S. Constitution (and the Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment) were deeply suspicious of "standing armies," based on their unhappy experience with the British forces during the colonial period.
The Second Amendment, with its reference to a "well regulated militia", was — among other things — an attempt to defend the country from invasion without needing a standing national army.
Americans have witnessed the effectiveness of guerrilla defense (against us!) in Vietnam. Switzerland has relied effectively on an armed citizenry for defense for many centuries. Even the German Nazis prudently left Switzerland alone.
We are seeing the potential of such a defense in Ukraine, though given the vast disparity between Ukrainian and Russian forces, it may not suffice.
We should seriously consider, not increasing how much we spend on military defense, but changing how we spend money on it.