Friday, August 14, 2009

Military spending, in historical perspective

I came across that allows you to generate historical charts of government expenditures. (You can view the data in actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars or percentage of GDP by changing the units.)

Here is a graph of military spending using inflation-adjusted dollars (and a link to it and the underlying data):

I went looking for the data because a Facebook friend of a friend claimed that the drop in military spending as a percentage of GDP during Clinton's administration was the cause of 9/11. Ew boy. For starters, it should be obvious that our external threats are what they are regardless of GDP, so I don't get why you'd look to percent-of-GDP data to make the case that the spending was insufficient (or sufficient) to keep the country safe from attack. Further, military spending at the end of Clinton's term was still historically plenty high. Does anyone writing here believe that the drop in military spending under Clinton allowed 9/11 to happen or caused 9/11? I hope not.

Setting all that aside, I have to say that as I looked at this chart I was amazed at the extreme increase in military spending since 2001 relative to historical levels. I'm curious to know whether those who believe the Iraq war was a good idea also feel that the benefit you see is commensurate with these costs. In other words, was our takeover of Iraq as important as our role in WWII? Was it far more important than the Cold War?

1 comment:

love johnson said...

You know the answer to these questions. No, the drop in spending did not have anything to do with 9/11. The clues were all there; the inter-agency crap and people within the agencies not paying attention were the main culprits.

As for your 2nd question, of course the answer is no, not as important than WWII or the Cold War.

Interestingly, I was listening to some rightie radio show the other day and the host was talking about Afghanistan - how IT is and always has been the center of the war on terror. And of course he then had to throw in the..."now, if you want to debate where Iraq fits into this war, or if it even should have, let me stop you by saying that this is all water under the bridge and we need to look forward, not backward..."

I love this. All the righties know that Iraq should never have happened and they just brush it off by claiming we need to look forward. That looking backward or arguing about it doesn't serve a purpose. Of course, at the time of the run-up to Iraq, if anyone questioned it, they were labeled "un-American" or "un-patriotic".

I ask myself every time I turn on the radio why I do it, because within 15 or so minutes, I'm so mad I turn it off. Only to turn it on again....and again...and again.