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Trump Can Turn America’s Defense Welfare into a Profit Center

March 15, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The largest welfare system in the world today is run by the
Pentagon. Americans subsidize the defenses of many countries,
plenty of which are very rich. In fact, most of the U.S.
“defense” budget devoted to power projection is really
protecting other nations—and making America less safe.

The obvious solution is to stop protecting countries able to
defend themselves. However, President Donald Trump tends to look at
everything, including foreign policy, through a profit and loss
lens. According to Bloomberg, the administration is now considering
a “Cost Plus 50” initiative, under which nations would
be expected to pay the full basing cost of any U.S. troops
stationed within their borders plus at least a 50 percent
supplement. The surcharge would run higher for wealthier
states.

Recent negotiations with South Korea over host nation support
were unusually contentious because Washington demanded a large
payment increase. A compromise was reached, but the process was a
harbinger of more difficult financing battles to come.

He’s right to say other
nations should start paying for our military protection.

Bloomberg’s report has set off the usual frenzy. Those who
believe America should fill its globe-spanning empire with foreign
military facilities were aghast. Argued Douglas Lute, former U.S.
ambassador to NATO, about those bases, “we maintain them
because they’re in our interest.”

Perhaps that was true during the Cold War, when Washington had
reason to shield allied states as they recovered from World War II.
But today those overseas military facilities number some 800, and
they only encourage adventurism. Better for Washington to negotiate
emergency base access for crises, while relying on friends and
allies to solve their regions’ mundane problems. Americans
have no reason to base troops in Europe to defend, say,
Montenegro.

British journalist Edward Lucas, whose nation has long benefited
from U.S. military subsidies, insists that “NATO is not an
American protection racket.” But neither should it be a
welfare program. Prosperous and populous European nations see
little reason to worry about problems that they assume America will
rush in to solve. Several Europeans governments have increased
outlays a bit in recent years, but they are starting off small and
seem more interested in placating Washington than building serious
militaries. Even nations with relatively powerful armed forces lag
far behind both America and their own potential.

Lucas contends that the regions hosting our bases are vital to
the United States. If so, why isn’t America vital to those
lands? Why aren’t the Europeans sending manpower and materiel
to protect the U.S. from attack? To safeguard trade with America?
To ensure that North America does not fall under enemy control? Why
is the U.S. the only nation …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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