As Jon Huntsman said before dropping out of the primary race, the United States spends about as much as the rest of the world put together on “defense”. Our on-budget military spending is around 45% of world defense expenditure. But then we have a ~$75 billion black budget, a Veterans Administration budget of 132.2 billion, on-budget foreign aid of 53.3 billion, and off-budget Federal-Reserve foreign aid in frankly unbelievable amounts. So a hundred billion here, a hundred billion there, and we end up spending as much as all the rest of the world’s armies and air forces put together.
The US has military programs to address threats that don’t even exist. We have the F-35 to face the now-defunct Soviet Air Force, super-submarines to launch missiles at now-friendly Russian cities, and aircraft carriers to fight… no one, as no other country is dumb enough to pile 20 billion dollars onto one fragile, indefensible “missile magnet”.
So we must be pretty safe, right? We must have really good anti-aircraft defenses… oops, no, even civil airliners can just fly right into the Pentagon even with lots of warning time. But we must have missile defense, after all the money we’ve spent? Oopsie, we have around 30 interceptor missiles which protect Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force base… as long as the enemy promises not to use any decoys or ECM. US cities are wide open to attack by any nuclear power, including the French.
But the big threat nowadays is terrorist bombs delivered by Chevy Suburbans or the UPS man. So the US must have a really well-developed civil defense system to protect citizens against fallout, nerve gas, or biological agents. Every citizen must be well-trained in NBC defense and have their radiation meter, mask and protective suit in their car trunk….
Maybe in some alternate universe. In the 2012 United States, the only civil defense is whatever people provide for themselves. While our trillion dollars or so of “defense” money is spent mainly on serving as mercenaries to the various warlords that we support around the world, the US homeland is the most vulnerable target in history, full of single-point failure modes, glass cities and panicky “Homeland Security” bureaucrats.
A few guys with boxcutters caused us to attack ourselves with “security” measures that cost us many times the expense of the physical damage of the 9-11 attacks. A serious terrorist attack wouldn’t involve suicide bombings with airliners. There would be far more dangerous NON-suicide bombings using nerve gas, Ebola/flu, nuclear bombs, or simply simultaneous conventional explosive attacks on dams, refineries, the Internet backbone, etc.
Now we have to be honest with ourselves. If there were a real attack against the United States, would we bravely handle it with a stiff upper lip and recover? Or would our “Homeland Security” apparatus choke the economy of our country to death in panic, with crazy travel restrictions and nonsensical strip searches of old women and children? I think the answer is clear: the United States would cease to exist in anything resembling a functional state if even one city were destroyed.
There Is another Way: The Swiss Solution
The Swiss started their no-wars policy of armed neutrality in 1815. Their decentralized citizen army was good enough to keep them out of the War of 1870, World War 1, and other European gang fights. In 1934, they addressed the problem of aerial bombing by starting a massive civil-defense effort. These measures kept them out of World War II as well.
In 1962, noticing that the world was not getting any safer, they started building nuclear shelters. By the early 1990s, the program was complete. Every home, school, and business in Switzerland has a blast shelter in the basement, with a filtered air system. Hospitals have fortified wards, local governments have underground command centers. Every citizen is trained in civil defense, knows where to find a radiation meter and/or gas mask, etc. If the rest of Europe turns itself to glowing rubble, the Swiss will spend two weeks playing cards underground and then get back to work.
All this defense infrastructure also limits the potential for terrorist attacks. Dirty bombs are useless against people with shelters and fallout meters. Even nuclear bombs would only kill people in the immediate blast area; survivors would escape to the shelters. Any attempt to terrorize citizens with Mumbai-style attacks would be met with the assault rifles and rocket launchers of every Swiss household.
How much does all this security cost the Swiss? Not very much. Estimates put all Swiss military spending at less than 1% of GDP. The US spends more like 5-6% of our much larger GDP, to achieve almost total vulnerability.
The Ron Paul Solution: Defend the United States
The Swiss, of course, are small, landlocked among other nations with criminal records, and are composed of four cultural groups with no common language (the fourth language is Romansh, if you’re trying to figure out what it could be… and OK, they really all speak English). The US has none of these problems. If we applied the Swiss model, we could ensure that our society, our Constitution, our freedoms, and most of our people, would survive even a major attack.
We have technical advantages the Swiss do not. We could expand our missile defense program and help the other powers to do so as well. No decent person wants to see the children of Kiev, Mumbai, or Beijing burn in nuclear fire for some politician’s agenda. A thin defense shield against rogue missiles for every country that wants it should be encouraged.
We could also have a real air defense against bombers or drones… tomorrow. All we have to do is fly our F-15s home from Saudi Arabia and use them to guard Washington DC and Peoria instead of Riyadh.
If our Navy wasn’t busy blockading Iran to raise the price of oil, it could add its Aegis cruisers to defend our coastal cities. Our naval forces would still fight piracy and maintain freedom of the seas, but we don’t need Cold War size forces in expensive Bahrain bases for that. As far as pirates go, all we really have to do is allow the merchantmen to arm themselves.
Of course if we apply Ron Paul’s foreign policy, the number of groups motivated to attack us would be greatly reduced. Right now, we are involved in most of the ethnic and religious conflicts around the world. Far too many political factions would benefit from a distracted and damaged United States. If an attack were anonymous, how would we retaliate? Last time, we “retaliated” against a nation (Iraq) that wasn’t even involved in the attack. They didn’t have WMDs, but what if our next President accidentally lies us into attacking someone who does?
This brings up another Swiss policy: their President can’t launch wars by executive order. In theory, neither can ours, and we need to start applying that theory (and the rest of the rule of law) in practice again.
Face the Real Threat: Bankruptcy and Monetary Collapse
Our national-defense debate is taking place in Media Wonderland, where the US has infinite resources and there is no cost or consequence for any action. Back on Planet Earth, the US has an on-budget debt that is larger than our GDP… and we don’t count Social Security, Medicare, the prescription-drug benefit, or Federal Reserve bailouts. The head of the Dallas Federal Reserve estimated a few years ago that the real debt is over $100 trillion. Our huge “defense” budget is borrowed month by month from other more fiscally sound powers, hardly a stable situation.
If we eliminate corporate welfare and bailouts, get out of a few wars, reduce and redirect military spending to actual defense, and free the US economy to recover, the 21st Century could see the American Renaissance. Otherwise, our economy’s fall is inevitable, and all the King’s tanks and all the King’s planes won’t put it together again. An America involved in every conflict, with no resources to support any of them, is the nightmare from which only Ron Paul’s policy will wake us.