- The United States spends nearly as much on military power as every other country in the world combined.
- The United States maintains troops at more than 560 bases and other sites in other countries.
- After the first gulf war, the United States retained bases in Saudi Arabia on the assumption that they would enhance American security. Instead, they appear to have provoked fundamentalists like Osama bin Laden into attacking the U.S.
- American troops in Afghanistan are among the strongest advocates of investing more in schools there because they see firsthand that education fights extremism far more effectively than bombs. And here’s the trade-off: For the cost of one American soldier in Afghanistan for one year, you could build about 20 schools.
Kristof cites Andrew Bacevich, Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War. Bacevich is wise in calling for less war, but, I think, too ready, with no evidence, to ascribe motives of honest belief and sincerity to Bush, and of insincerity to Obama. I know of no evidence Bush ever honestly believed in anything other than helping Bush get his. I no of no evidence Obama doesn't, by whatever dim, distorted light he sees, somehow honestly think the current fiasco is the best he can achieve. Their thoughts are known only to them. The fact is, Obama has increased war spending beyond even Bush's level. (McCain no doubt would've done as bad or worse.)
It's curious that commentators, including Kristof, who point out the absurdity of military spending, are quick to insist that the U.S. must stand ready to assert hegemony everywhere. After all, if we cease to occupy, say, Asia, it'll fall into the hands of, well, Asians. Such commentators content themselves with a cry to save some money--say by having a smaller marching band.
The reality is, we can never control the world, or Asia, or Afghanistan, or Iraq. Asia will be dominated by Asians, and our choice is to recognize it before, or after we waste thousands more American lives, tens of thousands more Asian lives, make hundreds of thousands more enemies, and waste hundreds of billions more dollars.