The Troops and the Military
Especially when it means cutting programs that veterans actually use, increasing defense spending does little for the troops.
By Liam Chan Hodges, Franklin and Marshall College
On the heels of Memorial Day weekend, it is especially important to remember those men and women in uniform who sacrificed so much to uphold and defend American democracy.
However, the holiday is also a time to focus on what it means to be truly patriotic, and what role the American military plays in patriotism. In American politics, it is hard, if not impossible, to criticize our military. The American public struggles to separate support for our troops from support for the overarching actions of the institution that is the American military machine itself. Thus, time and time again, few stand in protest when our military’s budget is raised to exceeding heights, for fear of appearing to be unpatriotic.
Nonetheless, Americans need to realize that patriotism has as much to do with protecting American citizens at home, as it does with planting the stars and stripes overseas. Nationalism and imperialism are no longer trendy, and to continue to associate such archaic ideas with the devotion to one’s country not only fails to produce progress, it actually hinders it.
Yet, the 45th president of the United States has taken it upon himself to raise our military’s budget once again, while simultaneously slashing programs that keep Americans safe. How patriotic is it to leave millions of Americans high and dry without health care? How patriotic is it to slash the budget of the EPA, an agency whose job it is to keep safe the land on which our nation was built? Or cut back on welfare and food stamps for the people who need it most? It is safe to say that these things, which cause great harm to Americans, ought to be considered unpatriotic. Yet these are the suggestions that President Donald Trump has proposed alongside his hike in military spending for this nation’s budget in the upcoming years.
Trump wants to increase military spending an inconceivable $469 billion through 2027. Now, to be fair, modern weapons are by no means cheap. Tomahawk cruise missiles cost $1.4 million apiece, the F-22 Raptor fighter jet costs $412 million apiece and Littoral Combat Ships costs nearly $362 million apiece. When faced with such extreme price tags, perhaps such a budget hike can be justified in order to keep up with other country’s militaries and preserve our nation’s security and sovereignty.
In spite of that, the American military is miles ahead of every other nation in terms of both spending and firepower; thus, such increases to the budget are more wasteful than anything else. In 2016, the United States of America spent a whopping $611.2 billion on its military. When we compare this figure to that of the world’s second highest spender, China, the difference is jaw dropping. China spends a third of what the United States does, coming in at $215.7 billion. The United States isn’t just winning the arms race, it’s a fucking blowout. Not only is China nowhere near catching us, we’re not at war with China. Nor are we at war with any of the countries that closely follow China on that list. In fact, we’re not at war at all. Instead, we are engaged in a few armed conflicts across the globe against terrorist cells whose most expensive weapons are IEDs and Ak47’s. Moreover, it is an absolute mystery to me as to why we continue to race for the ceiling, when the enemies of America, with whom we are engaged in conflict, rely upon weapons that their grandfathers obtained during the Cold War.
Therefore, I think that in the weeks following Memorial Day weekend, Americans should consider more patriotic ways in which the $469 billion that this nation’s president wants to flush away into tools of death, can be spent. Perhaps a portion of this insane sum of money could be put toward programs that ensure food for veterans and their families upon leaving the army. If only there was a program that ensured Americans who fell upon this category to had some sort of means of survival. Oh wait, that sounds like the welfare and food stamps that Trump wants to slash.
Maybe that $469 billion could be put toward helping veterans overcome injuries that they sustained in combat, as well as help them cope with mental trauma and PTSD. Although, with Trump and the Republican Congress working to do away with Obamacare, it may be harder for veterans to get the care they need. One would think that a country that claims to value its military would ensure that its troops would be taken care of upon their return home and after leaving the service. However, this administration seems to care more for missiles and jets than for the troops and vets.
Trump’s proposed budget changes may or may not come into existence, but the feasibility, or lack thereof, of the suggestions that he has made does not make such proposals any less terrifying or illogical. They are also, in my opinion, unpatriotic and at their core, un-American. Being a patriot is about putting the well being of America and of her people before personal interest. Trumps suggested budget, not only shies away from such patriotic ideals, but works directly against them.
So, in honor of Memorial Day, I ask that the American people consider whether or not they will remember President Donald Trump as an American patriot, because I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be quite the opposite.