Magazine article U.S. Catholic

There's No Defense for This Budget: America's Empire Has Been Detailed for Years in Annual Military Spending Requests. (Margin Notes)

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

There's No Defense for This Budget: America's Empire Has Been Detailed for Years in Annual Military Spending Requests. (Margin Notes)

Article excerpt

WATCHING THE AMERICAN IMPERIAL MAP MOVE IN recent months from policy-wonk insinuation to boldly declaimed official policy, many folks may themselves wondering how the U.S. ever got to this unexpected moment in world history. The traumatic events of September 11 certainly altered America's historical trajectory, but there's plenty of evidence that the war on Iraq and the empire-building militarism that apparently will categorize this era of U.S. history were predetermined long before that awful date.

Many of the president's people busily carving out a place in imperial history alongside Spain, Great Britain, and the Aztecs have been dedicated to a vision of a more muscular America for more than a decade. That we've settled onto our ill-fitting imperial throne with little-to-no public debate on the moral and practical implications of empire is only one of the troubling aspects of this new political reality.

Still the new American empire probably wasn't news to everybody. Anyone capable of wading through the phone book known as the federal budget has probably known about the impending empire at least since that political nanosecond of opportunity between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the war on terror. It was on display in page after vision-blurring page of the annual defense budget.

No one who has followed its course over the past decades could have misunderstood where the ever-expanding defense spending was taking the nation. Eisenhower critiqued it; Jimmy Carter couldn't rein it in; the end of the Cold War couldn't stop it; the war on terror has propelled it further.

The United States spent more than the next 20 or so top defense spenders in the world combined last year, and we'll spend still more next year. That kind of commitment and the sacrifice of scarce federal resources it requires indisputably make the U.S. the world's mightiest military power, but it doesn't make the U.S. the world's most moral power or wise power or economically stable power.

The defense budget is the best-fed kid in a hungry house hold. The biggest problem in that house is not that the other kids--education, health care, infrastructure, secure ports and borders--go wanting. …

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