U.S. Domestic and National Security Agendas: Into the Twenty-First Century

By Richard E. Friedman; Sam C. Sarkesian et al. | Go to book overview

4
The American Economy, the Defense Budget, and National Security

Stephen Daggett

"[A] foreign policy," wrote Walter Lippmann in 1943, "consists in bringing into balance, with a comfortable surplus of power in reserve, the nation's commitments and the nation's power. The constant preoccupation of the true statesman is to achieve and maintain this balance."1 Such a preoccucpation has been at the center of debate over U.S. national security policy ever since. At times, the governing view of the balance between American power and commitments has been rather expansive--during the Kennedy years, for example, and through most of the first Reagan term. At other times, the nation's leaders have felt constrained to adjust policy to limited resources--in the Eisenhower era, for example, when the President feared that too heavy a military burden would weaken the economy, and, for different, political as well as economic, reasons, following the Vietnam War.

Occasionally, confidence in America's ability to lead the world has been a major issue in presidential campaigns; it may have been a factor in reshaping popular perceptions of the two political parties in 1960 and, especially, in 1980. Moreover, the balance between resources for commitments abroad and funding for domestic needs has often been a matter of intense debate both within Congress and between a Congress attuned to the needs of constituents at home and an Executive with greater constitutional responsibilities in foreign affairs. Samuel Huntington recognized the complexity of military policy-making. Writing more than thirty years ago, he concluded:

The most distinctive, the most fascinating, and the most troublesome aspect of military policy is its Janus-like quality. Indeed, military policy not only faces in two directions, it exists in two worlds. One is international politics, the world of the balance of power, wars and alliances, the subtle and the brutal uses of force and diplomacy to influence the behavior of other states. The principal currency of this world is actual or potential military strength. . . . The other world is domestic politics,

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