COULD a reduction in defence spending be sold successfully to the US public...

Looking at this thread discussing the cutting US defence spending, I got to wondering…

Say a president decided he wanted to greatly reduce the money spent on defence, firstly, how long do you think he would remain as president? Would the military Industrial complex, not to mention CIA / NSA etc… have more than words to say at anyone attempting to gut their programs? ( okay, a little bit of conspiracy theory caper to start us off, eh? :slight_smile: )

But more seriously, could such a major cutback actually be sold to the electorate in a manner to make it convincing, acceptable and agreeable, or would there be two vastly strong competing ‘propaganda’ machines taking opposite sides of the proposal and leaving the president facing incredible opposition and a very tough sell…

On one hand:
Huge tax cuts for you all; smaller government just like you wanted; far less serviceman deaths; a chance to pay down the national debt quicker, leading to a greater standard of life for all citizens at home… etc…


On the other:
Special interests leading the charge for the status quo – it’ll bring massive job losses; base closures destroying towns and local communities; military units and traditions eroded; bogeyman fears that we’ll all be speaking Russian / Chinese in 10 years without this spending to protect our interests etc…

In short, even if the will was there, could it be done? Which argument would be the most convincing to the current electorate? Would this even split along established party lines, or would there be dissent from all quarters? Thanks.

I don’t support drastic cuts, but I think there is room for some reduction in military spending, and the public will accept it. I’d start by ending the war in Afghanistan.

It’s a good moment in history for it.

With a Dem in power (the theoretically “less hawkish” party, historically speaking,) a reactive Republican party (who are now all singing “where have all the flowers gone,” etc.,) and an economic downturn of historic proportions, the time is as perfect as it has ever been to bring U.S. military expenditures into line with the remainder of the world. We could statutorily mandate that it must remain double our nearest competitor, and still deeply cut the budget.

Popular sentiment would get you there, in the absence of the lobbyists.

It would be interesting to see someone try it. :smiley:

I don’t see a large cut in domestic military spending ever not being political suicide, there are too many jobs either in that field or enabled by that field (whole towns are built on the back of one mid-range military base !) ; but there might be some traction to be found reducing US presence abroad.

Couch it in eco-xenophobic rhetoric (“Sailors on shore leave are spending good American dollars in foreign economies !”, “Why should your tax moneys prop up South Korea ? What have they done for us lately ? Isn’t it time they learnt to pull themselves by their bootstraps and not rely on our government handouts ?”) and you might even get the Tea Party hurr-durr ARE TROOPS fringe to not only go along with it, but lobby *for *it.

Throw in some neo-isolationism and scorn for Europeans who’ve created their own economic mess (“We saved them twice, in 1918 and 1945, enough is enough!”) and that’d help ease out of NATO commitments, I bet.

Of course, the first things to get scaled back are military bases and industries in states that have solidly voted for the opposing party.

Probably 8 years. Clinton continued the defense budget cuts started by George H.W. Bush, requesting less for defense in five of his eight budget proposals. Two of those proposals were pretty close to freezes, and there was one budget increase. Overall, the defense budget declined by roughly a third if inflation is factored in over his eight years.

The fiscal benefits mentioned here are exaggerated. We could cut annual defense spending by hundreds of billions of dollars and we’d still most likely see deficits for many years. Cuts to defense will not mean more tax cuts (that’s a pretty stupid thing to promise right now anyway), we are not paying down the debt at all because it would still be growing, and the level of debt has minimal impact on people’s lives… until the whole system crashes, more or less.

The best argument for cutting the defense budget is that we simply do not need to be spending so much money on defense when the wars are winding down. IMHO, this should be more than just cutting out war spending, as there needs to be a look at a lot of the expensive weapons systems and the way the military does business, if for no other reason than to make things more efficient. But i don’t agree with a wholesale change in our national security strategy that would make the US less influential simply in order to save money, which is what some people who are talking about large cuts to defense may advocate.

I wasn’t necessarily suggesting that the opposing sides in the hypothetical would both have strong, coherent positions, only that one or other may be an easier ‘sell’ than the other - I would think the ‘idea’ of cutting government spending and (potentially) offering a saving on the average person’s tax burden would be a decent selling point, whether practical and realistic or not.
I’m more curious as to how it would potentially break down in political circles - both sides of the hypothetical seem to be the typical domain of conservatism, at first glance* ( & very generally speaking):

lower taxes (maybe); less government spending; fiscally responsible choice; no government subsidy of jobs that are no longer needed even if they are defence related;
maintain status quo; military spending creates innovation and pro-corporate spending leads to a trickle-down economics uplift (maybe) and technological development and superiority (internet / GPS etc…); retention of a strong national defence; support for troops;

  • This may be way off-base here, on all counts.; I’ve not exactly got a fully coherent position as yet.

PS - the first paragraph was more of a joke - an allusion to “Seven days in May” or other similar movies… ( or even the book I read & mentioned in this OP)

There’s a con you missed, which is that technology must continue advancing even if we’re not fighting a war. The massive defense R&D budgets of the Eisenhower years, combined with information sharing with the British and other allies, and strip-mining Nazi research, gained us a technological edge that we never lost.

As Ravenman pointed out, we did have a prolonged period of defense spending reductions following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The military industrial complex either sat back and let it happen or didn’t have as much influence as people thought.