How the US is like North Korea
Much of North Korea’s population is starving, yet its government pours money into missile and nuclear programs. Such behavior seems to be the height of irrationality. But North Korea is only following the international community’s – especially America’s – example.
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In a speech yesterday, President Obama proposed additional cuts in national security spending of $400 billion over the next 12 years. The Pentagon and the Republican leadership are already pushing back, even though the numbers remain small. These proposed cuts would come from an overall national security budget of approximately $1 trillion a year – which includes portions of the budgets of Homeland Security, the State Department, intelligence services, and others. So in effect, the president is proposing only around a three percent cut, which still lets the Pentagon off easy.Skip to next paragraph
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Cut real fat, not community assistance
At a time of fiscal austerity, the US government should pause in its attacks on community services and low-income energy assistance to consider where the real fat can be cut. A recent Government Accountability Office audit reports as much as $70 billion in waste alone in the Pentagon budget.
The Sustainable Defense Task Force, convened by Rep. Barney Frank (D) of Massachusetts, recommended cuts totaling $1.1 trillion over the next decade. The task force achieved these savings by cutting unnecessary weapons systems (such as the V-22 Osprey), reducing the nuclear weapons program, and shrinking the overseas footprint of US military personnel in Europe and Asia.
We are all North Koreans now
North Korea justifies its military spending as a necessary precaution to deter the kind of military intervention that ousted Saddam Hussein and now threatens to unseat Muammar Qaddafi. For the North Korean regime, spending money on the military ensures its survival and protects the ruling elite.
The international community, on the other hand, faces overwhelming threats such as climate change, health pandemics, and nuclear proliferation. You can’t attack climate change with a fighter jet or stop the AIDS crisis with a submarine. These threats have become all the more dangerous during this last decade of massive increases in global military spending.
So, in the end, who is behaving irrationally? By lavishing precious funds on the military, we are all North Koreans now.
John Feffer is the co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. He helped organize the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (demilitarize.org) on April 12.