While DC continues to whip itself into a frenzy over the Flynn fallout, the White House bucks against decades of mideast policy, officials talk of sending troops into Syria, Trump’s cabinet starts to fall apart and Russian spy ships hang out off the coast of Connecticut, there’s a notable development over in Brussels.
Today, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a threat to fellow NATO members about them paying more of their share to be part of the alliance. He said that if they don’t, the US would consider scaling back their involvement – which would strike a major blow to the perception of the collective security it exists for. This rhetoric is in line with the sort of things that Trump campaigned on, as well as in line with his America First/MAGA vibe, so this posturing doesn’t come as that big of a surprise. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a big deal.
While NATO guidelines stipulate that all member countries countries spend a minimum of 2% of their GDP on military, only 5 of the 28 actually hit this mark. The US is the highest at around 3.6%. In 2016 this was about $660 billion. To simplify that for us common folk, that’s 660,000 million one dollar bills.
This should cause concern because it doesn’t even mean that we would be spending less than what we pay now if more countries hit their marks. It’s all additive. This is because another aspect of Trump’s platform is that we need to dramatically increase our military spending. Because somehow spending more than the next seven countries do on defense is not nearly enough.
And while this jibes with the GOP’s recent “defense spending is good no matter what” policy, it’s also going to bump up against the Tea Party faction’s more recent “let’s cut as much money as possible so taxes can be reduced to zero” policy. With Trump’s naive desire to massively invest in infrastructure, build up the military and pay for a dumb wall – all while cutting taxes – this basically means that the GOP will soon be going to war with themselves over this defense spending blitz, splintering the current tenuous unity that they have. And when Trump’s most likely ally in this fight will be Lindsey Graham, one half of the only republican duo in the Senate to stand up to him on any sort of sustained basis, the reality of this gets even more messy.
And on the increased militarization note before, if all of these NATOers do get up to 2% (or even increase at all), that will be a HUGE increase in global defense spending. With 7 of the world’s 10 largest defense firms based in the US, who do you think will be minting money from these sales? It will be people like Mattis, who while testifying to Congress in 2015 while a director for General Dynamics, said that “no foe in the field can wreak such havoc on our security that mindless sequestration is achieving.” Keep in mind sequestration in this case is just a fancy term for ‘caps on defense spending.’
Meanwhile, 1 in 8 American households are food insecure. Whatta country.