Resolved: In order to better respond to international conflicts, the United States should significantly increase its military spending.
The Pro side of this debate is faced with justifying a significant increase in military spending and in the Introduction, I defined what is military spending which includes military personnel, weapons, and all the various items, facilities and services required to support them. It does not include care for veterans, cleanup costs from previous operations, demobilization and so on. Basically an increase in military spending is an increase in the capacity to defend from aggression, engage in war, or carry out military operations (even humanitarian operations) in regions experiencing conflict. Since the resolution states, in order to better respond to international conflicts, it is a matter of debate as to what constitutes international conflict. For example, the area in and around the South China Sea is hotly disputed by several nations including the U.S. but that may not be considered an international conflict by some definitions, so funding for regional military bases or arms may not be legitimate under the strictest interpretation of international conflict. To justify disagreements as conflicts, use and defend definitions which permit that interpretation. However, we can still take advantage of the fact the resolution does not qualify international conflicts as current or on-going. Some disputes are very likely to erupt into "hot" conflicts requiring military intervention and so we argue for increased military spending as a way to augment our readiness or defense posture as a hedge against future international conflict. Regardless, I think it would be difficult to completely separate the clause "In order to better respond to international conflicts" from the Pro advocacy. One may assume the Pro is advocating increased spending because our current level of spending is inadequate to properly respond to international conflicts and this describes the category of harms which needs solved. What I mean is, these conflicts will be or now are creating negative impacts for the United States. The USFG tends to evaluate the costs of conflicts in accordance with their impact on so-called national interests. National interests are just about anything the government considers as important to the security and well-being of the citizens of the U.S. or in keeping with a more "realist" view of the world, those things which impact the security of the government itself.
The U.S. Interests
The United States vital interests are those which preserve the security of the nation and protect the well-being of the people, not only from attack but from other kinds of harms such as economic instability or lack of access to markets, and reduction in needed resources. Threats against these interests are on the rise.
The first vital interest is the protection of America’s people and homeland. Threats against America’s people and homeland are rising, including from North Korean nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, attacks—direct and indirect—from ISIS, and nation-state sponsored cyber-attacks. Each of these requires a different set of responses, but all threaten the American people and homeland.
The second vital interest is the prevention of serious conflict in key regions of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, and to be able to win in war should a conflict arise in spite of preventive efforts. Threats in these regions are rising. Russia continues to threaten European stability. The Middle East faces a range of security threats. China and North Korea both pose threats in Asia. Preventing serious conflict in these regions, besides the obvious humanitarian reasons, is a major concern for the U.S. because major conflict in these regions has negative security and economic consequences for America.
The third vital interest is the protection of access to the global commons of sea, air, and space. The protection of these commons enables Americans, along with everyone else, to freely trade and transport goods and resources. The threat to the global commons is most easily seen at sea. A significant portion of global trade transits through key chokepoints like the Strait of Hormuz. Conflict in the South China Sea could pose a risk to the 25 percent of global trade that travels through that region. A threat to the global commons would cause significant economic damage and impact American citizens.
Many threats exist in the world today which are on the brink of hostilities. The current ability of the U.S. to respond to international conflicts has been hurt by spending cuts. The U.S. military has expressed concerned that the U.S. ability to respond is very low.
First, we live in a world of growing threats against U.S. vital interests. China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea are driving the details of the Pentagon’s latest defense budget proposal. In the 2016 Index of U.S. Military Strength, China, Russia, and Iran were assessed as being particularly aggressive against the interests of the United States, while North Korea was rated as downright hostile. Each of these countries is actively attempting to coerce and bully its neighboring nations, and they all pose high to severe threats to the United States and our interests.
Second, the U.S. military budget has been cut by 25 percent in the last five years. This has resulted in dramatic declines in the U.S. military’s ability to fight and win. Fifteen years of conflict and years of tight budgets have taken a grave toll, worsened by these budget cuts. Top military leaders have told Congress that their readiness is, as the vice chief of staff of the Air Force recently put it, “at a near all-time low due to continuous combat operations, reduced manpower, an aging fleet, and inconsistent funding.”
Third, a big part of why the U.S. maintains a large military is because we have learned that major conflict in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia can be devastating to our economy.
The U.S. national interests are protected by U.S. hegemony; the ability to influence and manage threats by the projection of military power when diplomatic initiatives fail. Current budgetary constraints are diminishing the U.S. capability to meet its military objectives which diminishes hegemony.
The U.S. military is charged with defending America’s vital interests, but according to the 2016 Index of U.S. Military Strength, it is having an increasingly more difficult time doing this. Sustained budget cuts and continued demand for forces have stretched the military thin. The U.S. can dissuade many of the threats it faces with other instrument of national power (e.g., diplomatic engagement or economic initiatives) and a credible ability to project military power. The current budget trajectory, however, is leading to a smaller and less capable military. In short, the U.S. will have less ability to deter potential adversaries or defeat them in battle should deterrence fail. Potential threats to U.S. vital interests are likely to become realities.
One expert explains the U.S. ability to respond to international threats and conflict requires a balance of personnel, equipment and training. History repeatedly affirms when the U.S. reduces military spending, world events can quickly turn against us and result in severe consequences.
Failure to maintain an appropriate balance among these dimensions during the current period of budgetary uncertainty will significantly degrade America’s ability to respond to threats to its interests. This can lead to major strategic setbacks and significant loss of life. The challenging balancing act requires wise and effective leadership across all defense-related institutions.
History repeatedly shows that unanticipated events often catch us by surprise and that as a nation, we have paid a high price in blood and treasure to compensate for our lack of preparedness. Lower levels of defense resourcing have not been the sole cause of unpreparedness. In many cases, there is an inability to answer the fundamental question of “what are we preparing to do?” Absent an effective answer that guides the allocation of resources, we can end up with forces that are inadequately manned, equipped, or trained to meet a comprehensive range of threats, some of them unanticipated.
The Spillover Effects
Left alone, international conflicts can present severe threats to neighboring countries and regions in which the U.S. holds vital interests. For example, we can look to the current Syrian Civil War as a perfect example of how an internal, political conflict has spilled-over and drawn-in neighbors and their allies. Thus the U.S. ability to respond to these conflicts before they spillover is crucial to protect or vital interests. The Syrian War has resulted in the spread of ideologies which spark wider conflict.
Young, et al (2014):
The spread of violent conflict is similar in many ways to the spread of an infectious disease, either within given cultures and populations or between them. Like a virus, extremist ideologies, ethnic sentiment, and religious anger know no boundaries. Refugee flows bring ideologies and transmit anger that radicalizes youth and neighboring populations who share lineage and language. Geography provides access and facilitates the further spread of these ideas along with the movement of people and weapons. The contagion can spread easily into the body of adjoining societies where conditions already may be fragile.
Diplomatic solutions alone, often fail and we have seen this already in Syria. Whether or not, lack of more overt U.S. involvement in the conflict could have prevented many the spillover effects in irrelevant. What is needed is now is intensified engagement by the U.S.
In political and security terms, the war’s spillover into neighboring countries and now into Europe can still get worse. Key states like Lebanon and Jordan are at risk of destabilization and/or extremist terrorism the longer the conflict goes on and the more of its consequences they must absorb. Turkey, as we know, has already suffered attacks by extremist groups. And the war has continued to be a powerful source of recruitment for extremists, drawing fighters and fellow travelers from around the world. ISIS and Al Qaeda feed on the civil conflict and the chaos on the ground is what gives them room to operate. It is indeed imperative that the United States remain engaged, and intensify its engagement as needed, to secure an end to the conflict as soon as possible.
Increasing our military presence in Syria can reduce casualties and avert the ongoing humanitarian crises. But even more importantly, a strong military presence in Syria could lead to another kind of spillover. A spillover in regional soft-power which restores U.S. regional influence.
Increased U.S. intervention would represent a useful reassertion of American power and engagement in the crisis, and it would achieve multiple humanitarian and strategic aims. At worst, the Syrian crisis would be as problematic as it is today, but there would be fewer civilian casualties, and the United States would gain leverage with its allies on other matters because of its beefed-up engagement in Syria. At best, a more aggressive U.S. effort in Syria would limit Russian overreach, increase the likelihood of a political solution, and roll back some of the destabilizing regional consequences of the Syrian implosion.
Even in failure, increased intervention would mark a correction of American policy in the Middle East, which today suffers from a credibility gap,1 driven by two mutually reinforcing mistakes: first, an over-eagerness to pull away from regional crises, even when those crises implicate core U.S. national security interests, and second, a major gap between rhetoric and practice. That disconnect was vividly displayed when President Obama disavowed his “red line” and backed off his threat to bomb Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons, and continues to characterize a White House that speaks constantly of disengagement while devoting the lion’s share of its foreign policy attention at the Middle East.
And the scope of U.S. military involvement around the world is much greater than you may be aware. Not all U.S. military interventions are openly reported by the news media. Awareness of this fact provides some understanding as to why budget reductions can increase the likelihood of conflicts and spillovers.
To be fair, defining U.S. “military involvement” is tricky, partly because there are many levels of engagement between no military involvement and full-scale invasion, and partly because so much of the U.S.’s military activity is done from the shadows. That’s why, in consultation with Anthony Cordesman at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Chris Harmer at the Institute for the Study of War, I’ve limited the definition of military involvement to countries that the United States is consistently bombing (overtly or covertly); where regular U.S. troops are engaged in combat; or where regular U.S. troops are providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in support of another military force that is engaged in combat. By that definition, the U.S. is currently fighting in roughly eight countries. (For sanity’s sake, my definition excludes special-operations forces; Ken McGraw, a spokesman for U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, told me in early February that special-operations personnel were deployed in 82 countries that week alone.)
Military Spending Solves
The credible projection of U.S. military power will make the world a safer place. It is vital for the U.S. to restore its position as a benevolent superpower.
America’s decade of largely hollow defense increases unfortunately has left the military unready for the multitude of challenges of the 21st century. The arsenal of new equipment acquired for counterinsurgency operations over the past decade would be critical in a future land engagement but is poorly suited for many other threats that may emerge in maritime or air-dominated domains.
As advanced technologies proliferate to other states and entities, America’s military edge is shrinking as many high-tech modernization programs are continuously foregone. As senior Air Force leaders have testified, “Legacy fourth-generation aircraft simply cannot survive to operate and achieve the effects necessary to win in an integrated, anti-access environment.”
The services need new and innovative solutions to defeat enemy air defenses and anti-access and area-denial technologies. Part of the solution is stealth, including the Air Force’s nascent new bomber and the fleet of F-22 fighters. Another part of the solution includes the integration of electronic, sensor, space and cyber attack capabilities. But whatever the solution or, more likely, the basket of solutions—it is wholly unaffordable under current budget projections.
The level of investment needed in order to finance a credible deterrent posture, maintain robust overseas presence, and at the same time invest in new capabilities that can survive in contested environments is incompatible with ongoing and projected cuts to defense spending. The U.S. simply cannot sustain a global military and superpower posture under current plans.
As the U.S. cuts budgets and pulls back from conflicts, the rest of the world is arming itself to the teeth in reaction to perceived global threats.
Global military spending has begun rising in real terms for the first time since the U.S. began its withdrawal of troops from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Defense budgets rose 1 percent to $1.68 trillion in 2015, making up about 2.3 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, Sipri said in a report Tuesday. While the U.S. spent the most at $596 billion, that was down 2.4 percent compared with 2014, while China’s outlay increased 7.4 percent to $215 billion.
Concern about a possible advance by Russia into North Atlantic Treaty Organization territory following the Crimea invasion and hostilities in east Ukraine led to a surge in spending in Eastern Europe, as Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea spurred arms purchases among Southeast Asian states.
By increasing U.S. military spending and reasserting the strategic dominance that a strong military posture provides, the rest of the world will feel more secure and disarmament will follow. This is reason enough to vote Pro.
Fu, et al (2013):
The result of fixed effect OLS of model 2 showed that both the lnGDP variable and the lnUSME variable have significantly positive influences, coefficient value 0.478, on military expenditure in the Asia-Pacific countries at the 10% significance level. A 1% increase in a country’s gross domestic product will correlate with its military expenditure increasing by 0.478% in order to protect its sovereignty; while an increase in U.S. military expenditure can significantly reduce every Asia-Pacific country’s military expenditure (the coefficient value of lnUSME is -0.307). The U.S. government offers beneficial security to Asia-Pacific countries; therefore, increased U.S. military expenditure reduces the military expenditure of Asia-Pacific countries.
For all these reasons and more, we urge a Pro ballot.
For links to the Intro and Con positions or for more information about Public Forum debate, click the Public Forum tab at the top of this page.
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