Military spending in the U.S is to a large extent determined by public opinion. In the U.S, the democrats and republicans always differ on whether military spending should increase or decrease. A majority of the Republicans has been always in support of increasing the military spending. On the contrary, the Democrats support a reduction in military spending. However, the security situation will also have an effect on people’s opinions. From 2001-2011, the military spending has been on the rise, owing to the terrorist attacks and the presence of the military in Iraq and Iraq. The withdrawal of the military has contributed to the current reduction in the military spending. The essay will focus on the influence of public opinion on military spending for the past 15 years.
The amount of money spent in the military determines the military strength of any nation. The high spending allows for the modernization of the force, and acquisition of the highly efficient and technologically advanced weapons. Further, as the spending increases, the military size also increases. In the United States, both the democrats and republicans agree that the strength of the U.S military is imperative for security reasons and a pursuit of the country’s interests. A Gallup study conducted in 2014 indicated that 57% of the Republicans and 58% of the Democrats perceived the U.S military to be the strongest in the world (Newport, 2).
There is a correlation between the citizens’ perception and military spending. However, it is worth noting that there is a difference in opinion between the democrats and republicans when it comes to military spending. For a long time, the Republicans have favored an increase in the military spending, arguing that the current downward trend in spending will have a devastating effect on the U.S., for instance, the Republicans argue that by reducing the military spending, thousands of professionals will lose jobs. On the flip side, the Democrats argue that the government spending on the military has been very high, hence the need to cut down.
The public opinion on military spending may change from time to time depending on the prevailing situations. This may include whether the United States is facing any external threats or not. For instance, U.S military spending between 2001 and 2010 has been on the rise, shown in diagram 1. The increase in the military spending was attributed to be a response to the 9/11 terrorist attack. During this period, both the republicans and the democrats felt that the government needed to reinforce the military to overcome the challenge of future attacks. Between the years 2001 and 2011, the United States was involved in major operations, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. For this reason, it was necessary for the United States to have a stronger military. More sophisticated weapons and manpower were required to have an army that can fight aboard and also maintains peace within the borders of the United States. The military spending rose to more than $620 billion dollars in 2010, from about $400 billion dollars in 2001. The war on terrorism has also been one of the contributing factors to the increase in military spending. This owes to the fact that the U.S also supports the global war on terror. It supports many countries, such as Egypt, Kenya, Afghanistan, Iraq, among others, who are also facing the danger of terrorism attacks.
From diagram 1, it is apparent that the military spending has been falling from 2011-2015. The fall in the military spending has two main explanations. Firstly, the United States Army began withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan after operations that lasted several years. The withdrawal of the military meant that the country did not need to increase the size of its military or the weaponry. Secondly, upon his election as the president of the United States, Obama had a plan of cutting down the military spending. Obama is also supported by a significant number if the Americans, especially the Democrats, who think that the country has been spending too much on the military. In diagram 2, a Gallup survey (2014) established that a majority of the people did not favor the increase in military spending. In 2014, about 38% of the U.S citizens, a majority of them being Democrats, felt that the military spending was still very high. On the other hand, about 28% felt that the government spending was too little.
Diagram 1: US military spending
Diagram 2: A Gallup Survey on whether the government spends too much or too little on military 8
From diagram 1 and 2, it is apparent that the public opinion influences the military spending in the U.S. From 2011, the public opinion has been in support of reduced spending on the military. This period has witnessed a sharp fall in the military spending, supporting the fact that the United States citizens have the power to influence the military spending.
The U.S government has been criticized, mostly by the Republicans for the downward trend in the military spending. Apart from the fear of job losses in the military, those opposed to a reduction in military spending indicate that the U.S will lose the competitive edge (Walker, 5). The power of influence at the international level will fall. For instance, while the United States continues to reduce its military spending, countries such as Russia, China, and India have been modernizing their militaries and increasing the size of their armies. Both Russia and China have the largest sizes of militaries in the world, a situation that makes most of the Republicans to think that the country is not heading in the right direction. As indicated above, military strength is a source of national pride and an instrument of influence. The United States has remained a superpower partly because of the strength of its military. The question is whether this will status will change with the significant current change in the military spending.
Change after next election
From the above discussion, the military spending is influenced by the people and also the prevailing security situation in the world. In further, the military spending will also be influenced by two main forces. Firstly is whether the election will be won by the democrats or the republicans. If the Republicans win, then the military spending will be on the rise. The Republicans have always supported an increase in military spending. On the contrary, the military spending is likely to continue falling should the Democrats clinch into power. As aforementioned, the Democrats think that the government has been spending too much money on the military, hence the need to address the issue. The support for reduction will also depend on the further withdrawal of the U.S forces from the Middle East. On the other hand, the military spending is likely to begin rising, should the United States decide to send her troops to countries such as Syria and Iraq. The two countries are still fighting to eliminate the ISIS militants. The volatile situation in both Syria and Iraq is creating a favorable environment for the terrorists to thrive. As a result, terrorist attacks have gone up significantly in most parts of the world, including the recent one in France. Apart from terrorism, violation of human rights has been on the rise, especially in Syria due to lack of a functioning government and the control of terrorists. The abuse of human rights led to the rise in the number of migrants in the Europe. The situation is exerting a lot of pressure on the available resources and also posing security threats. If these situations continue, many innocent people will suffer, and the global security will be at risk. As a result, the U.S is likely to respond in the same manner it did in the war against Al Qaeda and Taliban. Any attempt by the government to send the military to Syria and Iraq will lead to an increase in military spending.
In conclusion, the public opinion has the power to influence the military spending in the United States. For the last 15 years, the public opinion has influenced the military spending. From 2001-2011, the military spending has been high, a situation that has been attributed to the rise in terrorism activities. However, from 2011-15, the military spending has been decreasing, firstly because a majority of the people are in support of it and the withdrawal of the U.S military in Iraq and the Afghanistan. In future, the opinion on whether the increase the military spending will be determined by the public opinion and the security threats. If the Republicans come into power, then it is highly likely that the military spending will rise. On the contrary, should the Democrats win the election, and the security situation remains stable, the downward trend in military spending will continue.
Newport, F. Americans Remain Divided on Military Spending retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/167648/americans-remain-divided-military-spending.aspx 2015
Walker, D. Trends in U.S. Military Spending retrieved from http://www.cfr.org/defense-budget/trends-us-military-spending/p28855 2015
Gallup poll. Democratic Views on Military Spending, Social Security, 2015.
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