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Taking Aim at Military Spending: Can Deficit Hawks Cut the Fat?

August 3, 2010, 3:21 pm | Posted by John Gehring

Peace and justice activists from diverse religious traditions have decried bloated military budgets for decades. Now it seems their prophetic witness is picking up some traction in Washington. The National Catholic Reporter has an important front page story looking at this development.

As Capitol Hill is consumed by a fierce and often fact-free debate over our growing national debt, two public officials have forged an unlikely partnership. Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas), are calling for “substantial reductions in the projected level of American military spending as part of future deficit reduction efforts.” The subject of military spending “has been glaringly absent from public debate,” they wrote in a recent statement. “Yet the Pentagon budget for 2010 is $693 billion — more than all other discretionary spending programs combined.”

David Robinson, Executive Director of Pax Christi USA, the leading national Catholic peace group, thinks it’s about time deficit hawks start applying common sense to this issue.

“The deficit is going to be the battleground, budget-wise, in Congress for the next 18 months, and having the wisdom to include defense spending is going to be critical,” he told NCR. Deficit reduction measures normally fall hardest “on the poor and vulnerable,” Robinson said, “and people hurting now are going to be hurt further if military spending is not folded into the deficit reduction debate. By introducing defense spending — which I would argue is the real culprit behind deficit spending — poor people will take less of a hit.”

For those tempted to dismiss these arguments as mere peacenik propaganda, remember it was Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in World War II, who in 1961 presciently warned about the growing dangers of a “military industrial complex.” Recently, even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has spoken out against excessive spending on unnecessary weapons systems and Andrew Bacevich, a professor of international relations at Boston University and retired U.S. Army Colonel, has emerged as a trenchant critic of how Democrats and Republicans alike have eagerly fed the machinery of war with a remarkably bipartisan spirit. His most recent book is aptly titled: “Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.” Check him out on the Rachel Maddow Show last night:

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