Despite White House claims, our ‘military superiority’ is clear

Gary Cohn, the chief White House economics advisor, recently talked to Fox News’ Chris Wallace about Donald Trump’s budget priorities. The host asked about why the administration believes it’s necessary to increase defense spending by $54 billion.

“Unfortunately,” Cohn said, “we have no alternative but to reinvest in our military and make ourselves a military power once again.”

It was a bizarre answer predicated on the idea that the United States is not already the preeminent global military power.

The evidence, meanwhile, couldn’t be much clearer. The New York Times published a helpful piece today providing necessary context to international defense spending, noting that after the United States, the seven countries that invest the most in every year in their armed forces – China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Great Britain, France, India, and Japan – combined spend about $514 billion. The United States, meanwhile, spends $596 billion.

Using the New York Times’ data, I put together the above chart to help drive the point home.

From the White House’s perspective, however, if we fail to increase defense spending by $54 billion – a sum that would surpass what France, India, and Japan spend in a year – we won’t be “a military power.”

That’s bonkers.

What’s more, it’s not altogether clear why, exactly, Trump and his team believe this increase would make anyone any safer. The Times’ report added, “Past administrations have increased military spending, but typically to fulfill a specific mission. Jimmy Carter expanded operations in the Persian Gulf. Ronald Reagan pursued an arms race with the Soviet Union, and George W. Bush waged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Trump, however, has called for a massive defense buildup simply for the sake of having a defense buildup, without the benefit of a policy rationale.

Erin Simpson, a national security consultant, told the Times that Trump’s plans appear to be “a budget in search of a strategy.”