Amid Russia’s War, Some US Hawks Are Calling for Trillion-Dollar Military Budget

There is a growing number of pundits, policymakers, and other opinion leaders. suggested that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine marks the beginning of a new Cold War. If so, it is a sign of a new Cold War. trillionsIn the years to follow, additional dollars will be available for the Pentagon along with a more aggressive military. postureIn every corner of the planet.

Before this country succumbs to calls for a return to Cold War-style Pentagon spending, it’s important to note that the United States is AlreadySpending substantially moreIt did not at the heights the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Even before the invasion of Ukraine began, the Biden administration’s proposed Pentagon budget (as well as related work like nuclear-warhead development at the Department of Energy) was already guaranteed to soarPerhaps even higher, $800 billion2023 or more

Here’s the irony: going back to Cold War levels of Pentagon funding would mean reducing, not increasing spending. Of course, that’s anything but what the advocates of such military outlays had in mind, even before the present crisis.

In fact, some supporters of increased Pentagon spending have been encouraging figures as amazing as they are absurd. Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National ReviewIs. advocatingA trillion-dollar budget for military operations, while Matthew Kroenig from the Atlantic Council called forThe United States must prepare for simultaneous wars against Russia, China. He even suggested that Congress “could go so far as to double its defense spending” without straining our resources. This would translate into a proposedAnnual defense budget of approximately $1.6 trillion. Neither of those astronomical figures is likely to be implemented soon, but that they’re being talked about at all is indicative of where the Washington debate on Pentagon spending is heading in the wake of the Ukraine disaster.

Ex-government officials demand similarly large military budgets. Former Reagan-era State Department official Iran-Contra operative Elliott Abrams arguedA recent Foreign Affairs piece titled “The New Cold War”: “It should be crystal clear now that a larger percentage of GDP [gross domestic product] will need to be spent on defense.” Similarly, in a Washington Post op-ed, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates insisted that “we need a larger, more advanced military in every branch, taking full advantage of new technologies to fight in new ways.” No matter that the U.S. already outspendsChina won by a margin of three to one, while Russia was beaten by ten to one.

Truth be told, the Pentagon’s current spending levels could be lower. easily accommodateEven a robust program of arming Ukraine, as well as the transfer of more U.S. forces to Eastern Europe, is not enough. However, as hawkish voices exploit the Russian invasion to justify higher military budgets, don’t expect that sort of information to get much traction. Realist views will prevail over the cries of those who want more.

A new Cold War could have disastrous consequences beyond the risk of breaking the budget, siphoning resources needed to address urgent challenges like climate change, pandemics, and racial injustice. This would allow the U.S. to launch more military initiatives while also embracing international norms. unsavory alliesIn the name of fighting off Chinese and Russian influence.

The first Cold War was not only a war in Europe but also internationally. Washington supported authoritarian regimes around the world and insurgencies worldwide. millions of lives. Such brutal military misadventures included Washington’s role in coups in Iran, Guatemala, and Chile; the war in Vietnam; and support for repressive governments and proxy forces in Afghanistan, Angola, Central America, and Indonesia. All of these were justified. exaggerated — even at times fabricated — charges of Soviet involvement in such countries and the supposed need to defend “the free world,” a Cold War term President Biden all-too-ominously revivedHis recent State of the Union address was, as it is assumed, another sign of things ahead.

Indeed, his framing of the current global struggle as one between “democracies and autocracies” has a distinctly Cold War ring to it and, like the term “free world,” it’s riddled with contradictions. Remember, the world is not just between democracies and autocracies. EgyptTo Saudi ArabiaThe United Arab EmiratesTo the PhilippinesToo many autocracies, dictatorships, and repressive regimes have already received this recognition. ample amounts of U.S. weaponry and military training — no matter that they continue to pursue reckless warsThey systematically or repeatedly violate the human rights and freedoms of their own people. Washington’s support is always premised on the role such regimes supposedly play in fighting against or containing the threats of the moment, whether Iran, China, Russia, or some other country.

One thing is certain: The heightened. rhetoric about Russia and China seeking to undermine American influence will only reinforce Washington’s support for repressive regimes. The consequences could be disastrous.

Before Washington embarks on a new Cold War, it’s time to remind ourselves of the global consequences of the last one.

Cold War I: The Coups

Dwight D. Eisenhower, often referred to as the president who “succeeded” is often praised. endedThe Korean War and spoke out The military-industrial complex is to be resisted. However, he also helped to sow the seeds of instability in the world by supervising the launch of coups against nations that were allegedly moving towards communism and even building closer relations with Russia.

In 1953, with Eisenhower’s approval, the CIA instigated A coup that led to the overthrow Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeqh. The CIA published a document now declassified. cited the Cold War and the risks of leaving Iran “open to Soviet aggression” as rationales for their actions. The coup installedReza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, initiated 26 years of repressive government. set the stageAyatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s 1979 Iranian revolution.

1954: The Eisenhower administration launched a coup. overthrewGuatemalan government of President Jacobo Arbenz. His “crime”: attempting to redistributePoor peasants could have access to lands owned by major landlords including the U.S-based United Fruit Company. Arbenz’s internal reforms were falsely labeled communism-in-the-making and a case of Soviet influence creeping into the Western Hemisphere. The Eisenhower administration didn’t mention it. close tiesBetween the United Fruit Company, both CIA Director Allen Dulles, and his brother Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. With the four decades that would follow, such U.S. intervention into Guatemala would prove disastrous. consumedby a civil war that claimed the lives of up to 200,000 people.

In 1973, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger followed Eisenhower’s playbook by fomenting a coupSalvador Allende was overthrown by the socialist government elected democratically in Chile, and the new president was installed. vicious dictatorshipGeneral Augusto Pinochet. Partly, this coup was achieved through economic warfare — “making the economy scream,” as Secretary of State Henry Kissinger put it — and partly thanks toCIA-backed bribes, assassinations to support right-wing factions in the country. Kissinger would have to justify the coup. led to Tens of thousands Chileans have been tortured, jailed, and even killed. this way: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”

Vietnam and its Legacy

The U.S. disastrous intervention in Vietnam was the most horrific example of a Cold War war that was justified on anti-communist grounds. It would result in the deployment of more than half a million American troopsThe dropping of a greater tonnage There were more bombs than the U.S. used during World War II. defoliationLarge parts of the countryside in Vietnam are covered by the massacreMy Lai and many other villages, the deaths 58,000U.S. troops, up to 2 million Vietnamese civilians — all while Washington systematically lied to the American public about the war’s “progress.”

The U.S. involvement with Vietnam began during the administrations Harry Truman (and Eisenhower), when Washington was still in power. bankrolledThe French colonial effort to subdue an independent movement. After a devastating French catastrophe defeat1954, Dien Bien Phu was the place where the U.S. invaded. counterinsurgency effortsJohn F. Kennedy’s administration was the one who championed them. Finally, President Lyndon Johnson Washington launchedA complete invasion and bombing campaign.

The conflict in Vietnam would not only be an international crime, but it would also prove to have been a Cold War tradition for Washington. There’s no question that independence leader Ho Chi Minh would have wonThe 1954 Geneva Accords, which followed the French defeat, called for a nationwide election. Instead, the Eisenhower administration, gripped by what was then called the “domino theory” — the idea that the victory of communism anywhere would lead other countries to fall like so many dominos to the influence of the Soviet Union — sustained an undemocratic right-wing regime in South Vietnam.

In fact, a distant war would spark a growing antiwar movement in this country and lead to what became known as the “Vietnam Syndrome,” a public resistance to military intervention globally. Although this meant a greater reliance upon the CIA, it also helped to keep the U.S. away from large-scale boots on the ground conflicts until 1991’s Persian Gulf War. Instead, the post-Vietnam “way of war” would be marked by a series of U.S.-backed proxy conflicts abroad and the widespread arming of repressive regimes.

The defeat in Vietnam was a catalyst for the creation of what was known as the Nixon DoctrineIt favored the arming of American surrogates such as the Shah of Iran or the Suharto regime of Indonesia, and eschewed large scale intervention. Those two autocrats typically repressed their own citizens, while trying to extinguish people’s movements in their regions. Suharto was the one who oversaw Indonesian affairs. brutal warEast Timor greenlightedNixon administration.

“Freedom Fighters”

His administration began to support groups that he had infamously supported after Ronald Reagan was elected President in 1981. called “freedom fighters.” Those ranged from extremist mujahideenAfghanistan: Fighters against the Soviets Jonas Savimbi’sForces in Angola to Nicaragua Contras. These countries would be devastated if the U.S. funds and arms these groups, setting the stage to a new generation corrupt regimes. arming and trainingIndividuals who would like to be members of al-Qaeda.

The ContrasWere an armed right-wing rebel group that was cobbled together, funded and supplied by the CIA. Americas Watch accusedThey were convicted of rape, torture and execution of civilians. The 1984 Congress passed a law that prohibited the Reagan administration funding them. Boland amendment(named for Edward Boland, Massachusetts Democratic Representative). Officials from the administration sought a workaround. Lieutenant Colonel was ultimately elected. Oliver NorthMarine and National Security Council member, he would devise an elaborate scheme to supply arms Iran, while funneling the excess profits from weapons sales to the Contras. The episode was known as the Iran-Contra scandal and demonstrated the lengths to which zealous Cold Warriors would go to support even the worst actors as long as they were on the “right side” (in every sense) of the Cold War struggle.

Chief among this country’s blunders of that previous Cold War era was its response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, a policy that still haunts America today. President Jimmy Carter’s administration stepped up weapons transfers through a response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. covert arms pipelineA loose network of opposition fighters known as “the mujahideen. President Reagan doubled downYou can even get support from such people. meeting withThe leaders of mujahideen1983. Groups in the Oval Office. This relationship would prove disastrous as Afghanistan fell into civil war after the Soviet Union retreated. Some of those Reagan had praised as “freedom fighters” helped formal-Qaeda, and later the Taliban. The U.S. did not create the Taliban. mujahideenAfghanistan does not bear any responsibility for the events that followed in Afghanistan.

As the Biden administration moves to operationalize its policy of democracy versus autocracy, it should take a close look at the Cold War policy of attempting to expand the boundaries of the “free world.” A study by political scientists Alexander Downes and Jonathon Monten foundOnly three of the 28 cases of American regime changes would be successful in building a lasting democracy. Instead, most of the Cold War policies outlined above, even though carried out under the rubric of promoting “freedom” in “the free world,” would undermine democracy in a disastrous fashion.

A New Cold War?

Cold War II, if it happens, is unlikely that it will follow the same pattern of Cold War I in Europe and other parts of the globe. Still, the damage done by the “good versus evil” worldview that animated Washington’s policies during the Cold War years should be a cautionary tale. The risk is high that the emerging era could be marked by persistent U.S. intervention or interference in Africa, Asia, and Latin America in the name of staving off Russian and Chinese influence in a world where Washington’s disastrous war on terrorism has never quite ended.

Already, the United States has more than 200,000 troopsStationed abroad 750 military basesThere are still counterterrorism operations underway on every continent, except Antarctica. 85 countries. The dramatic end of U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan and the beginning of a new era scaling backThe American operations in Iraq/Syria should have signaled the start of a sharp reduction of U.S. military presence elsewhere in the Middle East. Washington’s reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine may now stand in the way of just such a much-needed military retrenchment.

The “us versus them” rhetoric and global military maneuvering likely to play out in the years to come threaten to divert attention and resources from the biggest risks to humanity, including the existential threat posed by climate change. It also may divert attention from a country — ours — that is threatening to come apart at the seams. It is foolish to choose this moment to start a new Cold War. This does not mean that you are incapable of learning from history.