“Today with the signing of this defense bill,” US president Donald Trump said as he affixed his signature to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act on December 12, “we accelerate the process of fully restoring America’s military might.”
Is Trump truly under the mistaken impression that US military might is ailing? Or is he mindlessly aping Ronald Reagan and hoping it brings in the re-election votes? Or perhaps something else entirely?
The NDAA budgets nearly $700 billion for the US military next year. Despite its name, there’s precious little “defense” involved.
While it’s true that the United States is involved in several ongoing wars ($65.7 billion of the NDAA’s appropriations go to the “Overseas Contingency Fund” for continuing those wars), none of them serve any vital, let alone existential, US interest, and none of them are defensive in nature.
The US has no militarily significant adversaries in the western hemisphere. Further afield, it already floats by far the most powerful naval and expeditionary capability on Earth. Of the world’s 41 aircraft carriers, the US operates 20, including 11 flat-top “supercarriers.” The remaining 21 are scattered among the navies of 12 other countries, mostly US allies. America’s two most likely military adversaries, China and Russia, each operate one light STOBAR (“Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery”) carrier.
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