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We need smaller shoes

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By John Pawlak

 Early last year, the US military announced it was withdrawing 11,000 troops from Germany and Italy, as part of its strategic shift to annoying people in Afghanistan rather than in Europe.
This was euphemistically referred to as “downsizing our European footprint.”  European footprint.  That kind of sounds like the impression one makes with an overpriced ugly shoe, doesn’t it?
And perhaps that makes it the perfect metaphor to discuss America’s military presence in countries around the world.  It’s a big footprint.  
Our military feet are jammed in the doors of over 150 countries around the world.  Nearly 200,000 American troops “police” the world outside US territories.  This does not even include the huge numbers serving in embassies or those aboard naval ships.
More than 100,000 of those personnel are stationed in Germany, Japan, and South Korea.  WWII ended nearly 70 years ago, yet we still live in the past, patrolling those evil nations out there who might otherwise wreak havoc on the democratic stability instilled by our military presence.
This brings us to President Obama’s nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.  One of Hagel’s duties will be to address the bloated military spending that has contributed to our swollen national debt.
The world spends approximately $1.7 trillion annually on military expenditures.  The US annual defense budget is $730 billion dollars, representing over 40 percent of the entire world’s military budget.  
The next top14 spenders (China, UK, France, Russia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Germany, India, Italy, Brazil, South Korea, Australia, Canada, Turkey) spend a total of $650 billion. What’s wrong with this picture?
Of the nearly 200 countries in the world, 160 of them spend less than $10 billion annually on their military.  During the height of President Bush’s “Bring it on!” occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, we spent $10 billion every three weeks just in “supplemental appropriations” alone.   
In 2007, the US Congressional Budget Office estimated the true cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan “wars” to be approximately $2.4 trillion.
Just one week before we brought it on to Iraq, Vice President Cheney said on “Meet the Press” that the war would cost about $80 billion.  
Hey, anyone out there want Dickey doing their taxes for them?
So, back to Hagel.  The kill-bot suppliers are terrified that our nation might even consider decreasing the military budget to a semi-reasonable level.  After all, in the past 10 years alone, we’ve spent $6 trillion on our military.  As “conservatives” yell about the national debt, they simultaneously argue that we can’t decrease our military spending.
Again, what’s wrong with this picture?
Our military is currently deployed in over 150 countries.  Okay, that’s a misleading figure given that many of those deployments are less than 100 personnel.  
But seriously, do we really need 35,000 troops in Japan?  Or 30,000 in South Korea?  Or 30,000 in Germany?
Who elected us as the world’s police department?  And if we were elected to do this, could someone else please “foot” the bill?
One argument you will hear against reducing our military size and presence is that world stability depends on us carrying a big stick, and not speaking softly about it either.  But in the end, it’s the American taxpayer who gets “stuck” by that stick.
Another argument designed to downplay the severity of our numbers is to compare overall spending to our GNP.  The problem with this argument is that our GNP is probably half of what it could have been if those trillions in military spending had gone into internal national growth.
The solution is simple.  No, we don’t need to disband our military, hold hands with peace-niks singing Kumbaya, and become a defenseless cowering nation of weaklings, inviting foreign invasion.
We simply need to wear smaller shoes.
James Madison once said, “Of all the enemies to public liberty — war is perhaps the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.  War is the parent of armies, and from these proceed debts and taxes.”
Wow.  This guy really understands the problem.  Maybe we should elect him as President?
Oh wait.  We did.  We just didn’t listen to him.