No: U.S. mil­i­tary ex­pen­di­tures al­ready dwarf our top ri­vals

Lodi News-Sentinel - - OPINION - JOHN B. QUIGLEY

We do not need to in­crease mil­i­tary spend­ing to deal with Rus­sia or China. The 2019 mil­i­tary bud­get, re­cently au­tho­rized by Congress, stands at $716 bil­lion. That's "bil­lion" with a "b."

That fig­ure dwarfs ex­pen­di­tures by China and Rus­sia. China spends $175 bil­lion a year. Rus­sia, whose econ­omy is lag­ging badly, has cut mil­i­tary ex­pen­di­ture in the past two years, and is now un­der $60 bil­lion.

Our com­pe­ti­tion with China is eco­nomic, not mil­i­tary. The only arena for mil­i­tary con­flict is the South China Sea, but we don't need a beefed up mil­i­tary for that pur­pose.

In any event, we over­play the im­por­tance of the South China Sea to U.S. trade or other in­ter­ests.

With Rus­sia, our com­pe­ti­tion is po­lit­i­cal, not mil­i­tary. We have put Rus­sia in fear by mov­ing NATO into its back­yard. That has gen­er­ated re­ac­tion from Rus­sia. There is much we could do to ease ten­sions.

Rather than spend more for mil­i­tary, we should ex­am­ine cur­rent ex­pen­di­tures. We waste bil­lions. We are build­ing a new class of air­craft car­rier for the Navy with lit­tle as­sur­ance of qual­ity.

The nu­clear-pow­ered USS Ger­ald R. Ford, the first car­rier in this new class, is cost­ing $13 bil­lion. Now close to be­ing on­line, it is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing what the Pen­tagon gin­gerly calls "man­u­fac­tur­ing de­fect" is­sues.

It has an un­tried dig­i­tal propul­sion sys­tem that seems not to work. Car­ri­ers of this size, more­over, have been shown in war games to be vul­ner­a­ble to anti-ship weaponry that has grown more so­phis­ti­cated in re­cent years. So even if the Navy can get the USS Ger­ald R. Ford to sail, it may not serve its pur­pose. And the Navy wants three more.

If our se­cu­rity in the world is in jeop­ardy, it is not for lack of mil­i­tary hard­ware. It is be­cause of our poli­cies.

Our al­lies don't know what to ex­pect from us. They are aghast at Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump's re­fusal to par­tic­i­pate in ini­tia­tives they find im­por­tant to pre­serv­ing world se­cu­rity. We per­plex our friends by ac­tions like re­lo­cat­ing our em­bassy to Jerusalem, or re­pu­di­at­ing the cli­mate treaty and the nu­clear ar­range­ment with Iran.

We are sep­a­rat­ing our­selves from the world com­mu­nity. We are pulling out of treaties that call for re­solv­ing dis­putes peace­fully, in the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice.

When Pales­tine sued us, as it did re­cently, over the re­lo­ca­tion of our em­bassy to Jerusalem, we over­re­acted.

Pales­tine was able to get the case into the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice be­cause both Pales­tine and the United States are party to a mul­ti­lat­eral diplo­matic re­la­tions treaty that lets states sue for vi­o­la­tions of the law on diplo­matic re­la­tions.

Sev­enty-one states of the world are par­ties. In­stead of just deal­ing with the law­suit, the White House an­nounced that we will pull out of the treaty al­to­gether.

That is the same treaty that let us sue Iran when our peo­ple were taken hostage at the U.S. Em­bassy in Iran in 1979.

We should be pro­tect­ing peace­ful av­enues to re­solve dis­putes, not cut­ting them off. We should not fear ap­pli­ca­tion of uni­ver­sally agreed le­gal prin­ci­ples.

Mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion with ei­ther Rus­sia or China is un­likely. If a se­ri­ous con­fronta­tion were to come to pass, how­ever, a U.S. pres­i­dent needs to have suf­fi­cient cred­i­bil­ity to be able to con­vince al­lies to as­sist, even if some of their peo­ple would die in the ef­fort.

Now we have lit­tle as­sur­ance of a re­sponse we might get. Our al­lies deal with Trump by ap­peal­ing to his ego. They do not re­gard him as a re­li­able part­ner.

They doubt his judg­ment, and even his truth­ful­ness.

Se­cu­rity lies in be­ing able to mo­bi­lize sup­port from other coun­tries in a cri­sis sit­u­a­tion. We have enough weaponry. Spend­ing more on weapons is a short­sighted av­enue to na­tional se­cu­rity. A holder of three de­grees from Har­vard, John B. Quigley is a pro­fes­sor of law at the Moritz Col­lege of Law at The Ohio State Uni­ver­sity. Read­ers may write him at Moritz, 55 W. 12th Av­enue, Colum­bus, OH 43210.

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