Times have changed

Back in 2001, many people got crazy. Military forces were used for policy and additional funds were made available for them. The U.S. armed services were almost buried under the amount of money that flowed into their budget.

Back in 2007, the beginning economic crisis and soon shrinking Iraq involvement should have led to an end of the money flood, back to normal. This didn't happen, first due to normal lags and later because fiscal austerity was damned as economic suicide by a grassroots wannabe economic experts movement that took over the mainstream media in most Western nations in a few weeks last year.

The time of economic "stimulus package" (or "we cannot do much of use, but we can pretend to save the world by spending!") politics seems to be over now, and finally, things go back to normal. Well, there's at least a trend in that direction.

The published attitudes seem to have moved during the past few weeks. Maybe it was the impression that Greece left on us. Maybe the time was simply right: Cutting military budgets in order to cure the budget disasters has become a real topic, and an accepted one.

The German Einzelplan 14 budget will probably be cut by about a billion Euros per year, but that's peanuts in comparison to the expected cuts in the UK, Greece and U.S.. Even Spain and Italy might easily exceed that sum.

The strange thing about this is that military spending should be about external factors (such as threats), not about internal ones. Save for procurement activities of lasting effect; doesn't the ability to cut military budgets due to fiscal problems kind of prove that we spent too much before?



  1. Defense cuts under internal fiscal pressures come about because it is far easier in democracies to cut defense than it is to cut entitlements. Niall Ferguson describes this in great detail in a recent presentation he gave regarding fiscal crises. With that being said in the case of Europe it may very well be the case that external factors did not warrant the amount of spending considering the lack of existential threat to the European states.

  2. Lol, blog authors really seem to attract like-minded people.

    Few days ago I argued yet again that Europe isn't free-riding on the crazy U.S. military budgets and now I get a comment that suggests we maybe even spent too much!

  3. Military spending is like spending on insurances: You never know for sure what is necessary and what is not. Thus "too much" is a figure hard to determine.

    And with Russia and comparable EU countries reducing their armed capabilities significantly there is little reason not to swim along - or ahead. ;->

    The current process does not "feel" wrong: This time do a real reform of the Bundeswehr and then, finally, arrive at something that makes sense and is well laid out.

    My feeling is that the political class is quite happy to reduce the German army in size: That way it is easy to argue that "we are overstreched" and can "unfortunately" not participate in foreign action x+1.

  4. It's a question of scope. In the case of NATO countries in Europe there is a certain scope in military spending which extends to power projection. The tooth to tail that goes along with that can be reduced when the requirements for power projection go away, most recently the participation in counter-terrorism related activities across the globe. The Europeans are more concerned about their entitlements than the elusive threat of international terrorism.

  5. saif_katana@hotmail.com17 June 2010 at 17:36

    It would be interesting to see when the cutting of military budgets (quantitative change), will lead to military reform (qualitative change).

    And could this actually be a good thing? Art (of War) out of adversity.

  6. Well in Germany this kind of change was proposed by the SecDef, ie. he wanted to abandon conscription. But it was not to be (yet), all politicians outside of his party yelled out in anger, because conscripts are so fu***** important (to keep the social and health services from collapsing by taking away the Ersatzdienst-slave labour, but they dont say that of course). The rest of military administration with their personnel overhead was not seriously put into question, as far as I can see. Only shows how powerful the bureaucratic apparatus is.

    In Greece there is a good chance that the long-time adversity with Turkey is seeing some serious questioning, they already held bilateral talks about mutual reductions in spending - although the Turks are in a fiscally better position and with the idiot Erdogan in control its unclear where it goes.