Patterns of propaganda for higher military spending

A recent post deconstructed a propaganda article that argued for a larger U.S.Navy.
This time I will stay more general and more abstract and present the general patterns of propaganda for higher military spending.

Appeal to (tainted) authority
It's a general pattern, but most obvious in the United States where calls for more naval and air power are often supported by the claim that combatant commanders have called for more forces. 
You should never ask a child about what's the right amount of toys when you're in a toy store, so why would one ask the combatant commander about how many ships and fighters he should have?

Use of faux legal reasons for more military spending
The most widespread one is the "2% GDP military spending in NATO obligation" myth. There's no such obligation, just a memo that has no force as it was written by politicians lacking the authority to dictate the budget policies of their countries.
Proponents of higher military spending love such faux legal reasons, and it appears that they are the driving force behind the creation of such faux legal arguments. Such faux legal reasons have an air of inevitability, of obligation and duty - and you don't need any more reasons once you have an obligation. Except there's never any such obligation.
Inflationary use of the world "ally"
This is a close relative to the faux legal reason deception. Lots of more or less politically friendly countries get called allies that need be defended - often including countries such as Taiwan and Israel, which definitely are NOT allies of the United States. Neither would come to aid the U.S. if it was under attack. Military spending hawks pretend that there's an obligation to provide security assistance and reassurance (by presence) to such countries even if and though there's no such obligation.

Never mention allies as a factor that reduces the need for national military strength
Unless their think tank's sponsors want to sell weapons to said allies and the article is all about pressuring them to increase their military spending.

Alliances don't reduce the need for high military spending: Alliance obligations justify high military spending!
This is a close relative to the former and the faux legal reasons thing. In reality, to have an ally means that you need less national military strength.

Threat inflation
The description of the Russian as emerging and generally as scary as in the deconstructed article is quite typical. Sometimes such military spending hawks even pretended that Venezuela is a threat.

Not a single word about cost efficiency
What they want is never cost-efficient, thus they don't talk about cost efficiency.

Avoiding to irritate anyone
Those are smart influencers and lobbyists. They do not draw the ire of any political interest group needlessly. You'll hardly ever hear or read them going on an attack against wasteful spending*, wrong hawkish doctrines or them singling out an armed service for its failures (unless they get funded by interest groups with no interest in that particular armed service).
They do not criticise troops or question the quality of training, either. The reason is that troops and those who sympathise with them are compliant and free opinion multipliers to the military budget hawks.

Guaranteed careers
No matter how often their advice was disastrous to the nation, their careers are secured. The only career-ending move would be to become less hawkish or politically ineffective.

Appeal to primitive instincts
There's no complicated reasoning in their propaganda. It's more on the level of "Ugh! My clan is stronger! Ugh!"

To bomb some huts on a distant continent is "defense".

Never mentioning civilian alternatives to spending
The opportunity costs of military spending are never mentioned.

Never promote the purchase of all-foreign hardware
That is, unless the foreign company sponsors their think tank or a domestic arms industry giant is the sales partner.

Unlimited extremism
There's never enough. The ability to force one's way deep into the airspace of huge countries on a different continent or to force one's way into the coastal waters on a distant ocean is "defense" to them. There's no such thing as a "2 power standard" or any other kind-of-moderate idea in their arsenal. Nothing short of the ability to conquer the world would be sufficient military strength to them. And then they would want to conquer space next. Scratch that. They would want a military to conquer space in parallel to conquering the planet.

The rule of the Friedman unit
Military spending hawks are always proponents of the Friedman unit in times of war: Always give the military six more months to turn around the war. Six months later, give them six more months. Rinse and repeat. Making peace is acceptable only if maximalist objectives are met. Then the success would be used to promote the next war(s).

Fixation on platforms
This is a bit weird; military contractors sure make much profit with spare parts, munitions, maintenance and other services, but military spending hawks are obsessed about platforms and other nominal and quantitative measurements of military power. The rationale appears to be that the other expenditures follow the acquisition and operation of the platforms.

They do rarely discuss personnel increases compared to big ticket hardware buys
...because the economic interests behind them are about procurement, not employment. This is a variation of the fixation on platforms, of course.
They are utterly silent about veteran's care
This is a close relative to the fixation on platforms. Hospitals aren't among the sponsors of military-focused think tanks.
Movement within an established mainstream narrative
You won't read much original stuff from military spending hawks. They use an established mainstream narrative and enjoy its support. Most commonly, they make lots of assertions that are accepted by the mainstream regardless of how badly their thread to reality is severed.

They're pro-war on first opportunity
They know but one tool; a hammer. The world is covered with nails.

They haven't served in a major war.
Almost all military spending hawks are chickenhawks. A few of them served in the military, but I'm not aware of a single one of them having been in the midst of a mess that a war usually is.

They know but one answer: "more"
Sometimes they set goals for military strength. All such goals are but preliminary, though: Once reached, they want more. Always more. They don't know optimisation - they're all about maximisation.

Military spending hawks have almost never a good case for their recommendations. There's rarely a good case that more spending will reduce the risk of war, and it's outright impossible with the state of the economic sciences to make up a legitimate projection that an increase in military spending will be cost-efficient. The input variables are simply unknown.
Military budget hawks thus have to use logical fallacies, lies, nonsensical narratives and deception instead of rational arguments for their recommendations.
Many military spending hawks in the United States (where military spending is insanely high) are professional propagandists with a guaranteed career. Those with economic interests in higher military spending do sponsor such propagandists more or less directly. Other military spending hawks are politicians who represent a region with much arms industry. That's why the U.S. senator was listed as one author of the deconstructed piece, and that's why additional useless corvettes for the German navy were proposed recently. Such politicians raise special (regional) interests over national interests; they fail one decisive litmus test for patriotism.

It should be disqualifying, a career-ending event if one is revealed as such a military spending hawk. Such one trick ponies are utterly useless and indeed terribly damaging to their society.
Sadly, they make careers of such worthless commentary and the press & TV stations treat them as very serious people.


*: A few pundit-for-hire types do deviate: They build a faux "balanced" reputation by criticizing certain military programs. Those criticised programs are invariably from competitors of their sponsors.


  1. Fighting at home is cheaper than expeditionary warfare.

    Defence is cheaper than attack.

    Software solutions (training) will see more capability per unit spend than hardware solutions.

    Growing equipment numbers before growing your NCO core produces a hollow force (LCS, 2003 naval training that consisted of a set of CDs.)

    I'd love to have an ammunition count per weapon system. How many torpedos does each navy have? How many AAM, ASM? R&D a platform, half build it, never aquire a sufficient deterent warstock of ammo then demand the country R&D a new platform.

    From a future perspective the dynamic you talk about is useful. The current power will fail, and it will be obvious why it happened.

  2. Would it be possible to direct some of that spending into useful stuff like preparations to counter pandemics (the spread of multiresistance due to antibiotics misuse is frightening, so putting new ones under the national security label would somewhat help against their misuse for fattening animals), food shortages due to freak events like no summer for 2-3 years in a row (a giant food storage is a very old military tradition), disaster relief at the ready that can double as invasion logistics if necessary?
    These are all kinds of dangers that we know will happen at some point without prior warning, unlike a war by other humans.
    The disaster relief, medical emergency stocks and giant food store can also be used to convince other nations to keep misbehavior in check(errorists going abroad for TV shows, piracy, people fleeing in mass from security issues) , lest they will be denied help. Some Muslim religious orders practiced such a security system against caravan robbery in the Sahara with grain stores only available to Nomadic tribes in need that didn’t engage in robbery.

    1. Economic science uses marginal rate of return as the key variable to determine resource allocation. In theory, you should strive to get about the same return for every last coin spent on anything.

      Politicians don't appear to even only try to implement this.
      For example, counter-climate change policies should have one common rate of willingness to spend per climate effect unit (kg CO2 emission equivalent). They have hundreds of programs instead that are not compared and do not follow a common unit of measurement.

      It would be very much possible to debate rationally how to allocate resources between military, medical research, counter-climate change et cetera if one we could agree on metrics and principles that research discovered generations ago already.

    2. 'Just in time' logistics has been assessed to be the most cost efficient way for commercial entities to run their supply chains. The fact that this leaves no 'waste' to provide resiliency on a national level is not something that is considered or missed.

      This system is becoming more 'efficient' as international shipping becomes more reliable and stock management/forecasting controlled by big data and ai is increasingly employed. The counter, that nations will become decreasingly resilient also follows.

      Your suggestion would be resisted by those who can earn profit by controlling or creating scarcity, even those who would benefit by the 'blank cheque' of in war spending. See the vicious arguementation against the strategic petroleum reserve in america for evidence of this.