Security was never cheap: Donald Trump defence-spending plans

DEFENCE spending, or, if our spelling is to reflect the reality of our world, defense spending, is one of the lines in the sand permanently separating opposing world views.

For those of an optimistic disposition, escalating defence spending is an affront. For that school of thought, scarce resources could be far better used. In an ideal world, that would be a winning argument. For those of a hawkish disposition, this view ignores human nature and history’s bloodiest lessons. In today’s world, that may, unfortunately, be a winning argument.

This week, US President Donald Trump announced a proposed $54bn increase in America’s defence spending. Previously, his vice-president, Mike Pence, criticised Europe for reducing its defence spending. A year ago, then US president, Barack Obama, made the same case when he warned that Nato must spend more and invest in new missile defence and cyber systems. Last year, America spent €600bn on defence, as much as the next 14 countries together and three times China’s budget. EU member states spent €203bn in 2015. These are tremendous sums, but the sad, chastening reality is that no one can say whether or not they will be decisive in the next war, one that will test technological innovation and security: it will not be a traditional boots-on-the-ground confrontation. Defence spending is like buying insurance — you don’t know what you’re covered for until you make a claim. And by then it’s too late.


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