Is our military budget too small, or is our mission too large? Since 2001, the U.S. military budget has more than doubled in nominal terms and grown over 37% accounting for inflation. The U.S. spends more than the next eight countries combined.
It’s really hard to argue that our military is underfunded, so perhaps our mission has grown too large. That mission includes being currently involved in combat operations in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Niger, Libya, and Yemen. We have troops in over 50 of 54 African countries. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost over a trillion dollars and lasted for over 15 years.
Unfortunately, none of these wars have been authorized by Congress, and Afghanistan and Iraq have gone far beyond their original authorizations. And when all combined, these wars are draining our treasury. A country can only remain strong as long as it remains solvent.
In Afghanistan, we spend about $50 billion each year. Where does the money go? For troops and weapons, of course, but billions have also been spent on roads, bridges, and schools for Afghanistan. Seems a shame that bridges, roads, and schools crumble here while we persist in nation-building abroad. Maybe it’s time to do some nation-building at home.
Don’t get me wrong. I supported going after the jihadists who attacked us on 9/11. But that mission is long past over. We killed the plotters and their supporters. The question we need to ask is, “When will the Afghanis be able to defend themselves?”
Most conservatives believe welfare should be temporary, and that ultimately the able-bodied must stand on their own. Foreign assistance is no different. If the U.S. coddles and comforts and does all the fighting, the Afghanis will never become self-sufficient. People argue that the Taliban will take over Afghanistan. Not if the Afghanis stand and fight. We’ve given them 15 years of training and billions of dollars of the most sophisticated weapons known to man. Surely, the time for them to step up and fight is now.
Is it worth one more American life to try to build a nation for people unwilling to fight for their own country?
The recent 21% increase in the military budget will buy a lot of weapons, but it won’t win the war in Afghanistan. President Obama already tried that. Obama increased our troops to around 100,000, and, sure enough, the Taliban ran and bided their time for the inevitable troop withdrawals.
The Taliban now controls a sizeable area of Afghanistan. I just can’t, in good conscience, ask our soldiers to go back to Afghanistan to take back the same villages they’ve taken twice, first in 2002 and then again in 2010.
Candidate Trump wisely ran on a platform that the Iraq War was a mistake. But President Trump is surrounded by Generals who’ve never seen a war that they believe cannot be won. And so the wars continue.
My hope is that President Trump will remember Candidate Trump and tell the Generals who surround him: “Enough is enough. I’m bringing the boys home.”
Rand Paul, a Republican, is Kentucky’s junior U.S. senator.