Why The Neutralist? The term Isolationist implies a narrow Fortress America outlook and is used as an epithet. The term Neutralist does not indicate someone hiding out from the world. No one calls the Swiss isolationists. The Wilsonian world view is old, tired and wrong. Our interventions have been less and less successful and now the failure can no longer be covered up.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Superpower Skeptic

Over at 2Blowhards I read this in one of Michael B's Elsewhere postings,

* Gavin Andreson wonders what we get out of playing the world's numero uno superpower.

So, I clicked the link and moseyed over to GavinThink. Mr. Andresen has been kind enough to permit me to copy the whole post which we appropriate as a policy statement which we can well afford as we have been able to maintain our funding level at $00.00.

Anyway we copy it below and the link is here.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Superpower Skeptic

Here's a thought experiment: would it be so terrible if the United States stopped being the world's military superpower?

What would happen if we reduced defense spending down to the level of, say, Australia (the 13'th largest defense budget in the world)? The US spends over half a trillion dollars a year on the military, Australia spends 14 billion dollars a year-- or roughly half a trillion dollars less than the US.

I was born in Australia-- it's a very nice country. As far as I can tell, Australia isn't suffering because it's not the World's Number One SuperPower. Like the US, it doesn't share any borders with unfriendly neighbors (but my mum tells me that a big worry down under in the sixties was the "Yellow Peril"-- that Chinese overpopulation would force them to invade).

Run the thought experiment in reverse-- what benefits would Australia get if it spent an extra half a trillion dollars a year and became the Worlds Greatest Fighting Force?

I know next to nothing about defense or foreign policy, so enlighten me-- besides bragging rights, what am I getting for that half a trillion dollars that I wouldn't get if we spent 20 billion dollars instead?

Posted by Gavin Andresen at 9:15 AM

Labels: Politics, Public Policy, Skeptical

Bill said...

The War on Terror.
7:52 PM
Gavin Andresen said...

RE: The War on Terror:

I am not afraid.

If we all stopped acting afraid and truly made this the Home of the Brave, then terrorism wouldn't work.
9:27 PM
Xenophon said...

The US military/industrial complex is incredibly powerful. Mess with that at your peril. Also, many very large business interests worldwide are buoyed up by the presence of troops in so many countries. It's quite subtle, but think of it as a sort of guarantee that US economic interests will be upheld all over the globe...oil, minerals, agricultural products, etc. It works to the benefit of the US in precisely the same way as Roman troops benefited their far-flung economic interests back 2000 years ago.
10:05 PM
Gavin Andresen said...

Anybody have good pointers on attempts to quantify how much business benefit we get from the half trillion dollars we spend?

Browsing the Wikipedia GDP per capita table, I don't see a correlation between military spending and economic productivity.

So I'm deeply skeptical that all our military spending is making US companies (or US citizens) richer...
11:48 AM

I think Mr. Gavin did a good job in defending himself in the comments and The Neutralist thanks him for the post.


RoseCovered Glasses said...

I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.

Politicians make no difference.

We have bought into the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). If you would like to read how this happens please see:



Through a combination of public apathy and threats by the MIC we have let the SYSTEM get too large. It is now a SYSTEMIC problem and the SYSTEM is out of control. Government and industry are merging and that is very dangerous.

There is no conspiracy. The SYSTEM has gotten so big that those who make it up and run it day to day in industry and government simply are perpetuating their existance.

The politicians rely on them for details and recommendations because they cannot possibly grasp the nuances of the environment and the BIG SYSTEM.

So, the system has to go bust and then be re-scaled, fixed and re-designed to run efficiently and prudently, just like any other big machine that runs poorly or becomes obsolete or dangerous.

This situation will right itself through trauma. I see a government ENRON on the horizon, with an associated house cleaning.

The next president will come and go along with his appointees and politicos. The event to watch is the collapse of the MIC.

For more details see:


Well written.

The world is so tightly wired and moving at such warp speed in communications, technology and dangerous weapons that it is extremely difficult to know when tyranny is sprouting because we get overwhelmed with the details and ignore the trends.

Tyranny sprouts within massive beaurocratic organizations that imbed themselves in economies and assume a life of their own. These organizations become entrenched and difficult to change because they are wired to so much of economic and public life (a defense company in every state, a pork project tacked onto a defense appropriation.

We target our elected officials as figureheads for our frustration, when in fact the real culprit is a big, faceless machine grinding onward, never changing, because we (the citizenry and the politician) will not bite the bullet and dismantle it. It finally collapses of its own weight.

Some who analyze tyranny believe the best way to avoid it is to avoid violations of the constitution. That is a bit simplistic in our era. The conundrum is detecting complex circumstances with the potential to become violations of the constitution before they become horror stories like Iraq and do something about them IN ADVANCE.

As students of history we know much of what we are experiencing today in war and politics is tied to human nature. I believe the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) must collapse before that brand of tyranny changes.

A new brand of politics and accountability must then emerge, one that will deal from within when organizations such as the MIC self-destruct catastrophically from greed and avarice. The big issue after such events will be: "What do we put in the place of such beaurocracies gone afoul to manage something as important and expensive as our national defense?"

The US political system classically appoints a blue ribbon panel to study such problems spread the blame and write a detailed report no one reads. We must do better then that in the future. The impending trauma will not permit it.


Joseph Moroco said...

Dear Mr. Larson,

I have no illusions, though it is my desparate hope that the nation change its foreign policy ethos before we get to the Enron style collapse.