Opinion: Increasingly loud US saber-rattling | News | DW | 04.03.2017
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Opinion: Increasingly loud US saber-rattling

Will the world really be safer if its largest military power spends more on weapons and less on diplomacy? Matthias von Hein says that Donald Trump's military buildup is the wrong path forward.

Since Tuesday we know that Donald Trump is capable of delivering longer speeches, read from a teleprompter, without becoming abusive. And in the press's general astonishment over that fact, one important point has been largely overlooked: the announcement by the 45th president of the United States' that he intends to increase the country's military budget by a massive $54 billion (51 billion euros).

That increase alone is roughly equal to Russia's entire annual military budget and almost twice that of Germany. Trump himself spoke of one of the "largest increases in national defense spending in American history." At $550 billion, the US spends far more on its military than any country on the planet. One has to add together the budgets of the next seven countries on the global defense expenditures index to come up with an equivalent sum.

Deutsche Welle Chinesische Redaktion Matthias von Hein (DW)

DW's Matthias von Hein

'Win wars again'

Trump's reasoning for this defense spending orgy: America has to start winning wars again. But when the US military ran the Taliban out of Kabul, ended Saddam Hussein's reign in Baghdad, or helped overthrow Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, its military might was already clearly superior to any force that it faced. US soldiers have already racked up the victories that Trump is now demanding of them.

But though these wars were won, the peace was ultimately lost – specifically because of a shortsighted focus on supposedly simple military solutions – while at the same time dismissing sustainable political strategies. The result has been asymmetrical conflicts with non-state actors, increased terrorism, the disintegration of state structures and then more terror.

Confusingly, Trump has repeatedly criticized recent US military misadventures, specifically citing the immense cost and the lack of obvious success. But if Trump wants to be more cautious about military interventions, why does he want to increase defense spending? What is the point of building up a military if you plan on ending costly foreign deployments?

More weapons, less diplomacy

The increase in military material and software will be financed by cutting State Department funding and foreign aid. Weakening diplomacy and dialogue, while building up military strength, is no plan for a safer and more peaceful future.

More weapons alone will not the make the world a safer place, not outside the US and certainly not within. 2017 is still in its early stages, yet more than 2,000 people have already been killed by firearms in the first two months of the year.

The clearest beneficiaries of military budget increases are defense industry contractors. Trump's recent announcements have given those companies' stocks a lift. And that is really saying something, considering the fact that shares in companies such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman have increased in value at twice the rate of the total market indexed on the Standard & Poor's 500 ranking of the largest companies on the US stock market.

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