One of the most basic needs of any society and any nation is its own defense from foreign aggressors. And, a significant part of trade and diplomacy is the natural need for the formation of alliances that can often lead to conflict. However, the political right typically seems to have a near obsession that borders on an almost religious belief in military spending and defense. They hold budgets hostage over blanket expenditure hikes without a thought toward true necessity and need. It’s like a blank check with full trust that it will be properly spent.
It doesn’t matter which branch of government is being discussed, government, by its very nature, is spending other peoples’ money and has no real regard for financial efficiency. The military arm is just as inefficient as any other, and blank checks are a definite mistake. There are always unnecessary offices that provide menial work for the well connected. There are orders from private companies to supply the military that are bloated, both based on the high cost of doing business with the massive bureaucracy that is a government and with good connections that produce unfair and biased results (with under-the-table dealings).
Solid foreign policy that is based on defense rather than offense requires less resources than the majority of the world’s governments deem necessary. It seems worn out to say “diplomacy first,” as well as insincere and sometimes with a dose of naivety. However, free nations with free people have a preference for less involvement in the affairs of other nations and greater focus on trade in foreign relations. Free nations have no need, and therefore, no desire to act out offensively. It is the consequence of a large government that wants ever-increasing power that seeks offensive posturing.
Perhaps it is a little unfair to label only the right as desiring more military spending. Those of the far left seek it just as readily. The fact is the the far left and the far right are essentially the same. Both have ruling classes that gain wealth by expansion of the state, and the more prominent a government is in the affairs of its own citizens, the more it looks outward for greater potential growth. However, it is the right which most typically, in states allotted with slightly more freedom, that are loudest to trumpet for increased involvement in foreign affairs across the globe.
It would be a little naive to think that nations can always avoid conflicts that have no direct effect on their own people. With trade relations and with self protection comes alliances necessitated by larger foes that offer threats. Foreign entanglements are not always avoidable, but the point is that they can be diminished to a far greater extent than they currently are in most cases.
It is no secret, and mostly goes without debate, that the four most overly involved state influences within the world today are the US, Europe (lead by the UK, Germany, and France), China, and the Russian Federation. Each is competing for influence above the others, and each does what it can to both work with and undermine the others in order to gain the greatest portion of dominant political influence. Sometimes it’s over physical territory, but mostly it’s over influential territory – functioning not too dissimilar from the drug cartels and mafias. It could be argued that the greatest threat to peace in the world is due to states with too much power. Rather than really arguing about self security for these influences, the arguments for military spending and involvement usually center more on what will happen if one of the other competitors gains greater influence.
Most of the time, the threat of loss of political influence within the world is not the same as the direct threat to the liberty of the people within a nation. Free states don’t seek to hold hostage the heads of other states to do their bidding, and so there is no direct influence to be lost with a truly free state. The right usually argues for less government, while oddly also arguing to give government the resources to expand its influence. The constituents of the right should ask themselves whether they really want to fight wars over influence or want to fight justified wars over more direct threats to the people. The reason I’ve decided to focus so much on the right in this particular article, even though the left can also very often be guilty of following influence rather than direct threats, is that the right at least verbalizes an interest in downsizing the state. They may not actually argue for all that is necessary for that, but they understand the desire.
In order for government to become less of a threat to individual freedom, it is an absolute necessity to quit pursuing influence as a primary goal of foreign policy, and instead focus on more direct threats. While it may be impossible to avoid being dragged into war in defense of an important ally, when an overall policy of the pursuit of diplomacy and trade over influence is pursued, there are many fewer unnecessary conflicts. Yes, it is pipe dreams and fairy tales to imagine a world without war, but if the right can accept that the greatest threat to security is inward more than outward (the size of the state and its military assets abroad), then the world can be more peaceful than it is today.