Will 10% Defense Increase Prop Up America's Global Hegemony?
(Source: China Military Online; issued Oct 16, 2017)
BEIJING --- The United States Senate passed the national defense budget for 2018 Fiscal Year (FY) in the sum of $692 billion on Sept 18, more than the $668 billion requested by the White House and 10 percent more than the 2017 FY budget.

The national defense budget passed by the House of Representatives in July this year stood at $696.5 billion, even higher than the amount passed by the Senate, so the $692 billion budget for 2018FY is basically final.

The American President Donald Trump was sworn in on Jan 20, and he visited the Pentagon as commander-in-chief of the US armed forces on Jan 27, where he signed the administrative order to "rebuild the American military".

"Today I signed the presidential order to launch a great rebuilding of our armed forces. We will provide our soldiers with new planes, new vessels, new resources and new equipment," Trump said.

Since Trump's Republican Party holds most seats in both houses, the high defense budget passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate demonstrates their response and support to the president's ambitious "military rebuilding" plan. But will the massive increase in military budget prop up America's global hegemony?

In his inaugural speech, Trump said, "When America is united, America is totally unstoppable … We will be protected by the great men and women of our military." But he must admit that the powerful American military is supported with tremendous military expenses.

Today the gigantic American military has become a "money guzzler". It is strong and powerful, but it's also like a black hole of money. In the $692 billion military budget adopted by the American Senate, $632 billion is basic budget, which means everyday expenses of the military. Why is the basic budget so high?

Information shows that a large early warning aircraft and reconnaissance aircraft costs $60,000-80,000 per hour of flight, and a patrol of over 10 hours costs over a million US dollar. Military vessels and aircraft carriers cost even more because they have larger tonnage, more complicated systems, more personnel and longer voyage times.

When a guided-missile destroyer like the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Fitzgerald or the USS John S. McCain is damaged, it costs hundreds of millions of US dollars to repair it, and the cost is enormous in the case of conflict or battle.

Therefore, although the American defense budget is as high as hundreds of billions of dollars, it really cannot last long if spent in units of hundreds of millions.

Trump promised "new planes, new vessels, new resources and new equipment" at the Pentagon, which are embodied in the 70 F-35 fighter jets, seven P-8A anti-submarine reconnaissance planes, two Virginia class submarines and other equipment in the 2018 FY budget.

Moreover, maintaining nuclear strike capability, enhancing cyber combat and defense capability and developing hypersonic weapons are three priorities of the budget.

But this weapon and equipment Research and Development (R&D) plan is just a drop in the bucket compared to Trump's ambitious plan for "rebuilding the American military".

Some say that the US Navy has 274 military vessels today, but others say it has 276. Let's assume there are 276 military vessels, which is 74 short of Trump's goal of 350 vessels, indicating an arduous task of building more vessels.

Besides, the military budget for 2018 FY is increased at the expense of livelihood expenditure. In the federal government budget for 2018FY submitted this year, the White House slashed expenditures on environmental protection, medical care, retirement benefits, the supplementary nutrition assistance program (food stamp program), benefits for retired federal employees, and assistance programs for the handicapped. The budget for the environmental sector alone was cut by $2.6 billion.

This shows that the federal budget is already out at the elbows. Cutting livelihood expenditure may aggravate the guarantee of people's lives, and if the people protest, whether this "rob Peter to pay Paul" approach can last is questionable.

In the 2018 FY national defense budget passed by the American Senate, there is $60 billion of Overseas Contingency Operations distribution, which will be used for America's operations in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis confirmed on Sept 18 that the US will send more troops to Afghanistan, and American media reported 4,000-5,000 additional troops will be dispatched, driving America's total troops there to 14,500.

Trump sending more troops to Afghanistan is just like Obama sending more troops to Iraq years ago. They both want to stabilize the situation first and then withdraw the troops when things are stable in the host country.

Obama's plan then was basically successful, but will Trump's plan succeed too this time? This author isn't optimistic.

The Taliban that Trump has to deal with today in Afghanistan is widely different from the al-Qaeda that Obama dealt with in Iraq.

Al-Qaeda launched terrorist attacks mainly by way of roadside bombs and human bombs to attack American troops and the Iraqi government. They were on the run, but the Taliban faced by Trump is an organized and armed regional regime that controls certain areas.

When Obama attacked al-Qaeda, his main methods were controlling key spots, weaving a net, baiting the enemy and defeating them gradually. Sending more troops could make the "net" denser, so much so that it was impossible for the terrorists and terrorist groups to "flee".

But the Taliban in Afghanistan today can either steal into big cities like Kabul to launch terrorist attacks or retreat to the northern areas under their control, or carry out guerrilla combat in the northern mountainous areas, where they can last a long time based on the complicated terrain.

The American military boasts substantial advantages in equipment and technology, but that's basically useless in the northern mountainous areas of Afghanistan, and assigning shock troops there would be giving up its own strength and revealing its weakness.

The US special operations forces once carried out Operation Anaconda, which put the forces in serious danger and paid a high price for very little effect.

Sending thousands of troops may be helpful for improving public security in the city and preventing the Taliban from stealing into big cities, but it won't be very effective for eradicating the Taliban regime and organization that occupy the north.

Once the American troops are withdrawn, the situation will get out of control again.

Therefore, the 10 percent increase in the military budget is just an appetizer for the money-guzzling American military. Whether it can help maintain America's global hegemony is highly doubtful.

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