Sunday, December 26, 2010

Nick Kristof examines our bloated military budget

Nicholas D. Kristof has a recent column in The New York Times about the taboo against military spending cuts.  Just about anybody who has followed the debates on the size of the US military budget is familiar with statistics such as this one:
• The United States spends nearly as much on military power as every other country in the world combined, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It says that we spend more than six times as much as the country with the next highest budget, China.
However, this little tidbit really jumped out at me:
American troops in Afghanistan are among the strongest advocates of investing more in schools there because they see firsthand that education fights extremism far more effectively than bombs. And here’s the trade-off: For the cost of one American soldier in Afghanistan for one year, you could build about 20 schools.
While I definitely think that our military budget is unnecessarily huge and wasteful (especially while fighting these counterproductive wars), and that that money could and should be used on much more productive things back here in the US, I wonder how that one-soldier-to-twenty-schools figure was reached.

Does the money spent include all of the money we've spent in Afghanistan or only specifically the money that goes to transport, equip, and otherwise support the actual soldiers?  Did they figure only for the cost of construction of these schools, or did they also factor in operating costs such as for faculty, textbooks, and other supplies?

I like the article overall, and I'm always glad to see people with a large audience speaking out against the insanity of our ever-growing military expeditures (especially post-9/11), but I really wish Kristof would have included a link to the study from which he got this particular piece of information.

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