Nicholas Kristof provides the facts on military spending, treated as sacrosanct by both parties:
• 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.
• The United States maintains troops at more than 560 bases and other sites abroad, many of them a legacy of a world war that ended 65 years ago. Do we fear that if we pull our bases from Germany, Russia might invade?
• The intelligence community is so vast that more people have “top secret” clearance than live in Washington, D.C.
• The U.S. will spend more on the war in Afghanistan this year, adjusting for inflation, than we spent on the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War combined.
• The U.S. military now has more people in its marching bands than the State Department has in its foreign service — and that’s preposterous.
Military power can backfire and is not the only way to protect the country:
After the first gulf war, the United States retained bases in Saudi Arabia on the assumption that they would enhance American security. Instead, they appear to have provoked fundamentalists like Osama bin Laden into attacking the U.S. In other words, hugely expensive bases undermined American security (and we later closed them anyway). Wouldn’t our money have been better spent helping American kids get a college education?
...in the 21st century, our government can protect its citizens in many ways: financing research against disease, providing early childhood programs that reduce crime later, boosting support for community colleges, investing in diplomacy that prevents costly wars.