The Senate passed a $700 billion defense bill this afternoon, because if there’s one thing that has really improved the fortunes of the United States in the 21st century, it’s war. War is going so good for us that we’re still fighting our longest one ever, in Afghanistan. We have not lost that war. It’s in overtime. We also did not lose our war in the country formerly known as Iraq, half of which is now a terrorist klepto-state. We just successfully invaded and then left our proxy government to collapse naturally. If you count Iraq as a tie and Afghanistan as undecided, our record in wars over the last 50 years is three wins (Grenada, Panama, Gulf War I), one loss (Vietnam), and one draw. On the other hand, if you consider it a losing effort to spend $2 trillion, nine years, and thousands of farm boys’ legs to replace Saddam Hussein with ISIS, and you’re not sure we’re on our way to becoming the first empire to subjugate Afghanistan, our combined record looks more like 3-3. Again, one of those is Grenada.
It’s a poor record for a country that spends almost as much on war as the next 14 highest-spending countries combined and—more to the point—more of its discretionary spending on the military than on everything else put together. Remember how Bernie’s free college was a pie-in-the-sky, let’s-get-a-pony idea? That would cost $47 billion a year. The Senate just voted to spend 14 times that on war. I’m not sure I’m getting 14 free colleges out of Afghanistan and Iraq, plus a missile defense system that has never been worked and wouldn’t need to if we could bring ourselves to take the high road with North Korea.
And yet, despite the alarmingly low value we get for our bonanza war spending, Americans have more confidence in the military than in any other institution. Congress? Only 12% of us think that works right. Newspapers and the criminal justice system languish at 23%, but a whopping 73% of poll respondents express confidence in the people who brought you Afghanistan and Iraq. The military is even more respected than the institutions in which Americans have the second and third most confidence, small business and the police. It’s almost as though we were living in a culture that worshipped violence, money and authority in that order.
The best part of this military spending package is that it passed the Senate 89 votes to eight. Only eight people in the world’s greatest deliberative body didn’t think it was a good idea to spend more money on war than we have in the past 17 years of lavish, unproductive war spending. Because whatever, right? Worst case scenario, we go bankrupt and kill a bunch of people.