Unlike the USSR, the US can afford guns and butter both, because China provides the butter on credit
It is a mere formality, but as part of process to be confirmed for a second term as the overall military commander in the US, Joseph Dunford appeared before US Senators. Questioned by them he first lamented that the US did not have “the luxury” of one predominant threat:
“We don’t actually have the luxury of identifying a single threat today, unfortunately, nor, necessarily, to look at it in a linear fashion,” Dunford said.
In other words, unfortunately long gone are the days when the US military could point to the USSR alone and make the point America was under threat. It now has to settle instead for a hodgepodge of far less convincing “threats” that even taken together do not look very threatening at all.
Dunford did nonetheless pick out Russia as the one single biggest threat right now, but tipped China to eclipse it by 2025:
“If I look out to 2025, and I look at the demographics and the economic situation, I think China probably poses the greatest threat to our nation by about 2025,” he said.
“Chinese leaders seem committed to increases in defense spending for the foreseeable future,” Dunford added, saying “China’s military modernization is targeting capabilities with the potential to degrade core US military technological advantages.”
Dunford’s prescription? Keep shoveling more and more capital into the institution he heads:
Beijing has reportedly grown its military spending by an average of 8.5 percent a year since 2007, and the US will need to match this by increasing defense spending by three to seven percent every year“to maintain a competitive advantage.”
How does that math work out? China is set to spend $150 billion on defense in 2017. Even if the unlikely prediction of 8.5 percent increase every year, it will still be spending “only” $290 billion.
Meanwhile at Dunford’s proposed average 5 percent increases the US spendingwould rise to $970 billion. In reality it could be even higher given that US “defense spending” for 2018 will rise a cool 10.5 percent.
At those numbers from 2018 to 2015 China would spend $1.8 trillion on its military, and the US $6.6 trillion. Is that enough for China to be a threate to the US?
Even at the prodigal levels of corruption in the US system it clearly is not. Newark and Vancouver have nothing to fear. What Dunford really means isn’t that China could be a threat to the US homeland, but that it could threaten America’s “containment” of China.
The fear of the US military is that it will no longer be able to claim military dominance on China’s own doorstep. Not just the military, but the entire American foreign policy establishment in DC is desperate to prevent that and if that takes a military budget of one trillion dollars in 2025 then so be it.
Question is why should China go along with their plan? The Soviet Union was forced to chose between guns for its military and butter for its people. The US however is not faced with the same choice, because even as its military spending explodes China extends it a line of credit for the butter.
The US runs a $500 billion budget deficit, and a trade deficit of $780 billion, including $350 billion with China. The US imports fully $350 billion worth of consumer goods from China yearly without paying out of its pocket for them—but financed instead by loans from foreign governments, among which China is again number one with $1.15 trillion in US bonds.
At one point even China has to realize the folly of helping provide butter for a nation that is frantically arming against it. US officials like Dunford who invoke China as “threat” and “greatest threat” are certainly helping it realize this sooner.
And if China does not, it could be the most fateful folly since Stalin 1939-1941 helped Hitler build up grain stocks that would feed German armies as they invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.