This very interesting blurb from Radio Netherlands Worldwide caught my eye.
Major cutbacks on defence spending would be at odds with the constitution, according to former finance minister Gerrit Zalm.A few things to keep in mind here.
The former conservative VVD politician chaired an enquiry on the future international role of the Dutch armed forces, which presented its findings on Monday. The study is intended to form a basis for the Netherlands’ long-term defence policy.
Mr Zalm concludes that serious defence cuts would prevent the armed forces from carrying out their constitutional task of maintaining the rule of international law. Mr Zalm argues that little should change in the present nature of the Dutch armed forces. The military should stay ready for deployment in a wide range of situations, both for national defence and for overseas peacekeeping operations.
According to a survey by TNS NIPO published by de Volkskrant on Monday, supporters of the Labour Party, Green Left and the liberal D66 party see defence as a prime area for cuts.
The Dutch have a classic European Welfare State with an extensive presence by the government in its economy. Exceptionally high taxes (gas 3-4x what it is here), higher income taxes, a 16% VAT tax, and fees on about everything you can think of. They have a national health care system. In summary - they are now where we are heading.
- A Dutch Conservative is a bit to the left of a "Scoop Jackson Democrat." Somewhere near or slightly to the left of Sen. Webb (D-VA) and Rep. Taylor (D-MS) with a bit of Sen. Graham (R-SC) thrown in. The comparison is inexact - but you get the idea.
- The Dutch are one of the more serious nations on the Continent when it comes to national defense. Their performance in AFG and the fact that their government will fall because of the desire to extend the committment should show you that seriousness.
- The Dutch do not have a nuclear arsenal to spend money on.
- The USA spends ~4.1% of its GDP on national defense.
- The Netherlands spends ~1.4% of its GDP on national defense.
Depending on how you define it - the USA defense budget in 2010 is from $533 to $663 billion. Let's round it to $600 billion to make it simple.
If we were to spend as a % of GDP what the Dutch do (34% of what we do now), our defense budget would be $204 billion.
Our shipbuilding budget is now ~$14 billion. Were we to follow the Dutch lead - our shipbuilding budget would be $4.8 billion. You can do that for the entire budget using static percentage reductions to a level of 34% of what we have now.
As we move towards a period of exceptional stress on the national budget - ponder that.
Also remember - the Left in The Netherlands thinks that 1.4% of GDP is too much. With the Left - it is always too much until some tyrant is rolling down the street near their vacation condo. No shocker there. They don't feel good about themselves nor can they buy votes for their party with silly things like national defense. That is a topic for grown-ups.
Sad - you would think the Dutch would have remembered what happened the last time they starved their military - but their Left didn't help then either.
Anyway - back to the USA. Where would there be an issue - if any - with our defense budget from a Constitutional POV? The argument could be made that even $204 billion is too much. Could you cut it further without Constitutional problems? Sure.
Article 1 Section 8:
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;Can you do that for $204 billion if you have the votes? Sure you can. In land forces alone, a lot of money could be saved by having a very small active duty force and a greater reliance on the National Guard. Sound familiar? Of course it does - it was the pre-WWII standard.
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
Don't think military expenditure levels and politics aren't related? Don't think military expenditure levels and macro-economics aren't related? Think again.