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Bombing the US Budget

PARIS – As the United States and the world mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, debates are raging about the consequences – for Iraq, the Middle East, and America’s standing in the world. But the Iraq war’s domestic impact – the Pentagon’s ever mushrooming budget and its long-term influence on the US economy – may turn out to be its most lasting consequence.

The US Defense Department’s request for $515.4 billion in the 2009 fiscal year dwarfs every other military budget in the world. And this huge sum – a 5% increase over the 2008 military budget – is to be spent only on the US military’s normal operations, thus excluding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since he took office in 2001, President George W. Bush has increased America’s regular military budget by 30%, again not taking into account the cost of the wars he launched. Last year, America’s entire military and counterterrorism expenditures topped $600 billion. One can assume that next year’s total spending on military affairs will be even bigger. Adjusted for inflation, US military spending has reached its highest level since World War II.

Is there any limit to this spending boom? The US is allocating more money for defense today than it did during the war against Hitler or the Cold War. The Bush administration seems to think that today’s military threats are graver. Talk about the so-called “peace dividend” that was supposed to come with the fall of the Berlin Wall has been silenced.