WASHINGTON – Evan Siff comes from a military family. His great grandfather was a general, his grandfather was in the navy and so was his father. For Siff, staying close to that tradition was second nature.
But, he chose the academic route and pursued an MA in International Relations at Durham University in England. In his dissertation, he examined NATO as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy, and how that relates to US military spending.
If you ask him what he learned as a result of the degree, his answer will be unorthodox.
“When I was writing my thesis, I really examined why NATO didn’t go away. The fall of the USSR made it obsolete,” Siff said. “I found out some things that didn’t help my outlook on things at all…I had gotten pretty cynical. The more you study, you more you will realize how much lobbyists actually determine legislation in the U.S.”
And while most of his fellow-classmates moved into government jobs, Siff chose to work in public relations at Topaz Partners, a Boston-area technology PR firm, because he was disappointed in how “political” the military had become, especially when the U.S. is pouring millions and billions of dollars into two wars that seem too expensive. (Continued below graphic)
Graphic by Catherine Ngai
The current U.S. defense budget proposal of $708 billion for fiscal 2011, a 6.7 percent increase from the year prior of $663.8 billion. According to the Stockholm International Peace and Research Institute, this number surpasses defense spending in the next 10 countries combined. Some question why this number is so big and whether reducing it would help lower the nation’s budget deficit.
“The US military is the pillar upon which the stability and safety of the international system rests,” said Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Arlington, VA, in an interview. “It’s not in our interests to see the Middle East exploding into war or to see South Korea overrun by North Korea.”
Goure says that although the U.S. military budget is large, it acts as an international defense mechanism. He argues that the U.S. uses its military to keep peace internationally.
He also points out that if the entire defense budget were cut to zero, it would further exacerbate the debt situation instead of alleviating it. He reasons that eliminating the defense budget would mean firing the nearly 1.4 million men and women on active duty and the another 1 million in the Reserves and the National Guard. This would mean increasing the already high unemployment rate.