Trump’s budget: Hard power, not soft
It was Winston Churchill who declared that “to jaw-jaw is always better than to warwar,” said Zack Beauchamp in Vox.com. Even Britain’s resolute wartime leader knew that diplomacy and negotiation are preferable to going to war. But President Trump apparently disagrees: His first budget plan calls for a 9 percent, or $54 billion, boost in annual defense spending, while slashing the State Department’s funds by a whopping 28 percent. The budget has “virtually no chance” of passing through Congress in its current form, but it makes clear Trump’s intention to shift U.S. foreign policy away from the “soft power” of diplomacy and toward the “hard power” of military might. That would be a grave mistake, said Caitlin Talmadge in The New York Times. While the armed forces are vital to national security, the soft-power tools of diplomacy and foreign aid help “prevent wars and crises from arising in the first place.” Military force—and the mass casualties it brings—should always be a “last resort.”
In the real world, “peace is maintained through deterrence,” said Noah Rothman in Commentary Magazine.com. After eight years of President Obama’s naïveté, it’s good to have a president who understands that ancient, time-proven principle. Look at what Obama’s refusal to intervene in Syria has wrought, and the renewed need to protect South Korea from Kim Jung Un’s threats. In a dangerous and unstable world, hard power can prevent wars. True, but cutting the State Department’s foreign aid to allies would be counterproductive, said Max Boot, also in Commentary Magazine.com. The largest recipients are “clearly of major strategic importance”: Afghanistan is leading the fight against the Taliban and al Qaida; Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan are battling ISIS; African states are up against Boko Haram, al-Shabab, and other dangerous terrorist groups. Giving these countries financial aid means “we don’t have to put U.S. troops on the front lines.”
Let’s face it: This is really just a “Viagra budget” for Trump, said Nina Burleigh in Newsweek.com. The U.S. already spends “more on our military than the next seven nations combined,” and accounts for “34 percent of the entire world’s total military spending.” An extra $54 billion wouldn’t change the balance of power one bit. It would be nothing but a “Big Blue Budget Pill” that would make Trump and his “insecure fanboys” feel bigger, stronger, and tougher.