Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sorry, Donald, that's not history

The Donald has declared that, if he were president (not that he's running), he would tax other countries.  "What I would be doing," Trump said, "is, I'd be taking in hundreds of billions of dollars from other countries. As an example, we protect South Korea. Why aren't they paying us? We have thousands of troops in European countries. Thousands. Tens of thousands of troops. If we're protecting countries why aren't they paying for it?"  He explained how we'd gotten into this mess with, "The problem with this country is we have too much diplomacy... And you know what a diplomat is? It's somebody who is trained to be nice."

Well, Don, the thing about forcing those countries we protect to pay us?  They are.  The Defense Department reports a little item known as "U.S. Station Cost Offset Percentage" for every country we do military business with.  The most recent complete analysis available comes from 2004.  You want to know about Korea?  They do pretty good, covering 40% of the total U.S. military cost for holding the line against the only remaining aggressive communist state in the world, 1/3 of the axis of evil.  That's than Japan's 74.5%, which comes to $4.4 billion, or $106,000 per soldier. 

And we're not just talking about salary, here.  The costs we're counting include things like blast-proof shelters for fighter jets and specially purposed harbor facilities for nuclear warships, not to mention the costs of food, transport, housing, of schools for soldiers' children, of golf courses and basketball courts.  If those soldiers were stationed in the U.S., the American taxpayer would be covering 100% of those costs.

Of course, there are a few deadbeats.  Portugal only pays 3.6% of the cost of U.S. troops on their soil, and Denmark an even more paltry .6%.  If you think you can fix the U.S. deficit by squeezing Portugal and Denmark, you're even more delusional than you sound.  Most countries on the list pay every year to support our military to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars apiece.

You see, Don, way back in the ancient world, when primitive government-like entities had nice guys (known to the rest of us as diplomats) negotiate agreements like the 1949 NATO agreement and the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security Between the United States and Japan?  And in the years since, the thousands of nice guys since who've renegotiated the terms of those agreements and dozens more?  None of those nice guys were stupid, nor were they interested in bankrupting the U.S. for the sake of projecting power overseas out of the goodness of their hearts.  They struck bargains in places where it served U.S. interests to project power and they pushed those who benefited to help cover the costs.  You can argue that some of those places no longer need our protection.  You can argue that the U.S. should not be in the business of keeping everyone else safe and that our interests are not served by having such an extensive military.  But unless you are completely ignorant of post-war military history, you cannot argue that the U.S. military has gotten a bad bargain out of our overseas postings; it is the massive financial support of our allies that has paid for the U.S. military to grow to its current size and strength.  That, Mr. Trump, is history.

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