The folks at Cato have their knickers in a twist over defense spending. Their main argument is that since we no longer face a Cold War enemy, we do not require Cold War level defense spending. According to their big, flashy infographic, "The Cold War is over. We no longer face an existential threat. It's time to reduce military spending to reflect this reality."
I find the statement to be a bit of a non sequitur. While it is true that the Cold War is over (and won thanks to increasing military spending, by the way), it does not necessarily follow that we no longer face an existential threat. We don't face that specific existential threat, but nuclear Armageddon is not the only possible existential threat. We do, however, need to ask the question about the structure of our military.
In modern warfare, we can no longer arm up the farmers and lawyers, spend a couple of weeks teaching them to shoot straight, then march off to war. A nation either has a military that is effective right now, or has to build one up over time. Likewise, if a nation faces an existential threat that needs to be nuked into oblivion, it either has that capability ready and waiting, or it faces extinction before such a capability can be created and employed. We are a nation that has such a military and such a strategic capability. These things cost money. Buckets of it. This is where the title question comes in.
I operate the cranes that load big scary missiles onto big scary submarines so that our Navy can patrol silently and carry the biggest of big sticks. If any existential threat rears its ugly head, we have the capability to vaporize it within minutes; not months, weeks, days, or even hours. Minutes. That capability is part of what you get for $600 billion in defense spending. Some people even on the right (libertarian types) think the cost of such a capability is just too much for the benefit it provides. While I agree that our defense budget is perhaps bigger than it has to be, I don't think it follows, as Cato does, that our spending reflects a lingering Cold War mentality. But, I'm really close to the situation. My view of it could be skewed. I may not be able to see the bigger picture due to my proximity.
So I ask you, Ricochet, should we scale back our military so that such things as a strategic capability are no longer within our reach? Should we convert all the SSBNs into SSGNs? Should my job be eliminated?