WASHINGTON — The United States spends too much to defend itself and wealthy allies from military threats that no longer exist or are greatly exaggerated, said US Representative Barney Frank, who called for cutting annual military spending by $200 billion per year.
The Newton Democrat said America’s massive defense spending is in a large part driven by the fear ingrained over 50 years of battling real threats to the country’s existence, such as the fight against the Nazis in World War II and the long Cold War standoff with the Soviet Union.
“Fear of terrorists has replaced the fear of the Nazis and the Soviets,” said Frank, in a speech today at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “I wish you could defeat terrorists with nuclear submarines, because we have a lot of nuclear submarines and they don’t have any.”
Terrorism, said Frank, speaking less than 12 hours after President Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden by US forces, “is a threat to our lives … but it does not threaten our very existence like the Soviets and the Nazis did.”
Frank said the United States should reevaluate its commitment to foreign military bases and large deployments of troops overseas, as well as the structure of NATO, which has become “the means by which the United States subsidizes the military budgets of our wealthy allies.''
“On the whole the people we are subsidizing can take care of themselves. … Many weapons and overseas bases are irrelevant to fighting terrorism,'' Frank said.
Reducing military spending needs to be part of the country’s plan to address mounting deficits, said Frank.
Frank has cooperated to push for military spending cuts with Republican US Representative Ron Paul of Texas, a libertarian who has pursued the GOP nomination for president and may run again in 2012.
In general, Republicans have resisted calls to cut the military’s budget, though Frank said he believes “the average American is ready to scale back military spending” to help address rising debt without eviscerating social programs.
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