Donald Trump has boasted about the billions of dollars spent on weapons for the military, while stating that he hoped he would never have to use the new hardware. Does this mean the US has lost its appetite for bombing campaigns?
“We are totally revamping and improving and in some cases getting brand new nuclear weapons – never wanna have to use them – but we have the most and the best in the world,” he told American soldiers, sailors and marines at the Osan Air Base near Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday.
“It’s getting to a level where it wasn’t even close,” Trump said. “Hopefully we’ll never have to use it,” he said, speaking about the military’s capacity in general.
Though Trump repeatedly stressed that he never wants to use nuclear weapons, some of his administration’s recent actions have raised the threat of nuclear confrontation in Europe. Washington’s decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia earlier this year raised fears of a Cold War-style nuclear buildup in Europe.
In addition, the US military’s Missile Defense Review – released in January – revealed plans for space-based missile defense systems, plans that Russia has warned could lead to a new arms race in space.
Trump certainly seems to be a believer in ‘peace through strength.’ A scathing opponent of America’s wars in the Middle East during his campaign, then-candidate Trump called the Iraq War “a tremendous disservice to humanity,” and promised to bring American troops home from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and to embrace a more isolationist foreign policy.
However, Trump also promised to enlarge the military’s already astronomical budget, and followed through on that promise, hiking the US’ military spend to around $700 billion last year. Next year’s budget is slated to increase to $716 billion.
“You know what 700 billion is?” Trump shouted, to cheers from his military audience.
“You name it, we’re buying it.”
Trump promised the military would soon see “hundreds and hundreds” of planes coming in. These include 78 next-generation F-35 stealth fighters, 24 F/A-18 Hornets and eight new F-15Xs from Boeing. 146 Black Hawk and Apache helicopters will enter service next year, along with 165 Abrams tanks and 12 warships, including an aircraft carrier and three guided-missile destroyers.
And, while Trump has not started any fresh conflicts since taking office, the US military regularly gets to put its weapons to work. The US drops a bomb somewhere around the world on average every 12 minutes – 121 per day – and Trump has so far bombed Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Niger.
Meanwhile, the US military is deployed to more than 150 countries, with 165,000 active duty personnel serving outside the United States. Moreover, even if the US’ weapons aren’t being used by American troops, they often find their way into the hands of America’s enemies. Weapons earmarked by Barack Obama for “moderate rebels” in Syria were quickly pilfered by jihadists or sold on the black market, while just this week a cache of Javelin anti-tank missiles were discovered in a Libyan government raid on a militant base.