Richard Immerman, professor of history at Temple University, was an assistant deputy director of national intelligence in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from 2007 to 2009. He is also the Francis W. DeSerio chair in strategic intelligence at the U.S. Army War College. Below are his thoughts on President Trump's plan to increase military spending.
Frankly, the president’s plan to increase military spending by some $54 billion while cutting many other programs is not, or cannot be, a serious one. What I mean is that he cannot seriously think it will be enacted.
So why make the proposal (other than to cause more disruption)? In my view, the president is laying down a marker to foment a debate for the future, and an unhealthy debate at that. He is signaling that America’s role in the world and its security depend on force and not on diplomacy, let alone other aspects of soft power. That is cause for great concern, and not only because it is wrongheaded and sends such a counterproductive signal to the world. It also betrays a remarkable degree of misunderstanding, ignorance and demagoguery.
Trump has said that we need this increase in spending in order to win wars again. He is claiming, therefore, that the United States did not 'win' in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam or wherever — whatever 'win' means; did the U.S. 'win' in the Gulf in 1991? — because of a weak military that must be rebuilt. That’s an appeal to emotion, not reason. Given the stakes, that’s frightening.
Richard Immerman is the Edward J. Buthusiem Family Distinguished Faculty Fellow in History, and the Marvin Wachman Director of the Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy.