Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Another of our Sisyphean trips up the hill

Nicholas Kristof had a good column a few days ago about cutting military spending. John Quiggin's comments on it are even better, including this nice variation on the old "wouldn't it be great if the Air Force had to hold a bake sale" bumper sticker:

An obvious reason for the focus on military spending is that Americans have massive confidence in their military and much less in their education system, particularly the public school systems.

Yet judged by results, the opposite should surely be the case. Why is this so?

The US military has fought five large-scale wars in the past fifty years, resulting in a draw in Korea[1], a defeat in Vietnam, and three inconclusive outcomes in Iraq (twice) and Afghanistan. That’s a record that makes the worst inner-city public school look pretty good. At least the majority of students, even at the worst schools, end up more or less literate.

Your new Majority Leader, of course, has already announced that when discussing ways to be Fiscally Responsible™ and cut the budget, even mentioning military spending would make him cry.

Fun stat of the day, via Quiggin: we could pay for all of Afghan higher education by reducing our US troop presence by …?

243 soldiers.

And if you read the footnotes, it's probably not even close to that many.

Of course it is not that simple. Of course we are not Serious for talking about such things in such ways. Of course.

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