This year, the United States will spend at least $700 billion on defense and security. Adjusting for inflation, that’s more than America has spent on defense in any year since World War II—more than during the Korean war, the Vietnam war, or the Reagan military buildup. Much of that enormous sum results from spending increases under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Since 2001, military and security expenditures have soared by 119 percent. For most of that time, of course, the United States has been fighting two wars. Yet that’s not the cause of the defense-spending explosion.
Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It By Richard A. Clarke and Robert K.
In the summer of 1996, during my short-lived American legal career, I clerked at a large Washington, D.C., law firm. Within a few days of my arrival, a partner dropped a 5,000-page bomb on my desk—the U.S. Air Force report on the plane crash that killed Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and 34 others in Dubrovnik earlier that year.
Four days before the fall of Kabul in November 2001, Osama bin Laden was still in town. The Al Qaeda leader’s movements before and after September 11 are difficult to trace precisely, but, just prior to the attacks, we know that he appeared in Kandahar and urged his followers to evacuate to safer locations in anticipation of U.S. retaliation. Then, on November 8, he was in Kabul, despite the fact that U.S. forces and their Afghan allies were closing in on the city.
A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon By Neil Sheehan (Random House, 534 pp., $35) In late March 1953, a colonel named Bernard Schriever sat in a briefing room at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, listening as John von Neumann, the brilliant mathematician, and Edward Teller, the physicist, discussed the future of the hydrogen bomb, the far more powerful follow-on to the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki eight years earlier.
One afternoon in October, a blue and white jumbo jet flew high above the Pacific Ocean, approaching the international dateline. On board was the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, who was on an around-the-world trip that would end with a summit of NATO defense ministers, where the topic of the day would be Afghanistan. Gates was flying on what is often called “the Doomsday Plane,” a specially outfitted 747 that looks like a bulkier Air Force One and was built to wage retaliatory nuclear war from the skies.
Valkyrie: The Story Of The Plot To Kill Hitler, By Its Last Member By Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager; With Florence and Jerome Fehrenbach Translated by Steven Rendall (Knopf, 211 pp., $24.95) Try to imagine the following scenario. It is the winter of 1944 and the great German offensive in the Ardennes is threatening to push the Allied forces into the sea.
Last month, retired Air Force General Merrill McPeak, one of Barack Obama’s highest-ranking military supporters during the campaign, reiterated his opposition to openly gay service. When McPeak participated in the debates over lifting the ban in 1993, he was Chief of Staff of the Air Force.