A Surprising Comparison of Ukraine War Funding
This deal looks a lot better than prior American war funding efforts
Next, let's look at American aid to each of these recipients, in constant-dollar terms, as a proportion of total U.S. gross domestic product.
This gives us a very different picture. None of the examples crack one percent of the total American economy in their given year, in constant dollars. Aid to Bri…
tain in 1941 outstrips all else by orders of magnitude, at about 0.84% of American GDP. Aid to Ukraine in 2022, on the other hand, isn't even in the top five: by this metric, it is less than what France got for its futile pursuits in Indochina in 1953.
Let's do the same analysis, again in constant dollars, versus total federal outlays.
We see here the genuinely herculean budgetary effort the United States put forth to keep Britain in the fight in 1941 — and the tremendous importance ascribed to fighting Communism in east Asia in 1954, 1973, and 1972. We also see the strategic importance of Israel as a counterweight to a Soviet-dominated order in the Middle East in 1974. And, of course, we see Ukraine in 2022 — seventh down the list at a mere 0.36% of federal outlays in constant dollars.
Finally, let's do the same analysis, again in constant dollars, versus U.S. national-security spending.
Again, Ukraine in 2022 — although a significant proportion of American defense budgeting at 1.39% of the total — takes an increasingly distant back seat to France in Indochina in 1954, Israel in 1974, South Vietnam in 1972 and 1973, and the British Empire in 1941. Every one of them, save the first, is more than double the Ukraine-2022 figure, with the last being over twelve times its size.
One very interesting thing to note is that if you re-run the figures with the full total of all 2022-Ukraine aid — including fiscal and humanitarian, to the full $48 billion — although it obviously pushes both the current- and constant-dollar analyses to extraordinary heights, it still doesn’t affect the proportionate comparisons much. Even with just over a doubling in size, the Ukrainian share versus constant-dollar GDP, federal outlays, and defense expenditures remains historically normal, and smaller than what France, Britain, Vietnam, and Israel received in their times.
The question arises: why do these comparisons? It is certainly not to argue that American aid to Ukraine is small, nor that it is insignificant by comparison. Neither assertion would be true. It is, however, to place that aid in context. It is historically large — but so is our economy, and so is our budgeting, and this allocation takes place within those contexts. Set within those contexts, we start to see an American military-aid effort for Ukraine that is well within historical precedent, and not even close to the largest of its kind.
Quantitative analysis goes only so far, and it is never the last word. Ultimately the question of a return on "investment in ... global security and democracy" is a qualitative one. We can look at our historical examples and make some judgments to that end. The money spent on Britain in 1941 is almost universally regarded as generating a strong return for the American interest; that spent on South Vietnam was mostly squandered thanks largely to America's own unreliability as a wartime partner by the early 1970s. The funds sent to the Afghan mujahideen, minuscule versus the rest in nearly every metric, arguably generated the greatest imaginable returns in a contributory cause of the fall of the Soviet empire — but one could also argue that they were, in the longer run, net negatives versus our own accounts. So much of this is clear only in the long run and the light of history. These are perspectives we try to anticipate, but are in our moment denied.
Nevertheless we can look at the Ukraine spending and make a preliminary assessment, subject to revision and events. As things stand — as the spending remains proportionately minuscule, and as the war machine of a great-power American rival is ground to pieces on the killing steppe — our military aid to Ukraine looks like one thing in particular.
It looks like a bargain.
GOP Turns To Defense Spending Fight
An emerging deal between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and conservatives who initially opposed his bid for the gavel looks to exact deep spending cuts. This comes amid a looming partisan fight over the debt limit, compounding fears that overall spending is poised for a return to automatic reductions known as sequestration.
Among the concessions McCarthy made to secure the speakership was a vote on a budget framework that caps discretionary spending at fiscal 2022 levels and aims to balance the federal budget in a decade.
The nascent pact does not make a specific commitment on defense spending. Many Republicans have sought to quash chatter of Pentagon cuts, noting they could instead look to make reductions from the non-military side of the ledger. But if the Pentagon is not spared, reverting to last year’s budget levels would amount to a roughly 10 percent cut, wiping out a $75 billion increase enacted last month.
“Seems like we could be backing ourselves into sequestration,” warned Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.), an Army veteran and Armed Services Committee member, on a Friday conference call with McCarthy and allies, POLITICO reported.
Who Has Read The Rules Addendum?
A private document that only some House Republicans have seen and others refuse to talk about could play an outsized role in the governance of the chamber over the next two years.
The document contains concessions — not included in the rules package passed on Monday night — that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made to rebellious Freedom Caucus members to secure the speaker's gavel.
Those members have threatened to kill McCarthy’s speakership as swiftly as they acquiesced to it if he reneges on their handshake agreements.
The existence of a "secret three-page addendum" containing "the most controversial concessions" that McCarthy made in order to get elected was first reported by Punchbowl News on Monday and confirmed to Axios by multiple GOP aides and members.
One of those concessions is three seats set aside for conservatives on the Rules Committee, as well as representation for them on the powerful Appropriations Committee.
Other McCarthy give-aways include votes on congressional term limits and a select committee on the weaponization of the federal government, a debt limit strategy and a more open amendment process on appropriations bills.
One thing the document doesn't contain, according to NRCC Chair Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), who said he's seen it, is promised committee chairmanships for specific members: "No names, just representation [on panels]."
The intrigue: Many of the GOP members Axios spoke to about the private document said they hadn't seen it, while others who hold leadership positions were notably circumspect about any knowledge they might have of it.
A Self-Hating Generation
I submit: the traditional concept of “building character” is out the window.
Once upon a time, a fully realised person was something one became. Entailing education, observation, experimentation, and sometimes humiliation, “coming of age” was hard work. When the project succeeded, we developed a gradually richer understanding of what it means to be human and what constitutes a fruitful life. This ongoing project was halted only by death. Maturity was the result of accumulated experience (some of it dire) and much trial and error (both comical and tragic), helping explain why wisdom, as opposed to intelligence, was mostly the preserve of the old. We admired the “self-made man”, because character was a creation — one constructed often at great cost. Many a “character-building” adventure, such as joining the Army, was a trial by fire.
These days, discussion of “character” is largely relegated to fiction workshops and film reviews. Instead, we relentlessly address “identity”, a hollowed-out concept now reduced to membership of the groups into which we were involuntarily born — thereby removing all choice about who we are. Rejecting the passé “character building” paradigm, we now inform children that their selves emerge from the womb fully formed. Their sole mission is to tell us what those selves already are. Self is a prefabricated house to which only its owner has a key.
The Year of the Vagabond
As the world descends into a bleak new year, with recessions looming and nothing mildly positive to look forward to, more and more people are adopting this lifestyle. Some are not doing it out of choice. Sofa surfing and moving back in with parents are their only options to escape the multiple crises: cost of living, energy bills, housing, war. For others, there’s an air of “what’s the point?” If you’re going to be broke and depressed, you might as well get to move around a bit and see what’s out there.
Britain is particularly bad. Stories spread of workmen walking into churches and taking food packages after a twelve-hour shift, passing up fresh groceries for something that doesn’t require turning on the gas. The weather is wretched: stormy and wet, stormy and wet, and mud, mud, mud, deep in all the streets. All the bleakness of a Dickens novel without the charm. Many of my friends are waking up to the fact that they’re living in squalor in central London for eye-watering rent, when they could be hopping from one Airbnb to the next in a European coastal town for half the price.
There are, of course, problems with not having a fixed abode. I’ve been waiting on a check for my tax return since June but haven’t stayed at the same address long enough for it to actually reach me. My own fault, maybe, but also the result of a wholly inefficient civil service. You can forget trying to send birthday or Christmas cards. I’ve resorted to politely telling people not to bother because, by the time they get to me, I’ve usually moved on.
Items of Interest
“It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt, when we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love, and goodness, that we drift into a life of emptiness, in which there may be almost no pain, but the dark sensation of meaninglessness and abandonment is all the greater.”
— Pope Benedict