If we, the people of the United States want to cut our federal budget, we need to start with military spending. We spend much, much more than any other country. In fact, the U.S. could cut our military budget in half and still spend twice what China spends and four times what Russia spends (1).
But, if I may even flatter myself that they (these words) may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism... (2)
Another great general-turned-president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, famously warned against the potential abuse of power by the military-industrial complex (a term he coined):
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. (3)
But Eisenhower, who had planned and overseen the Allied liberation of Europe in WWII, also warned against the cost of military spending:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. (4)
As Washington and Eisenhower foresaw, the U.S. cannot afford to be the world’s policeman.