According to a report issued by the Watson Institute for Public Affairs at Brown University, the U.S. government has spent or obligated some 4.8 trillion dollars on the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq over the past fifteen years. Moreover, these costs have been funded almost entirely by borrowing and unless the federal government finds a way to repay this money, which is unlikely, the cost of interest payments to fund this war will be an additional $7.9 trillion by 2053.
U.S. spends 3.62% of GDP on defense
The United States spends 3.62% of its GDP on defense. A substantial portion of these expenditures is for the security of other countries. For example, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. spends about $5.5 billion annually to keep a military presence in Japan. Another billion dollars or so is devoted to maintaining U.S. troops in Korea. At the same time, Japan spends slightly less than 1% of its GDP on defense while Korea spends a little over 2%.
NATO contribution has become campaign issue
Outside of the expense of the wars in the Middle-East and against terror, the most expensive external cost to the U.S. is the contribution to NATO. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was established after World War II to counter the threat from the Soviet Union against the countries of Europe. Both Sen. Bernie Sanders and GOP candidate Donald Trump have called for a reduction in the U.S. contribution to NATO.
During the primary debates Sanders said the following:
I would not be embarrassed as president of the United States to say to our European allies, you know what, the United States of America cannot just support your economies. You got to put up your own fair share of the defense burden. — Sen. Bernie Sanders
The NATO charter calls on member countries to commit at least 2% of their GDP on defense spending. The U.S. is currently paying 22% of NATO costs for the defense of Europe. In contrast, Germany’s contribution is equal to about 15% of NATO’s budget, while France contribution 11%.
We pay so much disproportionately more for NATO. We are getting ripped off by every country in NATO, where they pay virtually nothing, most of them. And we’re paying the majority of the costs. — Donald J. Trump
Americans are becoming less willing to take on the role of world police
The perception that America should not continue taking on commitments in various parts of the world to provide for the security of other countries is one that is gaining increasing support in the country. While Americans are willing to undertake direct military action when the homeland is threatened, there is an increasing disagreement as to the wisdom of supporting a seemingly unending and unwinnable war in Afghanistan that has cost the nation trillions of dollars. At the same time, to many Americans, it no longer makes sense to fund the protection of other countries who are unwilling to make the national sacrifice to ensure their own security.