American Warfare State : The Domestic Politics of Military Spending
How did the United Statesa country founded on a distrust of standing armies and centralized powercome to have the most powerful military in history? In her groundbreaking book, Rebecca Thorpe reveals the profound relationships among the size and persistence of our military complex; the huge growth of presidential power to act militarily; and the corresponding decline of Congressional willingness to check this power. The public costs of military mobilization and warfareforced conscription and higher taxes to pay for weapons and armiesimposed political constraints on military appropriations for most of American history. As Thorpe shows, however, World War II military mobilization not only created a huge defense industry, but also gave birth to new political interests undreamt of by the constitution’s framers. Many rural and semi-rural areas became economically reliant on defense sector jobs and capital, which in turn has given the legislators representing them powerful incentives to press for ongoing weapons spending regardless of their ideologies or national security goals. This new incentive structure, Thorpe argues, has profoundly reshaped the balance of war powers between Congress and the President. With a defense industry perennially poised for war, presidents enjoy unprecedented discretion to take military actions. And our constitutional system has been transformed from a political regime premised on limited power and checks and balances, to one of shared interests and centralized authority.