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Study Up For 'Think': The American Warfare State

U.S. Army
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U.S. Army Soldiers drive a Bradley fighting vehicle in Iraq in 2007

Despite concerns over deficit and unnecessary wars, Congress spends over $700 billion on the military each year, as much as the rest of the world combined. Today at 1 p.m. on 'Think', Krys Boyd will be speak with professor Rebecca Thorpe, author of The American Warfare State: The Domestic Politics of Military Spending.

America's forefathers warned of overgrown military establishments and perpetual warfare. James Madison once wrote: "War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debt and taxes..."

Madison and his Federalist allies even designed political institutions to guard against the dangers of an excessive military. Yet, when faced with the threat of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, the nation embraced full-scale mobilization. Then, decades of perpetual warfare led to the rise of military spending by Congress.

But the cost is more than just in American dollars, since World War II ended, there have been over 100,000 U.S. casualties of war.

In her book, Thorpe's research addresses why a nation founded on severe distrust of standing armies and centralized power developed and maintained the most powerful military in history. She argues why the shift not only happened as a result of national security concerns but because full-scale mobilization widely extended benefits to discrete individuals, while federal policies systematically put the burden of the immediate cost onto political minorities and foreign populations.

Thorpe teaches courses on U.S. political institutions, state development and research methods at the University of Washington. She's also worked on Capitol Hill as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow.

Listen to Think at noon and 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday on KERA 90.1 or stream live.