Paying for NATO – the Truth, the Myths, and Trump

Tara Dowdell: President Trump Says U.S. Contributes 90% to NATO. The Number is 22% | AM Joy | MSNBC from politics

In the video above (at location 2:40) Tara Dowdell quotes Trump as stating the U.S. contributes 90% to NATO, and the actual number is only 22%. There are some misleading statistics at work here that need more analysis.

[chart credit: NATO]
There are direct and indirect contributions to NATO. Direct contributions are made to finance requirements of the Alliance that serve the interests of all 29 members. They are not the responsibility of any single member. Costs are borne collectively, often using the principle of common funding.

The chart on the left shows direct contributions by NATO country. So here is Dowdell’s 22% figure. Germany, with 14%, carries the second largest burden.

But that does not represent the correct picture, and I believe that Trump didn’t refer to direct contributions. Trump often speaks inaccurately or imprecisely, to say the least, but I am sure that when he said that the United States contributes 90% of the cost of NATO, he meant the sum of the military spending goals of each country. So let’s analyze those separately.

I have been on record many times in this blog with posts about military spending of the United States. In this post of 2016 I show that the United States spends more on defense than the next nine countries combined. Trump’s increase of military spending this year of more than $70 billion alone is more than the entire military budget of Russia.

For NATO, the member countries agreed to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense. So the chart below is another matter entirely, and it shows the defense expenditures by NATO country as a share of the GDP in percent.

[chart credit: NATO]
This chart is pulled from the NATO website where there is a wealth of information and many charts.

Here you can see that the United States is the only country that far exceeds the 2% mark. Only four countries are above this guideline. Besides the United States, those are Greece (surprisingly), the United Kingdom, and Estonia. Everyone else is below or way below 2%. Note that some countries, like Romania, Latvia, Lithuania and Canada has significant increases since 2014. Trump tried to take credit for those increases recently, even though he had nothing to do with them. They were prompted by Obama pressure, and mostly by voluntary military buildup in the Baltic nations, which are close to Russia and feared Russian aggression after watching the Ukraine debacle.

Those are just percentages. When looking at the real numbers per country, the United States military spending in 2017 was $685 billion. The military spending of all other NATO countries combined was $271 billion. This means that the United States spent 71.7% of all military dollars of NATO. Not quite the 90% of Trump’s exaggeration, but a quite staggering amount.

Trump has said that “Germany owes the United States a trillion dollars for its defense.” This statement is obviously ludicrous. Nobody put a gun to the head of the United States and made it spend more on military than all other NATO countries combined. This has been going on for more than 70 years now. We all know about the $600 hammers and $10,000 toilet seats. I have been vocal in this blog about our defense budget and the price of a single F-35 fighter. Here is an interesting example about a $1200 coffee cup. The United States just loves its military and loves spending vast amounts of money on that military. Others simply can’t keep up, or don’t want to keep up.

NATO was created to form an alliance where all other members stand up for each other when one of them is attacked. After the end of World War II, that was critically important for the safety of Europe. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, I am sure it irked Russia that many of its satellites quickly switched sides and joined NATO, including Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic and Hungary. It didn’t look good for the Soviet ideology, and it does not look good for Russia today.

But in all those years the spirit of NATO was invoked only one time, and it was surprisingly in the defense of the United States after the attacks of September 11, 2001 and what transpired after that.

The United States started what many consider an illegal war in Iraq, and many of the NATO allies came to support America. NATO members spent massive amounts of money and many of their soldiers died in Afghanistan and Iraq in alliance with the United States.

So who owes whom money?

The United States spends massive amounts of money on its military presence in Europe and Europe has started taking it for granted. I remember growing up as a boy in Germany in the 1960s. I lived in a city with a large American military presence. As post-war children, we never really understood why the Americans were there. To us, it had always been that way. Today, almost half of all Germans want the American army to leave. They don’t see the point anymore. I suspect the same is true in many other European countries.

Trump says that the current arrangement “is unfair to the American taxpayer.” Well, it may be unfair, but it’s not Germany sticking it to the American taxpayer, it’s the American Congress and the administration, and the past administrations, all spending way too much money on military – and thus taking value and prosperity away from the taxpayer. But then, of course, there is the military industrial complex, which feeds a large sector of our economy. Maybe war is good after all?

With our current commander-in-chief, I wonder if the United States would honor its NATO obligations if Russia were to suddenly invade the Baltic states, or Poland? Talk about a world crisis!

In the end, perhaps NATO has run its course. Trump may be on to something. Maybe it’s time to let it fizzle out.

Book Review: Beneath a Scarlet Sky – by Mark Sullivan

Pino Lella is a 17-year-old Italian boy living with his family in Milan in 1943 as World War II comes into its final chapter. To escape the draft of Italian boys into the Nazi’s war and face even odds of getting killed on the Russian front within months of deployments, Pino reluctantly volunteers and is assigned as a driver to a Nazi general. In this position he happens to be in a front-row seat to observe the war and the machinations of the Nazis behind the scenes. But along with the doubtful privilege of serving one of the top commanders comes the branding of being a traitor in the view of his Italian countrymen, friends and even family.

Beneath a Scarlett Sky is a novel, but it is dramatized around the true story of the real person Pino Lella and his actual experiences during the war.

Early on, Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler hit it off as two open fascists. When Hitler decided to wage war, he started an alliance with Mussolini and the Italy German pact was a powerful force early in the war. But Italy fell earlier, and Mussolini was captured, and then freed. He served as a puppet leader under the Germans in the latter years of the war. The Italian people were brutalized both by the Italian Fascists loyal to Mussolini, and the German occupation force that was in Italy presumably to “protect” the nation from the Allied Forces. In reality, the Germans looted Italy, both of its young men for the war effort, and later of its goods, food, manufacturing, and industrial output. As it was custom for the Nazis, Jews were rounded up and shipped to concentration camps or into forced labor. Any non-cooperating Italians were forced to perform slave labor duties until they died. The Germans called it Vernichtung durch Arbeit (destruction through labor).

Atrocities by the Germans abounded. Here is a passage describing how General Leyer, one of the central protagonists, separates a child from her mother – while he knew it was forever:

A few moments later, a woman pushed through the crowd, helping a pale, sweating little girl about nine years old.

“Tell her that I am going to save her daughter,” General Leyers said.

Pino balked a moment before translating.

The woman began to sob. “Thank you. Thank you.” “Tell her I will get the girl medical help and make sure she never comes to Platform Twenty-One again,” the general said. “But the girl must come alone.”

“What?” Pino said.

“Tell her,” Leyers said. “And there is no argument. Either her daughter is saved, or she is not, and I’ll find someone more agreeable.”

Pino didn’t know what to think, but told her.

The woman swallowed but said nothing.

The women around her said, “Save her. Do it!”

At last, the sick girl’s mother nodded, and Leyers said to the SS guards, “Take her to my car, and wait with her there.” The Nazis hesitated until Colonel Rauff shouted at them to comply. The girl, though weak and feverish, went hysterical when they took her from her mother’s arms. Her shrieks and cries could be heard throughout the station while Leyers ordered the rest of the people out of the boxcar. He walked in front of them, looking at each in turn before stopping in front of a girl in her late teens.

— Sullivan, Mark. Beneath a Scarlet Sky: A Novel (pp. 347-348). Lake Union Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Reading Beneath a Scarlet Sky helped me understand the nature of the war in Italy so much better than I ever knew. That is actually surprising, because I could have had much more insightful knowledge of what actually happened had I just sat down with my paternal grandfather when he was still alive. He died in 1985 at the age of 80. We don’t know much about his role in the war, but he was off with the Bundeswehr all through the war, and in the final years he was stationed in Italy. He never talked about his experiences with me, or with anyone as far as I know.

But he was there, he was one of the Nazis described in Beneath a Scarlet Sky.

Maybe that’s why he never talked about it.



Iranian Military Budget and Trump

So the White Trash in the White House stated today that Iran’s Military Budget is up more than 40%.

I would get it if he made things up that we can’t disprove, but about 5 seconds of googling and there is the truth and the lie exposed. Does he not know we can read?

The fact is, Iran’s military budget has gone from $12B in 2016 to $14B in 2017 (source). So Trita Parsi’s chart above is also somewhat misleading, but it does compare Iran to Saudi Arabia, for contrast.

Did you know that in 2014 (the last data I could find), the Iranian cabinet had more members with Ph.D. degrees from U.S. universities than Barack Obama’s cabinet? In fact, Iran had more holders of American Ph.D.s in its presidential cabinet than France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and Spain—combined.

Here is more information and links.

Should this make us think again about Iran?

But more importantly, it should make us think about Trump – who seems to just make stuff up.

Movie Review: Dunkirk

In May of 1940, more than 300,000 British soldiers were surrounded by the Nazis on the French beaches near Dunkirk. There was no way out, and the British Navy didn’t have the ships to come to their rescue. A backstory to this is provided by the movie The Darkest Hour.

In Dunkirk, we follow the frantic lives of just a few men, on the sea, in the air, and trapped on the beach. Through their eyes we see the horror of senseless war and the agony it brings to so many people.

There is little dialog, just a lot of graphic cinematography to tell the story. The haunting score of Hans Zimmer accentuates the relentless action and keeps the heart pounding.

The story at Dunkirk happened almost 80 years ago in World War II, yet now, these images are more important than ever.

Today we have pudgy, entitled men with inherited status and wealth, men who have never served a day in the military in their lives, “lead” us. We allow them to send the sons and daughters of other fathers into “conflicts” overseas to fight for what? For the right of other rich men to plunder the oil, and to support their own self-aggrandized notions of worth and value.

Watch Dunkirk and then ask yourself: How do they expect us to treat them with any respect?

About North Korea – An Open Letter to Trump Voters

Dear Trump Voters:

Trump goaded North Korea with this message:

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely.”

Now we have ourselves a wildly escalated international situation with one teenage banana republic baby face under an inherited dictatorship (Kim Jong Un) on one side, and a petulant dilettante with a mouth he can’t control (Donald Trump) in the White House on the other side, comparing the sizes of their dicks at the expense of the rest of the world.

When we had the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1961, at least we had two professional politicians, Nikita Khrushchev on the Soviet side, and John Kennedy on the American side, who both were skilled diplomats aware of the awesome responsibility and the power they each had. In the end, egos were left aside and the world didn’t go up in flames.

This time around, I for one don’t have the same confidence. I’d hate to see a Korean nuke vaporize Seattle, or San Francisco, or San Diego, and have the fallout drift over the rest of the country. Yes, the Koreans would get one missile through, if that, and then their peninsula would be returned to the stone age, along with serious damage to northern China, Japan and South Korea – but why?

Because Trump is a fool who can’t contain his ego?

How exactly is this making America great again?

Thanks, Trump voters!

Der Spiegel – America First

U. S. President Donald Trump is depicted beheading the Statue of Liberty in this illustration on the cover of the latest issue of German news magazine Der Spiegel. Spiegel/Handout via REUTERS

U. S. President Donald Trump is depicted beheading the Statue of Liberty in this illustration on the cover of the latest issue of German news magazine Der Spiegel.

— Spiegel/Handout via REUTERS


Gearing Up for Another Major War – Iran

Remember the years after 9/11? Bush, Cheney, Rice and Powell parading in front of cameras every day telling us over and over again how Saddam had all these weapons of mass destruction and we needed to do something about them before it was too late. By repeating this message so long, so often, on so many forums, the country eventually believed it. And then we started another war in addition to the one that was already waging against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The war itself ended quickly, and Saddam, his sons and his henchmen were soon found and executed. It seemed like a winning situation when Bush announced Mission Accomplished after the major military operations were complete.

What we didn’t know at the time was that it was just the start of another decade of instability in the entire region. We had, without realizing it, taken out the dictator who was also the one element that kept the region somewhat stable. That gone, instability took over, costs rose, and we learned that nation-building is far more complicated and expensive than waging war.

After enough death and expense, the nation got sick of it and elected Obama who promised to end the war. He kept his promise and pulled out all troops, only to find years afterwards that it was a colossal mistake and it had given rise to a much more serious nemesis: ISIS.

Obama and Hillary are the founders of ISIS. They’re the founders!

— Donald Trump

Now, in just the first two weeks of Trump, we find new saber-rattling. Now it’s not Bush, Cheney, Rice and Powell parading in front of cameras every day, it’s Trump, Tillerson, Bannon, Conway, Spicer and Kushner.

It’s funny to read that. In 2003, if you had read to me these six names, the only one I would have even recognized was Trump. Otherwise, blank. Now, these names are already infamous. And they came out of nowhere.

They are now systematically setting up Iran as the great evil. I am not sure why. I guess another good war will be good for business, both the military industrial complex and Exxon and its cronies. It’s good for Wall Street.

You all know the simile about the frog in the pot of cold water. If you threw a frog into a pot of boiling water, the frog would jump out and save itself. But put a frog into a put of cold water and slowly boil it, the frog gets used to the heat and eventually dies.

Let me announce that the frog has been put into the lukewarm water, and the flame has been started. Our six friends on national TV on what I now call “America – the Reality Show” are going to tell us night after night in prime time how evil Iran is, how it’s Iran’s fault that there is ISIS (which is wrong, and they’re actually on our side of ISIS), and how dangerous Iran’s nuclear weapons program is. We will be egging on Iran in the Persian Gulf and we’ll wait for a convenient opportunity when Iran makes an aggressive move so we can start a shooting war.

The American public, the frog, will be sufficiently hot by then, and desensitized to the heat, and it will buy into this folly. We’ll have another multi-decade military debacle at our hands, we’ll spend another $10 trillion and thousands of American lives, and the middle east will be more unstable than ever before.

Just what we needed. Another war.

This is what happens when you elect a madman.

Is the American Military Depleted?

In a comment on a friend’s post on Facebook, someone answered my question for examples on our military being weak, decimated, needing more funding with the following challenge:

Desert Storm was 2002 under GW Bush … The military has been descimated [sic] by Obama over the past 8 years. My question is have you not been watching the news for the last 8 years or just ignoring it??? Military is below pre-WWII levels … All branches.

I might note that he didn’t provide any examples, but simply taunted me with another set of questions: Have I not been watching the news? I don’t generally get my data from watching the news, but I try to do my own research. As we all know, there are too many “alternative facts” in the news and the “news media are some of the most dishonest people on the planet.” One can’t be too careful.

One of the core paragraphs in Trump’s inauguration speech was this:

For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military. We’ve defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.

— President Donald Trump

Whether I agree with its message and content or not, Trump’s inauguration speech was probably the most coherent and organized speech in his life, and the above paragraph is, in my opinion, the most important one.

I agree that things should change regarding American trade agreements, American industry and how we spend money on the military. I support all premises of the above paragraph, while only disagreeing with the “allowing for the very sad depletion of our military” part. I do not think we have depleted our military, as most people are led to believe by Trump and his supporters. Our military is not a disaster, and when our commander-in-chief makes such a statement, he insults all people in uniform.

Yes, the numbers are down for some things that no longer make sense. Remember the famous Obama statement in a debate with Romney four years ago: We don’t have as many horses and bayonets as we used to. I also think that it makes no sense to compare today’s military to that of pre WWII times. This is a massively different world and requires different analysis. Counting horses, bayonets and tanks makes no sense.

When Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked about whether the U.S. military had, in fact, been “gutted.” No, he argued. If it’s smaller than it could be, it’s still very powerful.

“At no time in my career have I been more confident than this instant in saying we have the most powerful military on the face of the planet. Do we have challenges? Of course we do. When you are faced with a global set of threats, you have to make choices on where you focus your energy.”

— Gen. Paul Selva

True, under Obama, military spending went down, and this is partly due to curtailing the massing hemorrhage of money in Iraq and Afghanistan during the Bush years. The chart below shows military spending by president:


Here is a site with a treasure trove of information about military spending worldwide and all the data you might ask for.

Here is another view, which shows that under Obama, spending has gone down somewhat, but it still puts it into perspective over the cold war years:


Of course, if you listen to the Heritage Foundation, you hear a different story. They say that the U.S. is only marginally able to defend the nation. I am not sure I should call this alternative facts, but here it is.

Over the years I have posted much about military spending. You can search for the keyword “military spending” in this blog and find many entries. Here are a few:

Military Spending by President

Military Spending in the U.S

Here is one about military spending compared to other nations

Another view of military spending worldwide as pivoted against social security

Overall, I think that our nation’s military is not decimated, and I also think that some review of our military spending is in order. Here is a comment I made about Trump’s attack on the F-35, which illustrates my concerns. We need to reduce military spending in our country, but we need to keep our readiness up. Money, in the hands of the military, is not necessarily a formula for success. Money must be spend in a smart way. If Trump can accomplish this goal, he will be a hero.

White House Statement on Berlin Christmas Market Attack

The United States condemns in the strongest terms what appears to have been a terrorist attack on a Christmas Market in Berlin, Germany, which has killed and wounded dozens.  We send our thoughts and prayers to the families and loved ones of those killed, just as we wish a speedy recovery to all of those wounded.  We also extend our heartfelt condolences to the people and Government of Germany.  We have been in touch with German officials, and we stand ready to provide assistance as they recover from and investigate this horrific incident.  Germany is one of our closest partners and strongest allies, and we stand together with Berlin in the fight against all those who target our way of life and threaten our societies.

— Ned Price, NSC Spokesperson

The United States condemns in the strongest terms – We need to stop sounding like bureaucrats. Leave out “in the strongest terms” and say what you really mean – whatever that might be.

…appears to have been a terrorist attack – ya think??? You don’t have to be Donald Trump or Henry Kissinger to see this was a terrorist attack. Driving a truck into a Christmas market is a terrorist attack.

We send our thoughts and prayers – our thoughts are noble and our prayers don’t do anyone any good. Just say: We feel terrible for you! I am tired of people making excuses for doing nothing by sending prayers. Good luck with those!

We have been in touch with German officials – German officials, American officials! I want to know who called whom. Did Obama call Merkel? If some American bureaucrat called some German bureaucrat, what good does that do? We know they have been on the phone. It’s not helping this statement. 

…in the fight against all those who target our way of life and threaten our societies – How about “in the fight against Islamic terrorism.”

With watered down drivel, double-speak and euphemisms clouding the statements of our government, no wonder Trump has risen. In contrast, he said:

Islamic terrorists continuously slaughter Christians…as part of their global jihad.

— Donald Trump

When you compare Trump’s blunt statement, which we all understand, to Ned Price’s statement (who even knows who Ned Price is?), I have to ask you: Who of the two is likely to deal with the problem?

Whenever you ask Trump voters why they voted for the man, with all the despicable clutter the drags around with himself, they always say:

“He says it like it is!”

I am not supporting Trump, but I can tell you that if Obama had spent more time saying it like it is, and acting accordingly in the threat of international Islamic terror, the outcome of the election would have been different. I am not even sure WHAT Obama actually did to fight terrorism other than endless drone attacks for eight years. The fact that I don’t know what he did is evidence that none of us really knew. So it looks like we did not much, some say nothing, and it was certainly not very effective.

That’s how you lose a nation to a demagogue!

Unbelievable: I Have Some Praise for Trump (about the F-35)

I didn’t think this would ever happen, but in a year where I have said this many times, I actually have a bit of praise for Trump. Here it is:

I have been an outspoken critic of the F-35 programs and its massive cost overruns over the years. The F-35 is the Pentagon’s largest single program, and is likely to cost the government around $400 billion over the next 22 years.

It has always bothered me that a single F-35 fighter plane costs between $100 and $200 million, and we’re buying 2,443 of them. How can that be? How can nobody in the government stand up to this and deal with it? Obviously, the military industrial lobby is extremely strong, so even Obama in his eight years didn’t stand up to it.

The fact that nobody can even tell us exactly how much each plane costs is alarming. Try to google it! The difference between $100 and $200 million is $100 million. Do you realize how much good $100 million can do for our country? Do you realize how much good $100 million times 2,443 could do? Yet, we have no problem blowing that kind of money on a marginal and highly criticized program that may never even work.

Here is a list of posts I have published over the years to give you some background on the F-35:

February 14, 2016 – The F-35 is an exceptionally bad plane

November 13, 2015 – Trump on the F-35 Boondoggle

May 21, 2015 – Buying the F-35

April 5, 2016 – Government Contracting at its Worst

November 14, 2016 – The Insanity of the Republican Candidates

November 7, 2015 – Giving Foreign Aid to Israel

Trump, with his loose Twitter finger, has been poking and prodding Boeing about the cost of the new Air Force One 747 planes and Lockheed Martin about the F-35 and its incredible cost overruns. The stock of both companies declined immediately after he did that, and sure enough, the CEOs of both companies responded.

Here is a tweet from the CEO of Lockheed Martin, Marillyn Hewson:


Here is Trump commenting on it later:

It’s a little bit of a dance. But we’re going to get the cost down,” he said, calling the F-35 program “very, very—uhhh—expensive.

— Donald Trump

Here is an article that provides a bit more background about the exchange between Trump and Hewson. This concession by Lockheed Martin would never have happened without the brash and bold behavior of Donald Trump. I was hoping over the years that Obama would show backbone and stand up to this boondoggle. He didn’t. Bush before him didn’t. No modern politician did. I would venture to say that the word “F-35” never once got mentioned in any presidential debate by any candidate of either party. Lockheed Martin had (and still has) a steady stream of cash coming to it – a redistribution of wealth from the American taxpayer to the shareholders and executives of Lockheed Martin.

We have been blaming Obama for being a redistributor, and we have pointed to the measly food stamps program that helps destitute Americans to get nourishment for their children. But right in front of our eyes, glaringly in the open, we have tolerated a redistribution program on a much grander scale – and nobody has spoken up.

Enter Donald Trump.

I have nothing but disdain for the man Donald Trump. But this is good.

This little tweet of his might have been worth quite a few billions of dollars of American taxpayer wealth that can now go to more noble causes.


Trump is the first politician in my memory that is standing up to the military industrial complex.

And there you have it. I have posted in praise about Trump.

Military Spending by President

Trump has been harping on how Obama has “decimated” the military, how our military is in shambles. “Our military is a disaster.”

Here is the chart on military spending by president:


The facts show: the record for highest constant military spending goes to the peace president, Barack Obama.

Yesterday, the House voted for another massive spending bill for the military of $611 billion.

Military Spending in the U.S. in 2017

Trump complained during the campaign that our military was a disaster, and that military spending was way down. That’s actually far from the truth.

At the end of the Obama administration, starting in 2017, we’re spending a record 608.6 billion dollars on the military. This is more than we spent during enormous Reagan buildup which started in 1980. Obama spent more money on the military in his eight years than George W. Bush did.

We are now spending four times the amount China spends and 10 times the amount Russia spends annually on the military.

I wonder whether Trump actually knew that when he campaigned or not? Was his rhetoric just the same hot air he needed to blow to get voters? Regardless of Trump’s talk, it’ll be tricky to crank up spending any more, given budget constraints. But the military industrial complex loves the talk.

More weapons.

Just what we need.


Stop the Endless War – Get Busy Living, Not Busy Dying!

I came across this article: Terrorism, A Matrix of Lies and Deceit. It made me think about what we’re doing as a nation and as a world. We have a “war on terror” that is obviously not working. Bush started it 15 years ago, and terrorism is worse now than ever before. Clearly, doing the same going forward isn’t going to produce better results.

Seriously, we need to stop the nonsense. We need to stop bombing people. If we just stopped and refused to send military units to other countries for a decade or two, the youth in those countries would not grow up hating us. We would not be killing their fathers and obliterating their cities and infrastructures. They could grow up doing their own things. Why would they bother inciting war and jihad? They’d be busy living and feeding their children. We’d be busy spending all that military money on infrastructure right here at home.

We’d all be busy living, not busy dying.

Granted, it would take some years before the effects would be visible. It would take real leadership and consistency. Our election cycle of four or eight years is not long enough to implement a sensible strategy against a violent world.

So on we go, shooting our way to the endless war.

The Size of the U.S. Military

During the GOP debate, the candidates blasted the Obama administration for decimating the military. “Smallest Navy since 1915, smallest Army since 1940, least number of airplanes.” They brought this forth in the context of “fighting ISIS.”

The implications are that somehow our military having less ships is the reason ISIS has arisen and gained ground.

They took these numbers from senator Lindsey Graham, who said that under sequestration, the military was cut “down to the smallest Army since 1940, the smallest Navy since 1915.” He is right about the numbers. The Navy had 231 ships in 1915, and will have 234 in 2019. The Army will have 440,000 troops in 2019, which is the smallest since before World War II.

However, the comparison does not make sense and is not really fair. We also have fewer horses and bayonets than ever. Our capabilities have grown immensely through technology in the last few decades. We should compare how our military stands up against other nations. I simply do not believe that the number of ships, airplanes and soldiers we have has in any way contributed to the results in the Middle East.

President Obama pulled out of Iraq and partly Afghanistan because the American people wanted him to. I still want that today. And I might also add that the “sequestration” fiscal strategy that forced Obama’s hand regarding the military budget was not Obama’s idea, but that of the Republican-controlled Congress. Congress decides how much money gets allocated to the various departments, not the president. The president then just spends it. Blaming Obama for the small military therefore makes no sense.

Finally, I believe that, just like small government is good government, a smaller military is a good military, as long was we continue to advance technologically. Boondoggles like the F-35 fiasco do not go along with that philosophy, however, but that’s a subject for another day.

Hinter Uns Mein Land – Behind Us My Country

Here is a video of a German language slam poem with a powerful impact. There are no English versions that I could find. The title is Behind Us My Country. If you know German, you must listen to every word. If you don’t know German, you should play a minute or so to get the cadence of the poem, and how the two speakers alternate.

Below is my translation. You can see the speaker on the right and the one on the left. Both tell their stories.

This is a powerful explanation of the complex sentiments of Germans toward refugees, that an American will likely not be able to understand.

But it rings true for me personally, as I am the son of a refugee myself and as my entire life, the person I am, is shaped in many ways by the experiences of my father who often might have said himself: Behind Us My Country.


Behind Us My Country

Everything I am was born there

Everything that was home to me

The square, where we children played

The smile of my first love

The apple tree in our park

And the little lake hidden behind the mountain

The hot tea on the tin tray

Creased story tellers

Laugh wrinkles decorate their faces

Chattering on the way home from school

Night was until the parents slept and then out again

The squeaking bicycle of my brother

The poems of Rudas

And the smell of wet lawn

Radios that despite tortured tuning still carry out the melodies

The singing of my sister in the morning

My mother, my mother with her eternal money worries

And I don’t know why: Ladybugs

All that was my home

All that way once my home

But I could not stay anymore

Behind us the war

The fresh grave of my parents

The last clump of dirt is still rolling off

It hasn’t found it final spot yet

So fresh is my mourning

And nothing has been digested

I could not stay any longer

The spoke of us as the living dead

Our people forced into trains that slid along in the smoke of the locomotives

Our doors smashed

Shopping windows in shards

Our parents intimidated, our siblings abuse

Cruel news from friends that were still there

Most had disappeared

It was impossible to stay, not another day

The next step in my city is the last step in my country

And the worst step then onto this rusty boat

Next we turn, then we hold on, and then it will sink

Turned over to the sea

In the ocean, without consolation

The moon hides behind the clouds

The night so dark, you see nothing

For hours, nothing

And when I close my eyes in the dark

I hear the voice of my mother

Around us the lord is only the sea

As if our boat was the heart of all things

I open my eyes and gaze toward the sky

Prayers are our sails

Life vests will take over the rest

But the hope they cannot carry

A man swims toward me

Here, take him, I can’t go on anymore

He is one year old and his name is Berstin

His father slides out of the vest into the eternal dark blue

That’s how I became father the first time

In the ocean

He handed him to me

The man in the vest gave me his inheritance

Arrived in exile, I learned quickly

the most important words are permit to day, sorry, and thank you

Arrived in exile I saw a family reunited after a long time

How the father wimpered out of good luck

Deep from inside with the shame of a man who seldom cries

I followed that family step by step

But only with my gaze

Arrived in exile

But the earth of home comes along on the soles of our feet

I am from there, and I have memories

I was born like people are born

I have a mother that loves me

And it breaks my heart

In the letters that she writes I can see how meanwhile her hand has a tremor

When I say homesick, I say dream

Because the old home hardly exists any longer

Do we stay here, do we become beach again?

Not quite sea, not quite land

Do we stay here, we become beach again.

Not quite sea, not quite land

Arrived in exile, a man welcomes me

The other waves foreign flags

Sometimes one feels the love, sometimes one feels the hate

They look at your head scarf

They look into my passport

But don’t be angry, forgive them

They forget the love, they forgot the love

I wish them peace

On the contrary, show them, stand up

Tear off our legs and we walk on our hands

Tear off our legs and we walk on our hands

We will make the best of our lives until our lives end

And who know, maybe one day I return home

I not everything will have changed

Perhaps I’ll see our old apple tree

Or the square with the brown rusty fence

And I hug my siblings and kiss my mother

And luck bites its little tooth into my heart

My name is Achmed Yusuf

Father of Berstin

And I am a refugee

I fled Syria

My name is Daniel Levie

I am a refugee

I fled Germany

The year is 2015

The year is 1938