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Trump's $54 Billion Rounding Error

Does His Planned Military Spending Boost Add Up?

A U.S. soldier shields himself from the rotor wash of a Blackhawk helicopter after being dropped off for a mission with the Afghan police, Afghanistan, December 20, 2014. Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Despite the initial hoopla, President Donald Trump’s proposed defense buildup isn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Of course, I exaggerate in the title. Adding billions to the Department of Defense budget, each and every year going forward, is significant. And certainly, taking that same amount out of domestic accounts plus diplomacy and foreign aid budgets constitutes a severe retrenchment. To take one example of the kind of pain that could result: With American military support, Iraqi forces will likely soon liberate the northern city of Mosul from ISIS, but that expected tactical military victory may prove no more durable than the results of the surge from 2007-2009 or so, unless a firmer political foundation is placed beneath it. After the surge, then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki so misgoverned the country and so mistreated Sunnis that the backdrop was established for the arrival of the Islamic State (

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