Lots of people like to say that. dday, bless him/her, decides to examine the real-world ramifications:
“Warmongers have had the great luxury in this country of never having to justify their costs. Not just the human costs, but the real financial costs to constant military buildup. The usual retort is that you can’t put a price on human lives. If that was the case, there would be no requirement for budget neutrality in health care reform, something that could save as many as 45,000 lives annually – the people who die from a lack of health insurance.”
The fact of the matter is that we’ve put a price on human lives, and even freedom, for a long time in a variety of contexts. Car companies weighed the costs of improving safety features in cars against the cost of payments to survivors of those who died because of their lack. Hell, even in World War II, the government weighed the economics, not just the military benefits, of making the P-51 its first-line fighter in the European theatre, a subplot touched upon, among other places, in Len Deighton’s best-selling novel “Goodbye, Mickey Mouse.”
National defense is essential. But not every step we take today to defend the nation is essential (and, on the flip, we’re probably omitting some steps that ARE essential — and wouldn’t it be ironic if we were doing so in part because of cost)? Each step, each option can and must be subjected to a rigorous cost-benefit analysis, in isolation and in context. The phrase “wars of choice” isn’t an oxymoron.