Sweden Can’t Defend Itself

Check this out:

A couple of decades ago, Sweden had a strong military. Its air force was one of the capable in the world, its navy had dozens of ships and submarines, and artillery guarded the coastlines from a multitude of secret mountain hideaways.

Now, after a number of fatal decisions, based on the belief that wars in Europe were a thing of the past, most of its military is gone and Sweden has virtually no means of protecting itself.

According to Sweden’s Supreme Commander Sverker Göransson, we can, at best and in five years, defend ourselves in one place for one week.


So how do Swedish politicians imagine defending the country if the Russians get it into their heads to, say, invade Gotland?

The island in the Baltic Sea is a strategically important outpost, close to the Baltic countries, which are all members of NATO. Joining NATO never appealed to Swedish politicians, but in 2009, the Swedish Parliament suddenly announced a “declaration of solidarity” with the EU. It reads:

“Sweden will not remain passive if a disaster or attack should hit another member state, or Nordic country. We expect other countries to act the same way if Sweden is hit. Our country will thus give and receive support, civilian as well as military.”

Given that NATO is essentially the USA, it is interesting to note how the secular Gnutopia we often hear about depends on the American military to survive.

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8 Responses to Sweden Can’t Defend Itself

  1. Kevin says:

    And that’s the heart of the matter. The US could dedicate it’s entire defense budget to social safety nets and make America a progressive gnutopia, and then the predators would take over immediately. Secular paradises exist only in the shadow of the American military, yet they are usually the first to criticize America for its defense spending.

  2. Bilbo says:

    I challenge the assertion that NATO is essentially the USA.


    I also challenge the assertion that there is a dilemma between providing a strong social safety net and a strong military. I suggest that taxing the wealthy at higher levels would eliminate whatever apparent dilemma might exist.

  3. Syllabus says:

    I suggest that taxing the wealthy at higher levels would eliminate whatever apparent dilemma might exist.

    I doubt it. If you mean an income tax, well, there are many ways to generate wealth for oneself without it counting as income (which, incidentally, is why Warren Buffett’s secretary had a higher income tax bracket than he, IIRC). If you mean a tax on all liquid assets, I still doubt that would do anything significant, even if you stepped from the richest CEOs and so forth to taxing – hell, even removing completely – the liquid assets of most major corporations.

    Why is this? Well, combining discretionary and mandatory spending, military spending accounts for ~15.88% of the federal budget, while Medicare and health spending alone accounts for ~27.42%, and SS, labour, and unemployment spending accounts for a further ~33.26%. So “social safety net” accounts for over 3x the federal budget expenditures that military spending does, at ~61% of the entirety of the federal budget, or ~$2,318,000,000,000 in total. This is larger than the entirety of tax revenue, which sits at ~$2,050,000,000,000. (And this is probably a conservative estimate, since this doesn’t account for spending on state- or local-level welfare programs.)

    Given that we spend more on entitlement programs than we actually collect in gross tax revenue, I doubt that we could make any significant entitlement improvements by taxing the wealthiest income quintile more, even if we included a complete tax (in less euphemistic terms, if we completely stole all the liquid assets of all the richest 1% and all the most wealthy corporations). At most, this would allow us to spend more on entitlement programs for one or two years, since those liquid assets are gone, poof, caput.

    But, I mean, if you’ve got another idea that doesn’t involve actually stealing money from people, I’m all ears.

  4. The page Bilbo linked states that 73% of the defense spending as a whole is covered by the U.S., with 50% of the remainder covered by France, Germany and the UK. It laments the over-reliance of the European allies on France, Germany and Great Britain, and the over-reliance of the alliance as a whole on the United States for defense. NATO has 28 member states, and 24 of them are contributing 13.5% of the defense costs. Now, the page makes clear that the defense costs are not synonymous with the organization’s total operating costs, which presumably is where the other members help out. Moreover, NATO began as a defense pact among western European nations and the U.S. was brought in later. However, NATO is a military organization with collective defense as its prime objective. Defense spending is the heart and soul of such an organization, around which the rest of the structure is built. Without its heart, there is no NATO. In such a situation, contributing to the group’s clubhouse in Brussels doesn’t carry the same weight as providing it missiles and air defense infrastructure. It helps, but it’s not the essence of the organization. In addition, the founding European states brought in the U.S. precisely because they knew it was the only effective counterweight to the Soviet Union. Sure they could have gone it by themselves, but they would appear rather a paper tiger without the credible teeth of the U.S. Without those, NATO would lose a crippling degree of effective punch. As such, I agree with Mike that, yes, NATO is essentially the U.S. It is the undeniable animating force behind what NATO is. De Gaulle nearly broke up the organization over that.

    Now, not every member state can and will contribute to NATO’s defense budget at American levels. No one’s expecting that out of Albania or Croatia. However, the fact remains that Sweden’s fellow Scandinavian countries who are NATO members – Norway, Denmark and Iceland – are contributing comparatively little. To bring the issue back to what I think is this post’s focus, I would argue that short-shrifting defense on the assumption that territorial wars are a thing of the past is a symptom of the same leftist, secular worldview regnant in Scandinavian countries so idealized by the gnus. A comparable worldview is thriving in Canada, where I live, another wealthy NATO member that is contributing little to defense. This country has been asleep at the switch since Pearson. Canada is another good example of a country whose “progressive” dreams and “values” can only exist in the shadow cast by the American defense umbrella.

    Syllabus did an excellent job outlining the weakness of Bilbo’s proposed fix to the first Kevin’s proposed dilemma. This isn’t a national revenue problem, but a priorities problem. Regarding Sweden, its progressive income tax can go up to 60% of your total income if the Guardian piece I got the figure from is accurate. They are getting plenty of money, clearly enough to sport their social safety nets and a fine military up until the recent past. Their priorities however dictated against maintaining the latter. Unless you’ve gone too far down the Laffer Curve, raising taxes simply provides more money. It says nothing about where the state puts that money. National priorities dictate that, and for the U.S., but not for Sweden as of late, a healthy national defense is a priority.

  5. Bilbo says:

    The 73% figure is a comparison of how much the US spends on its total defense budget compared to Europe, not to how much it contributes to NATO. It contributes 22% of the NATO budget. True, if Europe continues its current insane austerity program, its economy will continue to collapse and bankrupt even more European countries. Let’s hope they come to their senses.

    As to ways of raising revenue here in the US: http://www.sanders.senate.gov/top10

    “Stealing”? I guess anyone can make the claim that the government collecting taxes from anyone is “stealing.” The question is whether the “stealing” is fair. In a country where the top 0.01% of the population almost as much as the bottom 90%, I think the case for Robin Hood can reasonably be made. http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2015/jul/29/bernie-s/bernie-sanders-madison-claims-top-01-americans-hav/

  6. Kevin says:

    Leftists generally lose me the second they say “fair share” since they invariably fail to explain how we know what a fair share is and why it is indeed fair. It’s a buzzword phrase like “war on women” that in of itself means nothing.

    I fail to see how austerity measures are bad in the long term since eternal deficit spending is unsustainable.

  7. Syllabus says:

    I could go through Sanders’ proposals one by one, but the problem is that he’s not showing his work. He asserts that all of these things — increasing capital gains tax rates, establishing a severe inheritance tax — would raise the budget by, in case you missed it, relatively minor amounts over the course of a decade or so; the entire sum of the proposed budget modifications (not counting the ones he claims will decrease the deficit (though I’ll at least hand it to him that he cares about slashing the deficit)) would add ~$1,993,000,000,000 over the next 10 years, and we blow through over $300,000,000,000 more than that every year in entitlement spending. So I’m very sceptical of the proposition that doing what he says would make much of a dent in how entitlements are currently handled or make them better.

    And that’s assuming that every single thing he proposes there is correct and would work out exactly as he says — that is, that no incentives change over the 10 years, that there are no adverse offsetting economic effects that come with those tax code changes, that we develop no new expenditures in the interim, and so forth. He’s given, or his website at any rate has given, absolutely no figures or calculations that would support the conclusions, nor has it presented tables or figures from which these hypothetical calculations were made. So I’m taking them with a massive grain of salt.

    This of course leaves out an enormously glaring question: if one asserts that we ought to be doing more about social safety net programs, and we’re already spending truly gargantuan amounts of money on those sorts of things (>60% of the budget, both discretionary and mandatory), what would be the projected amount of money that would bring entitlement spending to a reasonable level? If I grant that we’re not doing enough in the way of helping the least fortunate, elderly, and sick in our society — a proposition of which I’m not at all convinced — then is increasing the amount of money we spend on that line item the best solution to it? If we’re already ostensibly throwing >$2,000,000,000,000 at it and that’s not enough, wouldn’t it be time to assess what we’re already doing and see if we can’t do more or the same amount of stuff in a more efficient or different way? Well, I mean, we could, but since many of the entitlement programs (SNAP, for example) are effectively partial state subsidizations of major companies like Wal-Mart and Kraft, and because much of the re-evaluation of those line items would involve reassessing public sector employment payrolls, along with stuff like pensions, and that doesn’t sit terribly well with public-sector lobbyists, that would be politically difficult.

    Aside from which, you need to come up with a definition of “their fair share” that isn’t some equivalent of “eat the rich” or “the rich should be able to be turned to by the state at whim to subsidize a certain program”, and which actually involves some sort of principle; otherwise it is, in fact, robbery, given the state’s monopoly on force. Taxes in se aren’t theft, but tax brackets which are subject to the whim of the state or the mob, and which allow no recourse other than yielding or else imprisonment, are effectively robbery as far as I can see.

  8. Ah yes, I misread that. Thanks for catching and correcting that.

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