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Biden pulls off the anti-peace dividend
Speaking Security Newsletter | Advisory Note for Activists and Candidates, n°159 | 9 June 2022
What are peace dividends and is one happening right now
A peace dividend is when a country shifts resources from war to social or economic programs after a conflict ends. (This is the guns-versus-butter understanding of the concept, but peace dividends can be expressed in other ways, too, like by the lifting of taxes used to finance war. However, it’s not as common to hear it talked about this way in America—maybe because of the Bush II-era tax cuts or the fact that the US hasn’t implemented war taxes since 1968.)
There isn’t a peace dividend happening right now here in fiscal year (FY) 2022 despite the end of the Afghanistan War in August 2021. There isn’t one planned for FY2023, either, according to Biden’s budget request.
Is it normal for the US to not have a peace dividend
Sort of. Looking at US government expenditures since 1940, there hasn’t been a ‘true’ peace dividend—social spending goes up, military spending goes down—the year after the termination of a conflict since World War II.
The conclusion of the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf, and Iraq wars only gestured toward a peace dividend. Social spending either increased more or decreased less than military spending the year after each conflict compared to the year before.
However, this is the first time we’ve seen a US president (since 1940—or possibly ever, I dunno) pull off the anti-peace dividend: Social spending has gone down and military spending has gone up in 2022 despite the Afghanistan War ending last year.