In 1989, the year President Ronald Reagan left office and the Berlin Wall came down, total spending by the Department of Defense equaled $468.7 billion in constant 2005 dollars, according to the Office of Management and Budget.
In 2005, when President George W. Bush started his second term, and the U.S. was at war in both Afghanistan and Iraq, DOD spent $473.4 billion in constant 2005 dollars.
This year, under President Barack Obama, DOD will spend $582.5 billion in constant 2005 dollars.
In inflation-adjusted dollars, Obama is spending 23 percent more on defense than Bush did when the United States was fighting simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and 24 percent more than Reagan spent when he won the Cold War.
Does that make sense?
In the 1980s, Reagan pursued a strategy designed to bankrupt the Soviet Union, which could not hope to compete with a United States that moved forward aggressively in deploying medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe, building and deploying new state-of-the-art warships, researching and vowing to deploy strategic defenses against ballistic missiles, and arming and supporting anti-Soviet insurgents in Afghanistan without ever sending U.S. forces there to fight.
More than a decade has now passed since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The United States has invaded and withdrawn from an Iraq that turned out not to have stockpiled weapons of mass destruction, and Obama -- imprudently -- has given our enemies in Afghanistan a two-year advance notice that the U.S. will be handing over control of what is already an 11-year-old war in that country to an untrustworthy indigenous military force.
In his Second Inaugural Address, President George W. Bush romantically -- and foolishly -- assigned Americans the "ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." Seven years later, liberty has not broken out in the regions around Tora Bora, but a pro-American government in Egypt has been replaced by a regime dominated by the Muslim brotherhood.
So, why are we spending more in real money on defense today than we did when we faced down the Soviet Empire?