Gordon Brown, Britain’s embattled prime minister, testified before the Chilcot inquiry on the Iraq war that every request from the military “was answered. No request was ever turned down.” He also noted that, “In an ideal world I know our commanders would like to have even more equipment and spend even more.” For this, he was criticized by two former commanders as being “disingenuous.”
We think the prime minister deserves some words in defense. There are virtually no limits on resources an army might request to help wage war or to protect its soldiers. It is the job of the government to balance the costs and benefits of waging war against other pressing societal needs. Those are admittedly very hard decisions – but decisions that cannot be avoided – as Scott Wallsten and Katrina Kosec explained in a 2005 paper. [Download Here]
As President Truman famously put it, “The buck stops here.” He might have added, there is only so much money the government can spend on any one task, no matter how important. And, one way or another, somebody must make the judgment.