I’ve been wondering why we, as a nation, only rarely discuss the incredible amount of resources our society spends on its military. It’s worth taking time to consider what we’re getting for our money. Beyond that I’d like to think about better, and more productive, uses of taxpayer dollars. This subject doesn’t seem to ever get its due in congressional deliberations or in presidential debates. Republicans, as a rule, don’t like discussing any kind of defense cuts, despite being very quick to accuse the other side of being weak on defense.
The United States of America still maintains the world’s largest and most powerful military force ever assembled. No conventional military threat exists to justify this largesse. There is no invasion scenario imminent or even imaginable on the horizon.
Clearly, we in the US don’t need our expensive military-industrial complex for military reasons related to defense. So exactly why do we keep it? We seem to have bought into the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us about over half a century ago. Now it seems we’re addicted to excessive defense spending and don’t have the political will to quit.
Republicans keep insisting the country is “broke.” Yet defense is always off the table while tax cuts are always on the table. We have a dysfunctional political system with lobbying interests and politicians working together to perpetuate an excessive worldwide empire of over 700 military bases.
To be sure, ending our wartime national economy would have short-term economic consequences on a local level. Unfortunately, we are currently paying a heavy price for continuing to choose funding of destructive capability over funding for construction of infrastructure. As Ike suggested, we could be funding schools, basic medical research and food for the hungry instead of building weapon systems. Yet we don’t don’t do it.
By choosing to fund weapon systems over programs to benefit people, we are investing ever more deeply in a war-based mentality. War should only be a last resort. Having too many weapons and soldiers around simply begs for us to use them where we shouldn’t. We have been looking to save money by taking dollars away from public education, police and fire protection, and roads. In so doing, we are weakening our society at a time when it badly needs strengthening.
Recent “limited” wars have all proven to be more expensive than advertised and to have unintended negative consequences. When will we ever learn? Metaphorical wars too often have consequences far beyond rhetorical silliness. The wars on terror and drugs have turned violent and became “real wars”. War seems to carry with it an implicit end-justifies-the-means message.
Kennedy’s idea of a peace corps is now more needed than ever. However we need to make both domestic and foreign humanitarian needs a high priority. Peace rhetoric is too seldom heard in our political discourse. It’s time to change the tone of that discussion. It’s time for the President to start listening more keenly to his progressive base and focus his eloquence on delivering a peace based prosperity.