Military Madness

No benefit for human beings is more obvious than the benefit of demilitarizing the world. Every dollar spend on weaponry and war is a dollar not spent improving our lives. As Glenn Greenwald’s review of military expenditures shows, one country’s outlandish military spending is driving a worldwide spike that, if not stopped, will make the 21st century far bloodier than the 20th (which was far and away the bloodiest in human history). That country, of course, is the United States, which in 2008 will spend $623,000,000,000 — approximately $123,000,000,000 more than the rest of the world combined, nearly 10 times more than China will spend and a dozen times more than Russia. The U. S. could dramatically slash its military budget in half — to $311 billion — and still spend more than the military budgets of the next 7 biggest spenders combined: China (65 billion), Russia (50 billion), France (45 billion) , UK (43 billion), Japan (44 billion), Germany (35 billiion) and Italy (28 billiion). Wouldn’t that be enough?

The United States has virtually no domestic problem that couldn’t be quickly resolved by freeing up that much wasted spending. We could push for treaties eliminating all nuclear, biological and chemical weapons (including our own, of course) and still have the greatest military on earth many times over. Eliminating weapons of mass destruction from the world’s arsenals would make us far safer than we are today (after all, Star Wars will never be a reliable defense), save us hundreds of billions, and allow us to invest the savings in ourselves and our economic future. Yet, as Greenwald points out, the major candidates in both political parties are unwilling — probably afraid — to propose the slightest cut in military expenditures.

Unless the United States can reign in what Eisenhower called the “military-industrial-congressional complex” its status as the world’s greatest economic power will come to an end during the 21st century. And with economic collapse, its military collapse will shortly follow.

Why is it that the most Christian of the worlds great nations is also the most militaristic? What is it about church-going Christians which makes them so eager to put money into warfare? The answer, I suspect, is fear. Fearful people become Christians in the first place, and Christianity — perhaps more than other religions — preys on fear in order to gain followers. Fear of death, fear of future punishment, fear of angering God. Add to that fear of other countries, fear of one’s enemies.

The result? A self-defeating blindness that leads to a monomania of investing in armaments and armies. Even when the nation’s weaknesses lie elsewhere.

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6 Responses to Military Madness

  1. Matthew says:

    Prove that we could everyone else to get rid of their WMD, and I’ll gladly advocate getting rid of ours. Only a fool doesn’t realize that there are quite a few thugs in the world. To be a thug, top-of-the-line weapons are necessary to stay in business. For everyone else, top-of-the-line weapons are necessary to make sure the thugs don’t kill them.

    Since we’re being blindly idealistic here, why stop at getting rid of weapons? Why not just get rid of all the people who would misuse them, both in our country and other countries?

  2. Rastaban says:

    Negotiation nuclear disarmament would not be easy, but as a goal it is not “blindly idealistic”. What is absurd (and blind) is the assumption that the proliferation of nuclear weapons that is currently occurring can be stopped or even slowed down. The technical knowledge necessary has spread beyond a stopping point. The result is that we have 3 choices:
    1) accept a world in which 40 or 50 countries add a weapon to their arsenal which is only useful against the United States when clandestinely provided to stateless terrorists. (Because states have territories that can’t be defended against nukes, but stateless terrorists have nothing to defend — this is why weapons of mass destruction are better suited for terrorists organizations than for nations.)
    2) aggressively and preemptively bomb any adversary state we suspect of developing nukes, thus increasing the rank of our enemies and providing them even more motive to get WMD into terrorist hands.
    3) negotiate a world-wide nuclear disarmament treaty. This has to include Israel and Pakistan and India as well as wannabes like N. Korea and Iran and Turkey etc.

    Options 1 & 2 are clear losers for the United States. That leaves some version of 3.

    Note that nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation has already been done successfully. In fact under the non-proliferation treaty the U.S. and Russia have already committed in principle (I believe) to eventually eliminating their nuclear weapons. The U. S. has in recent years backed away from these existing treaties. (In fact it appears that U.S. Government officials in Washington sold nuclear secrets to Turkey which passed them on to Pakistan which then gave them to Iran and N. Korea.The Bush administration is trying to prevent investigation of this horrendous betrayal.)

    I believe the surest way to bottle up the nuclear threat is to prohibit both weapons and nuclear power plants. As we see with the debate about Iran, a nuclear weapons program can conceivably be hidden behind a nuclear power plant program. So the surest option is to outlaw both peaceful and non-peaceful programs. And of course, as Ronald Reagan said, “trust but verify” — there would have to be a sweeping inspection program covering every country in the world.

    Fortunately, the world as a whole does not require nuclear power to replace dwindling oil supplies. The technology exists to do it with solar alone, if necessary.

    The elimination of Indian nukes makes Pakistan safer, and vice versa. The same goes for Russia, China, Europe and the U.S. And the elimination of the risk of nukes getting into terrorists hands makes everyone safer. Israel is arguably the toughest sell, but their 200-400 nukes can’t really be used against their enemies, and the existence of those weapons forces Israel’s enemies to develop nukes of their own. I believe a nuclear-free middle east enhances Israel’s security in the long run. (Besides, by law the United States can’t send foreign aid to Israel if they have nuclear weapons — which is leverage which can be used to encourage Israel to join in nuclear disarmament.)

    It won’t be easy but it can be done. It must be done if the 21st century is to have a happy ending. And that’s just being realistic.

  3. Rastaban says:

    I should add that biological & chemical WMD (both research and development) should be outlawed by universal treaty as well. So far it has been primarily the United States which has stood in the way of banning chemical weapons. Which again is a terrible strategic mistake. The U. S. simply doesn’t need chemical weapons to be successful at war. In fact, chemical & biological weapons are far more useful for stateless terrorists than they are for us. If anything, such weapons “even the playing field” — it is to our strategic benefit to outlaw them since we are already so militarily dominant.

  4. Matthew says:

    I can see your point. As long as all countries are disarming at the same time, option 3 is the best. And we both agree, I think, that the US government’s first priority in foreign policy is to protect US citizens. But I think that it would be extremely difficult to maintain our position of military superiority without nuclear weapons, unless we can find a way to ensure that other countries will follow the rules. And past experience says they won’t.

  5. Jeremy Cave says:

    Continually through this debate the recurring theme is that the U.S leads disarmament. One of the primary reasons for U.S hatred is the belief that it acts like a bully, pushing or applying leverage to weaker countries to follow it’s bidding – though maybe Obama can overturn that. Furthermore, from reports it seems like America is as bad as the rest when it comes to secrecy, abuse of human rights and injustice. Though many issues raised about America’s honesty have been directly linked to the Bush Administration I, as a UK Citizen, wouldn’t feel trusted in the Americans following the requirements they make of the Globe and therefore of themselves.

  6. I can see your point. As long as all countries are disarming at the same time, option 3 is the best. And we both agree, I think, that the US government’s first priority in foreign policy is to protect US citizens. But I think that it would be extremely difficult to maintain our position of military superiority without nuclear weapons, unless we can find a way to ensure that other countries will follow the rules. And past experience says they won’t.

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