“They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” Isaiah 2:4
President Obama has, as usual, fallen short on one of the seminal promises of his candidacy — the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan and an end to the 14-year war — when he announced his order to leave 9,800 troops stationed through 2016. The president whose campaign vowed to end the War in Afghanistan actually doubled the number of troops in 2009. It is a project that has cost the U.S. over $85 billion and over 2,300 casualties, and there is still no end in sight to our occupation.
Now for a digression.
Bernie Sanders has some wild plans for his candidacy. Free college for all. Free healthcare. But the biggest bone conservative skeptics wave at Sanders is this — nothing in this world is free. So how does a government, which has over $16 trillion in debt, pay for these programs? It is a disillusioning reality, and shouldn’t be ignored if this “New New Deal” is to be successful.
Here’s an idea — re-allocate military spending.
In 2013, military spending was $640 billion — more than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, the U.K., Germany, Japan and India combined. Half of those nations are our allies. Even if the U.S. slashed its military spending in half, we would still overwhelm the rest of the world in military might. Our country would remain nearly invincible. Business as usual.
But it would be unwise to slice the military budget cleanly in half by next year. That would cripple U.S. forces stationed in regions of critical importance. We must gradually “prune” military spending, to allow time for our military and our allies to adjust to the changes. When did a nation ever go to war because its military was too small?
I concede, while defense spending accounts for over half of the discretionary budget, it only accounts for 16 percent of the total budget. An additional $300 billion isn’t enough to provide every citizen with a lifetime supply of cupcakes, but it could still drastically improve domestic infrastructure. Tons more useful than another aircraft carrier or a fleet of tanks, at least.
Eek, gasp! How grotesquely un-American of me. It would be unthinkable for the oligarchic kings of this Great American Empire — I mean, the United States of America — to surrender their oil fields and their dewy-eyed dream of Western hegemony. In the name of freedom and democracy, we conquer. The world needs our troops.
The truth is bleak.
In the novel 1984 by George Orwell, the totalitarian nations of Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia are locked in an endless war against one another. The rigid hierarchy of Oceania nations can only survive by the ignorance and poverty of the masses — so they pour money into the military, which deprives the people while giving them a enemy to blame and to divert their hatred from the true tyrants. The war is not meant to be won — it is meant to be continuous, so as to keep the masses subdued for eternity. In fact, these nations aren’t even fighting each other. Permanent war achieves the same effect as permanent peace, and so the inner meaning of the Party’s slogan is revealed: “WAR IS PEACE.”
The United States is mired in perpetual war. The face of our enemy shifts like a shadow — Nazis, Communists, Muslims, illegal immigrants and (probably one day) Christian fascists — but, like a nightmarish game of wack-a-mole, when one enemy is beat down, a new one emerges. Over. And over. And over again.
This madness must end. Dwight E. Eisenhower warned the American people upon leaving office: “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”
What is the function of a soldier? To defend citizens from the consequences of our government’s actions. As Lysander Spooner once wrote, “So these villains, who call themselves governments, well understand that their power rests primarily upon money. With money they can hire soldiers, and with soldiers extort money.”
Nearly every single armed conflict since World War II — especially the Iraq War — was waged illegally under both national and international law. According to a U.N. resolution: “Aggression is the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State.” Presidents since Eisenhower have largely ignored Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, as well as the War Powers Act of 1973.
We are not heroes. We are not the saviors of the world. We are a nation, and all nations have interests. As all nations do, they carry out their interests through violence and coercion under the protection of collective opinion manufactured by the media.