Behemoth military threatens our own survival
A spontaneous movie pick while shopping for groceries on an empty night proved surprisingly educating. The phrase “beware the military-industrial complex” is one I’d seen and heard quite often but never really pursued, subconsciously assuming it’d first been uttered by some radical left wing academic.The film “Why We Fight” let me know how wrong I’d been. Dwight D Eisenhower, 5-star General, Supreme Allied Commander in WW2 and two-time Republican President issued this warning in his farewell speech in 1961.A riveting film, “Why We Fight” examines this warning and how we’re doing heeding it. Not too well by any measurement – we spend more on defense than the sum of all the other discretionary parts of the budget. Our military budget is bigger than the rest of the world’s combined total.The arms industry is a business with the normal goal of selling as much as possible. The military’s job is to imagine every possible scenario and plan for the worst. Being a military man, Eisenhower understood the unlimited appetite of this combination for money, weapons and power. He also knew that pursuing absolute security is chasing a rainbow. You can never get there. No one speaks against increasing military spending: “God bless our contractors.” Every politician’s district has bases, arms factories and political contributors tied to the arms industry; sometimes it looks like they’re seamlessly intertwined. Irrational fear prevents us from questioning the value of such a huge expenditure. It’s a debate that never happens, unconsciously stifled before it ever begins. Is the real threat of terrorism best fought with an ever-increasing global military presence, or does it require more of a police approach to foil attacks with cooperation and diplomacy as long-term solutions? Eisenhower faced the Soviet Union and their nuclear missiles at the start of the Cold War and still advocated restraint and disarmament. He didn’t want to “spend one cent for defense more than we have to” realizing that every dollar spent on arms took food from the hungry and shelter from the homeless. He built the Interstate system with money from the defense budget, seeing that as more useful.The U.S. built a huge military during the Cold War and the military-industrial-congressional complex can’t give it up. After the Cold War there should’ve been a huge peace dividend; we had no real threat then. Instead, we manufactured a few and kept spending. Ninety-three percent of our Foreign Affairs budget goes to the Pentagon and 7 percent to the State department. Our diplomacy is based on hitting things with the only tool we’ve got – our military.The problem with having such a fantastic fighting force on hand ready to go is it’s tempting to use. We’re a more militaristic nation than we’d like to believe, happy to use force to further our economic interests. We’ve built a global empire – for ours and the world’s good of course – but some don’t see it that way. The recent neocon think tanks have grabbed the keys and driven us into Iraq trying to build an empire where it matters, i.e. where there is oil. Ironically, our military could use up more oil than it ever manages to obtain for us from Iraq. Who knows what the next lot might do? Imagine a group of radical enviros getting a president’s ear and pushing their global agenda by force.The military industrial congressional complex is a system that makes decisions in its interests, not that of the country. War is a profitable business for some. But national security depends on more than weapons; it relies on people. The less other people dislike you, the better. After 9/11, one million people demonstrated in the streets of Tehran in support of the USA. All that good will is gone now. Eisenhower knew that ultimately a country’s defense depended on how much its people believed in their country. A corrupt Washington that represents corporations more than its people, siding with capitalism whenever it conflicts with democracy won’t provide healthy, educated and motivated citizens willing to die for it. Social infrastructure is as essential to a countries security as its military budget.Eisenhower’s farewell speech amazes with its stridency and how prescient it is. It’s worth reading the whole speech at http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/farewell.htm. Nostalgia for Ike lets me know how much we’ve let politics change, not the alert and knowledgeable citizenry Eisenhower hoped we’d be. Perhaps we’ve succumbed to the other danger he warned about.”Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society’s future we -you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without asking the loss of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a weekly column for the Daily.Vail, Colorado
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