The military has become an integral part of our economy. What happens when something becomes incredibly profitable?…Will we get more of it, or less of it?
Weaponry is one of the last remaining manufacturing sectors in the U.S. We are the largest producer and exporter of arms and munitions on earth. The U.S. Government spends more on the military than all other nations combined—about $1 trillion annually. The cost of our military adds tremendously to the deficit. Conservatives typically ignore military spending and favor cuts in social program instead (what they call “entitlements”; i.e., programs that assist people in need). Of course, it isn’t just conservatives. There are many in congress who have military jobs in their district or state that they aim to protect by voting to maintain (or increasing) military spending. Also, private military contractors make massive political donations that make peace candidates almost non-existent. With these elements in place, it makes it very difficult to rein in our ever-expanding military.
We now have over half a million military personnel serving on more than 737 military bases all over the world. These bases are on more than 130 countries. According to the late military scholar, Chalmers Johnson, these bases facilitate the “policing” of the globe and are meant to ensure that no other nation, friendly or hostile, can ever challenge us militarily. He predicts that military spending will “sooner or later…threaten our nation with bankruptcy.” Many would argue that a strong military is necessary because it is a deterrent to potential adversaries. Really? Then explain to me why our tax-payer-funded military bases include a ski center, over 200 military golf courses, dozens of luxury jets, and many luxury hotels. Conservatives like to compare government (public) workers (such as military personnel and Wisconsin teachers) with private workers, insisting, for instance, that Wisconsin teacher, police, and firefighters’ pensions and wages are too generous compared to what private workers are paid (to justify why unions should be crushed). So I am sure they will not want to make the argument that military personnel should have private golf courses and other superfluous luxuries that those in the private sector do not enjoy. Come on! We don’t need 200 military golf courses…but we do need more and better-paid teachers! If we are sincere about the deficit, there are plenty of places in the military to cut–including out-dated Cold War-era nuclear facilities and weapons.
In 1961, President Eisenhower delivered his farewell address. His message was a warning against the massive influence of the military:
“We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. . . . This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. . . .Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. . . . In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist” (source). See the video of the speech:
See this excellent interview with filmmaker Eugene Jarecki: (his film, “Why We Fight”, is included in its entirely at the end of the post.)
Listen to this radio interview with Eugene Jarecki about the military-industrial complex: Unwarranted Influence
Néstor Kirchner of Argentina,
NÉSTOR KIRCHNER: [translated] Bush told me the best way to revitalize the economy is war and that the United States has grown stronger with war. Those were his exact words.
OLIVER STONE: Were there any eye-to-eye moments with President Bush that day, that night?
NÉSTOR KIRCHNER: [translated] I say it’s not necessary to kneel before power. Nor do you need to be rude to say the things you have to say to those who oppose our actions. We had a discussion in Monterey. I said that a solution to the problems right now, I told Bush, is a Marshall Plan. And he got angry. He said the Marshall Plan is a crazy idea of the Democrats. He said the best way to revitalize the economy is war and that the United States has grown stronger with war.
OLIVER STONE: War. He said that?
NÉSTOR KIRCHNER: [translated] He said that. Those were his exact words.
OLIVER STONE: Was he suggesting that South America go to war?
NÉSTOR KIRCHNER: [translated] Well, he was talking about the United States. The Democrats had been wrong. All of the economic growth of the United States has been encouraged by the various wars. He said it very clearly. President Bush is—well, he’s only got six days left, right?
OLIVER STONE: Yes.
NÉSTOR KIRCHNER: [translated] Thank God.
JUAN GONZALEZ: That was former President Kirchner. And these comments of President Bush that he says about the United States growing strong through war, I don’t think that’s ever been reported anywhere.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, on this issue of war and, of course, the statement that President Bush made, which to me was startling, is, in essence, when our government goes to war, not only does it spend huge amounts of money that it turns over to the contractors who assist the war, but also technological development always increases sharply, sponsored by the government. And then, after the war, these same companies then use the new technological development to open up new arenas of business. So, in that sense, I think Bush was talking about how war—
OLIVER STONE: Yeah.
JUAN GONZALEZ: —forces the productive forces ahead and allows capitalism to continue to exploit.
OLIVER STONE: It’s a hard way to die.
The only way we can control the deficit, reduce war, and promote peace is by putting pressure on our government to change course. We need to “starve the beast” of the military-industrial complex, and perhaps create a Department of Peace, as others have suggested. To learn more about this important topic read on…