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In its usual half-assed manner, the NY Times has finally broached the largely taboo topic of our indefensibly bloated military budget. As with most issues deemed “controversial” by our ultra-conservative corporate press, the impression here is that the NY Times addressed the subject, via its opinion page, out of absolute necessity only. In a time of such dire economic conditions, with the right and pseudo-left Dems screaming for budget cuts, even the NY Times realizes that it must at least mention what is obviously the most wasteful example of government spending.
Nicholas Kristof deserves some credit for daring to criticize the sacrosanct altar of military expenditures, and his piece, The Big (Military) Taboo, does address some critical issues:
• The United States spends nearly as much on military power as every other country in the world combined, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It says that we spend more than six times as much as the country with the next highest budget, China.
• The United States maintains troops at more than 560 bases and other sites abroad, many of them a legacy of a world war that ended 65 years ago. Do we fear that if we pull our bases from Germany, Russia might invade? …
• The U.S. will spend more on the war in Afghanistan this year, adjusting for inflation, than we spent on the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War combined. …
It was President Dwight Eisenhower who gave the strongest warning: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
Clearly, there are some powerful points here, points that need to be addressed on a much broader scale by both the MSM and the nation as a whole. Kristof even highlights the oft forgotten fact that it was the presence of American soldiers in Saudi Arabia which, in part at least, precipitated the attacks of September 11. But the problem with Kristof’s piece, as with most coverage by the NY Times which borders on being genuinely relevant, is that it doesn’t go far enough, and it’s couched in terms that reinforce the status quo:
Let me be clear: I’m a believer in a robust military, which is essential for backing up diplomacy. But the implication is that we need a balanced tool chest of diplomatic and military tools alike. Instead, we have a billionaire military and a pauper diplomacy.
What exactly is “a robust military,” and why do we need it? Where is this phantom army of evil intent on destroying us, should we let down our guard for a single moment? Why is it that countries – such as Canada, Japan and even China – that spend a tiny fraction of our budget on military expenses are not endlessly invaded and conquered by these aggressive menaces that are meant to exist in such abundance? As I’ve discussed at length, any enemies the United States has were created by our own actions. Dismantling the imperial American empire would solve virtually all of our security concerns; no one would wish to attack us if we didn’t provoke them in the first place.
Inevitably, people will bring up the specter of Hitler and the atrocities that took place during WWII, in an attempt to prove that there is genuine “evil” in the world, and that we must defend ourselves. To which my response is this: Where is Hitler today? Show me one military power on earth which even remotely resembles the strength and formidability of Nazi Germany, and which also demonstrates wanton aggression. Of course, the only nation which comes even close is the United States, which spends almost as much on its military as the rest of the world combined.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of our military spending is the ripple effect it has on the rest of the world. Just as in the nuclear arms race, our ridiculous spending on the means of war leads other nations to follow suit – particularly since we have proven ourselves to be ruthless aggressors if a nation possesses something we deem valuable. This is perhaps partially why China’s military budget has more than tripled since 2000; as heir apparent to the throne of world superpower, it undoubtedly feels compelled to match its predecessor’s outlays.
But China is but one example. The international trend is one of increasing military expenditures, with conservative estimates suggesting a 49% growth since 2000. One might wonder why Ecuador has increased its military spending by 241%, or Kazakhstan 360%, or Azerbaijan 471%. Who is this great enemy that we all seem to be preparing ourselves to defend against? Are human beings really so evil, vile, aggressive? Is it really necessary to squander so much of our material and intellectual wealth on the means of destruction?
I suspect that if the United States reduced its military spending from the current (conservative) figure of $660 billion to, say, $6 billion, much of the world would follow suit. In spite of the imminent doom implied by the fictional, hysteria-inducing, color-coded “axis of evil,” expounded upon so relentlessly by both the Bush and Obama administrations, we would not be attacked if we drastically reduced our military spending. On the contrary, the world would be a profoundly safer place, and nations around the globe would almost certainly follow our example. After all, defense is no longer necessary when your enemies cease to exist.