The Debate: When Does Military Spending ENDANGER America?

The Debate: When Does Military Spending ENDANGER America? August 31, 2013

Is President Obama going to unilaterally take this country to war in Syria against the wishes of the American people and without the support of our greatest ally, Great Britain?

Before I write about the situation today, I’m going to do a little re-wind and take us back to late October, 2012, and the presidential campaign debates. If you will remember, Governor Romney (the Republican nominee) was all agog about going to war with Iran. It didn’t take much of a seer to know that if he won the election, he was going to lead us into a war with them.

I think that was one reason why he lost that election.

Slowly, and painfully, the American people are beginning to get wise to the fact that these wars aren’t for us and for our protection. The reason why papa’s always gotta have a new war is to feed the demand for profits from those who make money off war.

I wrote this post back then, and I’m going re-post it and one other today to give you something to chew on before we dive into talking about Syria and why we’re being told that young Americans need to die there.

The first presidential election I actually remember in any detail was between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

During that election, then Senator Kennedy complained about a missile gap that America needed to fill with more military spending.

In every presidential election since then, there has been one reliable “issue.” Both candidates say we need to spend more money on the military. It was a little different last night, in that President Obama was talking about not raising the spending so fast while Governor Romney chided him for this. Obama’s defense? Military spending had gone up every year of his presidency. That was the brag.

The reason is always the same. We are told that we need to spend, spend, spend on ships, planes, bombs and guns (never, notice our troops) to “keep America safe.”

We have reached a point where military spending on top the table comes to over 50% of our budget. And that’s just the money we know about. A lot of military spending is under the table and off the record. How much of our treasure are we really putting into the military? No one knows.

Let me repeat that: No one knows.

This nation has been at war economically since Pearl Harbor in 1941. What I mean by that is that we have been maintaining a wartime military capable of defending us in an all-out world war on multiple fronts against massive enemies for 70 years. Not only that, but we have set ourselves up as the guardians of the world. Our many military bases around the world are a critical part of the economies of a large number of countries. We are draining our economy and sustaining their economy to maintain a vast network of military bases and installations all over the globe.

Is it any accident that we have also found reasons to actually be at war for most of the past 70 years?

Look back in history at the effects that decades of war has on the economies of the nations who engage in it. Consider the 100 years war and what it did. So far as economics are concerned, America has been in a 70-year war, so that’s not an outrageous analogy.

My question: What are the dangers to the people of America if we continue to blindly believe that we have to keep on increasing our military budget year after year, election after election, into perpetuity? Where is this kind of thinking leading us?

I would like to offer you a few thoughts on that matter. These are not absolutes. They are just thoughts. But I do think we need to at least start a conversation about these things. We are Americans. This is our government, and since it is a democracy, we have a responsibility engage in the questions government raises. We are tasked with thinking things through rather than just blindly accepting the rhetoric of political candidates and pundits.

1. Would we have invaded Iraq if we had a universal draft? When we went to war in World War II, President Roosevelt had sons in uniform. Wealthy and powerful men like Joseph Kennedy had one son who was killed in combat and another who was permanently disabled as a result of injuries from combat. Who does our fighting now? My kids. Your kids. The people who are making money from these wars are totally disconnected from the cost in terms of human life and suffering that our children pay for their profits.

This began in Viet Nam. I came from a poor school. It seemed for a while that all I did was go to the funerals of my friends who a few months before had been driving their cars down the strip every night and now were soldiers killed in action. I didn’t realize at first that this was not happening at the wealthier schools. No one was dying who went to those schools. No one was even serving in the military at all. And this was a time when we did have a draft. But it had become corrupt. If you had money, you could get out of it.

A few years ago, I was at a meeting about how to help the kids in my district. It was convened by then Father, now Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Diocese of Little Rock. People from many walks of life were there. One of them was a recruiter for one of the military services. He said to the kids who were at the meeting, “Would you rather join the military and go to Iraq and die a death with honor, or die on the streets here with no honor?”

What he said resonated with these kids. They saw it as true.

Is that the America we want? Is the new American dream a dream where the “opportunity” we offer a large segment of our population is a choice between death with dishonor on our streets or a death with “honor” in an unnecessary war that was started under false pretenses?

2. How can we spend so much on “defense” and still not provide adequate care for our troops? Our soldiers tell me they don’t have adequate equipment in the field, such as body armor, that many of the sophisticated weapons they are given malfunction in actual combat conditions with dust, rain, heat and cold. They fight one war over there and come home to fight another war for treatment for their injuries here. How can we spend so much money and not take care of our troops?

3. Does “privatizing” military services amount to graft and corruption; to giving contracts to your pals so they can make even bigger bucks off our wars? I know what my answer to this will be. I believe emphatically that this is what is happening.

4. How can we balance the budget if we won’t even talk about cutting in the area where we’re spending over half of our money? How much are we willing to impoverish the American people to finance our military? When does the money we’re spending on it start doing us more harm than good?

5. Does all this vast expenditure of our capital on war making actually keep us safe, or does it endanger our economic survival while keeping us at war with somebody all the time? The young people I represent are fighting our wars. They are not getting rich. But somebody is making money beyond the dreams of avarice out of their service.

I am not advocating that we disarm. I am not a pacifist. I believe in self-defense, both for individuals and nations. But I do not want to see my sons killed and my country bankrupted for wars of empire that serve to advance the interests of multi-national corporations.

That is not self-defense. It doesn’t keep my country safe. It endangers us all.

I haven’t discussed the moral issues involved in all this. But they are some of the most important and least discussed of any moral issues facing this nation.

Last night’s debate was predictable in that no one talked about or was even asked if being economically in a world war for 70 straight years might be harming our economy. No one suggested that wars which are fought by kids from the poor neighborhoods while everyone else sits home safe, fed and fat are not democratic wars. I didn’t hear a peep about the graft and corruption involved in military contracts.

Not one word.

All I heard was the usual electioneering blather about who was spending the most to “keep America safe.” Maybe it’s time we at least asked other questions that demand different answers.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment

10 responses to “The Debate: When Does Military Spending ENDANGER America?”

  1. Implied in there is that the military industry manipulates or persuades the president of either party to take military action. Hogwash! Since WWII the US has accepted responsibility for maintaining world stability. If you don’t want the US to police the world any longer, then you accept responsibility for the consequences. No American president wants the blame for allowing the world to sink into chaos, including President Obama who is as close to a radical Liberal as they come. I don’t usually care for John Kerry but that was his finest hour yesterday. I was a bit of a fence sitter on this action, but he convinced me. On to Syria, but they have to do more than launch missiles. They have to make Assad hurt.

  2. You’re living in fantasy land Manny. Of course the military industrial complex “manipulates and persuades” the president of either party to take military action.

    “Implied in there is that the military industry manipulates or persuades the president of either party to take military action. Hogwash!”

    Aside from the fact that we’re sending Americans to die and entangling this country in yet another war, who’s gonna pay for all this?

    You’re a conservative. How does that jibe with spending money like a drunken sailor on shore leave when it comes to the military?

    On to Syria?????

    Don’t you think the Congress ought to a least vote on it, or are you in favor of war by presidential fiat?

    We’re not out of all our other wars yet.

    We’ve been at war economically since WWII and it is destroying this country economically.

    We’ve been in a hot war since 2001.

    And now it’s “on to Syria???”

    “Letting the world sink into chaos???” What about not letting this country sink into bankruptcy? What about using our military to protect the American people? Do you actually accept the idea that we are the world’s cops?

    I thought our military was to protect us.

    There are lots of other countries we can go to war with, you know. There are bad people, everywhere. Let’s just go to war with everybody.

  3. I do – much more than you do. It was pretty much as it is now. And so was Islam. Your theory is disproved by facts. When in 1291 the Nestorian Bishop Rabban Bar Sawma was sent to the courts of the Pope, France, and England, to explore the possibility of an alliance against the common Muslim enemy, by a Mongol king, the good bishop was astonished to find that countries that had recently experienced war still had regularly tilled fields and inhabited villages and cities; to him, who had experienced Muslim warfare, it was barely credible that a war should not mean the extermination of all the population and the desertification of the fields. He was also very surprised at the idea of electing heads of state, as a city called Genoa did. Western warfare has always been different from Muslim, because, from the beginning, the Church imposed a definite discipline on it – whereas, to the contrary, Muslim theory sees no limit to warfare until the enemy not only has surrendered, but until its surrender has been accepted by the Faithful. So it was then and so it is now.

  4. Uh … Manny … I apologize for the way I said that. I’ve been apologizing a lot lately for being too harsh. Maybe I need to take a look at myself. Again, apologies.

  5. “Of course the military industrial complex “manipulates and persuades” the president of either party to take military action.”
    Show me the evidence. Otherwise that’s just a conspiracy theory, no different than the conspiracy theories Michael Voris claims in that the Bishops are colluding with “professional” Catholics to undermine the faith.
    Presidents doesn’t always have to go to Coingress in limited affairs. This is not a war. This is a brief action, probably without any ground troops and no one in the line of fire. If the President intends to use ground troops, which I would support, then he should go to Congress. Otherwise it’s within his perogative not to.
    The country is not going into bankruptcy because of defense spending. Since WWII there has been a consensus within our government leaders of both parties that we need to be assertive to prevent future world wars.

  6. it is insane to send our boys and now girls to fight hand to hand combat , while providing rules of engagement. we did not defeat germany and japan using these rules of engagement , and probably there were mistakes made , innocent woman and children of the enemy were killed during world war two.. there were woman and children in the world trade center and our enemy , did not care. after we were attacked on 9 / 11 , we should have given warning to whoever would interfere that our I C B M’s are armed , ready to fire , and sent our B – 52’s over and carpet bombed afghanistan. bush should have been impeached for going to war with the wrong nation , iraq. it was and still is iran , syria , hezbollah iran has stated that america is the big snake and israel is the little snake that must be destroyed. the total destruction of iran is way overdue. once more , there were women and children in the world trade center and they shed no tears.

  7. I also think that the irresponsible and superstitious attitude of GW Bush towards taxation and spending had a poisonous influence over the whole of national US politics. Say what you will of Bill Clinton, he had managed to straighten out the budget to some extent. Bush insisted on tax cuts even when it meant breaking his word to some of his Christian constituents (he sacrificed a number of faith-based programs to the cuts) while he effectively raised expenditure, on the superstitious grounds that people being less taxed would work and produce more and thus make up the shortfall. Well, not only did it not work, not only did it shoot the budget downwards again, but it also, in my view, encouraged all the worst habits of congressmen. It is my very strong impression that there was an explosion of pork and in particular of the execrable practice of adding a spending clause at the last minute to a wholly unrelated bill; but why should Congress keep fiscal discipline if the President had been the first to throw it overboard?