An American Renaissance 31

The Constitution is quite clear on matters of war.

We were not meant to have an enormous, world-straddling military hegemony.  What military we did possess was meant as a defense mechanism only and not a tool of global dominance.  The founders were quite implicit in their writings and in the Constitution itself – we didn’t want to become another British empire.

As has been demonstrated over the years, our huge military stationed overseas to project power has been one of the main downfalls of this country.  It is anathema to everything we stood for right up until World War II. We had zero troops stationed overseas prior to World War II. Now the bulk of our forces are stationed on every continent.

Yet we never question our nation’s military strategy and tactics as a whole, despite disagreeing with this war or that.  Has how we do things made us any better as a country? Has it made us safer?  It is clear from the available evidence that it has not.

Having deployed to the middle east as part of the battle group enforcing Operation Southern Watch, I saw first hand what an enormous waste of this country’s time and energy our military strategy is.  Most of the countries we go to would rather we not be there, except for our tourist dollars. They are suspicious of our motives, as well they should be when a carrier parks off their shores with a full air wing and a battle group steaming behind.

The military is huge waste of money and resources that could be better allocated elsewhere.

When the international community faces an existential threat, such as World War II, power projection beyond our borders in defense of the common good is worthwhile. Attacking Korea or Vietnam or Panama or Grenada or Iraq in 2003 is not worthwhile. It is counter-productive. We “saved” southeast Asia from communism and turned them into Islamic countries instead, a new “enemy” to justify more military action.

Every foreign military action since the end of World War II has been unconstitutional and to our detriment. Most of our Cold War foreign policy was based on assumptions that proved to be drastically false or paranoid or naive – often all three – about ourselves, our allies and the Soviets.

I see no problem helping to rebuild Japan and Europe following World War II or responding to humanitarian crisis’s with a well-trained and forward deployable military, but permanent military bases around the world have been not only a huge waste of resources, but they contributed to the militarization of the globe. We sell and buy more military equipment than the rest of the world combined.

Eisenhower warned us about this shit and we didn’t listen.

There is not a single thing our huge, forward deployed military couldn’t have done if they were instead a more local force of state militias supported by a strong US Navy to project power if and when it is needed.  Wait. There is one thing state militias and a smaller Navy/Marine Corps couldn’t have done: Feed the military industrial complex.

Until we draw our military back inside our borders and project peace instead of aggression, we will continue to add to the misery on this globe and continue to be the only imperial force currently in operation.  I bet we spawn a couple more empires if we keep it up, though.  There is absolutely no reason to have bases outside the US.  Further, it is a betrayal of our local communities to close bases in the US to open bigger and better bases overseas.  That money should stay in our local economies.

There isn’t a single thing that shouldn’t be changed about our military strategies and posture in the world.  We have caused way more grief than we solved.  Declaring war should be one of the hardest things we do.  It should be an enormous pain in the ass to get involved in a war. World War II is a good example. We had to turn the entire manufacturing capacity of the nation to get into that war. The shit wasn’t just laying around waiting to be used.

I would have 50 state “militias” operating as independent units inside their regions until needed by the nation. They would be able and ready to respond to natural disasters and such, train for war, give the gun enthusiasts some automatic weapons to play with and generally be a good thing for each state.  I would support them with a much smaller Navy and Marine Corps on each coast that is available for rapid deployment overseas if and when needed.  Our it military costs way more than is needed and delivers an amazingly low return on investment.

We need to pull our collective heads out of our asses and come up with some new and innovative ideas for the future.

I am proposing that we stop being the world’s police and start promoting a multinational force that can respond to these emergencies. I think it is far past time we stop footing the bill for solving the world’s problems alone. By spreading the responsibility for our common global security equally, we drastically cut our military budget in the short term and move to a much slimmer force in the future that perhaps has other things as its primary mission than kicking ass and taking names.

We were all pretty damn proud to have come to the rescue of Miami following Hurricane Andrew.  In Guantanamo Bay, the camps that our now our national disgrace were a sign of our grace when 60,000 migrants decided to find our shores and ended up in Cuba instead.  There is a way to accomplish these missions more effectively and humanely.  We need to kill the military industrial complex first.

I don’t argue that we have done some good over the years, but I feel the same (or more) good could have been done within the context of a more powerful United Nations or some other multi-national context that spread the responsibility among nations rather than investing it all in the US. Likewise, it would diffuse the criticism we get about being imperialistic in our aims. Our military has largely been an arm of our corporate and political strategies rather than being an option of last resort.

I am not a military budget analyst nor do I know what the final make-up of our new forces might look like or what it would cost, but since the Cold War is over, I suggest we stop trying to start a new one with “Islamic Terrorism” as our perpetual enemy vice the Soviets.  I think we could have four carrier battle groups, two on each coast with one deployed and one in training, each able to respond quickly to an emergency when requested. We could even have ships forward deployed on good-will cruises and the like. We currently have 11 carriers that cost us billions and provide no noticeable value unless we plan on fighting two Iraq wars at the same time.

I would like to change the idea that we should ever be capable of fighting two wars of choice at the same time without a huge amount of national sacrifice as we saw in World War II. No threat of lesser proportion should demand such an overwhelming response from American military forces.

I don’t even think being a strict constructionist about the constitutional make-up of our military is the answer, though it is clear we have gone far afield of what the framers originally intended as the proper use of military forces and the separation of powers between Congress and the President with regards to the military.  I would love nothing better than to revisit the entire notion of how our military is composed, what will be its 21st Century mission and how does that become melded with our overall vision as a country.

The president campaigned on changing the very mindset that sent us to war in Iraq. I think a drastic reduction in our military forces is a good place to start that evolution of thinking.

At the end of the day, it will probably be a two-fold change with the US beginning to change its military stance in bits and spurts while the rest of the world comes together more often to confront international challenges. I think we will never begin those conversation, though, without the United States, admittedly the world’s leading death merchant, changing its military posture first.  Our current military strategies all but say we are prepared to kick anyone’s ass at any time for any reason whether the international community agrees or not. This is compounded by our economic policies that allow for a behemoth defense industry that basically keeps the entire world armed to the teeth. We aren’t the only ones supplying the weapons to be sure, but we are by far the biggest.

Hard to advocate for peace and cooperation with such national priorities as those.

Once we change that mindset, then we start seeing the current military budget as huge honey pot of funds to take care of every other item on our national agenda.  It becomes a huge pool of resources that we can channel into things that give us a return on investment that no amount imperialism can’t provide.  We can fully funded the non-profit sector, so government isn’t providing the services best distributed at the local level.  In this way, the federal government would be setting a standard and funding the efforts in whatever way maximizes effectiveness.  The non-profit sector has been very good at distributing social services at a fraction of the cost of government.  A series of well-funded and focused programs delivered in new and innovative ways just might bring the 80-percent of our country left behind for the last 40 years up to speed.

Likewise, a robust Fourth Sector (For Profit, For Good companies) with the right funding could quickly pursue the technology we need to transition to clean energy.  Subsidizing Oil and Agribusiness is not a good return on investment.  Subsidizing clean energy entrepreneurs and non-profit efforts provides a huge return on investment.  Slimming down the federal government, increasing state and local budgets and taking a more humble stance in the world all seemed doable by spending the money we already spend more effectively.  In fact, by doing things more efficiently and effectively, we would be able to alleviate the individual’s tax burden in the long run, countering a long-standing conservative argument against government.

Next year I’ll blog about the money wasted nationally on the War on Drugs and our Prison Industrial Complex.  Disgraceful.  Add that to money to the national pile and all of a sudden the enormous investments we MUST pay for as a country don’t seem so out of reach.

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31 thoughts on “An American Renaissance

  • Carey Rowland

    In a perfect world, Jason, you would make a good
    Secretary of Defense.
    Eisenhower’s warning has had little effect beyond our withdrawal from Vietnam, and perhaps our refusal to move on Baghdad after the first gulf war.
    Like it or not, you are a taxpayer in the Pox Americana. Better get used to it; it’s a brave new world out there.
    Its what wannabe empires do; perhaps its the only way that Bush/Obama and Co. can keep all the young bucks in jobs, because what would they being doing if they all came back here? working at WalMart or McDonalds?
    Take your place on the great Mandala.
    Great rhetoric though.
    Happy New Year.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      I don’t think anything is inevitable, but we are certainly stuck in a feedback loop of self-fulfulling prophecies.

      As long as we keep wagging our collective dick in the world’s face, we will keep seeing overly devout Muslims trying to blow up their skivvies in new and entertaining ways. Bread and circus anyone?

      Happy New Year to you as well.

  • dickday

    Happy New Year Jason!!!

    Hope all is going well.

    We dominate the world. We manufacture more arms than every other country in the world. And we have people like cheney and bolton and feith and lieberman and hundreds of others who make it their aim and purpose in life to see we are at war with all of the countries in the world.

    It is so easy to get into a war. And so damn difficult to get out.

    I am naive. I would just go back to McGovern. Pull all the troops out.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      No argument but for the rightward tilt of your examples of war mongers. They have come from both parties, unfortunately, which pretty much assures the continued march of American boots on foreign shores.

      I am with you on pulling all of our troops home from around the world as a necessary first step in the demilitarization of our country. Absent that massive paradigm shift, I don’t see anything positive happening in this essential direction.

      Happy new year, Double D!

  • wendy davis

    Some of us DO have the conversation; just not enough of us. Is it possible that do to eventual financial constrainst we may HAVE to have the conversation, and make some choices.
    Happy New Year, Jason.

  • miguelitoh2o

    All very good points you make here. It’s interesting to compare international defense spending in terms of GDP as opposed to being absolute numbers. Doing so may suggest a more realistic picture of defense spending than what we currently see in the US. While I believe that ranking leaves out the US expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan, it still puts our costs at about 4% of GDP, right in line with many developing countries, while our cohorts, (the OECD nations), fall in at around 1% to 2.6%. Like all things American these days we seem to fritter it away in drips and drabs, rarely seeing the spike in expenditures we’ve seen since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, so we’re at a unique point in history, when perhaps the folly of these expenditures can be exposed. At the same time that percentage puts a new urgency on effecting change in the healthcare sector which we currently spend about 17% of GDP on, which is twice what the rest of the world spends. If we could reduce our health expenditure by only 25% we would have saved the equivalent of our entire military budget.

    Then there will be the issue of employment should we choose to redirect these funds from defense, and will require an equally massive investment in creating jobs in alternative energy, and other emerging technologies. On some level, one might expect corporate sponsorship for such a policy shift, (at least outside the defense industry), as it would at least initially free up a large part of the labor market, and consequently decreasing overall wages.

    Effecting change becomes even less certain when you factor in conglomerates such as General Electric, which is both a defense contractor and a media company. Then of course there are defense contractors like Shell Oil, which inevitably has a slanted view on developing alternative fuels.

    On top of all this is the subtext of the new corporate paradigm of “too big to fail”, a concept that if left unaddressed will change the landscape of our world beyond recognition in the not so distant future.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      All great points, miguelito. I find it sad that we spend twice as much for just about everything in this country, mostly without a resultant rise in quality outcomes or return on investment.

      Our “leaders” in both parties continue to offer Hobson’s Choices seemingly designed from the ground-up to be ineffective and tainted in some fundamental fashion.

      Where do we go when the cure is often worse than the disease?

  • bluesplashy

    Great post, Jason and happy new year. I am afraid right smack in the middle of your post is the reason why this shit won’t stop and also why War Dog Cheney keeps on barking – “We sell and buy more military equipment than the rest of the world combined. ”
    There’s lots and lots of money in them thar guns.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      The commercial aspects of out addiction to warfare are what drives the notion of perpetual war for perpetual peace as a fundamental American trait. Ridiculous, of course, but that has never stopped us from doing stupid shit before now. Happy New Year to you as well.

  • Cindy Etal

    Your post is well thought-out, Jason.

    A couple of thoughts: First, a sizable segment of the population has been intentionally conditioned to be fearful, anxious, and risk/change-averse. Any change in the role of our military would, indeed, have to be in fits and starts so people could acclimate a little at a time.

    Second, having had the week off, I checked two films out of the library that are referenced a lot: “Brazil” and “Dr. Strangelove.” I had never seen them before. Wow.

    In reading your analysis, one of the underlying themes of these films came to mind: the more obsessive we are about national security — the more departments, procedures, weapons, personnel, etc., we amass to allay our fears — the less secure we actually are. The system breaks down under its own weight, creating even more problems.

    That’s my synthesis of the moment, anyway.

    Thanks for the post, Jason. And, Happy New Year!

    • Jason Everett Miller

      I find it a cruel irony that our own fears have made us victim to the worse impulses of Empire while stealing our ability to pursue our better natures as a nation.

      We ignore the festering sores of poverty and violence in our inner cities even as we inflame fundamental religious tensions in countries thousands of miles from our shores.

      Happy New Year to you as well.

  • Resistance

    After reading miguelitoh2o text
    Maybe the United States military, is the enforcement arm of the Government of Corporatism?

    Strong-arm tactics to assure conformance; for a threat without muscle is bluster.
    You must have the mark of approval by the beast or else.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      I think there is a lot of truth in the idea that our military misadventures are mainly a way to secure access to cheap oil and to provide an object lesson on the America’s Way of the Gun.

      I am convinced that most Americans don’t really think about these things and would rather not know how they get $2.50 a gallon gas and 20 T-shirts for $20.

  • Tom Wright

    There is always some major power, whether the Pharoahs or Persians or Romans. Where would you rather live, under Pax Romana or the hinterland? That exists now in Waziristan and Somalia.

    If we and the Russians had not flattened Germany they would likely not be the chastened and humane power they currently are. Many of your ancestors had to win fights, or you would not exist. And fewer people die violent deaths, on average now, than in earlier epochs.

    It ain’t the army, it’s the commanders, and therefore the people, who are of course easily swayed at times. But don’t blame the gun. There won’t be universal disarmament, ever. But there can be wisdom and humane application of force. Even police need guns backing up the Bobbies, who always carried at least a billy.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      No where did I call for universal disarmament, though our violent natures have kept us from evolving past that essential hurdle.

      A strong national defense in the form of 50 state militias is the surest way to get the positives without the negatives. Bringing home our extended cadre of American bruisers on every continent will have positive residual effects as well.

      War has been responsible for precious little societal evolution, however technically sophisticated we have become at applying our ideological mindset toward pursuit of geopolitical ends.

      Not sure I can agree with the idea that war, as we have long practiced it, is the surest way to a positive place as a people. Check out the link the MBH provided above for an idea of what that enormous wasted investment could be used for.

  • *

    Kinda long winded there Jason.

    I differ with you in that the US should keep a few, not many, footholds in strategic areas as long as they are coupled with a regional military function, like NATO for example. Just enough troops and weapon systems to participate with local military forces so as to keep the lines of communications open and active. Of course, those host nations have to be willing to keep US forces within their borders as well as the US should be willing to allow foreign military units access to and control over specific military areas within the US. I believe the Germans control Holloman AFB and a South East Asian country have joint control over Mountain Home AFB. Regardless, the US needs to be actively engaged with other foreign countries military forces – it’s a necessary cost for defense, especially if one considers Europe is a buffer between the US and the Middle East.

    But you are right in stating the costs of keeping an active military combat ready is very expensive and the money could be effectively spent in areas strapped for cash. The question is how much defense is enough and for what purpose. If you use the catch all possibilities mentality, it’s a resource hog simply because there are so many possibilities to defend against. The US needs to decide exactly what our military needs to be ready to tackle at a moments notice and what contingencies can be allowed to lapse.

    Once there’s a firm foundation for the level of combat readiness expected of the military, spending should reflect the cost to provide that level of defensive force. That means the MIC will be corralled in to providing products, parts, and services in an arena with limited funding. And here’s where the real problem will rear it’s head.

    Congress and the MIC are too much intertwined – one provides the funds to a business that promises jobs will be created in the district – quid pro quo. If we can separate Congress from the business entities seeking government contracts, the chance of greasing palms will subside. Congress should only be concerned about if the weapon systems are necessary and if the costs are contained so they aren’t taken to the cleaners later. They need to be completely out of the selection process.

    Control Congress and you’ll get defense spending back under control.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      I don’t consider Europe as the buffer between the US and the Middle East. I think the whole Us versus Them mentality is horribly misplaced and dangerously misinformed.

      I believe the blowback from our Cold War strategies is what we are seeing with the growth of terrorism. I think our business as usual policies are tossing gas on the fire of fanatacism, which will lead to even more unforeseen consquences down the road.

      War is the one thing that will keep us from evolving as a species and a collection of societies.

  • OldenGoldenDecoy

    I also served … Same Navy ’65-’72. . .

    A New Year dawns here in the wild ol’ west and the start of my 70th decade on earth.

    I too while in the service saw not only the huge waste of money and resources but the loss of hundreds of thousands of young vibrant souls who would no longer help build the future of our country.

    And long before Ike’s warning the following two time Medal of Honor recipient was standing firm against the winds of war and laid the truth like it should be laid.

    “War is a Racket!” (YouTube)

    That is an understatement if ever there was one…

    An now … Here is a more recent interview that I think folks should view from an individual that I have followed since early 2001.

    The Pentagon’s new map for war and peaceThomas Barnett (YouTube)February 2005

    “In this bracingly honest and funny talk, international security strategist Thomas P.M. Barnett outlines a post-Cold War solution for the foundering US military: Break it in two. He suggests the military re-form into two groups: a Leviathan force, a small group of young and fierce soldiers capable of swift and immediate victories; and an internationally supported network of System Administrators, an older, wiser, more diverse organization that actually has the diplomacy and power it takes to build and maintain peace.”

    That sounds somewhat similar to this:

    “I am proposing that we stop being the world’s police and start promoting a multinational force that can respond to these emergencies. I think it is far past time we stop footing the bill for solving the world’s problems alone. By spreading the responsibility for our common global security equally, we drastically cut our military budget in the short term and move to a much slimmer force in the future that perhaps has other things as its primary mission than kicking ass and taking names.

    I do find it intersting that Barnett, Jason and the Old Duck here all served in the US Navy and I’m quite sure all three of us clearly understand the differences in the below bold highlighted sections from the Constitution:

    “To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years; [and] To provide and maintain a navy;”

    Anyhoo … I strongly suggest that folks take 25 minutes and view Barnett’s presentation.

    And in closing: May your New Year be a Healthy and Prosperous one.


        • OldenGoldenDecoy

          Yes …

          Barnett has thought long and hard on this continuing negative feed-back loop of the US being expected to be the toughest on the world stage “…wagging our collective dick in the world’s face.”

          And I couldn’t help but notice, yet I’m far from surpised at the obvious lack of any response to Barnett’s stance from the individual to whom that info was directed.


          • Jason Everett Miller

            Why did you need to ruin what was promising to be a positive discussion with more paranoia asides?

            I hadn’t gotten around to commenting on the Barnett’s excellent addition until I had a chance to watch the entire piece.

            Of course I would agree with the man since he echoes many of my own thoughts on the matter.

  • thepeoplechoose

    I’m sick of wars. For my entire life we’ve been in one or another almost constantly. All seem to have been useless except probably WWII (several years before my time).

    And we just keep spending and spending, inventing new ways to kill, while so much else that needs doing is left wanting. This is the WTF question of my life. When I served during Vietnam I thoought it was the right thing to do. Turned out just the opposite. I thought I was fighting for my country. Turned out we were all lied to. Just like is happening now with so much stuff. Makes me cry.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      War should bring any thinking and feeling human to tears. I think the fact that so many Americans have never been in the military is the primary reason this tragedy continues under both parties.

      • thepeoplechoose

        My guess is we’ll get a chance to learn this all over again. I was born just after WWII so I knew nothing of it. I learned from Vietnam just as my father learned from WWII. He never spoke of it. Not that it would have done any good. You really can’t teach someone how fucked up it is. You only really only figure it out after it’s too late.

        But that isn’t even the worst of it. The worst is governments get citizens to kill each other almost exclusively for reason of preservation of wealth and power. Idealistic youth think it is patriotic etc. That is a load of crap. It’s a con job.

        Just look around and you see the abuses of power left and right. Actually, the teabaggers are sort of on the right track. They just haven’t figured out the lie just yet. You think they’re pissed now? When they figure this out conservatives are in for a bad time. The real challenge to power will come from the right. Once rank and file conservatives figure out they’ve been betrayed all hell will break loose. Liberals should be doing this right now given the way congress has so screwed us all on everything since 2006. Maybe that’ll still happen. I don’t think so though. Liberals just don’t get fired up so easy. Too laid back. In congress, liberal democrats really aren’t all that liberal actually. The very idea of seeking that power suggests a not so liberal mindset. This is confirmed, especially right now, because they caved so easily on their supposed principles.