I recently found a movie on Netflix that I had never seen before. Sean Penn narrates a devastating critique of America’s war footing since the end of World War II.
The film tackles one of our most detrimental myths by virtue of an honest and unemotional look at the historical record. There are some obligatory mentions of the “anti-war” movement having been marginalized and really only had one guy being interviewed to supplement the narration, but I agree with the larger point that the true tragedy remains the overwhelming majority of Americans who were (and still are) gullible enough to believe the shit they’ve fed by a sophisticated and self-sustaining coup. Not a coup in the traditional sense, but one founded in a combination of unrelated events that came together with horrific consequences.
It doesn’t take a conspiracy to create chaos.
President Eisenhower warned us almost fifty years ago of the Hell we had unleashed by not dismantling our war machine after World War II. I realize this is probably the most linked to clip as a refutation of our war mentality, but it is a welcome reminder of the bipartisan nature of both our lust for war as well as our condemnation of its evils.
Both parties, under presidents both inspired and insipid, have pursued policies of perpetual war for perpetual peace. The book of the same name by Gore Vidal is another eloquent critique of what has become our foreign policy staple with very little actual condemnation on the part of voters. It costs nearly a trillion dollars a year to keep our war machine going and the idiots in Congress can’t find money to supplement a health care bill that will cost a couple hundred billion a year. Is there something wrong with this picture?
How about this one?
Our actions don’t match our stated goals and ideals. Our nation has never once lived up to its obligations, foreign or domestic. Our government speaks with a forked tongue and holds to no true standards. Situational ethics rule the day. No matter who is president or who our enemy-of-the-week happens to be. Is this the legacy we want to pass along to our children? Another century of seeking to dominate the planet militarily at the expense of all we keep saying we hold dear yet never find a way to achieve.
It’s easy to design a military that could kick anyone’s ass because it concentrates on how real wars are fought and plans for contingencies rather than reacts to them. Do it at perhaps a tenth of the current budget by modernizing and focusing the military’s mission without sacrificing our ability to project power anywhere in the world if requested by the world community. Now imagine a mandate from an imaginative president with a majority in Congress and a defense secretary from the opposition party who agrees with a slimmer, cheaper and more sustainable DoD. Gates thoughts are purely for self preservation of some sort of military capability before the whole thing falls apart (sort of like the Soviet forces that still haven’t been revived and were never really affordable) but we should take opportunities where they exist and then expand them.
We could reopen bases in America and close them overseas, bringing those dollars back into the domestic economy and spreading opportunity to some of the hardest hit areas in the country. We could simplify and shorten our supply lines across the services to make them cheaper and more efficient. The defense industry could easily morph into something more productive and no less lucrative. Lockheed can build solar farms as easily
missile systems. General Dynamics can design wind turbines as easily as fighter jet turbines. We need to start treating the most expensive part of the federal budget as if it actually matters how we spend the money.
President Obama could instruct Gates to design a slimmer, more accountable and responsive defense department even while selling the country (and industry) on the importance of shifting those dollars to health care and education and sustainable power without raising overall spending by a dime. Perpetual ar delivers negative value for the dollars spent while a true defense policy would provide multiple benefits and a true return on investment.
It’s a win, win, win scenario.