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The Permanent Militarization of US: Americans' Uncritical Support of All Things Martial True 3rd Rail of US Politics

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: US politics, US society, uncritical support, all things martial, spiritual effects, expanding militarization, third rail, Congress, defense cuts, votes, Eisenhower, warning, , trade-offs: guns vs butter )

- 2026 days ago -
No unvarnished praise for the military from those who've served, but non-vets -inc 4/5s of Congress- unequivocal, unhesitating adulation. Few Americans today giving enough consideration to the full range of violent activities the govt commit in their name

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Teresa W (782)
Tuesday November 6, 2012, 7:31 am
noted, thank you

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Tuesday November 6, 2012, 7:44 am
Op-Ed Contributor:

"The Permanent Militarization of America"

Published: November 4, 2012

Annapolis, Md.

IN 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower left office warning of the growing power of the military-industrial complex in American life. Most people know the term the president popularized, but few remember his argument.

In his farewell address, Eisenhower called for a better equilibrium between military and domestic affairs in our economy, politics and culture. He worried that the defense industry’s search for profits would warp foreign policy and, conversely, that too much state control of the private sector would cause economic stagnation. He warned that unending preparations for war were incongruous with the nation’s history. He cautioned that war and warmaking took up too large a proportion of national life, with grave ramifications for our spiritual health.

The military-industrial complex has not emerged in quite the way Eisenhower envisioned. The United States spends an enormous sum on defense — over $700 billion last year, about half of all military spending in the world — but in terms of our total economy, it has steadily declined to less than 5 percent of gross domestic product from 14 percent in 1953. Defense-related research has not produced an ossified garrison state; in fact, it has yielded a host of beneficial technologies, from the Internet to civilian nuclear power to GPS navigation. The United States has an enormous armaments industry, but it has not hampered employment and economic growth. In fact, Congress’s favorite argument against reducing defense spending is the job loss such cuts would entail.

Nor has the private sector infected foreign policy in the way that Eisenhower warned. Foreign policy has become increasingly reliant on military solutions since World War II, but we are a long way from the Marines’ repeated occupations of Haiti, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic in the early 20th century, when commercial interests influenced military action. Of all the criticisms of the 2003 Iraq war, the idea that it was done to somehow magically decrease the cost of oil is the least credible. Though it’s true that mercenaries and contractors have exploited the wars of the past decade, hard decisions about the use of military force are made today much as they were in Eisenhower’s day: by the president, advised by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Security Council, and then more or less rubber-stamped by Congress. Corporations do not get a vote, at least not yet.

But Eisenhower’s least heeded warning — concerning the spiritual effects of permanent preparations for war — is more important now than ever. Our culture has militarized considerably since Eisenhower’s era, and civilians, not the armed services, have been the principal cause. From lawmakers’ constant use of “support our troops” to justify defense spending, to TV programs and video games like “NCIS,” “Homeland” and “Call of Duty,” to NBC’s shameful and unreal reality show “Stars Earn Stripes,” Americans are subjected to a daily diet of stories that valorize the military while the storytellers pursue their own opportunistic political and commercial agendas. Of course, veterans should be thanked for serving their country, as should police officers, emergency workers and teachers. But no institution — particularly one financed by the taxpayers — should be immune from thoughtful criticism.

Like all institutions, the military works to enhance its public image, but this is just one element of militarization. Most of the political discourse on military matters comes from civilians, who are more vocal about “supporting our troops” than the troops themselves. It doesn’t help that there are fewer veterans in Congress today than at any previous point since World War II. Those who have served are less likely to offer unvarnished praise for the military, for it, like all institutions, has its own frustrations and failings. But for non-veterans — including about four-fifths of all members of Congress — there is only unequivocal, unhesitating adulation. The political costs of anything else are just too high.

For proof of this phenomenon, one need look no further than the continuing furor over sequestration — the automatic cuts, evenly divided between Pentagon and nonsecurity spending, that will go into effect in January if a deal on the debt and deficits isn’t reached. As Bob Woodward’s latest book reveals, the Obama administration devised the measure last year to include across-the-board defense cuts because it believed that slashing defense was so unthinkable that it would make compromise inevitable.

But after a grand budget deal collapsed, in large part because of resistance from House Republicans, both parties reframed sequestration as an attack on the troops (even though it has provisions that would protect military pay). The fact that sequestration would also devastate education, health and programs for children has not had the same impact.

Eisenhower understood the trade-offs between guns and butter. “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,” he warned in 1953, early in his presidency. “The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.”

He also knew that Congress was a big part of the problem. (In earlier drafts, he referred to the “military-industrial-Congressional” complex, but decided against alienating the legislature in his last days in office.) Today, there are just a select few in public life who are willing to question the military or its spending, and those who do — from the libertarian Ron Paul to the leftist Dennis J. Kucinich — are dismissed as unrealistic.

The fact that both President Obama and Mitt Romney are calling for increases to the defense budget (in the latter case, above what the military has asked for) is further proof that the military is the true “third rail” of American politics. In this strange universe where those without military credentials can’t endorse defense cuts, it took a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, to make the obvious point that the nation’s ballooning debt was the biggest threat to national security.

Uncritical support of all things martial is quickly becoming the new normal for our youth. Hardly any of my students at the Naval Academy remember a time when their nation wasn’t at war. Almost all think it ordinary to hear of drone strikes in Yemen or Taliban attacks in Afghanistan. The recent revelation of counterterrorism bases in Africa elicits no surprise in them, nor do the military ceremonies that are now regular features at sporting events. That which is left unexamined eventually becomes invisible, and as a result, few Americans today are giving sufficient consideration to the full range of violent activities the government undertakes in their names.

Were Eisenhower alive, he’d be aghast at our debt, deficits and still expanding military-industrial complex. And he would certainly be critical of the “insidious penetration of our minds” by video game companies and television networks, the news media and the partisan pundits. With so little knowledge of what Eisenhower called the “lingering sadness of war” and the “certain agony of the battlefield,” they have done as much as anyone to turn the hard work of national security into the crass business of politics and entertainment.

Aaron B. O’Connell, an assistant professor of history at the United States Naval Academy and a Marine reserve officer, is the author of “Underdogs: The Making of the Modern Marine Corps.”

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Tuesday November 6, 2012, 7:53 am
In case the 2nd picture I managed to slip in as illustration of this post has disappeared by the time you get here, you can have a look at it here. Since expanding militarization & permanent war are truly bi-partisan issues in the US,
this picture seemed so fitting

And then there's this one that I missed the first time around!

Neither candidate would DARE suggest what the author of the article does, but as he points out, is it really their fault if that is what American voters want?

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Tuesday November 6, 2012, 7:59 am
O'Connell's article has created quite a buzz on the Net, being picked up on by bloggers & reprinted on quite a few sites, including that of the magazine, The Nation. If you google the title, "The Permanent Militarization of America," you'll see!

Nancy M (197)
Tuesday November 6, 2012, 8:25 am
Thanks Peasant Diva/Jill

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday November 6, 2012, 10:40 am
Thx Jill , an excellent article. Guess (and hope!) election outcomes will show that America's pacifists have not all dropped dead and that your namesake will take in about 3-4% nationwide. I doubt they can reach the needed 5% to receive federal funds but that needs to be built on and increased until 2016. Great graphics, both of them!

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Tuesday November 6, 2012, 12:37 pm
I AM hoping tha 'my namesake,' Jill Stein gets to 5%!

Btw, Angie, you don't have to be a total pacifist to take the necessary stand againstUS doctines of perpertual war & permanent militarization.

Glad you liked the graphics I found. I was pretty satisfied at finding them, I must admit.

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday November 6, 2012, 1:26 pm
I am just being realistic while hoping you are right. And I absolutely agree with the rest as well, all one needs is common sense and SOME CARE for the rest of living on this planet. One would think leaders have learned that the cold war is over and that armorment and re-armorment as means of determent is the WRONG way.
What is and has been going on suggests they must LOVE war for the sole purpose of profit and exploitation and people don't seem to mind too much.

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Tuesday November 6, 2012, 1:42 pm
"With so little knowledge of what Eisenhower called the “lingering sadness of war” and the “certain agony of the battlefield,” they have done as much as anyone to turn the hard work of national security into the crass business of politics and entertainment."

Yes, what can we do to wake them up?

Sandra M Z (114)
Wednesday November 7, 2012, 8:12 am
A War Free World, let's try that. Imagine, all resources going to lift Humanity UP.
Noted, Thank you Jill

Nancy M (197)
Wednesday November 7, 2012, 8:22 am
Obama claims to be ending wars and lowering the defense budget. No argument from me.

But I keep wondering, it seems that so much of our economy is now tied to the war industry. How many companies have defense contracts? How many people work as defense contractors. It seems to be THE major industry in the US. Unfortunate but we need to find other indsutries in the US to provide us with some jobs.

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Saturday November 10, 2012, 1:17 am
I am really moved by your comment, Susanne.

Yes, real men cry!

Your husband is a hero -2 Purple Hearts!- & I admire him, for his achievements & for what he had to go through; and am sorry that our country demanded that of him. You both know the human cost of war, you, Susanne, indirectly, but deeply, nonetheless.

George W Bush, a very big promoter of war, is the guy whose father got him out of serving in Vietnam.

What worries me, though, is that Obama, with his heavy use of drones, has found a way of keeping soldiers off battlefields, removing the risk they ever experience its “certain agony” & “lingering sadness,” by turning it into a sort of sick video game, as we saw with Wikileaks revelation of the Apache helicopter attack in Iraq:
In April 2010, WikiLeaks released a 2007 classified US military video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, showing the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people-- including two Reuters news staff. It clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and two men who tried to rescue him. Two young children in the rescuers' vehicle (the men were driving the children to school when they saw the attack & stopped to try to help) were also seriously wounded. My friend Just Carole posted the video under the name 'Collateral Murder'. When you hear the helicopter gunner's remarks you really get the impression that it's a video game for him. The reality of these people's lives are very remote.

Jelica R (144)
Wednesday November 14, 2012, 7:35 pm
To excellent comments on this thread I can only add this:

A few months ago, I read an article (I can not remember the title, author, site...) in which the author wrote that every empire in history has begun to collapse when it kept a strong standing army, due to the expenditures and/or the urge to employ forces in unnecessary wars. Standing army bankrupts a country whether it sits idle or fights in imperialistic war. People have to work on something what contributes to real needs of a society, or society will be weakened by a burden of non-productive populace.

Isn't it odd that nowadays majority of our elites do not serve society in a constructive way? Think entertainment industry, or professional sport; not only the classical elites in government and economy. We came a long way, baby... and it seems that we took the wrong road.

Sheryl G (363)
Thursday November 15, 2012, 11:09 am
Good read thanks for posting. I would of been happy with either Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson.

“Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

" As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted.

Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."

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