By Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, December 25, 2010
• 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 intelligence community is so vast that more people have “top secret” clearance than live in Washington, D.C.
• 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.
This is the one area where elections scarcely matter. President Obama, a Democrat who symbolized new directions, requested about 6 percent more for the military this year than at the peak of the Bush administration.
“Republicans think banging the war drums wins them votes, and Democrats think if they don’t chime in, they’ll lose votes,” said Andrew Bacevich, an ex-military officer who now is a historian at Boston University. He is author of a thoughtful recent book, “Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.”
This Kristof piece shines a spotlight on the need to cut military expenditures, a taboo for both Republicans and Democrats. Of course, we agree with Kristof.
However, there is an even more important observation that emerges from this piece: there is a culture of dominance, of hard power, that supports these mega-expenditures. And it is the culture that needs to be shaken until it disintegrates.
And one way to shake that culture of hard power is to point out that, like every other neurotic obsession, it is based on fear, neurosis, of the body politic variety.
The bully in every class does himself more harm than good, by sabotaging his efforts at both respecting himself and at earning the respect of others. And he does this because he is afraid that he is not "seen to be" good enough, or strong enough, or brave enough, or powerful enough, or dominant enough, or 'in charge' enough, or enough of a leader....and the list could go on indefinitely.
Dominance, and the need to feel dominant, carries the seeds of its own demise.
Dominance feeds the insecurities of all of those who breathe the air and drink the water of a culture of dominance. In a sense, everyone drinks from the same 'kool-aid' bowl, and becomes infected with the national purpose of dominance.
That kool-aid is at the core of every American corporation: we must be Number One! We must dominate! We must win! We must build more factories and hire more people that anyone else in our industry. Coca-Cola, for example, bottles and distributes and markets and sells its beverage in 206 countries, more than all the countries in the United Nations. Now that's dominance! No doubt Pepsi's claim would be nearly equal to, if not surpassing Coke's claim of world dominance. McDonald's has a similar claim. The National and American Baseball Leagues claim to be the "best" in the world, as does the NBA. and the NHL (begun in Canada, but laterally taken over by American owners with American money).
And leading the way is the myth of American military dominance, not that it is not true in terms of numbers of forces, numbers and size of equipment, innovation of design and conduct combat operations. The myth is that "this empire within an empire is necessary for the nation to survive".
It is not necessary! It is no longer even justifiable on even the most basic of political power terms or definitions.
In fact, China has publicly declared that it will not build such a military fortress, but will, instead, concentrate on the new technology to carry out its military, offensive, aggressive needs. So, if the Chinese can already "read" the military and state secrets from the American digital technology (declared secret and closed for national security purposes, accessible only to a group whose size equals the population of Washington D.C.) what good will another fleet of submarines, or fighter jets be, in any conflict with the Chinese?
What kind of research is currently going on in the U.S. to determine the negative impact on the education and learning, not to mention hopes and dreams of this culture of dominance, through competitve advantage, in the classroom, in the theatre, in the laboratory, in the boardroom, in the ballot-box, in the subdivision (by the size and cost of the homes expected by such a culture of success measured extrinsically?
What philanthropic would even consider funding such research, because to do so could be considered treasonous, in some quarters?
Having lived and worked in the U.S., and having been raised and educated in Canada, I am one of the most grateful persons alive that my home is Canada, however often I wish to visit the U.S. and however much I admire the American people.
Whenever I encounter the brashness of the American ambition to be the most powerful, I recoil into what Americans undoubtedly perceive as Canadian lack of self-confidence, or shyness, or reticence. I would never attempt to negotiate with that kind of obstinate pride, simply because to attempt such an effort, would render me impotent. That is not a force with which anyone can negotiate. It says, in large billboard letters, "It's the American Way or the Highway, Brother!"
I'll take the highway every time when and if offered that option, and so, too, will most other countries on the planet.
And on the environment, and the economy, and in education and in health care and the potential to achieve hopes and dreams, America is finding that its numbers do not keep up with its military might, inspite of the dollars it spends on everything, as the single most available and most conventially acceptable solution to every problem....throw money at it, and make it go away!
I hope I live long enough to witness an America that has come to accept the truth that being number one has more deficits and downsides than upsides, and the children of the next several generations will still be able to be happy without the Pentagon as their prime defender.
For once, their values will have to suffice, not enforced by their rifles, their bombs and their drones.
And they will learn that those values do not need their army, navy and airforce, nor their marines to keep them strong.