The latest legislation for funding the Pentagon now calls for $778 billion, and it’s likely to be approved with little real discussion about priorities and possible alternative uses of these funds. This money supposedly is for defending the United States. If the money is for defense, why do we have military bases and naval forces surrounding much of both Russia and China? Doesn’t the presence of U.S. forces on or near to their borders cause these two countries to be worried about a possible attack? U.S.-led war games near Russia’s border and the sailing of U.S. naval forces near China are viewed as provocations and further increase the possibility of a nuclear conflict that has no winners.
In addition, why do we have more than 750 military bases in some 70 countries if our military’s role is for defensive purposes? It’s particularly disappointing that Congress, an institution that is so concerned about limiting spending on domestic programs that help the U.S. public, is willing to allocate such an enormous sum when the Pentagon has not been able to pass a Congressionally mandated independent audit.
Is this huge amount of money really needed and used wisely? After all, this budget is larger than the combined military budgets of the 11 nations, most of whom are U.S. allies, with the next largest military spending. How much of this budget is used to support the national interest and defense of the U.S. compared that used to support corporate interests and the U.S. empire?
For example, looking backward, were Vietnam, Laos, Grenada, Panama, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or Syria a threat to U.S. security? According to the recent Brown University Cost of War study, the U.S.-led War on Terror cost $8 trillion, to say nothing about the human cost in terms of the lives of Afghans, Iraqis and others as well as of U.S. forces and their families. The $8 trillion, an incredible amount, is a gross underestimate if the U.S. were required to pay reparations for the human suffering, deaths and devastation of just Afghanistan and Iraq. If one were to ask the Afghans or Iraqis who are the terrorists, their responses would likely include the U.S. military as terrorists. Another question seldom raised by politicians is whether or not the U.S. is more secure since the War on Terror?
Note that the enormous U.S. spending on its military and weapons did not keep us safe on 9/11. Nor has this military spending kept us safe from the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has especially made clear the failure of the U.S. approach to health care. Moreover, the country’s low rank on many health/social/economic measures such as poverty, infant mortality rates, maternal death rates, life expectancy, food insecurity, number of people in prison and its huge wealth gap are an indictment of our budget priorities.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “Cross of Iron” speech in 1953 made the point that unnecessary military spending used resources that could have benefited the public. In his 1961 farewell address, Eisenhower also warned: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” This warning raises the question about how much of the military budget simply enriches the “merchants of death” at the expense of denying money for the benefit of the U.S. public?
Certainly reasonable spending on the military is necessary, but it is not sufficient to ensure our security. Security also requires that we have adequate good food, housing, a safe and clean environment, good jobs, etc. The world has long recognized these needs in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the U.S. has signed but not ratified. People in much of Western Europe have many of these rights and don’t have to constantly worry about the costs of health care, medicine, education, housing, food, etc., unlike many people in the U.S. It is clearly way past time for the U.S. to reconsider its priorities to: 1) care for its people; 2) drop its delusional imperial goals; and 3) work with other nations to ameliorate climate change and to prevent nuclear war.