The Unexamined U.S. Military

W.J. Astore

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying that the unexamined life is not worth living. Can it also be said that the unexamined military is not worth having?

What amazes me about the U.S. military is how little it is scrutinized. Sure, there’s armed services committees in the House and Senate, but they seem most concerned about shoveling more money toward the Pentagon. Either that or the dire perils of “critical race theory,” which is surely threatening the Republic more than runaway militarism, endless wars, and unneeded nuclear weapons.

What is to be done? I see only one solution: major cuts to the “defense” budget. And that budget is even higher than the stated figure of $705 billion or thereabouts. Nuclear weapons come under the Department of Energy, for example. Homeland Security has its separate budget (isn’t defense of the homeland what the Pentagon is all about?). The various intelligence agencies like the CIA and NSA and so forth churn through scores of billions yet couldn’t predict the collapse of the Soviet Union or the 9/11 attacks. Interestingly, after 9/11 these agencies saw vast increases in funding. Who knew incompetence could be so rewarding?

If you add up all the billions tied to weapons and wars and “defense” in America, you routinely exceed a trillion dollars a year. It’s almost an unfathomable sum. Perhaps it is to the U.S. military as well, since they can’t pass an audit. No one really knows where all the money is going.

Ike knew the score. Sixty years ago, President Eisenhower warned us all about the military-industrial-Congressional complex. A few people listened, but nobody in power did anything about it. Since then the Complex has only grown stronger and more pervasive (and invasive) in America. And now that same Complex owns the mainstream media. Remarkably, the “journalists” telling us all about the Complex on MSNBC and CNN and Fox are often retired CIA and military officials; they don’t even bother disclosing their obvious conflict of interest here.

Strangely, it’s become patriotic to salute our military rather than to examine it and challenge it. Americans, generally a boisterous and busy bunch, are remarkably quiet and passive except for all the saluting and praising. Until this mindset, and this behavior, changes radically, America will continue on a wasteful and wanton path forged by weapons and war.

And that really is something we need to examine in the collective life of our country.

Sure, stealth bombers look cool. But together we paid roughly $2 billion per plane for a weapon designed to drop nuclear bombs on people.

45 thoughts on “The Unexamined U.S. Military

  1. Contemplating the quote “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword,” made me realize that Jesus may not have been referring to death by having a sword run through you. Rather, he may have been pointing out that swords are heavy, expensive, and tend to make you think one-dimensionally. So its your own sword, and all the side-effects of making and wielding swords, that eventually kills you. Not to mention the spiritual death that comes with using violence as the intervention of choice.

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    1. These Bible verses are Relevant to this discussion,

      Blessed ARE the Peace Makers, for they shall be called the Children of God.
      Matthew 5:9
      “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, saying: ‘Not by military force and not by physical strength, but by My spirit,’ says the Lord of Hosts.
      Zechariah 4:9
      And he shall judge between the nations and reprove many peoples, and they shall beat their swords into plow shares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
      Isaiah 2:4

      American Christianity mostly supports the US being the BIGGEST proliferater of the Weapons of Death and Destruction to this Material World.

      The Mark of Cain is meaningless to the Religious, as evermore ways to kill people are devised as BIG MONEY BUSINESS.

      If that’s what the People want, God will let them have it!

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    1. It surprises me that the German military would take the theory about predictive novels seriously, but it’s not the first time I’ve come across a similar idea. There’s a theory about web bots that dates back a couple decades, having to do with the collective consciousness and frequency of words/ideas on the web:

      http://viewzone.com/webot.html

      It’s been debunked as just a ouija board with an algorithm, but it’s fascinating nonetheless.

      Btw, I’ve always found Tom Clancy’s plots to be eerily prescient, fwiw.
      : )

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      1. The “predictive novel” was a very popular genre in Great Britain before The Great War, of which “The Riddle of the Sands” by Erskine Childers is the best-known example.

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    2. Fascinating. The effort makes a lot of sense. In a way, writers are being used like sensors.

      Given the track record of our “intelligence” agencies, I’d say this low-cost effort holds a lot of promise and could be better than those “estimates” provided by the CIA’s best and brightest.

      Of course, those estimates are always keen to justify increases in the CIA’s budget!

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  2. Ike’s Military-Industrial speech was great after 8 years as President and knowing how the US War Machine and their Lobbyists operate, but his greatest speech coming off his experience as the Supreme Military Commander was his ‘Cross of Iron’ delivered in his 1st 100 Days as President, the Supreme Civilian Position.

    He enunciated some valid Principles to guide the US in it’s dealing with other Nations. He violated Principles 3 & 4 some 4 months later, with the 1953 CIA Coup in Iran, overturning the Democratically Elected government, replacing it with the US proxy Dictator, the Shah, and his CIA trained brutal secret Police, Savak.

    That 1953 Cross of Iron speech also laid out some disturbing figures about the US War Machine acquisitions.

    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.

    This world in arms is not spending money alone.
    It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

    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 fifty miles of concrete pavement.
    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.

    This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a CROSS OF IRON.

    That was when the DoD Budget was $60 BILLION, compared to Today’s $740 BILLION.

    https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/dwighteisenhowercrossofiron.htm

    It’s not just the US Military that needs to be Examined, the Values of the US Public have to be Examined!

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  3. I’ve been reading some of Rene Guenon’s books recently and one of them hammers home the idea that the western mind has created a living experience that honors Quantity over Quality. The societal creation of the West is artificial based on it’s ignorance of the Traditional awareness of the Supreme Essence within all of our activity. Pride has made us the hardened materialists that we represent in these modern times. He has me convinced that we are the personification of fools and are checking all the boxes that need to be checked to facilitate the end of this age.

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  4. Ike mentioned it on the way out the door which was far too late. Did he spend of dime of personal or political capital while in office trying to bend the country away from military, industrial, congressional (the “congressional” having been nixed from the speech) complex? No. Well it was a fools errand so he didn’t go on it. I can sympathize as I am an old man too and know that such foolishness is human nature.

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    1. In fairness, Ike did strongly hold the line on military spending. He tried to tamp down the frenzy created by Sputnik.

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  5. Speaking of the unexamined military, I read a revealing and terrifying article today by Rainer Shea in Dandelion Salad.

    https://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2021/06/25/how-the-u-s-military-is-preparing-for-a-total-war-scenario-by-rainer-shea/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+dandelionsalad+%28Dandelion+Salad%29

    He quotes military sources regarding the predicted total war and the “inevitable” second U.S. civil war. All I can say is, I devoutly hope he’s somehow misinterpreting the material, or that a series of miracles happens, and this country manages to wake up in time to change the outcome.

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  6. Denise, do you remember the sign from “Dr. Strangelove”? “Peace is Our Profession.” Yeah, well … (also from “Strangelove”: George C. Scott’s “unofficial” Air Force study: “World Targets in Megadeaths”). don’t imagine we’ll ever see a study come out of The Pentagon predicting “peace and prosperity.” The day that happens will be like The Second Coming: all the generals & admirals will be out of a job and The Pentagon becomes the world’s largest shopping mall.
    (Speaking of The Second Coming … does anyone in Israel – Amerika’s only rival in The Most War-like Nation on Earth stakes – ever speak of The Messiah anymore?)

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    1. “Peace is our profession” really was the motto of Strategic Air Command (SAC). The unofficial rejoinder to it was “War is our hobby.” SAC was truly prepared to launch 100 holocausts, as Daniel Ellsberg has pointed out, attacking both the USSR and China even if the latter wasn’t involved (because, you know, they’re red, so better off dead).

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      1. I always wonder where such slogans come from. “To Protect and Serve” would be another one. During my second stint of living in Texas, the bomber wing at Ft. Worth’s Carswell AFB had one, very much to the point: “Any time, any where.”

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        1. Yes, it’s staggering. Ellsberg said this was the plan in the early 1960s, and only one general objected: David Shoup, a Marine and Medal of Honor recipient.

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          1. Yes, I think so, Denise, since we now know about nuclear winter. I don’t think even our maniacs want to destroy the world — but you never know.

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          2. I’ll take your reassurance, Professor. Unless TFG returns in 2024. If it gets that bad here, next time he wants to shoot protesters or use “small” nukes to take out adversaries, there might not be anyone left to gainsay him.

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    2. As war is the Pentagon’s excuse for existence—regardless of its doublespeak name change to the Department of Defense—no, not surprising that they’d predict war. Just….that they’d predict total wars and be so determined to make their prophecies self-fulfilling. But then, I guess Lockheed, Raytheon, Boeing, et. al., have to keep the shareholders happy…

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  7. Great insight as always, Mr. Astore. I also want to ask about how many people really believe in the economic prospect of the military industry–you know, like when senators protecting the garbage F-35 because it “creates jobs”. Do they really believe this, or is it just a cover to their corruption?

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    1. Of course, the F-35 does create jobs. But they’re mostly in Texas and California, I think.

      Nevertheless, Lockheed Martin, following a tried-and-true formula, spread the jobs as widely as possible to ensure “buy-in” by Congress. Or you could say they bought out Congress, which is more honest.

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      1. From the Lockheed website:

        “The F-35 program generates $49 billion in annual economic impact and supports over a quarter of a million high-tech, high-skill jobs. Additionally, the F-35 program teams with nearly 1,900 suppliers – including more than 1,000 small businesses– to produce thousands of aircraft components”.

        Also, go here and scroll well down to see a map of the US showing which states are making big money off of the F-35 along with the statistics in a list. Texas has 32.5% of the F-35 jobs and California has 19.74%.

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  8. Some people believe it. For example, my dental hygienist’s husband worked on the F-35 helmet. Good pay and solid benefits. So when your job depends on believing in the system, you tend to believe. Sinclair Lewis, I think, said something like this.

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  9. You have a knack for hitting the nail on the head. Your latest re our obscene amount of military spending is one of those. Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Also, Jimmy Dore knows the score here. MSNBC, the “liberal” channel, is all about singing the praises of the military.

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  11. Two different perspectives on the same theme.

    ‘So It Goes
    The Passing of the Present and the Decline of America’
    By Andrew Bacevich
    https://tomdispatch.com/so-it-goes/#more

    Major Danny Sjursen
    ‘A True History of the United States: Indigenous Genocide, Racialized Slavery, Hyper-Capitalism, Militarist Imperialism and Other Overlooked Aspects of American Exceptionalism’

    Like

  12. I suggest some agency cuts, but none of those that Rick Perry would have named if he could have remembered them.

    #1 – the CIA Keep the investigatory and statistical part of the agency but get rid of all foreign operations other than gathering information. In other words, make it an input only organization. Spy and find out all that can be discovered but offer no suggestions and do not support any military operations, clandestine or by any national military. OPTIONAL: An apology to the world for the hundreds of thousands who have died through CIA support since WW2 in an attempt to exterminate an ideology regardless of the human cost.

    #2 the U.S. Army For the kind of thing we do, standoff destruction with no opposition, the Navy and the Air Force are more than adequate for the job. The SEAL teams are part of the Navy and would remain for the wet work. The army as a massed force would be evaporated along with its weapons in a nuclear war (so would the Navy, for that matter) and I seriously doubt the Pentagon, no doubt the target of many nuclear warheads, would still exist after a nuclear exchange. SUGGESTED START: To show the effort is serious, shut down AFRICOM.

    And one last thing that really should be first, announce the end of the PAAD program (my acronym for President as Assassin by Drone).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. AFRICOM, Africa command always makes me laugh for some sick reason. As if we should be in command of Africa. Imagine if Iran or Russia or China had a NORAMCOM, North American Command. Or maybe all three of them together. We’d be out of control angry, scared, pissed, etc. And spending even more money on weapons.

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  13. As an enlisted veteran of Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club — and especially the Nixon-Kissinger Fig Leaf Contingent (Vietnam 1970-72) — I recommend this rather succinct compendium of unvarnished truth regarding all things which the U.S. military has managed to butcher and bungle over the course of my entire life (which began in November of 1947):

    HISTORY IS A WEAPON – Admiral Gene Larocque Speaks to Studs Terkel About “The Good War”

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    1. “Wherever the German soldier plants his boot, there he must remain.” — Third Reich maxim

      Change the boots planted on foreign ground from German ones to American ones and, as Ron Placone said on a recent Jimmy Dore Show:

      “You didn’t vote out Fascism. You just rearranged the furniture.”

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  14. In the discussion thread concerning “How to Teach, by Miss Jean Brody,” I posted a reply to Peloniusmonk but it got hung up in “moderation,” probably because I included four links to some reading I had done relative to the topic. I had forgotten that the blog software apparently doesn’t allow that many.

    Anyway, one of the links referred to George Orwell’s book Homage to Catalonia which told of his experiences as a British volunteer fighting with one of the “Loyalist” militias — mostly armed labor-union workers — who supported a left-wing Spanish government trying to stave off a military mutiny led by Franco’s fascists, or — as Orwell called them — neo-feudalists. This reactionary, counter-revolutionary war obviously relates to the present discussion of “The Unexamined U.S. Military” because, in fact, the U.S. Corporate-Military Junta has functioned as the world’s largest reactionary, counter-revolutionary force since 1945 after a world war in which a couple of fascist governments lost but Fascism Itself simply moved its world headquarters to the United States and continued on with a vengeance without missing a beat, right up to the present.

    More specifically, in Appendix I Orwell offers his own political analysis of The Spanish War which, in microcosm, applies in spades to the rapidly disintegrating U.S. Corporate-Military bungles in multiple reactionary, counter-revolutionary “wars” raging both internationally and domestically:

    “… it would would be quite impossible to write about the Spanish war from a purely military angle. It was above all things a political war. No event in it, at any rate during the first year, is intelligible unless one has some grasp of the inter-party struggle that was going on behind the Government lines . … I thought it idiotic that people fighting for their lives should have separate parties; my attitude always was, ‘Why can’t we drop all this political nonsense and get on with the war?’ This of course was the correct ‘anti-Fascist’ attitude which had been carefully disseminated by the English newspapers, largely in order to prevent people from grasping the real nature of the struggle. But in Spain, especially in Catalonia, it was an attitude that no one could or did keep up indefinitely. Everyone, however unwillingly, took sides sooner or later. For even if one cared nothing for the political parties and their conflicting ‘lines’ it was too obvious that one’s own destiny was involved. As a militiaman one was a soldier against Franco, but one was also a pawn in an enormous struggle that was being fought out between two political theories.” [emphasis added]
    . . .
    The thing that had happened in Spain was, in fact, not merely a civil war, but the beginning of a revolution. It is this fact that the anti-Fascist press outside Spain has made it its special business to obscure. The issue has been narrowed down to ‘Fascism versus democracy’ and the revolutionary aspect concealed as much as possible. In England, where the Press is more centralised and the public more easily deceived than elsewhere, only two versions of the Spanish-war have had any publicity to speak of: the Right-wing version of Christian patriots versus Bolsheviks dripping with blood, and the Left-wing version of gentlemanly republicans quelling a military revolt. The central issue has been successfully covered up.” [emphasis added]

    Again and Always: One cannot “analyze” the U.S. Military as if it exists in some separate, tactical world concerned solely with moving large numbers of “troops” and massive quantities of material here and there around the globe — and now, in Space — to explode upon foreign nations and their peoples without debilitating economic and political “blowback” upon the United States itself. The U.S. Military has seamlessly melded with many national governments and transnational corporate conglomerates, insinuating itself into conflicting foreign and domestic politics of every imaginable kind — with nothing but ruination as a consequence for millions and unbelievable wealth for a relative few (along with “middle class” table scraps for their fawning political/media courtiers).

    Anyway, at the risk of getting caught again in “moderation,” I recommend reading Orwell’s entire Appendix I in “Homage to Catalonia,” which I have copied and placed on my websitehere. Analyzing the U.S. Military without some such political context, I think, only plays into the propaganda purveyed by those who with to make any such analysis impossible.

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    1. Hi Mike: Right you are. Your comment got held up because it contained four (or more) links. I’ve increased the “acceptable” links to five. Six or more will cause a hold. This is because of spam comments that contain lots of links.

      Your comment about political context is vitally important. And economics too when you add in those multi- or transnational corporations. And of course domestic politics often drives military action as well. Too many military observers focus on weaponry or tactics or leaders etc. without covering the larger drivers of politics, economics, or power and greed, if you will. Orwell was a master at seeing the big picture, so to speak, as was his creation, Big Brother.

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