As I mentioned in a previous Bracing View, I was invited to participate in a forum to generate new ideas to tackle the military-industrial complex (MIC) that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about in 1961. Here are a few more thoughts in response to this stimulating collaboration:
When I was a college student in the early 1980s, and in Air Force ROTC, I wrote critically of the Reagan defense buildup. Caspar Weinberger, he of the “Cap the knife” handle for cost-cutting, became “Cap the ladle” as Reagan’s Secretary of Defense, ladling money in huge amounts to the Pentagon. History is repeating itself again as the Biden administration prepares to ladle $813 billion (and more) to the Pentagon.
How do we stop this? Of course, we must recognize (as I’m sure we all do) what we’re up against. Both political parties are pro-military and, in the main, pro-war. Our economy is based on a militarized Keynesianism and our culture is increasingly militarized. Mainstream Democrats, seemingly forever afraid of being labeled “weak” on defense, are at pains to be more pro-military than the Republicans. Biden, in Poland, echoed the words of Obama and other past presidents, declaring the U.S. military to be “the finest fighting force” in history. Think about that boast. Think about how Biden added that the nation owes the troops big. This is a sign of a sick culture.
Ike gave his MIC speech in 1961, and for 61 years the MIC has been winning. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early ‘90s, the MIC held its own; after 9/11, it went into warp speed and is accelerating. To cite Scotty from Star Trek: “And at Warp 10, we’re going nowhere mighty fast.”
We need a reformation of our institutions; we need a restoration of our democracy; we need a reaffirmation of the U.S. Constitution; we need to remember who we are, or perhaps who we want to be, as a people.
Do we really want to be the world’s largest dealer of arms? Do we really want to spend a trillion or more dollars, each and every year, on wars and weapons, more than the next dozen or so countries combined, most of which are allies of ours? (“Yes” is seemingly the answer here, for both Democrats and Republicans.) Is that really the best way to serve the American people? Humanity itself?
Consider plans to “invest” in “modernizing” America’s nuclear triad. (Notice the words used here by the MIC.) What does this really mean? To me, it means we plan on spending nearly $2 trillion over the next 30 years to replace an older suicide vest with a newer one, except this suicide vest will take out humanity itself, as well as most other life forms on our planet. To channel Greta Thunberg’s righteous anger, “How dare you!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVlRompc1yE
Or, as Ike said in 1953, “This is not a way of life at all … it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
We will need the broadest possible coalition to tackle this outrage against civilization and humanity. That’s why I applaud these efforts to tackle the MIC, even as I encourage all of us to enlist and recruit more people to join our ranks.
My father enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935 to do his bit for his family and his nation. He fought forest fires in Oregon and later became a firefighter after serving in the Army during World War II. That was the last formally declared war that America fought. It was arguably the last morally justifiable war this country has fought, waged by citizens who donned a uniform, not “warriors” who are told that the nation owes them big.
In “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Jimmy Stewart, a true war hero, played a man who never fought in World War II, who stayed at home and helped ordinary people even as his younger brother Harry went off to war and earned the Medal of Honor. Yet the movie doesn’t celebrate Harry’s war heroism; it celebrates the nobility, decency, and humility of George Bailey.
How do we get back to that America? The America from before the MIC, that celebrated decency and kindness and humanitarianism?
Yes, I know. It’s just a Frank Capra movie, and America has never been a perfect shining city. All I’m saying is we need more of that spirit, and more of the righteous anger of Greta Thunberg, if we are to prevail.