Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Most Important Conversation People Aren't Having

I was heartened last week to read the article that I've pasted below from two US Congressman, Democrat Barney Frank and Republican Ron Paul. Their article, which I found on the website The Huffington Post and is meant to be a call for reducing the amount of money that the US Government spends on its military. That amount is not only more than the military budgets of most other countries in the world combined, but it is also the majority of the US Federal budget in general (if you include the money spent on current wars). The presence or the absence of this conversation is one of the key indicators as to whether or not a society is militarized. If it is present and not just in faint traces, but is an actual subject of debate or societal contestation, then that means the society is not militarized. It may contain some elements or some tendencies, but the fact that militarization or issues such as war, peace and how much money the military gets are open topics means that the society accepts militarism as a possible approach to dealing with issues foreign and domestic, but it is not at all central.

If that conversation is absent, then you live in a militarized society. You live in a society which is either dominated by militaristic ideals, so for instance conflict and war are prioritized over peace and dialogue, either internally or externally, or you live in a society which prioritizes the military, what it says it needs or what it wants as being the core to maintain order or prosperity in a society. This is an interesting paradox for most people since, we tend to think of things visually, through the primacy of our eyes and what we can see. I mas impotante, i mas annok. Whatever is the most visible is (obviously) the most important. So in fact most people in the United States would not see themselves as a militarized society. But in this case the less visible something is, meaning the more something is not questioned or discussed but simply accepted is the key into understanding its primacy.

As President Eisenhower warned the people of the United States (and the rest of the world), to be on the alert and wary of a vast military industrial complex. The organism, the kulang un mampos dongkalu na gamson, that he envisioned did come into existence, but its presence would always cloaked or coded in such ways that most people would not even realize the scope at which it operated.

The companies that make up that complex would be part of huge corporate organisms themselves and also have media companies, make washing machines or light bulbs. These corporations would keep their power and their influence by buying politicians, but also by employing people and bringing every state taxes and jobs. Most of the violence that the complex created would be exported elsewhere, the peoples of South East Asia and Latin America or the Middle East would feel it instead. As American interests spread across the globe, it almost commonsensically required that the US develop a military which could encompass and control that globe as well. Furthermore, as the most powerful nation in the world, even if it was the best and the most freedom-loving, America has too many enemies out there, and it requires that it defend itself not just at home but in every corner where a threat to the greatness that Sarah Palin drinks before she goes to bed each night, might be found. Finally, the troops, those who use the weapons, the machines of that complex, would end up standing in for that complex, humanizing it and becoming a catch-all for justifying its feeding. Any attack on the corporate monsters or the expanding network of bases or the horrid weapons of annihilation, would be threatening and spitting on those poor precious troops. With all of this combined, there was first of all no reason to question things such as the military budget, and second, actually a danger in doing so.

While I was in South Korea last month, another member of my delegation Bruce Gagnon spoke to me about a campaign that he's been a part of in Maine, called the Bring Our War Dollars Home. I was very excited to hear that such a campaign existed and that it has had some successes in Maine.

Here is an excerpt on its mission from its website:

Concerned organizations and individuals around the state have created the Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home as a way to promote the idea that our state's fiscal crisis is in large part due to the current spending on endless war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The current wars and occupations have now cost US taxpayers nearly $1 trillion. Maine's share of that war spending is more than $2.8 billion. We invite you to imagine how that war money could have been spent here in Maine on education, health care, social programs, repairing our decaying roads and bridges, and building a world-class public transit system.

Forty states in the US today are in fiscal crisis. We must demand that our Congressional delegation vote against any further war spending and that they become leaders in the Congress on this important issue. We must also urge all elected officials (local, state, and federal) to speak out against continued war spending. Help us call on Maine's elected leaders to demand that we Bring Our War $$ Home now.
I'm so happy to see even these small fragments of this conversation going on in the States. I know that this discussion is always there, but too often the conversations are circular or internal. They take place within a particular group and they are articulated as such that they don't gain any traction beyond that group, they don't reach the next ring of ideological segments or groups.
But to see groups making a strong case for reducing spending in order to shore up the domestic economy and social service network is important. It helps you go beyond that initial level of people who take this position for matters of peace or social justice alone. It takes it to the next level where you can have people who may not be as ideologically inclined to this position see its merit its worth and actually support it.

To see Congressman Barney Frank take this on, might be a good ploy for Democrats who are poised to lose alot of seats in the upcoming mid-term elections, to try and galvanize their progressive base. Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize, the always escalating war in Afghanistan, Obama calling for the reduction of nuclear weapons while working to militarize and weaponize space, means that the past two years have been a very uninspiring and disappointing bag for progressive supporters of Barack Obama. By starting this conversation about military spending may be a way to not only galvanize some progressives but also bring them back into the party (and voting booths) in November.

***********************

Why We Must Reduce Military Spending
Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. Ron Paul
July 6, 2010

As members of opposing political parties, we disagree on a number of important issues. But we must not allow honest disagreement over some issues to interfere with our ability to work together when we do agree.

By far the single most important of these is our current initiative to include substantial reductions in the projected level of American military spending as part of future deficit reduction efforts. For decades, the subject of military expenditures has been glaringly absent from public debate. Yet the Pentagon budget for 2010 is $693 billion -- more than all other discretionary spending programs combined. Even subtracting the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military spending still amounts to over 42% of total spending.

It is irrefutably clear to us that if we do not make substantial cuts in the projected levels of Pentagon spending, we will do substantial damage to our economy and dramatically reduce our quality of life.

We are not talking about cutting the money needed to supply American troops in the field. Once we send our men and women into battle, even in cases where we may have opposed going to war, we have an obligation to make sure that our servicemembers have everything they need. And we are not talking about cutting essential funds for combating terrorism; we must do everything possible to prevent any recurrence of the mass murder of Americans that took place on September 11, 2001.

Immediately after World War II, with much of the world devastated and the Soviet Union becoming increasingly aggressive, America took on the responsibility of protecting virtually every country that asked for it. Sixty-five years later, we continue to play that role long after there is any justification for it, and currently American military spending makes up approximately 44% of all such expenditures worldwide. The nations of Western Europe now collectively have greater resources at their command than we do, yet they continue to depend overwhelmingly on American taxpayers to provide for their defense. According to a recent article in the New York Times, "Europeans have boasted about their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements, its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits, contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism. Europeans have benefited from low military spending, protected by NATO and the American nuclear umbrella."

When our democratic allies are menaced by larger, hostile powers, there is a strong argument to be made for supporting them. But the notion that American taxpayers get some benefit from extending our military might worldwide is deeply flawed. And the idea that as a superpower it is our duty to maintain stability by intervening in civil disorders virtually anywhere in the world often generates anger directed at us and may in the end do more harm than good.

We believe that the time has come for a much quicker withdrawal from Iraq than the President has proposed. We both voted against that war, but even for those who voted for it, there can be no justification for spending over $700 billion dollars of American taxpayers' money on direct military spending in Iraq since the war began, not including the massive, estimated long-term costs of the war. We have essentially taken on a referee role in a civil war, even mediating electoral disputes.

In order to create a systematic approach to reducing military spending, we have convened a Sustainable Defense Task Force consisting of experts on military expenditures that span the ideological spectrum. The task force has produced a detailed report with specific recommendations for cutting Pentagon spending by approximately $1 trillion over a ten year period. It calls for eliminating certain Cold War weapons and scaling back our commitments overseas. Even with these changes, the United States would still be immeasurably stronger than any nation with which we might be engaged, and the plan will in fact enhance our security rather than diminish it.

We are currently working to enlist the support of other members of Congress for our initiative. Along with our colleagues Senator Ron Wyden and Congressman Walter Jones, we have addressed a letter to the President's National Committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which he has convened to develop concrete recommendations for reducing the budget deficit. We will make it clear to leaders of both parties that substantial reductions in military spending must be included in any future deficit reduction package. We pledge to oppose any proposal that fails to do so.

In the short term, rebuilding our economy and creating jobs will remain our nation's top priority. But it is essential that we begin to address the issue of excessive military spending in order to ensure prosperity in the future. We may not agree on what to do with the estimated $1 trillion in savings, but we do agree that nothing either of us cares deeply about will be possible if we do not begin to face this issue now.

2 comments:

TenThousandThings said...

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2010/07/military_construction_foreign_bases_071310w/

Senator wants to cut overseas base construction
By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Jul 13, 2010 16:06:00 EDT
On the eve of the first efforts in Congress to write a 2011 military
construction funding bill, a key Republican claims that the Obama
administration seems to be shifting priorities to spend scarce
construction money on improving facilities overseas instead of in the
U.S.

“We are looking at $1 billion in foreign construction that we do not
need,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, ranking Republican on
the Senate appropriations subcommittee responsible for military
construction funding.

Hutchison cited decisions to spend money in Europe, Korea and Guam,
and vowed to try to get that money stripped from the construction
budget.

She is not talking about shifting the money to construction on
military bases in the U.S., but simply cutting the overall budget.

Her remarks come as the House military construction and veterans’
affairs appropriations subcommittee is preparing for a Wednesday
morning meeting to approve its version of the 2011 construction
budget.

It is expected to total between $14.2 billion, the amount sought by
the Obama administration, and $14.6 billion, the amount approved by
the House, as part of the 2011 defense authorization bill.

At the end of the Cold War, Hutchison said, the U.S. military adopted
a basing strategy that favored putting U.S. troops and their families
on domestic bases rather than overseas.

Construction projects have been approved by Congress to achieve that
goal, she said.

“We have invested more than $14 billion to build housing, training and
deployment capabilities at major military installations, and we have
proved we can best train and deploy from the United States,” she said.

In the 2011 budget, Hutchison said the Defense Department is asking
for “expensive and in some cases duplicative” construction projects
that often are more costly than building in the U.S. and create
construction jobs overseas rather than at home.

Training restrictions also often make overseas bases less useful, and
local limitations on travel can make deploying forces from overseas
bases more complicated, she added.

“Merely having our troops forward deployed is no guarantee that they
will be available when and where we need them,” she said. “Instead of
breaking ground on military projects abroad and advancing the
department’s new goal of building partnership capability, we should be
building American infrastructure. We need to build up bases in our
country.”

Hutchison is pressing the Defense Department for a better explanation
of the 2011 construction budget request, but so far she has “not been
able to receive anything that would show why we would make such a huge
investment in these foreign bases.”

Mala In Se said...

The language issue I was telling you about tonight.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hrqT6WkMHBg8l0PodFFbnDbndOZQD9GKFIC00

Chris Hartig

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