As I arrived home last night after a meeting and having been serenaded on the way first, by the end of Mr. Trump’s Afghanistan speech, and then by NPR’s commentators, I realized that I was more disheartened by the phalanx of commentators than by Trump’s final words. An additional irony for me was the reflection that here is yet another Trump campaign promise that goes to the wayside, while his loyal supporters still genuflect at his persona. I believe he was the candidate who said he would not send our men and women overseas to fight a winless war, especially in Afghanistan. What a crazy world.
But back to my initial disheartenment – the NPR commentators. How disappointing that there was no one there to challenge the ever present military approach to conflict. It is as if there is no alternative. Every voice I heard, I could have missed one, addressed the military measures as if no others existed. Outside military personnel like Gen. David Petraeus was given voice, but not a voice to be heard that might challenge the notion of American military power as the only tool that could possibly resolve the quagmire we have nurtured for decades.
Even someone who so brazenly brags about draining the swamp could both so totally surround himself with military minds and then cave in to their call for more military deployments and spending, then surely we have failed to heed the words of the former general and commander, Dwight Eisenhower who warned us of the takeover of the military-industrial-complex.
“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. . . .Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. . . . 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.”
Almost the entire Congress is in their embrace, fed by their political contributions and the fear that they might be called “unpatriotic” if they fail to support every military expenditure or use proposed – especially if it might bring a bit of that greasy bacon to their own state or district. Each member of Michigan’s delegation to Congress, Democrat and Republican has signed on for support of an additional ground-based missile defense system to be located at Ft. Custer near Battle Creek. This is a system not requested by the Pentagon but driven by a Congress that believes that investments in technology are the best way to handle conflict. This Star Wars type of system already in place on the West Coast, is not even certain to work if those ‘crazy’ North Koreans should attack us.
The House recently passed a Pentagon budget beyond what Mr. Trump and his military minds have requested, and the Senate Armed Services Committee (our own Sen. Gary Peters is a new member) has passed their version that tops even that at nearly $700 billion for 2018. Analyst William Hartung, Director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy, has written recently that the real military spending exceeds $1 Trillion per year. Both President Obama and Mr. Trump want to spend an additional $1 trillion on upgrading our nuclear weapons. Weapons we should be working to rid ourselves and the other nuclear powers from having.
While Sen. Peters and others in the Michigan delegation might try to sell the Ft. Custer idea as an economic boon – the project would reportedly spend more than $3 billion – a sizable hunk of that goes to our friends at Boeing to build the missiles. Surely Battle Creek deserves some economic stimulus, but how about some investments that improve the local infrastructure and benefit everyone – upgrade health care, highways, Internet service, education, or renewable energy production. If we didn’t spend our money on military mayhem and waste $125 billion by Pentagon’s own glance, we could surely improve the lives in Battle Creek and other communities.
We rely on the media to help us find our way in an increasing complex world. Limiting our view of the world as a military one with an insatiable appetite does none of us any favors. Saner voices, like Eisenhower’s have been calling for alternatives to violence for decades. Those voices are increasingly needing to be heard and heeded if the world we bequeath to our children and grandchildren is to be a livable one. There are alternatives to violence and we must push vigorously to pursue them. The media should help us explore those possibilities before it is too late.