The President’s newly announced budget this week ramps up an already bloated military budget. This is the popular and easy thing to do in a war-based culture. While the Russians brutally invade Ukraine, the drumbeats to beat ploughshares into swords intensifies in a war culture. To propose a more peaceable approach is to invite calls of emasculation, for the war culture is male dominant; just ask the myriad women in the military abused by their comrades. In a war culture, the heroes are the ones that destroy the enemy, even if the enemy they destroy is generally like them--young men asked to ”defend” their nation.
One doesn’t need to experience war firsthand to understand its horror. Certainly the impacts on those directly involved, whether soldier or civilian, are of another level entirely. Even the dubious winners of war leave with untold moral injuries that disrupt their lives forever and, for many, cause them to abruptly end it. In a war culture the fixation is on more weapons, more power, more soldiers that we are told will surely bring peace. History tells a different story, should we be willing to escape the glorification of war in film, parades, football halftime shows, recruitment videos and other realms of war culture and examine the data, as Erica Chenowith has.
Many in the peace community have counseled that contesting the growth in military spending during the atrocious Russian war against Ukraine is counterproductive. If former general, and then President, Eisenhower could state the following during the Korean War (1953)
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 laborers, 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 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.
Why, then, should peace-seeking believers in nonviolence shrink from calling for peace and military spending reductions? We expect ridicule from the pragmatists, realists and war profiteers that we are just so naïve. So be it. It is time to put the brakes on the war machine that is robbing our future in an unending theft of the resources needed to build a just and peaceful world for our children and grandchildren as Eisenhower warned.
Martin Luther King Jr. noted during the height of the Vietnam War, "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." Fittingly, this speech at the Riverside Church in New York City a year to the day before his death was subtitled “A Time to Break Silence.”
For a better overview of the military spending debacle, read
the Quincy Institute’s analysis of the new budget request by William Hartung here. Or a broader look at the complexity through the eyes of energy expert Richard Heinberg today.