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Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 3.4.10




Confronting Militarism

Lane Peace Symposium looks at democracy vs. empire

By Stan Taylor

The time has come for Americans to confront our militarism. The projection of military power has become the supreme ideal of our nation, and all other values have been made subordinate. War as a way of life dominates our economy, our politics and our culture.

In 2010 the U.S. military budget is $728 billion, roughly equaling the rest of the world combined. The U.S. has approximately 800 military bases or military installations in 130 countries. The U.S. is the largest arms producer and purveyor of weapons in the world, with its $40 billion share of arms sales in 2009 constituting more than two-thirds of all foreign armaments deals. 

We have normalized perpetual war. Military commanders refer to the war on terror as the “long war” and have expressed their expectations that we will be fighting for the next 50 years in the greater Middle East and parts of Africa and Central and South Asia. Today we are fighting two declared wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as undeclared wars in Pakistan and Yemen. This means young adults today can expect that not only will they be asked to fight, but their children and grandchildren as well.

The costs of perpetual war are horrifically high. In Iraq, a country of 26 million at the time the U.S. war of occupation began in 2003, more than a million Iraqis have died — 90 percent of whom are civilians, mostly women and children. Another four and a half million Iraqis were displaced from their homes, becoming either internal or external refugees from the war. Similar devastation, using similar models of warfare, is now happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

In Afghanistan, U.S. troop levels have risen steadily with the number expected to reach nearly 100,000 by the end of this year. In addition, the number of private contractors has grown to at least 74,000 contracted military personnel on the ground in Afghanistan. And this is just the beginning. Embedded with Gen. McChrystal’s classified assessment on the war in Afghanistan is the statement that a successful counterinsurgency strategy will need as many as 500,000 troops. 

At home, politics is captured by the economics of the Military Industrial Complex. With weapons production or industry providing support systems for the weapons industry in every state, members of Congress are unwilling to make any cuts in military spending. When Secretary of Defense Gates proposed to limit future production of the F-22 because it is not strategically needed, members of Congress fought the cuts. 

The increase in military spending over the last decade is staggering. The trade-offs are unacceptable. In the decade from 2000 to 2010, U.S. military spending increased more than 125 percent from $323 billion to $728 billion — an increase of $405 billion. Meanwhile, social programs and safety nets are cut. Tax dollars from our pockets are reprioritized for war. Simultaneously our economy has been restructured, with the top 1 percent capturing 75 percent of the economic growth in the U.S. between 2002 and 2006. In 2010, official unemployment stands at 10 percent. More than one in five households now use food stamps. Forty-nine percent of all U.S. children will be in a household that uses food stamps at some point during their childhood. 

President Obama’s new budget will freeze or cut domestic spending, yet spending for the military and for prisons will not be subject to the freeze. Internationally, this means more military ventures to protect U.S. and multinational corporate interests. Domestically, this means greater inequality and more unmet needs.

We must confront this madness. Real peace and stability never come from using war as a means to an end. Real peace is rooted in economic, social, racial, and environmental justice. These movements must coalesce to build a better world. 

From 6 to 9:30 pm Friday, March 5, the Lane Peace Center is presenting a peace symposium entitled “Confronting Militarism: Democracy vs. Empire,” featuring renowned activist Tom Hayden as the keynote speaker. The symposium is in the Center for Meeting and Learning, building 19, room 103-104, on the LCC main campus. For more information go to: http://lanecc.edu/peacecenter/ or contact me at 541-463-5820 or email taylors@lanecc.edu

Stan Taylor has a JD from McGeorge School of Law, a masters of international law from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in political science from UO. He currently serves as the chair of the Lane Peace Center. As a faculty member at LCC he teaches classes in peace and conflict, environmental politics, and civil rights and liberties.