US Foreign Policy: Another Inconvenient Truth?

Hunger Games?

The political discord between sustaining practices contributing to global warming as well as sustaining meaninglessly over-bloated military spending hold an uncanny resemblance.

Several false axioms have percolated through American culture for decades upon decades, becoming second nature to many of us. Our nation has been in the grip of a set of ideas that may not only be dead wrong…but on a collision course with sound economic and political developments.

Superman to the Rescue!

One of those false axioms is that a country’s power is measured by how much it spends on the military or how strong its armed forces are. This righteous wrath became so ingrained in the American public brain as early as the 1940’s, when the United States emerged as the strongest power in the world. One symbol of that great power was the almighty atomic bomb from WWII, and with it the false sense of bravado that such a disastrous weapon carries. We as a nation, took on a global crusade on behalf of “liberty, freedom and democracy.”

Ever since WWII, which brought us economic prosperity by building bombs and other superfluous weapons, the U.S. has continuously spent way too much on the military. It became like fear of unpopularity contest for our Presidents: “Who demands higher defense appropriations rather than propose cutting them?” The American people influenced by mainstream media hype but with solid and heartfelt purpose, believed we need to have such strong arms to protect our land and to behold our power.  It became a self-perpetuating fallacy implanted into our collective hearts and souls.

More and more ordinary American’s are realizing we cannot sustain our military spending and aggressive foreign relations while sustaining a vibrant domestic economy. The old-fashioned notion that almighty military spending helps to “end wars” is wrong in modern society. We cannot sustain the unrealistic arms race of Cold War days. 

With its illusion of omnipotence, America historically provided economic and military aid to more than half of the 195 countries in the world, justifying fleets of carriers, nuclear submarines, air bases and military bases in at least thirty of those countries…planting the seeds of a fateful commitment of intervention wherever “freedom” was perceived to be threatened. Did this make the world a safer place?

While much of this was with good and honorable intention, it has unintentionally resulted in the negative consequences we are experiencing today. For one, many people hate and fear the U.S. and it’s certainly not jealousy as our supremacy viewpoint held for too long. We have all been guilty of that. 

The U.S. has, throughout its history, cherished ideals of liberty, freedom and democracy. So much so, we were convinced we can exert all this power on behalf of a world order congenial to American ideals, interests and security.

Our deep-pocket spending on war and “defense” has manifested itself away from a productive, positive society within America, while ironically contributing to a decline in those very same ideals of Freedom, Liberty and Justice. Take one good look at the budgetary pie above, and you’ll see why this might be. Our freedom to a good, affordable education, environmental justice and attainable healthcare, just to name a few. These liberties are slowly but surely being compromised compared to many other industrialized nations. 

Our education system is suffering as a direct consequence of deep military spending.  Meanwhile Scandinavian countries with low cost military budget have provided tuition free college and universities for years. It is a crime having kids in America coming out of college with huge debt. We are talking about kids from middle, middle-upper and what may be even considered upper socioeconomic backgrounds here. 

“Superman” has lost much of its super-powers. While the common American people are losing some critical social services, global confidence in the U.S. Economy has continued to drop 

A nation, like an individual, must at some point look within her own mistakes and try to learn from them. “Patriotism” simply means love of country. It does not mean believing in sustaining its aggressive foreign relations and continuing to build this massive war machine while straining our financial resources for more beneficial things to our society.   

“Defense” Spending…. How much is too much?

This budgetary pie chart only reflects the average annual allocations of the discretionary portion of the budget. It does not even include any non-discretionary sums! 

This over bloated military complex goes against much of what our country’s founding fathers and early Presidents have warned. For instance, in one of the most celebrated farewell speeches in American History, Eisenhower said “Beware the military complex: The potential of the disastrous vice of misplaced power exist and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”

Other examples include Thomas Jefferson’s statement “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance” and Abraham Lincoln’s “To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men.”

Think of how many schools, hospitals, clinics and other necessary things could be built with some of this money. Think of how many teachers, doctors, nurses could be paid. Think of the budget for efforts to reduce U.S. greenhouse gases, and other pollution. This would help reduce the rate of cancer and chronic lung disease such as asthma that have been scientifically proven to be linked to environmental pollution. The Pacific Ocean alone has a garbage patch of plastic pollution nearly twice the size of Texas. 

Pick Your Battles…. Wisely.

The U.S. has historically been the world’s biggest polluter, with China only recently surpassing us by a small margin. At the same time, the U.S. is not doing its best to help fight that pollution, failing to adopt the Kyoto Protocol and dropping out of the Paris Climate Agreement. How is our nation’s health trend? For children, asthma is up at least 160% in past 20 years, cancer up 30% in past 40 years, for adults, non-Hodgkin Lymphomas, brain tumors, prostate, testicular and breast cancer up with emerging illnesses such as fibromyalgia, etc.  (Source: National Center for Health Statistics, 2004)

Now might be a good time to glance again at the pie chart above.  See the tiny slice of pie for environmental justice? Think of the lives that can be saved by transferring our battles to restore the relationship between man and our failing environment, as well as reform for our education and healthcare systems. The military industrial complex itself is a significant source of environmental and emotional pollution, causing much illness. 

We, the American people, resist change.  It may be fine to hold onto these ideologies of “Freedom, Liberty, and Justice,” but not the pretense that all this overspending on defense and war has anything to do with holding these ideals at the base of our foundation. We change our clothes, our cars and our homes more easily than we will change our assumptions, our attitudes, and our beliefs. They have, after all, been ingrained into our collective brains for years. This is America, the home of the “free.” And yes, we might still have among the best countries to live in. 

The American Dream…Or Swindle?

Yet, according to recent studies ranking the top 20 nations to live in in terms of education, health, quality of life, economic competitiveness and political environment, the U.S. does not even make the top 10. In terms of individual categories, the U.S. ranked 26th in both healthcare and education. 

There remains criticism of the World Health Organization’s ranking methodology that pitted the U.S. healthcare system at number 37 worldwide, two notches above third world Cuba. However, it is apparent by all studiesthat the US. Healthcare system is below average for industrialized nations. Not acceptable for the world’s richest nation. 

We can wrongly point fingers to doctors and nurses, which would be analogous to pointing fingers solely to teachers and students for the problems within our healthcare and education systems respectively. But its hard time to look closer at the big picture itself. Where is the money going?

No matter how we slice and dice it, this budget allocation overall seems to be a recipe for disaster. Why not create a recipe for harmony instead? We need to make peace with a world our country is not capable of mastering, rather than continuing down this self-destructive path. 

Weapons and Warfare: Provide a False Sense of Security

A day prior to the attacks on September 11, 2001, the US. DoD had $2.3 trillion in transactions unaccounted for. Obviously, all this overspending on “defense” just might not be doing anything to improve our national security. 

Why do we continue to spend so much on defense? The U.S. spends 50-60% of our budget on this! There have overall been relatively few terrorist attacks, those not fabricated by media propaganda or possibly perpetuated by military leaders to justify wars. And they occur predominantly in countries somehow engaged at one time or other in supplying weapons or combat to hostile nations to begin with. There lies the self-perpetuating cycle. 

We’ve designed a vicious cycle of building too many outdated, expensive, and unnecessary weapons and created an $800 billion empire. People think in terms of “how can be cut these jobs” in a downed economy? But we are already losing jobs in more beneficial areas for society such as financial services, construction, teachers, nurses, doctors, and environmental scientist. They are expected to roll with the punches, and so couldn’t the people that design missiles or work on DoD contracts. These are highly intelligent, educated people who could transfer their technical skills into an area that would propel our nation ahead in a more positive light, such as clean technology or alternative energy. 

We could cut at least half of our bloated military budget, and still emerge as the world’s “leading military power” if such nonsense so important to our self-esteem. 

One of the freedoms we still have standing is freedom of opinion and speech. Yet, if we continue down this path of building an over militarized economy, we could see a complete demise in our once civilian-led democracy. It’s up to you to choose what you believe in.

God Bless America!

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