What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: Mike
Just over 1% of United States citizens are members of its military. With 1.5 million individuals in active duty and roughly the same amount in the reserves, the nation’s military employs as many people as its entire food service industry (Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2007).
While underwhelming to some, this simple fact demonstrates the sheer magnitude of our current military force. The logistical administration required by a standing army necessitates a business-like model, meaning that war and death have become institutionalized as a legitimate form of employment in our society. Indeed, our youth are often allured with promises of free college, signing bonuses, and other monetary incentives for signing on the dotted line.
To support such a military force, resources of necessity must be diverted from other societal programs and spheres. President (and former General) Eisenhower, noting the cost of war, pointed out several monetary comparisons to illustrate the price tag on certain aspects of the military:
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.
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 plane 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.
This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. . . .
This is one of those times in the affairs of nations when the gravest choices must be made, if there is to be a turning toward a just and lasting peace. It is a moment that calls upon the governments of the world to speak their intentions with simplicity and with honesty. It calls upon them to answer the question that stirs the hearts of all sane men: is there no other way the world may live? (Dwight D. Eisenhower, via Quoty)
This country spends more than $696 billion dollars annually to support its standing army. This amount is larger than the military expenditures of the next 46 highest spending countries combined. Additionally, U.S. military spending accounts for 48% of the world’s total military spending. The statistics are staggering, to say the least.
The perpetually increasing cost for supporting such a large standing army should be troubling to all concerned citizens who observe our economy’s current situation, the circumstances in which domestic liberty is threatened, and the historical evidences showing the ways in which standing armies are used by evil men who assume control, through either quasi-legitimate means or otherwise.
Wisely did James Madison warn us of the consequences of the situation in which we find ourselves. He noted:
Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes…, known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few…. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. (James Madison, via Quoty)
Standing armies enable continual warfare, for there is always a group of trained, professional killers ready to do their leaders’ bidding. There are a few specific circumstances in which war is just and necessary. Legitimate war, unlike aggressive, offensive war, needs no standing army, for the citizens will rally together to stand in defense of their country, their lives, and their values. Any group of people under attack will rightly defend themselves and will be justified in doing so.
But standing armies are the tool with which immoral wars are waged. Politicians would find it quite difficult to entice (or compel, for that matter) productive, peaceful citizens to sacrifice their lives unless they were inspired for a greater and necessary cause. Propaganda can deceive (and has deceived) in convincing people of just what causes are great, but the fact remains that the executive has no need to convince his hired and paid subordinates to do his wishes when they are already on his payroll and programmed to execute his every desire.
The only legitimate argument that may be made in favor of standing armies is the need to have a strong defense and trained group of soldiers with which to repel an attack of invasion. Peaceful citizens living their own lives, it is argued, would not be sufficiently instructed in warfare and able to adequately fight a battle to protect their country. History rebuts this notion, however, when one observes the American Revolutionary War. Inspired to defend their lives and liberty from an oppressive autocrat, thousands of freedom-loving individuals—many already skilled in marksmanship, survivalism, and other battle-worthy tactics—voluntarily joined the war effort and successfully repelled and defeated the greatest military force in their day. It has happened before, and, for legitimate cases in which war is found to be necessary, it can happen again. Times and technology have changed, but the principle remains true: an alert, concerned citizenry will rise to repel any invasive force if the situation demands it.
We are told, however, that Americans are selfish, lazy, and lacking in necessary skills. We are told, then, that the military enterprise must be outsourced to individuals willing to make it their full time job—people who will be supported (in more ways than one) by the taxpayers’ dollar to become trained and skilled, willing and able to fight for whatever cause the President deems necessary. But again, this stance only supports the use of our military force in unjust wars, for the trained soldier becomes a pawn in the executive’s worldwide game of chess (or more appropriately, Risk).
Any politician who claims to revere the Constitution and likewise supports and votes in favor of current military spending should not be trusted. Standing armies, regardless of their purported intentions and positive results, are a destructive institution—destructive as it relates to money, resources, liberty, life, and livelihood. Thus, the appropriate action is to terminate the entire operation, bring all of our troops home, use the money and resources to fix our domestic issues, and turn our killers-for-hire into productive American citizens.