From the Left



Save the Planet, Behead the Military Budget

Bill Press, Tribune Content Agency on

Editor's note: Mr. Koehler is filling in while Mr. Press is away.

Americans “need to imagine their vote has an impact on policy, an illusion the media encourages them to believe in.”


Peter Isaacson, writing in Fair Observer, seems to be saying . . . oh my God, democracy is a cliché, a big sham. I stand up, put my hand on my heart, pledge allegiance to the flag. This is America, land of the empowered voter. Then I read about our president’s latest budget proposal, which includes $813 billion for “national defense” — pushing the Pentagon budget’s already record-setting enormity further into outer space — and I feel myself collapse (yet again) into nothingness.

Why, why, why, as our ecosystem collapses, as millions of refugees flee the horrors of war and poverty, as the pandemic continues, as World War III and the possibility of nuclear Armageddon rears its evil head, as the planet trembles, does ever-expanding, global militarism remain our primary national purpose?

This question stabs me anew every year, as President Whoever announces his latest proposed military budget, as Congress increases it, as the media shrugs. Every year I hear the voice of George W. Bush, telling the American public — telling me — not to worry: “Just go shopping.”


So what the hell is going on? Is our military insanity totally the work of the so-called military-industrial complex? Do Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, et al, rule the country via their lobbying muscle (which, ironically, is financed by the military budget for which they lobby)?

That’s only part of it. The mystery is deeper — and, of course, classified. Consider the legacy of President Eisenhower, who went into office in 1953 speaking against increased militarism, yet was unable to control the nuclear arms race and expanding Cold War while in office (the CIA, for instance, helped overthrew progressive regimes in Iran, Guatemala and the Republic of the Congo); and eight years later, in his farewell address, regretfully sounded the warning about the influence of the military-industrial complex. This warning, however iconic, accomplished nothing. Waging or financing war has been the American way throughout my lifetime.

As William Hartung writes: “Perhaps the biggest source of overspending on national defense is rooted in the U.S. ‘cover the globe’ military strategy, which attempts to sustain the capability to go anywhere and fight any battle. The United States maintains 750 overseas military bases and conducts counter-terror operations in at least 85 countries.”

And then, of course, Biden’s proposed budget remains horrifically generous regarding the country’s nuclear weapons, allotting further billions of dollars to the Department of Energy to modernize the nuclear triad of ballistic missile submarines, bombers and land-based missiles. Now! As the world shudders over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Putin’s placement of the Russian nuclear arsenal on high alert. Yet this has not ignited a serious interest, at the national level, to rid the world of nukes: to disarm. Are we not trapped in a world of insanely limited thinking?


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