Militarism in America
“We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism are all tied together. And you can’t get rid of one without getting rid of the other.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
“War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.” President John F. Kennedy
Americans believe we are the “good guys” that promote peace and democracy around the world. But too frequently we are part of the problem rather than the solution to conflicts between nations. As a nation we are dominated by the evil of militarism. Our militarism results in conflicts and wars that bring human suffering to many parts of the world. It brings suffering to our own people and wastes resources needed for domestic needs.
Militarism is the excessive emphasis on the military in national affairs. It is the predominance the military class, military virtues, ideals, and thinking in society. It is characterized by aggressive military preparedness, excessive military spending, and the tendency to subordinate all other national interests to those of the military. Militarism results in the belief that military action, or the threat of military action, is necessary to advance national interests. War is justified when protecting those national interests. Militarism exalts military service as the highest expression of patriotism and service to country.
Militarism is deeply embedded in our national psyche and dominates our domestic and foreign policy regardless of the party in power. We have a widely held, but false, belief that the military is the reason we have freedom, individual rights, democracy, and representative government. The military freed us from English “tyranny” and saved us from communism. It now keeps us safe from terrorism and protects the American way of life. But this narrative is largely historically inaccurate.
Militarism is pervasive in the current administration. Militarism can clearly be seen in the threats of military action against Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, Syria and Iran. Speaking about ISIS in Syria, candidate Trump said,“I would bomb the shit out of them.” He also said he would bomb the oil facilities that ISIS controlled.
Revealing the real purpose of our militarized foreign policies Trump also said, “…the great oil companies, they will rebuild that sucker [the bombed oil facilities] brand new and it will be beautiful…and I’d take the oil.” President Trump has threatened North Korea with “fire and the fury like the world has never seen.” Trump’s National Security Adviser, John Bolton, advocates “regime change” in Iran and has said “that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”
The Trump administration is actively engaged in bringing “regime change” to Venezuela. They have said “all options are on the table” meaning we are planning to send in the Marines as we have done in Latin America numerous times. China, the supplier of most of the stuff in our stores, has been identified as a major threat and future enemy. A new cold war and nuclear arms race with Russia has been begun. On excessive military preparedness, his administration has increased military spending 18.5 percent with no factual justification or consideration of the huge waste in the military budget.
Too often our diplomacy consists of making threats and demands. There are no negotiations, no compromises, no finding of common ground. Our definition of diplomacy is to do what we want or get bombed. Diplomacy and international cooperation are considered weak.
We have military personnel all over the world not for “defense” but to “project power.” We have troops and military facilities in 800 places and 140 countries for offensive reasons. Nuclear weapons, aircraft carriers, cruise missiles, and drones operating all over the world are not defensive weapons. They are for offensive military actions to maintain global “dominance” and the American economic empire.
But endless war, caused by militarism. does not make us safer, more secure, or more free. In fact each new war strengthens our culture of violence, weakens civil liberties, promotes militarization of our police, and increases the power of the executive branch. Many observers think this is moving us toward authoritarianism and the decline of democracy.
Militarism is not about supporting the troops or legitimately honoring the service of military personnel. I do not denigrate the sacrifice of combat veterans. They have suffered. Their sacrifice should be remembered. But these memories should motivate us to say, “never again.” Veterans should be saying “not in my name.” Our troops, and their families, are victims of war the same as the “enemy” and the many civilian casualties or “collateral damage.” Our callousness to the suffering and death of our troops and innocent people shows our acceptance of violence and militarism as an instrument of national policy.
Unfortunately, most Americans believe the militaristic propaganda. The politicians, pundits and press, even the liberals, repeat the Memorial Day platitudes. Speaking against the evil of militarism is unpatriotic. But if we don’t change the way we think we cannot change our destructive behavior. Like many of the empires that have come before us, we will exhaust ourselves and decline because of endless war.
We need to be honest with ourselves about our history and the real reasons for our many wars. We need to reject militarism. We can appropriately honor those who died serving our country without honoring war. Speaking about what citizens must do to oppose racism, poverty, and militarism, Martin Luther King said,
“conscience asks the question, “Is it right?” And there’re times when you must take a stand that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but you must do it because it is right.”
The right thing to do is to stop the march to war in Iran and Venezuela. The right thing to do is to oppose the militarization of our country.