Pentagon cuts? Not a problem
Next week I’m finally going to cut back on eating doughnuts — it’s high time I get serious about my health. Instead of eating five of them for breakfast every morning, I’ll eat four. That’ll make room for that big slice of cheesecake I’ve been wanting.
The Pentagon is about to go on a diet, too. Slash that budget way back. Don’t worry, nobody’s going to lose any weight. Now there’ll be room for lots of other big-dollar items. “Cutting the budget” only means putting on the pounds somewhere else.
The U.S. spends more on its military than all other nations combined, and we don’t even have an evil competitor anymore, like we did during the Cold War. Not that we have to win wars now — look at Iraq and Afghan-Pakistan. What our money does buy around the world is instability and anti-Americanism galore. Forget our nation’s massive problems like federal deficits and debt, underemployment, decaying infrastructure, and education. If it’s got to be “guns or butter,” with the guns at least you avoid the cholesterol.
So how did our nation’s bloated, mismanaged office of war get to be the privileged, untouchable sacred cow that it is? Andrew Bacevich, who teaches at Boston University, points to several reasons. The rise of our national security state is one of them, enhanced by institutions that exaggerate the threats to the nation and justify the bloated expenditures on the “military-industrial complex.” We live in an atmosphere of crisis and fear. So don’t anyone touch the arms industry — we need all the guns and missiles we can find. Besides, there are plenty of jobs and corporate profits there, so let it be. You can close a military base, but not in my backyard.
The GI of World War II was an American Everyman, reflecting the values of all Americans. This changed with Vietnam, and today we find ourselves “supporting our troops” as a way to hang on to a patriotism that is no longer clear. We citizens back home want to cling to our own happy-day pursuits, so the least we can do is to laud our volunteer-army “heroes.”
Author Robert Lipsyte says that this year’s Superbowl represented for many Americans the event that pulled together the strands of a dying empire and a manhood that no longer exists. Pro football, he says, is a uniquely American game. It’s also “the last estrogen-free zone” where, in a world where women are rightfully taking their place, here only competitive, aggressive males are given a chance to be “real men.” They’re like a volunteer army for men only.
Meanwhile, we’ve misunderstood our history — again according to Bacevich — forgetting the anti-war position that was respectable from the beginning of our nation — until, that is, World War II. We think of that conflict as “the good war,” rather than the massive tragedy that it was. Since then, politicians do not dare to oppose military activism, for fear of being tagged appeasers or isolationists.
Since the time of our post-World War II prosperity, U.S. leaders have thrown our military weight around the globe in order to preserve our economic superiority. Today’s American political and military leaders show no signs they will change, and we look for ways to cut services for the poor, but certainly not that inflated military diet of ours.
The uprising in Egypt caught the administration mostly off-guard, heirs as they are to our backing most of the thuggish governments now under siege, in the name of the War on Terror. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the U.S. has displayed an imperial hubris, using its military powers to crush those who are not with us, thus uniting and enabling our enemies as never before. What has driven us has been fear more often than justice.
So, Pentagonists out there, go ahead and give up that doughnut, like you said you would. There are plenty of cheesecake missiles waiting on the table. That diet in the works won’t be tough at all — especially when the whole country seems ready to pick up the enormous bill.
Kozeny works for Socorro Mental Health Inc. His views are not necessarily those of his employer. He can be reached by e-mail to email@example.com.