Cutting Defense: Are We STUCK?

By Joe Scarry, reprinted with permission from Scarry Thoughts

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs released a study this week based on survey data collected from over 2,000 respondents.

The survey has important data on Americans’ attitudes toward foreign affairs and military issues, and includes comparative data from previous surveys stretching back decades. You can access Foreign Policy in the Age of Retrenchment for free on the Chicago Council on Global Affairs website.

I’ve noticed four findings that are of special interest to me, starting with the following observation about American attitudes toward reducing military spending.

The bar graph reproduced below shows respondents attitudes toward U.S. military budgets, based on surveys conducted between 1974 and 2014.

Source: Foreign Policy in the Age of Retrenchment, Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Here’s what’s striking to me: between 1990 (the dissolution of the Soviet Union) and 2002 (immediately after 9/11), there was a clear trend toward stronger and stronger support for expanding, and decreasing support for cutting back, defense spending. (Notably, there is always a core of 40% of the public who say “keep it the same.”)

That trend was brought to a halt in 2004. By that time, the U.S. was engaged in two wars: in Iraq — ostensibly to stop the spread of WMD — and in Afghanistan — ostensibly to punish the perpetrators of 9/11 and protect the United States.

Where have we ended up?  Right now we’re “stuck” — the portion of the public that wants to cut military spending has hovered in the high 20%s since 2004; it just can’t seem to break the 30% barrier. (The percentage of people in favor of expansion is about the same.)

This leads me to two conclusions:

(1) We have had some success in the past decade in publicizing the idea of defense reductions.

(2) We need to do a lot more to move the needle — and reach a critical mass of supporters who can bring about real reductions.

It also stimulates me to ask: how much of the change in attitudes toward defense spending is stemming from the growth in Tea Party and/or libertarian sentiment, as opposed to traditional antiwar sentiment?

And . . . to the degree that we are stuck . . . is it because we have failed to join the energies of these several strands of sentiment into a single, clearly articulated, impactful movement for defense reduction?

Watch this space for comments on other findings, relating to fighting terrorism, U.S.-conducted assassinations, and protecting American jobs.

Check out Foreign Policy in the Age of Retrenchment for your self and see what conclusions YOU draw!

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There is No Hope

By Ryan Calhoun, reprinted with permission via Center for a Stateless Society

The war in Syria is here. It got held up in social media traffic. We thought the angry hashtags had permanently ceased death from above for the Syrian people. For a moment, the Internet rejoiced in its seemingly overwhelming power to harness the American people’s voice. We were sick of war, sick of decent people being turned into killing machines and amputees. There was no need to go into Syria, no impending doom. Apparently Americans had wised up in the past decade and weren’t going to accept another bloody quagmire.

Well, so much for that. The war in Iraq, supported by a majority of Americans at its dawn, was not enough to teach Americans. And why would we expect it to be? 50,000 American soldiers and countless millions slaughtered in Vietnam wasn’t enough. The near extermination of the Japanese, the destruction of most of Germany’s cities, the piles and piles of bodies and all the wasted potential of a so-called greatest generation wasn’t enough.

It will never be enough. There is no hope. There is no progress the American government or any state can make away from the inevitability of mass slaughter. The lines at military recruiting booths will continue. Your protesting them will not eliminate them.  Your pleas will not stop your friends from making the decision to kill for what they see as the greatest good. And when your friend comes back a husk of a human being, when the memories of Syrian, Iraqi, Somalian, Yemeni, Pakistani victims haunt him, when he reaches for his legs and finds only air, he will imagine it was all worth it and there will be nurses and psychologists to assure him it was.

The war culture is all-enveloping and there is no end. The American resolve against war does not exist beyond an Internet fad, entirely obliterated with effective propaganda and fear-mongering. We are a nation of dunces, suckers, cads, cowards and killers. The world will bear most of the consequences for our idiocy. The people of the Middle East are not so easily led on. They know that war is all there is. They live with drones dotting their skies and murderers posing as peacekeepers occupying their streets. They know there is no hope, no expectation that America will ever do the right thing. Their children will die. Their parents will die. Their homes will be turned to ash and they will only grieve for a moment, because to wish any of it hadn’t happened is to embrace cartoon fantasy.

There will always be a threat or the threat of a threat which will sell the American dupocracy into sycophantic worship of the capability of our military to make all right in the world. Americans crave protection, or the illusion of it. In truth there is no protection. 9/11 was not a fluke carried out by mad men. Nothing will save us from those who have every reason for blood thirst. They have nothing but their vengeance to guide them against the monstrous robotic nation which slaughters their countrymen and keeps them bound to a life of poverty and desperation. You will not swat them all away. We are not safe. In fact with the announcement of this newest edition of the War on Brown People, we are less safe than ever.  But who needs true protection when all are assured that the state will continue to cradle them and make it all better?

The Americans are coming, stupider and more sure of themselves than ever. Will we beat our former high score of a million deaths? There is always hope for war. War is easy and resistance is futile. None of it will end until borders end, and good luck with that. Good luck dismantling the military industrial complex. If it crumbles, it will merely be reassembled to guarantee another century of death for the weak. There are no consequences for these campaigns of murder, no voice to condemn the soldiers or protect them from the scavenger recruiters. We’ll be duped again, and again, and again. The next time a president declares his steadfastness against perpetual war, the next time you hear media outlets praising the anti-war resolve of the American people, do what I do and laugh. Don’t weep. Your tears accomplish nothing. Enjoy the ride, because there is no exit in sight.

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“No, Not the Song, the Movie About Eco-Terrorists” – A Review of Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves

By Michael Troncale

As I sat down in the theater to watch Kelly Reichardt’s latest film Night Moves, I couldn’t help the unreasonable but nagging suspicion I was really about to see The Bob Seger Story. My only association with the phrase “night moves” was Seger’s annoying hit song I’d endured on classic rock radio stations when I was growing up in the mid-eighties, hoping to hear Iron Butterfly or Blue Oyster Cult. The day after I saw it, I spoke with a friend and mentioned I’d been to the movies. When I told him I’d seen something called Night Moves, his face morphed into a quizzical frown. This might have been a mix of never having heard of it, and also thinking it was odd for anyone to seek out and watch a bio pic of soft rock superstar Mr. Seger. I then had to overcome his doubts as I explained that a film with such an unfortunate title was worth seeing.

Reichardt’s latest is one of the best badly-named movies I can think of (William Friedkin’s Sorcerer would probably top that list.) Night Moves is the story of two naïve environmental activists named Josh and Dena (played by Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning) who turn into eco-terrorists by helping to blow up a hydro-electrical dam in a forest in the Pacific Northwest. As they prepare for the bombing, they take many precautions to ensure that no one is killed in the attack. Their actions are meant to be a statement against industrialization, only sabotage, not murder. But despite all of their efforts, a lone camper in the forest dies in the ensuing flood when the dam is destroyed. After that, Josh and Dena are guilt-stricken but attempt to move on. However, as Dena begins to crack up, Josh grows more and more concerned. But is he concerned about her, or about saving his own skin? In the end, it’s pretty apparent.

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Peace through Strength

By Eoghan Hartigan, reprinted with permission from Paddies and Politics

‘There never was a good war or a bad peace.’ – Benjamin Franklin

‘It should be our endeavour to cultivate the peace and friendship of every nation, even of that which has injured us most.’ – Thomas Jefferson

Peace through strength is a favourite maxim of the Neoconservative movement in the United States. They make the rather unusual claim that lots more guns and ammo will make the world a safer place. There is, however, one problem: this claim has all the purity of excrement.

How do I know this? Or rather, how does any sensible human being know this?

Firstly, US military spending has steadily grown since World War II. Their army has grown ever stronger. They spend more than everyone else and they always have the best weapons. Unfortunately, as their arsenal has grown, Americans have become ever less safe. The only way this whole peace through strength lark holds up, therefore, is if foreign folk have become even more mean and fightey. If this is true, America better get its act together and become even stronger. But it is not. Human beings all across the world have been consistent in their levels of barbarism.

On top of this, it’s only peace through strength if you follow this massive build-up of arms with restraint. Lately, America has been slow to oblige. President Reagan more than any other Commander-in-Chief liked this phrase- see his budget deficits for more information. But at the same time as spinning a good yarn about peace, he was arming contras in Nicaragua. Where was the peace? At the very best, this situation is evidence of a Neoconservative desire for America to feel peace, regardless of the cost for other nations. It is a similar motive which drives the US sympathy for Israel- they recognise a fellow peace through strength buddy.

Reagan on his dinosaur, Eugene. 

In reality, the principle behind peace through strength is a questionable one. It is very similar to the philosophy of the mafioso at the centre of the classic film ‘A Bronx Tale’. Robert DeNiro’s character explains to his son that the mafioso is not respected or liked, but feared. America seeks to strike fear into other nations. When Thomas Friedman told Charlie Rose that America needed to go to Iraq, so as to tell the Islamic world to ‘suck on this’, he was very close to the truth. And President Bush took the cake when he proclaimed that if nations were not with America, they were with the terrorists. The US has a my way or the highway approach to world affairs. Hence the need to scare people.

Accordingly, peace through strength would only hold water if people all over the world were spineless in the extreme. Human beings do not like being forced into anything. The Pax Americana, therefore, cannot but lead to violence. The saddest part of all this is that the US has forgotten the story of its own birth. Americans quite rightly founded their own state because they had had enough of being told how they should run their own country. Remembering this would be helpful.

Do they think so little of other peoples that they would not expect a similar reaction when they take on the role of oppressor?

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Why Air Shows Are a Very Effective Place to Protest Drone Killing and Drone Surveillance

By Joe Scarry, from Scarry Thoughts

Coming off our experience this past weekend once again protesting against drone killing, drone surveillance, and related acts of militarism at the Chicago Air and Water Show, I am more confirmed than ever in my view that air shows are a very effective place to get our message out to the public.

I should start by saying that the Chicago event is a free public event that takes place on public space along the Chicago lakefront, so it is especially suitable for public speech.  Understanding that other venues may not afford the all of the same characteristics of the Chicago event, I offer several observations:

Chicago Air and Water Show

(1) The perfect nexus

When the war planes are roaring overhead, it is very easy for people to understand why you are there talking about war and weapons of war.

This is very different than the situation we so often encounter trying to speak to people on a street corner, where people rush on by, eager to get on with their busy lives.

There’s nothing like an F-22 coming in low over the reviewing stand to focus people’s attention on the problem of war.

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What Will “Strategic” Mean in Our Children’s Lifetime?

“High-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles pre-pared and stored
by the 2d Battalion, 401st Army Field Support Brigade, stand ready at
Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.” (Photo by Galen Putnam, 402d AFSB Public Affairs)
(From “Commanding an Army Field Support Battalion” by Lieutenant Colonel
Michael T. Wright, Army Sustainment, March-April 2012)

We are likely to wake up some day and realize that we have succeeded in evolving our economy away from fossil fuels — toward a zero carbon economy — and that means our “interests” in the Middle East will no longer be so strategic any more.

What will be strategic then?

Despite the temptation to name some other part of the world — to pivot to the idea that now China is where we need to be in control — perhaps the answer is: “strategic” will no longer have to do with how much stuff we can get, but with how successful we can be at spending less.

This leads me to wonder: will the next revolution lie in reining in the out-of-control network of U.S. military bases around the world?

U.S. Military Bases
Posted 24th October 2012 by Toni Nicolle

Just like a family that has extra rooms in its house which inevitably become filled with stuff, the U.S. has thousands of bases — here, there, and everywhere — that inevitably create the “need” to spend.

It’s a very Zen idea — that perhaps the most impactful thing we, as a nation, could “do” is to “do” less.

But perhaps it’s necessary to explore. Perhaps we have gotten caught up in the wrong argument, i.e. whether this or that military action is right or wrong, justified or misguided.  Perhaps we’re fiddling while Rome burns. Perhaps we have to simply cut the discussion off at the knees and say, “What would be good would be a massive paradigm shift in what constitutes desirable activity — economic and otherwise.”

How could we possibly make this happen in our lifetime?

 

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[Poem] Walking

Why doesn’t the

perspiring

Ferguson police chief

Michael

talk about how many

teens

have been shot

hands up

a block from home

walking

Brown

while white?

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