November 12, 2019
On November 11th, we honored our veterans. Now there is no greater honor we could show them than to disenthrall ourselves of the illusion that constant war preparedness is our best and only path to peace. We cannot prepare for war enough that we will simply back up into peace.
Younger generations of Americans have never experienced a time when we were not at war, normalizing what is in fact an aberrational state of humanity. War has become like a steady drumbeat in the background that too few care to mention. And that is dangerous for America.
In his farewell address to the nation in 1960, President Eisenhower - Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during World War II, then the 34th President of the United States - warned us of what he considered to be an ever-present threat to our security:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military- industrial-complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
Oh it persists.
The United States Air Force has ordered 100 B-21 raiders. Each costs $560M and is capable of dropping nuclear as well as conventional weapons. Dropping five such bombs would destroy civilization as we know it, and ten would most probably end our species.
And why are we ordering 100 B-21 raiders? Clearly not to increase America’s security. Such outrageous expenditure has little to do with our security and everything to do with increasing defense industry profits.
Meanwhile, 12,000 children on this planet starve each day.
In 1953, Eisenhower gave his famous Cross of Iron speech in which he said these words:
“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.”
I find Eisenhower’s words particularly meaningful given that he himself was the general who led us during WW2. Today, we spend 53 cents of every dollar on defense related expenditures, yet far more economic prosperity derives from investment in education and infrastructure. While thousands of people work in defense-related industries, the same skills and expertise employed there are needed in peace-related projects.
Turning the US from a war economy to a peace economy will not be quick or easy, yet it is the moral task of our generation to accomplish it. That is why we need a Department of Peace as well as a Department of Defense… a Peace Academy as well as a Military Academy…peace games as well as war games.
The war underneath all the others now is the war for the soul of America. We cannot be great if we are not good, and nothing says good like seeking to wage peace in our hearts and in the world around us.
War is very serious business. And so is peace.