Once we get past the Covid-19 crisis, the world’s most gargantuan military machine cannot go back to normal, writes Kevin Martin.
By Kevin Martin
U.S. Navy warships recent surged to the Caribbean to menace Venezuela, when the government could not surge desperately needed ventilators to New York City, New Orleans and Detroit. This should surprise no one, as the U.S. has long prioritized war and preparations for war over public health, but it is particularly outrageous at this time as we face the Covid-19 global pandemic.
Contrast the Trump administration’s trumped-up drug running charges against the government of Venezuela, and military threats against Iran, with the recent call by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire in order to concentrate resources on the health crisis. That is what leadership looks like. Reports are encouraging from a number of strife-torn countries; warring forces in over a dozen countries have accepted the ceasefire call. These actions need to be encouraged and expanded, so diplomacy and humanitarian aid can surge.
Trump’s wag the dog move against Venezuela is likely an expensive ruse, or a risky escalation aimed at a longshot regime change attempt to remove President Nicolas Maduro. That is bad enough, but even worse given the devastating impact U.S. economic sanctions have had in exacerbating the economic and health care crisis in the country. The situation in Iran is even worse. In both cases (and others including North Korea), whatever the disputes between governments, it is ordinary Venezuelans and Iranians who suffer the effects of sanctions’ decimation of economic and health security.
End to U.S. Sanctions
China, Russia, Nicaragua, Cuba, North Korea and Syria joined Iran and Venezuela in a statement to Guterres and other high UN officials demanding an end to U.S. economic sanctions. The eight countries together represent one-quarter of the Earth’s population. The letter stated U.S. sanctions are “…illegal and blatantly violate international law and the charter of the United Nations,” and severely hamper efforts to combat the coronavirus crisis. Sanctions, meant to be a tool, not a policy, have unfortunately become Washington’s go-to tactic of choice that some consider better than war, while many think they are a means of economic warfare that harm ordinary people rather than affecting the behavior or policies of government officials or elites.
Over-investment in the military is how we got to this point, and the Covid-19 crisis throws into stark relief both the opportunity cost of prioritizing the Space Force, F-35s, 800 foreign bases and nuclear weapons over public health, and also the futility of the world’s most gargantuan military machine’s weapons against a virus. We need more ventilators and protective equipment for our doctors and nurses, not more bombs, economic sanctions against people who do us no harm, and futile attempts at regime change.
Speaking of which, the endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost over $6 trillion dollars. Trump campaigned on ending those disasters and on avoiding new wars, but now his administration foolishly threatens to ignite, on purpose or by accident, armed conflict in South America and the Middle East. Does anyone think those are the right priorities? I’m sure our medical personnel on the front lines, the patients they treat, and a nervous populace don’t think so.
Pentagon spending, almost $750 billion per year (and “national security spending” including our myriad “intelligence” agencies is now well over $1 trillion annually), stands at the highest mark since World War II. In each of the last two years, the Pentagon budget increase was larger than Russia’s entire military budget. Under the Obama administration, the U.S. committed to upgrading our entire nuclear arsenal at a price tag likely to exceed $2 trillion over the next three decades. Predictably, each of the other eight nuclear weapons states followed suit in announcing their own arsenal upgrades, igniting a new nuclear arms race decades after the end of the Cold War. So our tax dollars pay for policies spurring a new arms race, making the US and the whole world less safe.
Somehow this is all a normal state of affairs for the world’s leading military, economic and political superpower. And it’s all worthless to combat pandemics and climate change. Actually it’s worse than worthless, in terms of misspent resources. To boot, the US military is the biggest polluter and consumer of fossil fuels in the world.
Once we get past the Covid-19 crisis, things cannot go back to “normal.” The pandemic has shown how unsustainable our economy is, particularly continuing to forego investment in our human, physical and environmental infrastructure to feed a voracious war machine. New priorities and new leadership are required. Returning to business as usual won’t do.
Kevin Martin is president of Peace Actionand Peace Action Education Fund. Peace Action is the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 200,000 supporters, and affiliates, chapters and associate organizations nationwide.
This article was previously published on Common Dreams.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
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“Somehow this is all a normal state of affairs for the world’s leading military, economic and political superpower. And it’s all worthless to combat pandemics and climate change. Actually it’s worse than worthless, in terms of misspent resources. ”
It’s also worse than worthless because it creates the very threat to our security it purports to defend us against. Our campaign of aggression around the globe creates enemies out of people who would otherwise have no truck with us. As a result, we have to live with the constant threat of blowback which in turn causes us to commit even more resources to our “defense” in what amounts to a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle. (keyword: “vicious.”) As Noam Chomsky has said, if you’re worried about stopping terrorism… “ there’s really an easy way: Stop participating in it.”
It also threatens our security in another way which isn’t often spoken of. By placing American military personnel in harm’s way for no legitimate purpose — for the sake of American imperial pretensions — people are dying in the process. Just because you put a uniform on somebody doesn’t make them any less human, or their loss any less tragic. On 9/11 there were approximately 3,000 deaths. In Iraq (2003… which had nothing to do with 9/11) alone, the official stats put the numbers at over 4,400 U.S. personnel with tens of thousands of others with TBI, PTSD, amputees, and other life altering injuries. If we were outraged at 3,000 deaths and saw it as a threat to our national security, why wouldn’t we be even more outraged at the unnecessary deaths of even greater numbers of people? Not to mention all the lives shattered by the tens of thousands injured and the repercussions for their friends and families’ lives. If national security is defined by our ability to protect American lives and to ensure people live in a safe, stable environment, the senseless casualties of the Iraq war and other imperial adventures represent the greatest insult to our national security of anything we have experienced from any source — and continues to be the biggest threat we face.
The sudden downturn in carbon being spewed into the air is not, I’m afraid, as hopeful a sign as it might seem. Along with that carbon goes an enormous amount of particulate matter, which settles in at high altitude for a much shorter time before it dissipates. The enormous amount that has been there for many decades actually acts as a reflector of sunlight. This is called the aerosol masking effect. As it dissipates, and is not replaced by new particulate matter, the effect dissipates as well, and much more sunlight reaches the land and seas. This started happening within a week or so of the stoppages of industrial activity and travel. So, despite the drop off in carbon going into the air, global warming is going to increase (or has) rapidly for as long as the slowdown lasts. The carbon falloff won’t be detectable for around ten years.
What’s “normal?” The US began shutting down/shipping out jobs in the 1980s, then ended relief for those left jobless in the 1990s. There is nothing normal in the fact that in this “richest country on Earth,” we deny the most basic human rights (UN’s UDHR) to food and shelter for those left jobless. There’s nothing humanly normal about American indifference toward the suffering all around us. But I assume the middle class means they want to resume to a measure of security for themselves, some sense of stability. I’m pretty sure it’s just too late for that. We lost multi-millions of mfg. jobs alone since 2000, and we expect another surge of jobless poor by the end of the year.We don’t know what happens from here.
It would be nice if the soldiers of the world could at this point, collectively, and without animosity between armies, turn against the insane officers and political leaders who have set them upon each other and refuse to engage in conflicts, while and after the pandemic endures. And let them make it known in no uncertain terms they will NOT set themselves against their brothers from a different country, “those folks across the river,” but to recognize all share the same vulnerable planet, and all face equal risks from the whims of Nature. For once. And hopefully then for all.
Of course it IS a little different when the armies contending are quibbling over piddling differences in religion & not politics or borders, but at some point, there must be a braking of the wheel of death from the militaries and arms industries of the Earth. Since people won’t stop it themselves, perhaps Nature has. Maybe this pause in the great economy is Nature’s way of giving Man notice- appreciate where what and who you are and all the silly games you’ve played out on the planet for half the life of your species. Well, just a thought. Would that wishes were horses.
The absolute folly of American Militarism & wasting trillions of dollars on useless weapons against enemies that don’t exist, are being laid bare by a microscopic enemy that can’t be defeated militarily? COVID 19 doesn’t acknowledge or bend the knees to America & its much vaunted, ineffective Military? The supposedly indispensable & laughable “Exceptional Nation” is a complete joke that COVID 19 has exposed it to be? The Corona Virus can’t be reasoned with, BS’ed too, sanctioned, regime changed or paid off by this corrupt, immoral Nation & it’s disastrous President Chump! What the Pandemic has revealed is the utter incompetence & wilful negligence of this Nation, not only of failing too protect its own Citizens in the middle of a major health crisis, but also its inhuman, immoral punishment inflicted on other Nations who are dealing with the COVID 19 issues caused by American economic terrorism via sanctions? And going by the skyrocketing infection & death rate, this Nation is being punished for its many sins by being the Worlds epicentre of this disease, call it poetic justice for all the harm & chaos it has inflicted on others? The Coronavirus is bringing the American Empire to its knees, providing the death knell of a waning Militaristic Empire in terminal decline & it can’t come soon enough for peace loving people who have had enough of this Nation!
It would be nice if the American Empire would sink into the sea never to return. The parasite in its brain sets it on a course to destroy mankind.
Yes, “new priorities and new leadership are required” so we must not pretend that the problem is merely Trump. Both Obama and Trump “campaigned on … avoiding new wars” and continued to “feed a voracious war machine” that proved “worthless to combat pandemics.” The problem of restoring democracy is not a decision between the tyrants of the corrupt duopoly parties, it requires great personal sacrifice by millions of brave patriots, to get the gold out of elections and mass media forever.
“RESTORING DEMOCRACY”??….In my reading of US history, I cannot find a time when America was a true Democracy….The Constitution itself is far from democratic.
Opposing Obama era’s policies on propping up the banks is a big problem: the monster is in charge. Thus, our system is run by the oligarchs they elect who is President and they are in charge. Our government needs to go back to replace bankers with industry and labor. Once that is done, housing prices will be realistic and the country will really prosper, no need to conquer the world and we’ll have the resources to face any problems like the current pandemic.
I agree with every word of this article, yet I find it quaint that anyone believes that America’s owners will permit a genuine change from the status quo. If anything, when the Covid-19 panic is over, they will be even wealthier, and the rest of us will be poorer. Perhaps I am suffering from a failure of imagination, but I see that our trajectory as a nation has been downward, and I expect it to take a steep dive into neo-feudalism and authoritarianism. Hell, we’re already half-way there.
“In each of the last two years, the Pentagon budget increase was larger than Russia’s entire military budget. Under the Obama administration, the U.S. committed to upgrading our entire nuclear arsenal at a price tag likely to exceed $2 trillion over the next three decades. Predictably, each of the other eight nuclear weapons states followed suit in announcing their own arsenal upgrades, igniting a new nuclear arms race decades after the end of the Cold War. So our tax dollars pay for policies spurring a new arms race, making the US and the whole world less safe.”
As Richard Sakwa has written, “NATO’s existence became justified by the need to manage the security threats provoked by its enlargement.” In much the same way does upgrading our weapons systems provoke responses that are characterized as threats. This endless cycle keeps the ball rolling for the military-industrial complex. Put another way, Schumpeter said of Imperial Germany’s military industry: “Created by the wars that required it, the Machine now creates the wars it requires.”
Have you seen the ads for the US military on TV?
Bombs, smoke and destruction on the horizon. Ships, planes, helos, tanks, and soldiers soldiers all racing towards it, armed to the teeth.
In the back a truck with a couple of boxes marked “US Aid”. The boxes are probably full of body bags.
“New priorities and new leadership are required. Returning to business as usual won’t do.”
I don’t see how that is at all possible in America.
Where is any new leadership to come from in what literally is a rigged political system, a kind of costly political theater giving Americans the illusion of choice?
You have two parties, but both are totally in support of empire and war because they are both funded by America’s elites and plutocrats, the very people that empire and wars serve. Democrats are no less in support of war than Republicans.
In fact, you might almost call the Democrats a war party with all the warrior presidents they’ve had – Truman, Johnson, Clinton, Obama. And a Biden would just be another. Or, come to that, a Cuomo or certainly a Clinton.
The only difference between Democrats and Republicans is in arguing over some social issues, but that is almost a frivolous exercise because there is no room for large social programs. War and empire and security get it all.
The huge amounts of money in American politics mean you cannot have a third party with any realistic chance. The money is effectively “a barrier to entry.”
You cannot pull up a new chair at this card game without a gigantic stake. Where does that come from?
American voters are going to be given the choice between old party apparatchik Biden and the insane man in the White House, who does pretty much as the power establishment wants, although he does so in a hideous bellowing style that makes America look even more dangerous.
There isn’t even another remote possibility. I like Bernie, but he’s never been a serious opponent of the military/ security state, America’s central problem.
The pandemic is showing that a lot more is “possible” in America than we might have thought prior…We have made great strides in the fight against climate chaos by shutting down so much. The air is cleaner, birds are singing… Fear has made it happen, not reason and will. Youth are gradually finding out that they will have no future unless a new America is born from the wreckage. Aircraft carriers turn out to be just giant cruise ships, incubating disease. So much of “our” economy is war/threat profiteering, as Kevin lays out. So, if it “recovers,” we are doomed. The youth joining Extinction Rebellion are going to try to put a stick in its spokes. Unless we become “regenerative” pretty soon, the most wasteful country on Earth will go down the drain, further than it already has. Change will come by other means than by advertising on TV and voting. Every chance we get, we could be ready to support the next generations in their fight for survival.
“Where is any new leadership to come from in what literally is a rigged political system, a kind of costly political theater giving Americans the illusion of choice?”
Couldn’t agree more. As Jennifer Matsui has written, “There’s only so long you can keep pinching your nostrils as you cast that noxious ballot for yet another chest-thumping, business-as-usual Republican from either party . . . ” The genius of our political system is such that a Democratic Party establishment “circled the limousines” against Bernie and his barbarian hordes, to ensure that this year’s contest boils down to: Donald (The Selfellator) Trump versus Joe (American Addle) Biden. Free to choose! Free at last!
‘Absolutely John, but where do we go for the answer ? There is no decent answer to the problem the entire World ( except Israel ) faces. The American Empire is like a bull in a china shop, nothing will be left when it has done. So we face the dilemma of having to conquer and bisect the US like Germany in the last century. Any way it is a bleak picture.