NO TO WAR
As citizens — as a country — now is the time for us to say, “No to war”.
Now is the time to say, “no to war” because we are edging ever closer to several. Whether it is a preemptive war with North Korea over their nuclear weapons program, which would put millions of South Koreans and Japanese citizens, along with at least 20,000 US Troops in the line of fire, or increasing hostilities and American presence in the Syrian civil war, which would further destabilize the region and put us into direct conflict with Russian soldiers who are supporting the Syrian government, or a war with Iran driven in large part by both Saudi and Israeli aims in the region, or any number of countless other scenarios that President Donald Trump and the generals he has installed around him seem to be pushing us toward, we must say no.
Why Do We Go to War
Any exploration of potential war should start with the question, why we go to war? Let us avoid the larger historical or philosophical questions of why humans go to war, or why countries go to war with one another. Instead, we should focus specifically on why the United States goes to war.
The most obvious answer to that question is that we go to war because there is a financial incentive or a financial interest at stake.
It should come as no surprise that wars are generally seen as good for our economy. The military-industrial complex, a phrase made popular by President Eisenhower, describes a special relationship between the nation’s military units and the arms industry that supplies them. Many large corporations - across a variety of industries and sectors - derive a good deal of their profits from military contracts. The more money we spend on our military, the more money goes into the pockets of the already wealthy owners and shareholders of these companies.
We have to face the fact that the United States is a nation built around its military. We spend more money on our military than the next 7 largest countries combined (and most of them are allies). You can’t expect to prioritize the military in such ways and then never use it, can you?
Why Haven’t We Learned Our Lesson
From Vietnam to Iraq, the modern military history of the United States is riddled with failures.
What happened to the consensus that seemed to form around the Iraq War in the last few years? It seemed to be one thing that gave rise to populist politicians like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders — the backlash to such wars.
At one point, it became a target on any office-seeker’s back to have voted in favor of the Iraq War. We, as a country, knew it was a war we never should have started. It cost trillions of dollars we didn’t have, tens of thousands of lives (both US and foreign), and left a wake of power swallowed up by ISIS and other radical groups.
If you don’t learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it. And the current administration now seems intent on repeating our past mistakes — even selling the reasons for war in the same ways that former President Bush and his administration tried to sell us the Iraq War.
Don’t Spend on Wars, Spend to Prevent Them
We know how to avoid wars, and we should listen with a suspicious ear to anyone who tries to tell us we have no choice but to use military action.
There is a reason why the world has been so relatively peaceful since the end of World War II. Despite the ongoing conflicts in many areas of the world, one cannot compare the lives lost since the Second World War to the lives lost during, or before.
It was mutually understood between all actors in that we had to find a new way forward after such a disaster. Things like trade agreements, foreign aid organizations, international courts, and constant diplomacy have kept the world moving toward peace.
To avoid, or prevent war, we must commit ourselves to doing the things that we know work. We must fund diplomacy, rather than emptying the State Department and defunding major parts of its mission. We must address global concerns that drive conflict — things like global warming, economic inequality, and migration. We must do what we can to help other countries address their problems — not with our military, but with aid and development.
And we need Congress to reclaim their Constitutional duty to declare war. For too long, we have allowed the Executive Branch (under both Democrats and Republicans) and the military to decide when and where we deploy troops and take military action. Congress has shirked its duty in an effort to avoid blame. And it has left us with an unchecked, aggressive Executive that can seemingly do whatever it wants, wherever it wants, for as long as it wants.
Don’t Spend on Wars, Spend at Home
Defense is important. However, it is no more important than the many other responsibilities of government. And yet, you would not know that to look at the budget, where we willfully throw more and more money to the Pentagon, through good times and bad, while cutting services that millions of Americans rely on every day.
A common refrain in Washington is that we simply do not have money to operate this or that federal program. Most often you will hear it when the program in question benefits the poor or working class. Not once do we hear that same argument used when it comes to defense spending. Why not?
Think of what it would mean if we shifted some of the $700,000,000,000.00 we now spend every year on defense to domestic programs. Taking just 1% of that would free up hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure projects, education funding, health services, and more. We could open up new opportunities for people we’ve long neglected because we couldn’t afford to help.
Wars are an unnecessary distraction that keep us from focusing on the things demanding our attention at home.
Unfortunately, we live in a time when it is easier to wage war than ever before. It’s easier because it requires less manpower than wars of our past, which makes it easier for the large majority of Americans to ignore. Out of sight, out of mind.
Both parties have been complicit. Defense and foreign policy seem to be areas where the parties have more in common than anything else. Military hawks in both parties would like to see us be more aggressive overseas, asserting our will wherever we want.
However, a great majority of Americans do not agree with them. A 2017 NBC News poll showed that 76% of those surveyed fear that the US will become engaged in a major war. And although a roughly equal percentage of Americans say we spend too much on defense as say we spend too little on defense, it is clear that most would rather the United States stay out of military conflict if possible.
And it is time that we make our voices heard. We must say “no” to war, over and over again. Because if we don’t, we will cripple ourselves repeating past mistakes. The steep costs will keep rising along with the dangers that constant fighting brings.