My mom and dad liked to remember how, as I lay in my crib in wartime London, I would coo happily to the wailing air raid sirens. Only babies should be so innocent.
We have come to believe it is not only right but good to send our children to kill, and we revel in the destruction our media presents.
Just this century, we’ve been at war in Afghanistan since 2001, Yemen since 2002, Iraq since 2003, NW Pakistan since 2004, and now against ISIL.
I’m working to understand that part of the world. I’ll post about Syria later this week then Iraq, the Kurds, ISIL and more. But meantime, I want to make an overview comment about our appetite for war.
We borrowed almost $1,000bn for our war in Afghanistan and must borrow several hundred billion dollars more for medical and other costs that continue.
Adjusted for inflation, we spent more just on reconstruction in Afghanistan than on the entire Marshall Plan to rebuild western Europe after WW2.
We borrowed close to $2,000bn for our war in Iraq.
We have already paid interest of $260bn on what we borrowed for those wars and our medical spending on veterans from them is already more than $130bn.
The results? The Taliban are ready to take over again in Afghanistan, we left Iraq in chaos and that war led to the rise of our latest enemy, ISIL.
Why do we keep doing this? Because it has become our habit.
We no longer question our need for enormous armed forces. We spend enormously every year to make them ever stronger.
It seems natural to use our force, our weapons manufacturers urge us to do so, and there are always opportunities against alleged threats or when others are killing each other.
President Eisenhower, who knew the agony of sending people to be killed, famously warned us about our “military-industrial complex.”
Here’s a less well known statement from Secretary of State William Marcy about why we would not sign an 1856 Treaty to ban privately owned ships in war:
The United States consider powerful navies and large standing armies as permanent establishments to be detrimental to national prosperity and dangerous to civil liberty. The expense of keeping them up is burdensome to the people; they are in some degree a menace to peace among nations. A large force ever ready to be devoted to the purposes of war is a temptation to rush into it. The policy of the United States has ever been, and never more than now, adverse to such establishments, and they can never be brought to acquiesce in any change in International Law which may render it necessary for them to maintain a powerful navy or large standing army in time of peace.
Our policy changed. We now believe we must at all times maintain by far the world’s largest armed forces. Since 2001, our defense department’s base budget has increased by $1,300bn more than its pre-9/11 forecasts.
Our current policy has brought an end to our “times of peace.”