The madness of militarization
War as foreign policy
Trump started his presidency off with an explosion! Several of them in fact — bombing Syria with 59 Tomahawk missiles costing $93 million taxpayer dollars; using the Mother of all Bombs in Afghanistan; striking homes with drones in Yemen; bombing civilians and aid workers in Iraq; sending more troops to Somalia; and threatening to nuke North Korea! Some have actually said it makes him more “presidential.”
Actually, this is not abnormal behavior for the USA. Trump inherited at least seven ongoing conflicts from Presidents Obama and G.W. Bush. The United States has been fighting in Afghanistan for 15 years, ever since 9/11, under both Democratic and Republican rule. Over 660,000 Afghans have been displaced. Nearly 12,000 civilians died in 2016. The U.S. pours close to $611 billion a year into its budget for weapons, equipment, soldiers and contractors, far more than any other country. It amounts to 36 percent of all global spending on “defense.”
Economic distress. The worn-out, 500-year-old system of capitalism is everywhere scrambling to revive disappearing markets and hang on to threatened wealth of the very few. This creates fierce competition between major and minor imperialist powers and their pet regimes — competition that means nothing less than war. For war is the ultimate profit machine, creator of very few winners and masses of losers.
Capitalism’s best solution is the self-perpetuating armaments industry. The weapon makers, think tanks and contractors that service the Pentagon and spy agencies, together with the Wall Street banks who make high-interest loans to fund wars, thrive under a foreign policy of deadly conflict. They produce things that are immediately destroyed when used, and that creates demand for more of the same.
Martin Luther King, Jr. rightly called this “the madness of militarization.” Instead of spending on infrastructure and human services for the populace, our rulers promote war — to sound patriotic as they pocket the profits.
The underlying reason for economic and political instability, especially in the Middle East but also in the U.S. and everywhere else, is that capitalism no longer works and cannot survive on egalitarian principles. Revolutionary impulses against massive poverty, austerity, and repression are not going to go away. So it makes sense that militarism is top of the agenda for today’s rulers.
Pentagon handed power. Trump has appointed many war generals to top positions in government and the National Security Council. Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, Marine Gen. John Kelly, and Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster have been heavily involved in nonstop, unsuccessful military conflicts for decades.
Yet Trump has authorized them to bomb whomever, wherever, and however they please, no matter the civilian casualties and chilling nuclear aspects. He has removed executive and legislative branch constraints on his favorite generals, in violation of a fundamental tenet of the Constitution — civilian control of the military.
As more and more troops are sent to Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and other “unnamed” countries, and Trump threatens North Korea, he is expanding the war machine. North Korea has been asking for a peace treaty with Washington and Seoul for 64 years but has been flatly refused. Now U.S. bases, ships and missile sites surround the area and provocative war games take place off the Korean coast every year. And the North Koreans continue to build weapons to defend themselves.
The new president’s war strikes are no different from those of other presidents since 9/11. But his practice of allowing the Pentagon to decide troop deployments, while keeping the White House, Congress and the public in the dark about military actions and civilian casualty numbers, is an escalation of the unchecked, undemocratic use of executive power.
The threat of peace. The presumption of endless war by many is not surprising, because it’s what this country has settled into. Trump’s so-called foreign policy has no intention of ending conflicts and gaining peace. An end to hostilities would drastically damage U.S. capitalism.
Permanent conflict between those who exploit and those who rise up against repression and poverty will only be solved when the profit system is widely condemned and overturned.
Send feedback to the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org.