July 5, 2002 (Ira Pilgrim)

The Military

We oppose militarism. It means conquest abroad and intimidation and oppression at home. It means the strong arm which has ever been fatal to free institutions. It is what millions of our citizens have fled from in Europe.

Democratic National Platform, 1900

Before Pearl Harbor, the US military was in pretty bad shape. Intelligence was, as it frequently is, ineffective. That it failed to detect a large Japanese force that was headed for the Hawaiian Islands indicates that it was worthless. During WW II the armed forces and intelligence were built up to the point where they were effective against two of the greatest military establishments that the world had ever seen: Germany and Japan.

After WW I there was a good deal of rhetoric about the need for peace. This might have resulted in what has been called "isolationism," a belief that the US should not get involved in foreign affairs. One result was that the US did not join the League of Nations, which doomed that organization from its inception. President Wilson was a strong supporter of the League, but the Senate didn't go along with him.

There was no such peace movement after WW II. That great war was followed by a sequence of smaller wars in Korea, Viet Nam and a small war with Iraq. Not only that, but the draft remained a part of the law of the land and every male is, in theory, subject to being drafted into the military. It seems as if the leaders of our nation were intent on staying in the war business.

The development of the computer, satellites, and a wide variety of technologic advances changed the nature of warfare to where it became possible for the US to fight and win a war almost without casualties. War was no longer a matter of manpower, but was more a matter of equipment. Therefore, the collaboration between the military and industry was essential to both the military and industry. President Eisenhower, having been a five star general, knew the military well. He warned the nation to beware of the military-industrial complex. His warning was ignored.

After aircraft started being used in war, there was a debate about the usefulness of aircraft carriers. Critics pointed out that an aircraft carrier could be easily sunk, resulting in a large loss of life and the destruction of a super-expensive piece of military hardware. The countering argument was that a carrier was there to provide a job for an admiral. Another argument in favor of aircraft carriers was that they sustain shipbuilders and armament manufacturers, jobs for their workers and executives and profit for its stockholders.

What drives the military is the same thing that drives any large institution: self preservation. Many executives see expansion as the only way to survive and remain competitive. They may be right. Whether it is in the best interest of the nation and its people is questionable. It may not be true that "What's good for General Motors is good for the nation." As with all life, death of an institution may not only be necessary, but it may also be desirable.

When our president uses the adjective "evil," it suggest that the United States is the defender of a religious faith. The use of rhetoric that suggest that we are good and they are bad, besides being flat-out wrong, is as dangerous to us and the world as is militant Islam, Christianity and Judaism. It is the same thing that got the British empire in trouble, caused the demise of imperial Rome, and Hitler's Germany. It is propaganda directed, not against an enemy, but against our own people in an attempt to justify the actions of our government and its military.

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