Shaky Assumptions About Military Spending – North Carolina Peace Action's Betsy Crites in the Durham Herald-Sun

 In education, environment, Iran, military budget, Move-the-Money, Peace Action, terror, War, war profiteers
By Betsy Crites
Fear can be a great motivator – and a great manipulator. Those  who oppose cuts to military funding play on our fears to convince us that any  reduction in the defense budget would be a dangerous threat to our national  security and to our economy. But is this level of panic justified?  An  examination of the assumptions that underlie the fears will expose just how  shaky those assumptions are.
Shaky Assumption 1:  The US must control, by  force, the air, seas, and land of the entire planet.
Why such  overwhelming military power?  The United States spends more on our military than  our next 14 military competitors combined — six times more than China, 13 times  more than Russia, and 73 times more than Iran.  While we funnel roughly half of  our discretionary tax dollars into military programs, China is capturing the  market for solar panels.  Most countries are fearlessly investing in health care  and education for their citizens while the U.S. is pulling funding from those  very hallmarks of a great society.  The result is that the U.S. now ranks 37th  on health indicators and our students rank 14th in reading, 17th in science and  25th in math.
Shaky Assumption 2:  We need high priced weapons systems  such as the F-15 and the “advanced multi-role stealth fighter jet” to keep us  safe.
Our current “enemies” have no air force and no navy, and it is a  stretch to claim that terrorists even have an army.  The Rand Corporation, a  think-tank allied with U.S. government military and intelligence forces,  concluded that there is no battlefield solution to terrorism.  Since 1968, only  7 percent of all terrorist groups were taken down by military force.  In  contrast, 40 percent of those groups were defeated through police and  intelligence work, and 43 percent gave up their terrorist tactics as they were  integrated into the political process.
Shaky Assumption 3:  The military  is a good jobs program.
According to analysts at the University of  Massachusetts-Amherst, spending $1 billon on education and mass transit would  produce more than twice as many jobs as spending $1 billion on defense.   Spending on healthcare and construction for home weatherization and  infrastructure would produce about 1-1/2 times as many jobs. The Pentagon spends  $1 million a year to field a soldier in Afghanistan.  With that same amount, we  could hire nearly 30 teachers for a year.  Additionally, many jobs learned in  the military do not translate to civilian employment, so the jobless rate for  returning veterans is far higher than for the general population.
Shaky  Assumption 4:  Reducing military industries will hurt our economy.
Many  people are employed by military contractors and in service industries near  military bases, but does our economic health depend on this? Military spending  has grown by 81 percent in the past decade, the period of the worst recession  since World War II.  Clearly, high military spending is not the key to our  economic well-being.  People employed in weapons industries, making products  that kill people and destroy property and ecosystems, could just as well be  working in jobs that improve our communities and our quality of life here at  home.
Shaky Assumption 5:  We need the military for innovations such as  the microwave oven, the GPS and the Internet.
The U.S. military has a  very large budget to fund research and development, but innovation can, and  does, come from anywhere.  On June 26, 100 university presidents from across the  U.S. sent a letter to President Obama calling for an easier path to permanent  resident status for foreign students.  Why?  Because they found that of the  1,500 patents awarded to the top 10 patent-producing universities in the U.S.,  three-quarters had at least one foreign inventor. All-told they represented 88  countries.
Rather than triggering that old “fight or flight response “at the mere mention of reducing military spending, let’s develop a new adaptive “stop and think” response.  We will survive a reduction in military spending.   We could even thrive if we redirected our tax dollars to productive and  innovative ways of improving the well-being of our citizens and the world at  large.
Betsy Crites lives in Durham. She is former director of NC Peace  Action and remains a member and supporter of that organization.


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Showing 2 comments
  • Dr. M. B. Bahramian

    Humbly, we are in “dark ages” in this country already. The United States is rapidly becoming a third rate nation, and the problem is not lack of money rather where our money is going and how our tax dollars are wasted or stolen. The fundamental problem that is cripling this country is systemic corruption and greed from top to bottom. Try to find an answer for these first.

  • Sushila Cherian

    Ms Crites verbalizes our thoughts about our country’s increasing militarization so clearly in ‘Shaky Assumptions….’. But as long as the military industrial complex has its hands deep inside our so called elected leaders’ pockets, nothing much will ever change.

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