For a significant portion of our nation’s history the United States’ populace was largely non-interventionist and isolationist, usually needing to be convinced through yellow journalism and intense propaganda to support a war. Our people were loath to enter World War One and, after its conclusion, we reverted back to an isolationist foreign policy. Because of major opposition within the country, the U.S. never signed the Treaty of Versailles or joined The League of Nations.

Our reluctance to intervene in other countries continued throughout the 23 years between the world wars. Then it took time, trickery (the Lend-Lease Program) and Pearl Harbor to convince Americans to support the Allies. Actually, there are some historians and documents that suggest our government had foreknowledge of the Japanese attack, but kept that secret so Roosevelt could use the attack to elicit public support for the war.

Well, those days are over and it’s time to ask why non-intervention and isolationism have been off the table since the end of World War Two. Instead we have stationed troops throughout the entire world on what has become essentially a permanent basis. Whether there is reason or not.

Worse, it seems our government hasn’t met a war it didn’t embrace. Can somebody please explain what Granada’s threat was to our national security? And while it’s true that Vietnam caused large scale protest, as did the two wars in Iraq, our government has kept the pedal to the metal, continuing to engage our forces anywhere and everywhere possible.

Even when war hurts our national security by destabilizing an entire region and radicalizing foreign hatred of our country, we march on. And we’re getting ready to do it again, using ISIS as our reason. Doesn’t it always start with “advisers” but no “boots on the ground?” Dime bags to hundred dollar bills, there will be boots on the ground.

And when there’s no war in which to engage, no matter, we simply stay on. Currently, the United States has military personnel deployed in about 150 countries which covers 75% of the world’s nations. (For a series of charts that attempts to pinpoint where our troops are specifically placed you can glance here. And while these charts are taken from Wikipedia, attached are some pretty solid references.)

And I don’t believe, though I’m not certain, the above covers our Special Operations Forces who are stationed in over 105 countries.

But other numbers are equally staggering.

ChartThe result: Defense spending accounts for about 20 percent of all U.S. federal spending.

Call me crazy but I see all this as completely insane. Especially if we actually want to protect ourselves. Conservatives are concerned with our national debt and see that as a major threat to our way of life. Despite all of NSA’s intrusions into our civil liberties, airport “security” is an ongoing joke, and virtually all of our internal terrorism is locally grown Nazi-like White Supremacists with but a few exceptions. Or look at our decaying infrastructure. Hell, cities don’t have enough money to shovel snow. Think some of that military money might help with any of these problems?

It might even be nice to have bullet trains, a middle class, and regain our desire to eradicate poverty and racism. Instead we station about 38,491 soldiers in Germany alone.

Now, I understand that embassies and consulates need protection. The world is a dangerous place and certain strategically placed military bases are necessary. But do we really need, or ought to have, 117,951 military facilities in foreign countries?

I don’t think so. I think we need to bring all our troops back home save for those deployed with the specific purpose of guarding embassies and consulates. Even there I would look carefully at each and every one of them in order to reduce the present number.

It’s not like we’ve really helped anyone with our warmongering since World War Two. (Ok, I *might* consider Korea. Though again, we’re talking about having engaged in a war on the other side of the world without any real threat to our national security.) We certainly didn’t rescue Southeast Asia. And the havoc we’ve wreaked in the Mideast is almost beyond comprehension. Why not let people in their own parts of the world decide for themselves how they want to live and who owns what. Only they’re not Americans so what do they know? But I can say, without fear of contradiction, that our military spending and wars have padded the pockets of the military/industrial complex that Eisenhower warned about. And it doesn’t do too bad for the arms trade and multi-national corporations either. War means money and other peoples’ resources.

What about the rest of us? Start with the troops who we’ve put in danger war after war. Agent Orange, missing limbs, PTSD, and at least twenty-two veteran suicides a day. And frankly, I believe the number is higher depending upon the sources you believe.

Can anyone think of any benefit they’ve received from either the wars or the massive number of troops and bases abroad? I know the argument that if we don’t fight terrorism “over there” we’ll be in danger here. If it’s true, why won’t the government prove it? Show us the facts that substantiate the claim. We can handle the truth. To top it off, it doesn’t look like we’re doing too well “over there” either. Every day I open the newspaper and read about large numbers of people who were blown up, murdered, or kidnapped. And often at our hand, as we add to the totals with bombs, drones, and infantry and call it “collateral” damage. Our belligerent policies have brought death and destruction to hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children throughout the world.

Now, I understand that bringing ’em home has absolutely no chance of happening. Nonetheless, it’s time to call for what we know to be right and to hell with just what’s possible. What we’re doing now is not only unsustainable and morally bankrupt, it threatens the very soul of our country.

3 penny

Post Script: I want to thank Kent Ballard who, during the past six months, graced this page with humor, intelligence, and wit. Although he’ll pinch-hit for me on occasion, I’m going to really miss reading him every other week. Thank you, Kent. Zach

17 thoughts on “BRING ‘EM HOME

  1. Oh, man, here I go…

    ..can’t say enough about all this.

    BUT I wil say, for starters, I LOVE your “insert” of “…’over there’…”, ha, ha! I hope my comment speaks for itself. ..guess that will be my theme:

    One issue I I get totalled with anxiety about: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Equals war. Oh, that’s right! — “over here”, we call it “PTSD” for medicinal/clinical purposes. Yay, let’s all help spread “PTSD” around the world (as if it doesn’t exist – how DO people survive “over there”? Yet, survival is just one of those daily instincts. Insane, yes, and somehow these “O.T.” communities retain/regain strength. Something for us to learn deeply from…)
    Well, I’m not working on being an organized writer – this is just my brainstorm in response to your article (I’d rather call it that than a BLOG).

    Stay warm! Bet you haven’t heard that expression! [ya, haaaaa, always somethin’ new..].

    Thank you!
    Trudy (and I will not identify myself as someone’s sistah….)

    • Trudy–No need for you to identify yourself ans anyone’s sister. And yes, we’ve hand delivered PTSD around the world–though we’re not the only ones to do it. But there’s no reason we have to join that particular party. We’ve done enough damage to last centuries. Let’s just leave other people alone. And thanks for taking the time to read the article (I like that word better too) and commenting.

  2. We agree on this damn near 100%, the bring them home part at least. Justification debate aside, it is foolish to fight wars you’ve no intention of winning. George W. Bush and Obama refuse to fight wars to win and they’ve continued to use our troops to just mark time. Even if we can find justification to take a war anew to ISIS I wouldn’t trust this president, or the last one, to do it. Seeing our options so far on the 2016 side of the election does not lend hope to the cause either. Bring them home and send a massage. Maybe the message can be, “we’re done, go to hell, we’re going to take a nap and the ear plugs are in. If you knock on our door we might answer, or we might blow you up. Nite!”

    • Don–I don’t see a need to send a message other than “hell no we won’t go.” From where I sit, there is no “winning” except for the war profiteers. I see no reason to spend anyone’s life for their gain. It’s the height of arrogance to imagine that it’s somehow up to us to determine how other people should lead their lives–especially while we lose our own in doing so. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. Thank you for this column, Zach. Particularly this one. I like to find that those things which disturb me are not in my imagination or because I’m so unsophisticated that I cannot join in with the present. One thought that came to me regarding the first part of your piece here is probably not on-topic, but it occurred to me so I will just throw it out there. Back when we weren’t making war a business, we were farming more. I understand how we’ve changed on that level, but there’s something about paving over the land that has disconnected us from the good rich earth.
    You’ve got me thinking…. as usual. Thank you…

    • Kathleen–No. Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m the last person to talk about farming, but I do know that our engagements have done much more harm than good (with as I noted a couple exceptions) both home and abroad.

  4. During the between WWs period we were occupying Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The U.S. war timeline lacks any sustained periods of peace and prosperity. Until fairly recently though we didn’t actively provide weapons to the planet that inevitably have been turned against us for our “trouble”.

    We reap what we sow. Bring `em home! Nice write.

  5. Dare I accuse you of wishful thinking???

    There is no doubt we have f/up a couple of times the last 70 years or so, but it’s a lousy job and somebody has to do it. What do you think Europe would be like today if not for NATO and the obligations it has imposed upon US. Clearly the USSR expansionism post-WW2 was halted by the threat of US military power, just as its clear Putin will continue to gobble up some or all of the USSR’s former SSR territory not presently shielded by what we call “our vital interest” umbrella.

    And, complain all you want about Big Oil, but very few citizens of the USA would have been happy with $6.00 a gallon (or higher) gasoline, which is why we have been kissing the oil-rich sheiks’ asses for all these years while they bask under our (military) protection. Of course the countries of Iran (first) and (then) Iraq managed to disturb the coziness, forcing us to protect our oil sources and then screw up the situation (a lot of which goes back to France and the UK re WW1).

    Now I agree the military-industrial complex is a beast hard to tame, but that’s a very complex problem involving the economy as well as whatever strategic thinking (ha-ha) goes on.

    Anyway, just how long do you think we would be able to sit comfortably in the US if we pulled all or most of our forces back home, reduced said armed forces to post-WW2 levels, gutted the defense industry, and told the rest of the world to f-off?

    • Marty–Of course you can. And of course it is. All the reasons you present are those which keep our troops around the globe. I’m suggesting we let what will be, be. I have no idea what Europe would be like, the middle east would be like, southeast Asia would be like or any other part of the world other than our own. Where is it written that it’s our job to police the world and attempt to somehow create it in our image? And if withdrawing our troops results in $6.00 oil, we’d still save money in the aggregate. People can debate whether we’ve done more harm than good but I really don’t care which it is. I believe we owe it to our country to leave the rest of the world to it’s own decision-making about if, who, and when it does its wars, have civil wars, and everything else an independent country chooses to do. Frankly, I see it as none of our business. Wake me when *our* national security is actually at stake and prove that to me at the time. Then I might reconsider. But nothing other than wealth, resources, and the irrational fear of the “domino” effect has fueled the loss of ours and other peoples’ lives. That just doesn’t seem good enough for me anymore. During my idealistic days I believed in one world. Now I just want us to leave the rest of the world alone.

      • Marty–Been thinking about my earlier response and have a few additions. There’s a difference between “vital” interests (generally called “national” interests and national security. Vital interests is an umbrella term that has more to do with empire creation than our national security. Seems to me that empire building has a whole lot more to do with vital interests rather than any security. Our military’s role is to protect our nation, not to define what we believe is right and proper behavior–internally and externally–of other countries.

        Since we’re by all accounts the *only* superpower, should we really be afraid of what Russia does or doesn’t do given their broken economy? I think not.

        Also, I’m not saying we should gut our defense. Key word, tho, is defense. Not offense. And offense is what we’ve been doing since World War 2. That’s beyond vital interests. That’s empire building that has done damage to other countries and our own.

  6. The best defense is still a good offense, a truism one would be foolish to ignore.
    What puzzles me is just how safe and secure you think we would be if the rest of the world slowly (or quickly) became victimized by the aggressive, so-called Radical Islamic movement, or a resurgent Communist government seeking to expand its hegemony, or some Chinese move toward the Asian sub-continent. Just what would be the appropriate wake-up call for the US as you would define it? Frankly, I’d rather see limited wars on foreign soil than actual combat on American soil.

    • Marty–We’ve played offense 93% our entire existence as a nation. ( ). I find it difficult to believe this isn’t overkill. I also think countries have a responsibility to determine *for themselves* how or if they want to defend their boundaries. As the only so-called super power in the world, I’m just not too anxious about wars over here. Empires crumble from the kind of foreign policy that we embrace. Just look at the Soviet Union. Spent so much money on their military and expansionism they fell apart. My argument is that we’re safer by relinquishing our “cop of the world” policies and choose to actually take care of our own country.

  7. So, we now have the predictable responses to such a preposterous proposal. Can’t argue any different, since nothing different has ever been tried. Who’s to say? We’ll never know unless somebody, somewhere tries?

    On any given day most of the planet is still unaffected by its wars. Our lives are a continuum of peace-seeking in our daily interactions. Wars are no longer Cecil B. DeMille productions. It shouldn’t be that difficult to imagine our time and resources devoted to non-lethal methods.

    • Bungalow Bill–I understand it’s an outrageous idea. But for all the reasons you just suggested it’s an idea we should cling to. Our lives, our children’s’ lives, grand-children’s lives probably depend upon it.

  8. Excellent column, Zach. I strongly agree with your main theme, but….. I do think that we had to get into WWII. This does open a slippery slope. If one war is OK……

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