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.
The 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.
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