Its election season and like most I’m up to my ears daily in political mail and robo calls that seem to intrude on life. Unlike some, I’m passionate for politics, yet over the course of the last eleven years I’ve become less passionate, less enamored at the prospects
Of all the critically important issues I tend to lean toward foreign policy as my make or break voting issue. After eleven years of war, the LONGEST war period in our young history, it matters to me and the million other military families impacted by war. It should matter to Americans who find the economy, the deficit, and jobs a matter of great importance. As long as we are at war, the deficit will continue to grow. When our candidates talk about balancing budgets or economic fixes but continue to blather on about our next march to war, I tend to shut them out. We can not fix our economy on the backs of our soldiers…our deficit will grow and spending will increase. That is a fact.
To say I’m tired of war is an understatement and moot at this stage of the game. As a military spouse and advocate it’s been a really long decade with no end in sight. Looking forward to after the election it’s not hard to question my fear and cause for alarm as the push to GROW our military force by 100,000 and our military budget by $500billion is bellowed across the land by the Romney/Ryan ticket. The above figure is taken directly from their campaign website. Of course sequestration is a key term both candidates seem to focus too much emphasis on and not the whole picture. Is our military budget too big? Some would say yes, particularly when the wars we’ve fought have been to liberate other countries and help them forge democracy….all in the name of 911 and to the reckoning of the future our grandchildren will have, so they say. To others and the Romney/Ryan contributors it’s not big enough. The US has declined in their Imperialistic Superpower notoriety….or so they’d have you believe. Hogwash.
War is a “RACKET” and I’m pleasantly reminded of that fact by the late great Maj. Gen. Smedly Butler. He lived and died decades before September 11, 2001 but he served in the first World War and gave 34 years of service to the US Marine Corp. Maj. Gen Butler gave a speech in 1933 where he stated up front “WAR is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.” He goes on in his speech to describe this “racket.”
“A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.” (Smedley Butler, 1933) Smedley goes on to state that during WWI 21,000 millionaires (billionaires in today’s standard) were made here in the great USA. Of course he jokes that “at least that’s how many filed as such…who knows how many didn’t disclose.” Sound familiar? At the end of his speech he asks a roomful of millionaires how many of them bore the pains of war. How many shouldered a rifle, ate rat infested mess in a foxhole?
Gen. Butler rendered this speech years after retiring. He reckoned all along that war was a racket, but it wasn’t until he retired as a civilian that he spoke out against war. Because it’s not the President or Congress that bares the brunt or the BILL for war, it is the American public. What is the “bill” he speaks of? Well it hasn’t changed in 100 years. His accounting of the cost “This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones, Mangled bodies, Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.” Alas the cost bore by less than 1% of the public today.
Fast forward twenty years and President Eisenhower three days before he retires from his term as President warns us of the harm of an over funded military complex and the lack of balance that leads to a societies inability to provide the basic programs for its free people. Early in his farewell speech he speaks of the midpoint of America after four wars, three of which were fought by American soldiers. He warns the American public that until the world wars we had no military armament industry, “today the military complex equals two times more than any corporations profit.” That was then, today if we took inflation and population into account, the defense/security category has grown 27 times as rapidly as domestic discretionary programs in the period of 2001 – 2009. Defense and related programs have shot up by 2 percent of GDP in just seven years. It is expected to take more than two decades for social security and medicare to GROW by 2 percent of GDP. (Center on Policy and Budget Analysis, 2008)
As I fear the words of Eisenhower have fallen on deaf ears and America will soon face what caused the most anxiety in Eisenhower – "that the power and greed of the military complex overshadows our place on this earth as a free people, a public that is now overwhelmed by political manipulation, not compromise; the power of a few have been paid for by the needs of the many and that democracy for the next generation is slowly becoming the “insolvent phantom of tomorrow.” (Dwight Eisenhower January 1961)
Nowhere during this election cycle has there been a serious discussion about the wars, the impact it has had on the less than one percent and their families that eleven years and trillions of dollars later has supplied no resemblance to peace. Fingers are pointed at either side that our government is too big, not big enough; that 47% of the people don’t matter and people have access to healthcare via the emergency room. We’ll hear both sides skim the economy, jobs, poverty and depending on which way you lean the American public will hear exactly what they want to hear.
Each election is important – it’s how we survive as a republic and thrive as a democracy that matters. Eleven years into war and the mere suggestion that we continue to bury ourselves in the Middle East – all the while talking about creating jobs, paying down the deficit and building up our prestige again is hard to swallow. It’s difficult for this military spouse to imagine how that would happen when listening to the republican ticket; we are on the verge of yet another war. There’s hawkish and then there is hawkish and how ever are we to believe that they have the solution to unemployment and our debt when they want to grow our military? If candidate Romney is to be believed and he’s elected – his first day in office he said he’d send our navy to the strait to pressure Iran. He’s also stated he’ll send Marines to Syria. We already have a navy in the strait to pressure Iran and the Marines are in Syria. What more can we possibly do that hasn’t been done without sacrificing the lives of our soldiers and the future of our grandchildren?
Our children’s future depends on our ability as a free people and government to rein in the costs of our growing deficit. There is no way we can continue to fight the war in Afghanistan, add another war and still balance a budget. Their (candidates) quandary is not in whether we have an exit strategy, their dilemma is in how to sell the American people on their view that war leads to less government. I hope that Americans think long and hard before casting a vote that could lead to more war, more economic hardship. I pray we ask MORE from our elected officials in the face of war than we have of the soldier and their family.
We are doomed to repeat our past when we do not learn from it. Cliché as it may sound, it’s true and we are living proof that we are young and naïve as a country compared to the rest of the world. I venture to guess that ole Smedley and Ike are peering down on us with one eye shut and a fisted hand shaking directly at us, prompting us to hear their words of warning, yet again.