As America celebrates its veterans tomorrow, I find much irony in the fact that this country is so quick to start a war or two but cannot find the necessary funds to provide adequate health care to its wounded military personnel. Every time I see the commercial of Trace Adkins asking donors to pledge nineteen dollars a month to help provide much needed medical benefits to the wounded warriors project, it make me cringe in anger. This is a national embarrassment for which our government should be mortified, a dishonor to those men and women who proudly serve this nation and especially a disgrace to those who gave their life or occurred any type of injury in the line of duty to their country.
Coming of age during the height of the Vietnam War, watching Walter Cronkite report the causality statistics each week along with the numerous anti-war protests, I would have thought this nation would never engage in another destructive conflict during my lifetime. However, it seems that we have been perpetually at war now for the past twenty years, going back to the first Gulf War in the early 1990s. With an annual defense budget of nearly $900 billion, we spend nearly as much on our military as the rest of the world combined. When combined with intelligence, we spend nearly $1.5 trillion on defense and intelligence related expenditures every year. Moreover, this does not include America’s new ultra top-secret intelligence budget. Since September 11th, our defense budget has nearly doubled, and in addition, our government has since built up such a top-secret network of intelligence agencies that no one knows how much it cost, how many it employs or how many agencies it runs.
We currently have troops stationed in approximately one hundred and fifty countries. Granted, in many of these countries it might be just a few soldiers guarding our embassies, however, why do we have seventy-five thousand troops stationed in Germany, nearly seventy-five years after World War II ended? We still have fifty thousand troops stationed along the 38th parallel in Korea, sixty years after that war ended. It is long past time to bring all our troops home from foreign shores. It is this rapid buildup of our military over the past decade, along with a seemingly endless procession of military endeavors that is bankrupting this nation. We are following down the very same destructive financial path that caused the collapse of the former Soviet Union during the 1980s.
The sad aspect of America heavily arming itself is the fact that we are also arming nearly every other country as well. As U.S. arms sales hit a record high this past year, at more than $66 billion, we sell more than seventy-five percent of the total global arms market, far out-selling second place Russia at a mere $4.8 billion. We must not forget that many times these very same military weapons come back to haunt us. Have we forgotten that it was America who armed Osama bin Laden when he was in Afghanistan fighting the former Soviet Union or that we armed Saddam Hussein when Iraq was at war with Iran?
In my writings over the past decade, I often quote President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who in his January 17, 1961 farewell address to the nation, warned the country to beware of the mighty military-industrial complex. President Eisenhower stated “…we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” Coming from a five-star general, many who credit for winning World War II, America should have listened. As a business model, the military-industrial complex remains in business and profitable only via the costly aspects of war. For every action, there is a reaction. Heavily arming our entire planet might be great for the American military-industrial complex bottom line, however, in the long run, it greatly impedes world peace.
Steven H. Spring
United States Navy, Aerographer’s Mate 2nd Class, 1975-1979