Militarism: The Delusion Lives

| Educate!

Above Photo: Shelton Lawrence/Flickr

The annual defense budget, passed recently by both the House (377-48) and Senate (82-8), came in at $738 billion for 2020, up from last year a sweet $22 billion.

War hits the motherlode every year.

“The money just isn’t there” for virtually anything that matters — you know, healthcare for all, free college tuition, clean water, eco-sustainable energy production — but we’ve sold the national soul to the war god so long ago that the perfunctory, bipartisan passage of the National Defense Authorization Act comes and goes every year with, at most, a few marginal cries of outrage and a big shrug from the media.

This year the NDAA came with a few extra stocking-stuffers for the warmongers and profiteers. It bequeathed the world an upgraded possibility of nuclear war and guaranteed the universe a future of bellicosity beyond the confines of Mother Earth.

The temptation for me as I write about this is to hide behind a façade of sarcasm as I hurl my scathing little criticisms at the politicians, the mainstream media and the corrupt bureaucratic farce known as the Pentagon. The alternative is to stand naked and vulnerable to what is being done: lobotomizing humanity’s collective thought process, killing the future.

Consider these words of Charles Edward Jefferson, published in the March 1909 issue of The Atlantic — at the dawn, my God, of the 20th century, before World War I set the world on fire:

Militarism has foisted upon the world a policy which handicaps the work of the church, cripples the hand of philanthropy, blocks the wheels of constructive legislation, cuts the nerve of reform, blinds statesmen to dangers which are imminent and portentous, such as poverty and all the horde of evils which come from insufficient nutrition, and fixes the eyes upon perils which are fanciful and far away. It multiplies the seeds of discord, debilitates the mind by filling it with vain imaginations, corrodes the heart by feelings of suspicion and ill-will. It is starving and stunting the lives of millions, and subjecting the very frame of society to a strain which it cannot indefinitely endure.

A hundred and ten years later, the truth in his essay, called “The Delusion of Militarism,” has merely intensified. How hot do they have to get before they can no longer be ignored? Our militarized political focus remains fixed “upon perils which are fanciful and far away.”

Thus the NDAA officially created a sixth branch of the American military, the Space Force, “establishing,” in the words of Donald Trump, “space as a warfighting domain” and guaranteeing that “the United States will dominate in that environment just like all others.”

The Hill explains it further: American corporations will eventually start building factories in outer space and mining “the moon and the asteroids for their mineral wealth.” But have no fears: “The United States Space Force will ensure that no unfriendly power can impede these activities through military attack. The new service branch will have to be so strong and capable that no other country would think of trying to bring fire and destruction to American and allied space infrastructure.”

So, apparently, expanding the human enterprise into the great beyond will not in any way unify the planet or free political minds from the nationalism and hubris that encages them — not if Trump has anything to say about it (and he does).

Jefferson, discussing The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 — where “everybody conceded that it was better to settle international disputes by reason rather than by force” — points out that as soon as the legal machinery was created, by means of which the sword could be dispensed with, there was a fresh fury to perfect at once all the instruments of destruction. After each new peace conference there was a fresh cry for more guns.

But he sees hope on the horizon:

The old policy is wrong. The old leaders are discredited. The old programme is obsolete. Those who wish for peace must prepare for it. Our supreme business is not the scaring of rivals, but the making of friends.

Will America become a leader? . . . Will she, by setting a daring example, arrest the growth of armaments throughout the world?

Is Jefferson’s irony-saturated question dead and buried, beyond any possibility of exhumation? It certainly seems that way. Militarism — American militarism in particular — keeps claiming the future and seems intent on doing so until there’s no future left to claim. One of the provisions of the newly passed NDAA, for instance, allows the deployment, on U.S. Trident submarines, of the W76-2 tactical nuclear warhead, a low-yield nuclear warhead that puts it in the realm of being a “usable” nuke: possibly the most insane concept in the history of warfare.

Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, writes with alarm:

This bill accelerates the growing nuclear arms race with Russia. It fully funds almost every element of the Trump administration’s trillion-dollar plan to replace the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal with new, more deadly weapons that we do not need, and cannot afford. Most immediately, the bill will allow the Trump administration to quickly deploy the new W76-2 nuclear warhead — a lower yield weapon specifically intended to be more useable in a nuclear conflict. Weapons such as this one make nuclear war more likely and do nothing to enhance our security.

“. . . there was a fresh fury to perfect at once all the instruments of destruction.”

Oh, Mother Earth! As soon as we move incrementally toward peace, our soul snaps and all we can envision is war. Nuclear weapons once sat smugly as agents of deterrence. But the W76-2, which is slightly smaller than the bombs actually dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is a weapon to be used — to murder and contaminate, not simply to intimidate. It is not surprising that such a weapon would find its way into the global arsenal.

Tick, tick, tick . . .

  • SupernaturalCat

    Generals gathered in their masses
    Just like witches at black masses
    Evil minds that plot destruction
    Sorcerers of death’s construction
    In the fields the bodies burning
    As the war machine keeps turning
    Death and hatred to mankind
    Poisoning their brainwashed minds
    Oh Lord, yeah!

    Politicians hide themselves away
    They only started the war
    Why should they go out to fight?
    They leave that role to the poor
    Time will tell on their power minds
    Making war just for fun
    Treating people just like pawns in chess
    Wait ’til their Judgement Day comes

    Now in darkness, world stops turning
    Ashes where the bodies burning
    No more war pigs have the power
    Hand of God has struck the hour
    Day of Judgement, God is calling
    On their knees, the war pigs crawling
    Begging mercy for their sins
    Satan laughing spreads his wings
    oh Lord, yeah!

    – Black Sabbath, War Pigs (1970)

  • ThisOldMan

    I’ve already let my supposedly “liberal” MOC know I won’t be voting for him in the primary because of his vote on this NDAA. If enough people do that at least we’ll have some new faces voting for genocide while permitting ecocide.

  • RBluhm

    Look, I’m within weeks of my 76th birthday, and I’ve lived through what Chomsky calls the “quadrennial electoral extravaganza” many times. There are volumes written on how this system and its convoluted rules circumvents reason, empathy, compassion and governance of, by and for the people. Don’t take my word for it. Read!

    I wish voting mattered for the common good, but it doesn’t. Even if we elect a few real people, incrementalism is a death sentence. We have not been paying attention, and WE”VE WAITED TOO LONG!

    The greatest threat that we face, that we have ever faced, environmental degradation, has been disgracefully ignored in favor of corporate advantage, ie: profit. Therefore, posterity has as much chance of surviving as we have making the changes necessary to promote international cooperation on matters of environmental justice and a sustainable future. COP 25 WAS A FAILURE! A compromised and toxic White House, Congress and Supreme Court will NEVER do the right thing. Is it easier to imagine extinction than it is to imagine the end of crony capitalism?


    When people say that war is fr our security, and others deny that, they’re both simply playing the same game. War is for the ruling class to get filthy rich while they kill innocent people indiscriminately. Tell the truth. It has NOTHING to do with our security, and EVERYTHING to do with empire for the ruling class to prosper at our expense. They take our money and they take our lives and don’t bat an eyelash.

  • chetdude

    This bears repeating and repeating and repeating…

    ‘I wish voting mattered for the common good, but it doesn’t. Even if we
    elect a few real people, incrementalism is a death sentence.’

    BUT – if a massive, militant, organized People’s Movement and Lobby can directly force our alleged “representatives” to represent human beings and our only Home Planet instead of their major campaign bribers it might not matter which creatures happen to occupy political offices…

  • Greg

    Why illustrate the article with a picture of the South African military?

  • D Turgeon

    Why not?