Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons?

The military is having a recruitment crisis for the obvious reason that young people today wish to retain their body parts.

Kos, who is a veteran, is missing the good old days when poor, minority kids like him had a way up and out by joining the army. Indeed, the U.S. military since the days of Harry Truman has ranged far ahead of the rest of our society in combatting racial and ethnic discrimination and operating as a true meritocracy, albeit using a definition of merit that I wouldn't particularly like to see applied elsewhere. It should give us pause that the most prominent minority soldiers and ex-soldiers in the U.S. include such people as Colin Powell (whose ethic of obedience trumped all other considerations of conscience), Ricardo Sanchez (who presided over Torture, Incorporated in Iraq) and Samurai Surgeon General Richard Carmona who considers most sickness to be a result of personal moral failure. (Of course, the military continues to discriminate against women and homosexuals.)

But I also had this to say in response to Kos.

It's also sad when the only opportunity available to many of our young people is the military.

I have to say, there is simply no good reason for the United States to maintain a military even 1/4 as large as we have now. U.S. military spending is nearly as much as that of the rest of the world put together -- and we have no meaningful national enemies at all. The military has very little, if anything, to do with protecting citizens against the kinds of attacks that non-state actors such as Islamic jihadists or Christian fundamentalist fanatics have undertaken. The military we have now is not intended to defend the country, it is intended to project power into the world on behalf of corporate interests.

Rather than being nostalgic for the good old days when a poor kid could join the army as a way up and out, let's have:

  • Universal access to higher education, not just for children of the affluent;
  • A full employment economy and a guaranteed living wage;
  • Safe workplaces;
  • Universal health care;
  • Affordable child care;
  • Investment in sustainable energy and environmental protection;
  • High quality, affordable mass transit;
  • National investment in culture and in basic science;
  • And all the other policies that will create real opportunity for everybody.

The money we are squandering today on the military is more than enough to do all of that, and if we repeal Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, we can assure the future of social security and Medicare as well.

Remember when this website, The Cost of War, was in the news? The worse the news from Iraq gets, the less we seem to talk about the dollar cost. Those dollars also represent human lives, and the quality of human lives, that we are sacrificing on the altar of Mars.

Demilitarize. Build the great society.

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