Waging War Against War and Climate Change
On Veterans Day, President Joe Biden saluted the nation’s military veterans for being “the spine of America.” As a Vietnam veteran, I respectfully disagree. The real spine of America is our democratic way of life. Our Armed Forces are only a tool toward that end, much like the pistol, a family keeps locked away until needed.
That used to be the case with our military, as John Buttrick pointed out in last Sunday’s Monitor. Veterans were seen as citizen soldiers, just doing their duty, and then standing down; that is until in the aftermath of World War II, when politicians and the Pentagon began morphing every one of us into a warrior, whether we fired bazookas or peeled potatoes.
Now, the transition is complete; our part-time soldiers have become an ever-present warrior class, permanently manning nearly 800 military bases in more than 70 countries. The cost of maintaining this gigantic force approached one trillion dollars in 2020, 39 percent of total worldwide military spending.
Such a drain on our national resources erodes the welfare of us all, particularly the most vulnerable, as General Dwight Eisenhower made crystal clear: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
On top of that, our bloated military has become one of the biggest culprits in accelerating climate change. In fact, the Pentagon is the single largest industrial polluter globally, causing more greenhouse gas pollution than 140 other nations combined. As a result, the Pentagon’s gigantic budget has sucked all the cash from our national coffers desperately needed to combat climate change.
We are facing extreme danger already: The havoc already caused by climate change is the equivalent of being in a war. The latest Quincy Institute report has revealed that climate change has already wreaked more significant destruction, economic disruption, loss of life and property on Americans than anything threatened by China and Russia could do short of a major
Yet, while Biden mouths the words that climate change is an existential threat, the White House’s first priority, according to the Council on Foreign Relations’s Richard Haass, continues to be “gearing up for the emerging great-power face-off with China and Russia.”
A more urgent and fundamental problem causing growing conflict worldwide is the rising flood of refugees, fleeing the devastation wrought by extreme weather — climate refugees that are predicted to reach 200 million by 2050.
One reform suggested in the Quincy report is a “massive reorientation of federal spending toward research and development on alternative energy.” As it stands now, we spend $73 billion on military research, 20 times the government’s spending on energy research.
Even then, that would only be a drop in the bucket. What is needed now is to think big — really big. For instance: Why not unilaterally inform Russia and China that we are cutting our military budget by 10% this year and request that they do the same. And redirect the savings into helping not only each nation’s citizens — but people all around the world — from the mounting scourge of climate change.
It’s a gamble with little downside. The enemy we now face is relentless and will give no quarter to any nation. If this were an alien invasion from space, mightn’t we shallow our petty disagreements and come together to save the earth. And that’s exactly what’s at stake here!
But make no mistake, it will depend on the will of we, the people. That’s because most of the entrenched interests in our country profit from war. Obviously, the military has a vested interest, but so do the thousands of corporations and businesses that make money producing weapons of war — and whose deep pockets reward politicians who support ever-increasing military budgets.
Both republicans and democrats have been bought off. While blind allegiance to the military may have become the spine of most politicians, as citizens, we must insist that we put democracy first for the sake of freedom and our planet.
Nations worldwide have no choice but to come together as one to wage war against this existential threat. If we fail, there will be no victor — just a destroyed, burnt husk of a planet.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, speech, Apr. 16, 1953
Originally published at http://jeanstimmell.blogspot.com.