What do Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman have in common? They are the largest defense contractors in 2014 with almost $50 billion in Defense Department awards. They are also the largest recipients among all government contractors for all purposes. Military spending in the United States constitutes our single largest discretionary spending category. It is a safe assumption, therefore, that the maintenance of our military at current levels or greater is the top priority of our government.
Why? There are no armies capable of invading the United States anymore. “Red Dawn” may be a classic cult film, but in our modern world, such a scenario is impossible. And yet, we continue to spend billions on new planes, tanks, ships, bombs and supporting infrastructure for “defense.” In reality, we spend this money to allow our nation to engage in and promote more war. When the world looks at the United States, they do not see people — they see a war machine interested only in oiling its own mechanisms.
Imagine yourself in a future century, reading the history of the United States. Will we be seen as liberators, empowering other nations to determine their own destinies? Or will we be seen as simply one more iteration of Babylon, Rome, the Holy Roman Empire and England? Will we be seen as neighbors, or conquerors? Will we be seen as a force for good, or the servant of greed, power and self-righteous entitlement?
A colleague of mine recently posed the question, “Why has there been almost no reaction from traditional elements of the peace/anti-war movement to recent events surrounding Syria?” I responded. I believe the lack of response is from despair.
With few exceptions, there are no statesmen or stateswomen left in Washington. Many people put their faith in Barack Obama to stem the influence of the military-industrial complex, but he has proven little different than his predecessor when it comes to foreign policy. There is no viable solution in the Middle East because the U.S. contributed so much to creating this mess for the past 60 years that we cannot possibly be part of the solution.
Every bomb or drone we drop kills more innocent people and creates even more enemies. We can’t even feed our own people, provide them medical care or maintain our crumbling infrastructure. And the prospects for the 2016 election provide no hope whatsoever. The only sliver of hope I have at all is if Bernie Sanders runs — but he has virtually no chance of winning and would likely be saddled with the same kind of Congress we have now — a bunch of stooges of defense contractors and special interest groups.
We got our hopes up with the Occupy movement, but it couldn’t sustain itself. Now our police are rapidly becoming an occupation force in our own cities. Unless five million people show up in Washington and demand fundamental changes to campaign financing, corporate personhood and our warmongering, then our future is bleak. We need the passion, the activism and the leaders like we had in the 1960s to pave the way.
Does the passion still exist? Yes. Are activists ready to move? Yes. Are there leaders out there ready to take charge? I believe so. The upcoming elections will tell us much. If the American people don’t vote for change, then we are eventually doomed to stagnation and decline, or revolution and collapse.