With democracies maintaining powerful militaries, wars only got larger and deadlier, with more bodies thrown into the meat grinder. But this sort of political reasoning persists. Another vestige of the Kantian ideal is the image of the noble citizen soldier. The distinction became functionally irrelevant during World War II, thanks to the top-secret Manhattan Project that created the atomic bomb. As Garry Wills writes in his book Bomb Power:.
For the first time in our history, the president was given sole and unconstrained authority over all possible uses of the Bomb. Every executive encroachment or abuse was liable to justification from this one supreme power. Indeed, the creation of the bomb itself, Wills explains, necessitated a parallel, secret government that could draw on vast public and private resources well out of the watchful public eye.
When the war eventually ended, this parallel infrastructure of national defense cannibalized our democratically controlled military, replacing it with the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned about in his farewell address.
Multiculturalism, or, the Cultural Logic of Multinational Capitalism
Used by permission. The moral drawbacks of maintaining a public-private hybrid defense system that is untethered from public control bear a direct relation to the material drawbacks. Mandy Smithberger from the Project on Government Oversight explained this to me:. Decisions about where we go to war, what services and weapons we buy, and where we otherwise deploy forces should be based on our national security interests, and ideally the most cost-effective way to advance those goals.
In , US military spending accounted for nearly six hundred billion dollars, or 54 percent of all federal discretionary spending. Defenders of big military budgets argue that this contributes to the economic well-being of the country, pointing to its contribution to the gross domestic product GDP. But a study of one hundred and seventy countries over forty-five years, published in the journal Defense and Peace Economics , undermines this claim.
GDP is a notoriously poor tool for assessing the public interest: after all, it counts natural disasters as economic positives while ignoring vital aspects of human flourishing, such as leisure time and equitable distribution of resources.
How Patriarchy and Capitalism Combine to Aggravate the Oppression of Women
Funneling vast public resources into a military-industrial complex largely sheltered from democratic oversight might cause GDP to rise, but so might an earthquake or a hurricane. This is the wrong way to measure the common good. Nevertheless, big budgets and endless war have been the predominant experience of the American military since World War II. And as public involvement in war making and intelligence gathering has receded, the trend of privatizing our defenses continues unabated, despite much-publicized scandals.
In , according to McFate, the ratio of contractors to US troops in war zones was one to one; it is now roughly three to one. These industries tend to have the worst human rights records, and persistent corruption. In a region with no effective national governance, such an enterprise must somehow combine business, private government, and private military: a sort of corporate state, in fact, which Prince claims would benefit those under its hand.
There is an effort afoot to create a firmer border between private firms and our public defense organizations. Yet the difficulty in establishing where this line lies indicates that there is something even bigger and more insidious at play. When the Pentagon is unteth-ered from common notions of when combat is absolutely required and when it is not, its animating logic too often comes to mirror the logic of capitalism itself. The US military is de facto an instrument of interventionist foreign policy.
Its job is to enforce policy, usually very dumb policy, around the world, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa and to a lesser extent in sub-Saharan Africa. Why are we buying the useless, obscenely expensive F, when much cheaper planes like the A and F do its jobs much better?
To put it plainly, we have a military whose primary motive is to metastasize, not serve the people. It is here that its resemblance to capitalism is most plain: both are unyoked from any guiding moral principles and constantly seek to move beyond physical or ideological limits. A striking illustration of this is the new technologies the US military is spearheading. Capitalism and the military want , for lack of a better term, the same things.
Both want intrusive intelligence and data gathering for purposes of control.
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Both wish to replace thinking with mechanical calculation, meaning and purpose with accumulation. I was just awash in strong emotion. I felt disdain at what I perceived was, for lack of a better word, such a dishonorable profession. That maybe they were just a more honest version of what I was, and that the oath I took and the creeds I followed only camouflaged the true nature of our endeavor.
Maybe I hated them for making it so obvious. Rowling David Walliams. Fiction Non Fiction. Home Gardening International Subscriptions.
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