I've been trying to develop a theory on this blog -- a theory that I'm finding difficult to explain because the basic idea is so obvious that it barely merits the lofty term 'theory'. And yet it must be a theory, because its implications are important, and stand in surprising contrast to the way we tend to think about global conflicts.
I'm talking about the idea, previously described here in blog posts titled What Militarism Does To Our Brains and The Trauma Theory, that the primary cause of current and future war on our planet is current and past war. War is a self-perpetuating phenomenon, a feedback monster.
War is also, according to this theory, a thing that blinds us. It's a camouflage curtain that affects our perceptions and makes us see enemies that may not exist. The most common direct cause of war is the belief in an imminent enemy attack, the fear of being caught weak against an unknown greater force. The more we militarize our societies, then, the more we perceive threats in the motives of our neighbors. The history of the last ten years on Earth, or the last hundred years, or the last two hundred years, all stand as evidence that war is primarily its own cause, its own worst enabler.
This week, the embroiled government of the United States of America began a new federal spending program known as sequestration, which will cut spending on many domestic and military programs. I have mixed feelings about sequestration because I don't think it's a good idea to cut spending on education, health care or other social priorities. I don't believe we have a social spending problem in the United States of America -- I believe we have a wealth-hoarding problem (since, as is well known, the wealthy have been getting wealthier and wealthier, and paying less taxes, for the past thirty years) and I think we have an economy-crashing problem (since, as we learned in the crash of 2007/2008, the hoarding of wealth inevitably leads to corporate corruption and financial scandals).
So I'd rather cut corporate tax breaks and shelters for the super-wealthy than reduce essential social spending, and for this reason I'm not happy about the sequestration. However, I am thrilled about one fact -- a fact that appears almost miraculous in the context of the recent history of the United States of America. As a result of this compromise agreement, we are cutting military spending.
Not by a lot, but we're cutting it. I've been wondering if this day would ever come. Since a fanatical devotion to military strength has been one of the core pillars of recent political "wisdom" in the USA, these spending cuts are being bitterly resisted. The debate will continue, as many guerrophiliac politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties are currently working hard to reverse these military spending cuts.
I wonder if the dramatic and controversial nature of the sequestration debate was actually necessary in order to force through a cut in military spending in the USA. Perhaps it needs to happen this way -- perhaps there is no other way this curtain could begin to be pulled back. Our government just made a decision that few politicians are brave enough to support. As unpalatable as some of its spending cuts are, the sequestration may prove that our political group mind is smarter than we realize it is.
I pray that the trend of reduced military spending in the USA (and all over the world) will continue. I feel pretty confident that this will have a good outcome if it does.
This article is part of the Philosophy Weekend series. The next post in the series is More Dayenu, Less Plagues: Why Passover Must Evolve. The previous post in the series is Philosophy Weekend: Derrida and the Essence of Orange.