Intellectual Curiosities and Provocations

Philosophy Weekend: Military Spending and the Camouflage Curtain

By Levi Asher on Thursday, February 28, 2013 10:45 pm

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.


17 Responses to "Philosophy Weekend: Military Spending and the Camouflage Curtain"

by Wojciech on

"We don't need a War on Poverty. What we need is a war on the rich." - Eldridge Cleaver

In all seriousness, our government has probably been looking for another "enemy" since before Iraq and Afghanastan even started. War makes people rich, so I doubt its going to be a thing of the past so long as the "profits" are still in favor of a few hands. I am completely disgusted at the motivations for going to war. If politicians were expeced to be on the front lines, we might have a much different view on war.

by Mike Covey on

Clinton and Gore cut military spending drastically & closed a lot of bases. A great explication of your argument is Oliver Stone's Untold History series. Also, you might wanna check my book on oil-based war entitled Princessa which can be found at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

...you are certainly correct in your theory development, although a snappy named is needed. perhaps ego war theory. at the core of every operation, armed conflict, intervention, humanitarian mission, or whatever else we call these things in modern times, seeds of well intention and noble cause exist. but when the ego takes over, the sides drift apart and the guns, chemicals, economic sanctions, and air craft carriers come floating by. big guns with rockets and flares. my gun is bigger than your gun. or my navy is bigger than your navy. or my suits are shiner than yours. really worked for the brits, huh? ego, arrogance, or dumbness, i can't decide. perhaps arrogance war theory. or dumb war theory. but it has always been that way. and a slight % change in spending on a completly corrupt organization ain't changing this fact: your theory is correct.
sequestration is the best thing that has happened in washington for a long, long time. economically anyway. i would vote right now for a replica sequestration every quarter. the social programs you covet are also completely full of waste. so the department of education has to hold off replacing it's fleet of suburbans for another year. someone may have to crack down on the fraud littering the healthcare industry. private business fights fraud. private buisiness makes hard decisions. for profits. which is their ultimate mission. private busibness is teh true power of this country, not our military. however, if you you believe every doller spent on the department of education, healthcare, and other essential social programs, as you decsribe them, are essential, you are irreversibly naive. just as someone who thinks any cut in military spending will somehow reverse the effects of your correct dumb war theory. i will add, self defense does not fit this theory and really shouldn't be called war. the revolution, war of 1812, world war 2, and the current effort to eliminate the thugs who are hijacking islam were, and are, required for survival. that is not war, and one of w's dumbest decisions was to call it the war on terror. these folks need to be either eliminated or sent to a west texico tent prision, where all their teeth are pulled and they are hosed down once a month. these types of wars are noted for their wise lack of peace talks. surrender. if you ever hear of peace talks, the dumb war theory has been validated...

by mnaz on

yes, war is self-perpetuating. and in the u.s. especially, a (government-subsidized) major, multifaceted industry of its own, with well-documented expensive and wasteful programs funded year after year. it seems we despise "welfare," except when it is this sort of (nearly untouchable) corporate welfare.

it can be argued that extraordinary 20th century world events warranted the unprecedented military buildup, but we ended up with exactly what eisenhower (a republican) warned us about---- the m.- i. "complex," a sort of frankenstein's monster run amok, so to speak.

I was kind of glad to see sequestration go into effect. After hearing for so many years how important it is to reduce the deficit even if it means "tightening our belt," my feeling was just do it! And see what happens.

by mnaz on

really? no more comments? where are the bloated military apologists?

Have to concur with Wojciech above, I am also disgusted at the motivations for going to war. Stick the politicians on the front line and then see what people think!

by Michael.Norris on

I agree on the military cuts - this may be the only way to get cuts in military spending given the inability of Congress to do anything. What I don't like is how this has come down to the only way things get done (or not) is through some crisis or impending deadline.

by Wojciech on

Hey mnaz, please forgive my ignorance, but what exactly is a "bloated military apologist"?

by Levi Asher on

Wojciech -- well, let's start with Mitt Romney Paul Ryan John McCain Marco Rubio George W. Bush Dick Cheney John Bolton Condoleeza Rice Lindsay Graham John Boehner Joe Lieberman Mitch McConnell Bill O'Reilly Sean Hannity Karl Rove Sarah Palin Glenn Beck Tucker Carlson Mark Levin Chris Plante must I go on?

I suppose we can throw a list of Democrats in there too, I hate to say it ...

by mnaz on

was i unclear? a "bloated military apologist," as i intended it here, would be someone who steadfastly defends the bloated military budget. and beyond the list of politically-connected people identified by levi, this would also include a good percentage of participants on just about any discussion board one might visit.

by Wojciech on

@ Levi, good lookin out.

@ mnaz, no you weren't unclear. I'm too dumb to know what that phrase means without explanation. Never heard those words together before.

by Susurra on

Well, while I certainly agree there's definitely an issue with a bloated military and industry, I guess I'd only say to mnaz what I've come to realize when I'd throw out hostile terms like "ignorant libtard" or "closet marxist" or something referring to "statist morons and their bloated government cradle-to-grave mentalities", it tends to cut off real dialogue and turns any kind of discussion into a righteously fired up playground fight. Being in the US military, I see a lot of waste. However, let's be realistic about sequestration. Spending, which DoD is only a small part, has gone UP and the window dressing that is sequestration is, in my opinion, merely a play by Obama to scare people into submission ("families will starve", WH tours cancelled, dogs and cats living together). Entitlement reform and debt reduction is going to be an absolute necessity as our GDP falls below our debt. If you want to talk about national security, forget the Islamist, Communists, insert boogieman here, our crippling debt alone is one of the greatest threats to having a healthy economy and future for generations. However, you have growing numbers of Americans that pay NO taxes and are looking to Uncle Nanny to take care of them, with politicians on both sides of the aisle gladly passing more legislation to do it, and the continued drumbeat to "tax the rich", which covers anyone (especially small businesses) that make $100k and up. Oh, and that upper echelon pays, what, about 70% of all tax revenue the bloated government takes in? There will never be spending reform as politicians and their constituents have become addicted to what they feel they've got coming to them and God help anyone who tries to take that away in the name of sanity. Move over Greece, here we come. As for war, I guess it's a much larger discussion about the nature of man and all that because conflict among men goes to the very beginning, doesn't it? Squabbling over resources and influence, we kill and conquer. Maybe it's the slogans, flag waving triteness and perceived hypocrisy of it all that's the issue? The US is far from perfect and we can be taken to task for many of our decisions made in the past and present, but threats are real and to deny that there aren't groups of people that don't care about honest dialogue and want to see us gone so they can impose even worse forms of rule would be a bit naive, in my opinion. And, to Levi's credit, not only are there plenty of democrats he could name, but also Hollywood stars, Media figures, Academics, and even web bloggers, eh?

by Levi Asher on

Thanks for comments, all.

Susurra, the one place I differ with you is that there's something wrong with the "continued drumbeat to tax the rich". Well, as we learned when Mitt Romney was forced to release some of his tax returns last year, rich folks like Mitt Romney are getting away with a steal in terms of taxation. He's paying 14% of his income in taxes ... I make much less money than Mitt Romney, and I'm paying 30% of my income. Meanwhile, the wealthiest Americans have been getting wealthier and wealthier every year for the past 30 years, as our federal deficit grows. So what's wrong with the wealthy paying their fair share of taxes, to help us balance our budget? Seems like a step in the right direction to me.

by Susurra on

Levi,
I concur that tax reform is needed, but done smartly and not with any vestiges of what could be perceived as class warfare or wealth redistribution. I'm all about a flat tax, for example. However, when you look at what "revenue" higher taxes would bring in compared to the staggering debt, I don't think that's the answer (of course, it would be nice to actually have a budget passed anytime soon). Added to realistic tax reform should probably be the elephant in the room of honest entitlement reform, for sure, because we can't spend our way out of debt and the illusion of a government "stimulus" is killing us. Political machinations aside, I think sequestration done right should require government departments (e.g. DoD, DoJ, DHS, EPA, etc. across the board) trimmed of the excess and efficiencies put in place (if this place were a corporation, we'd be on the street). Speaking from my baliwick, I'd say that with debate about OIF/OEF aside, there's no doubt the last 10 years have seen the DoD spending money like drunk sailors (not always unnecessarily, but a good part for sure). I see the austerity measures as a good thing, actually, because it wakes people up to prioritizing the "nice to haves" from the need. Now, if only the politicians on the hill could feel the "pain" and do the same. I know you disagree, but the Affordable Care TAX is a looming disaster for non-rich people/private business owners (and is actually pretty coercive, from what I've seen of it) and isn't the answer to health care reform, in my opinion, but I guess we had to pass the bill in order to see what was in it first?

On another note, is Action Poetry gone for good? I haven't visited your site in awhile and saw you updated, but I guess I need to hunt around the page more. Thanks for the discussion. While I often disagree, it's interesting to see other people's opinions on issues.

by Levi Asher on

I hear you, Susurra -- don't agree with you on most of these points (especially healthcare -- I think the real disaster for non-rich people is not having health insurance when they need it!) but I appreciate you explaining what you think, and I'm glad to have good folks from all sides of the political aisle here on Litkicks.

And, I'm glad you asked about Action Poetry -- no, it's not gone for good! I just need to get my act together on presenting it better. Still haven't really found a good way to include it visibly on the site since the redesign. Working on it.

by mnaz on

---"I guess I'd only say to mnaz what I've come to realize when I'd throw out hostile terms like "ignorant libtard" or "closet marxist" or something referring to "statist morons and their bloated government cradle-to-grave mentalities", it tends to cut off real dialogue ..."

well, of course. and militarism is dependent on this bloated government "cradle-to-grave mentality" as well.

---" If you want to talk about national security, forget the Islamist, Communists, insert boogieman here, our crippling debt alone is one of the greatest threats to having a healthy economy and future for generations ..."

not according to militarism !

a phenomenon which greatly contributes to the debt, along with our failure to legislate a reasonable tax (revenue) code.

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