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Monday, 16 July 2007

The cost of military spending

A recent email from the Mennonite Central Committee Washington Office noted that:

"This year, President George W. Bush asked Congress for nearly $649 billion to fund the U.S. military in 2008. The president's request includes a base budget of $507 billion plus $141.8 billion for the ongoing cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Senate Armed Services Committee fiddled with some of the president's specific requests, but, in the end, sent a $647.5 billion Defense Authorization Bill to the full Senate, which began debate this week.

Arms manufacturers are the big winners in the 2008 military budget, which includes $138 billion to procure new weapons and military hardware.

U.S. military spending:

* Has more than doubled since Sept. 11, 2001.
* Is equal to the rest of the world's military spending combined.

China, at $112 billion, is the world's next highest military spender.

What is the problem with the dramatic increase in U.S. military spending?

First, it is a form of idolatry, which places our ultimate trust in weapons rather than in God. Second, it limits our national imagination to find nonviolent ways to build security.

Third, it robs resources from programs that would benefit the most vulnerable people.

Finally, it increases the sense of threat and insecurity that other countries feel, leading them to increase their military spending as well.

Ironically, the rapid U.S. military buildup is making the United States and the rest of the world less secure, not more. Recent polling by the Pew Research Center found a widespread belief that the United States acts unilaterally in the world. According to the Pew report, "Majorities in 30 of the 46 nations say that when making foreign policy decisions the U.S. does not take into account the interests of countries like theirs."

...
Militarism cannot create the long-term conditions for peace. Instead, global security would be better enhanced by U.S. policies that:

* Emphasize diplomacy, model mutuality and uphold human rights. The United States should build consensus in international forums, lead the way toward nuclear disarmament and consistently respect international law and human rights.
* Build equitable economies. Policymakers should cancel the debts of poor countries, create just and equitable trade relationships and provide aid to eradicate the worst levels of poverty.
* Develop renewable energy. U.S. dependence on foreign oil has led to inconsistent and harmful policies, especially in the Middle East. Lawmakers should support renewable energy policies and practices."

The Sheer magnitude of the spending on military equipment leaves the mind stunned and the moral imagination overwhelmed. We cannot imagine a world that might be otherwise so we give up on the task of developing and practising alternative ways of responding to conflict.

Just war thinking might claim the mantle of realism but its real problemis that it feeds into the stunting of the moral and political imagination by focussing the debate at the outset on whether violence is jstifiable in this case rather than supporting the development of conflict reducing alternative policies.

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