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Should be viewed by anyone who wants America to be a moral nation
on March 14, 2006
With great pain in my heart, for some time now I have been forced to admit that the United States government is no longer a power for good in the world. This film confirms that and explains why: the increasing hegemony of the military-industrial-congressional complex. The film brilliantly details the problems facing democracy today caused by this behemoth. I wish it had been equally as brilliant in suggesting a way out and a solution, but the first step in treating a disease is to accurately diagnose it.
Shortly after 9/11 I became aware once more of the increasing influence of the military industry and militarism in American life when Bush proclaimed that we were at war with the forces of terrorism. I found this alarming in part because it was obvious that the act perpetuated by bin Laden's men was not an instance of state-sponsored terrorism, and therefore there was no army or even nation with which we could engage. It was very similar to the terrorist killings of the Israeli Olympic Team at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. The Israelis properly understood that the correct reaction was what was in fact a long, painstaking police investigation. They knew there was no "war" and no army to attack. I was deeply upset by Bush's declaration of war partly because I feared (correctly, it turned out) that he would engage on a series of military adventures that were largely irrelevant to 9/11 and partly because it meant that the U.S. would not be focused on actually dealing with the terrorists (something else I was unfortunately correct about).
What we have seen since 9/11 is the intense and ongoing engagement of America's military in further attempts to dictate world policy through militarism and war. Although this has never previously been an effective tool of government as seen in hosts of previous world empires, and in fact has always signaled the beginning of the end of the predominance of a nation in world affairs (Paul Kennedy's marvelous THE RISE AND FALL OF THE GREAT POWERS examined this in 1987 and predicted then that America's expanding militarism would begin America's international decline), the Bush administrations Neocon foreign policy is yet another instance of people being unwilling to profit from the lessons of history.
This film tells several stories. On one level it tells the story of the growing and expanding military industry that first developed in the wake of WW II and continued throughout the Cold War. On another it tells of the increasing complicity of government and congress in allowing this industry to control and shape national policies. Although America kept no large standing army until the advent of WW II, we now always maintain as a matter of course an inconceivably vast military. As they point out in the film, over half of the money spent by Congress is on the military (some doubting this will look up the budget approved by the Congress each year and see that military spending takes up usually between 28% and 35% of the annual budget, but this ignores discretionary spending, almost all of which goes to the military, and which is the reason why we spend more on the military than all other programs combined). Whatever else one wants to say about the Founders, they clearly never envisioned a situation where most of the nation's resources was going to maintaining a vast army, navy, and air force.
The documentary also deals with the necessity of an aggressive military posture due to this vast military industry. It would be difficult to justify keeping a vast military apart from any actual military conflicts, which explains why we deploy our military in so many petty military operations, and in the case of Iraq, a large one, though against a weak foe. This of course leads to vast profits for the military industry, and as Chalmers Johnson brilliantly remarks in the film, "When war becomes that profitable, you're going to see a lot more of it." Right now it appears that the Bush people have wrongly estimated how much militarism the general population will tolerate, but this is apt to cause merely a temporary lull, not a permanent retreat from attempting military solutions to political situations.
The most upsetting part of the film deals with the complicity of Congress in tolerating this situation. While our elected representatives ought to be leading the movement to reduce the size and influence of the military in our lives, they are in fact protecting it. The film deals with weapons systems that intentionally have parts built in every state, so that representatives from every state will support them in order to protect the jobs the contracts bring. What distresses me is what we lose by devoting so much money to the military. Any sane individual knows that military--as opposed to terrorist, which are not the same things--threats to the US are currently close to nonexistent. Yet we build this massive military that only causes harm to the rest of the world and ill will and hatred to the US. In the many clips of Eisenhower, he at one point mentions that single bombers equal in cost two schools or a hospital or any of a number of other social services. I look in awe at the remarkable system of social services that has been created in the European Union nations, a system that results in a standard of living that surpasses what one finds in the United States. Although the United States has a far larger economy, why are we not able to have quality education for all Americans? Why no universal healthcare? Why do we not have jobs programs to guarantee employment to all Americans? Why are American workers restricted to only two or three weeks of vacation a year, while many Europeans get six to eight? It is because we devote such a vast amount of our economy to the military. Europeans, on the other hand, devote a comparatively small amount.
I consider this a must-see documentary for every American. And I hope that we can do something to resist the beast. To be honest, I don't think there is much that we can do and my fear is that what we will see is no reductions in the size of the military until the inevitable economic collapse of the United States. That was what happened to all the other empires in history after their constantly expanding military led to their end. I see no reason why it will end differently for the United States. I think the shift in power in the 21st century will go towards the E.U. and China. The only hope for the U.S is a halt to the vast military expansion. The film ends with a woman who had retired as a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force after becoming disenchanted with the campaign of misinformation that preceded the invasion of Iraq. She expresses the hope that people will just start refusing to go into the military. I personally believe that Americans currently have a patriotic duty not to join the military. Excepting internal collapse due to the increased pressures of an expanding military and the worldwide hatred of our nation that our military escapades creates, I see no other hope except for us to simply refuse to go down this path any further.