Last spring Donald Trump was widely viewed as a petulant oddity in the primary race. Nonetheless, he won the electoral vote; and here we are – an unprepared commander-in-chief who recently discovered new tools of an intoxicating military. I cannot be alone in thinking that Mr. Trump is tragically off course.
Mr. Trump inherited a nation that is perpetually at a wartime posture and expeditionary comportment, spending as much on our military as the next eight nations combined. Much of this spending by the U.S. is tantamount to a subsidy to affluent nations.
What makes our uniformed services expeditionary is largely based on the carrier battle groups; we have 11. No other country has more than one. Aircraft carriers are not designed to protect homelands – that duty falls to ground-based fighter aircraft and ground forces. Our expeditionary forces indeed come in handy in invading other nations, such as Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen.
We have 145,200 U.S. forces permanently deployed to wealthy nations. For the most part, these forces are garrisoned on large bases that include family housing, commissaries, gymnasiums, schools, hospitals, power plants, etc. The DoD operates 45 K-12 schools in the Pacific and 79 in Europe. These bases also employ large numbers of host nation civilians in non-military positions.
We have nearly 80,000 forces in South Korea and Japan. One wonders if Russia or China had such forces on our border, in Canada or Mexico, how we would respond. It’s understandable that North Korea and Iran are building its nuclear forces – they cannot match our conventional forces.
When the Soviet Union put missiles in Cuba (1962), President Kennedy declared that, “It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.” And now, it’s the U.S. that is provoking war.
The scope of the DoD is grand: 1.3 million troops on active duty, and 742,000 civilian personnel; another 826,000 serve in the National Guard and Reserve, the nation’s largest employer by a long shot. The $600 billion in annual DoD spending is 54% of the total discretionary budget. The next biggest slice of the pie is education, at 6%. Medicare is 5%; transportation is 2%.
Finally, Mr. Trump needs to explain how the $1.9m cruise missile and the 22,000 pound Mother of all Bombs – with a one mile blast radius – are more humane than Syrian President Assad’s chemical weapons and barrel bombs.
Let’s celebrate our Veterans at Memorial Day by calling our troops home, rather than more chest-thumping at Mar-a-Lago. The peace dividend will bolster our economy, create jobs, and de-escalate military tensions across the globe.
Dave Lannen is a member of Veterans For Peace; he served in Iraq & Afghanistan.Traverse City, Michigan