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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced recently that the military downsize we’ve needed for so long will now be proposed in the next round of budgeting.
Hagel said it is his intention to reduce the size of the U.S. Army to numbers not seen since before the second world war.
The Army National Guard and the Marines, too, would see reductions in their forces. Hagel also plans to renew the closings of U.S. military bases, following up on the base closing commission work of the recent past.
Some of this is the result of the sequestration, cuts in government spending, even in the military, resulting from a deal between the Congress and the White House.
But for Hagel – who is certainly backed by the president and the secretary of state – it is finally time to reject the idea that massive growth in military spending is somehow beyond questioning, and must continue without anyone’s objection.
Hagel, a Republican, said his proposals are based upon a “foundation of realism,” and he quoted former secretary of defense (when it was called secretary of war) Henry Stimson: “We must act in the world as it is, and not in the world as we wish it were.”
Well, I hope no one wishes for a world where spending for war grows enormously each year with little criticism, while spending on social programs is derided and demanded to be cut, supposedly out of “fiscal responsibility.”
But that’s been the situation in national politics for a long time now, and it very much needs to change.
About the same time as Hagel was making his announcement, the administration was taking its final insult from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is surely the most ungrateful leader this country has ever tried to “help.”
Far too many of our troops have died in that miserable country, trying in vain to make a modern, democratic nation out of a place that is stuck in primitive time of ages ago.
Our debacle in Afghanistan is a perfect example of why military spending and military/security strategies need to be changed. As a candidate for president in 2000, George W. Bush said he didn’t believe in “nation building.”
Sadly, he abandoned that belief as president, launching what became a decade-long war not just aimed at “fighting terrorism,” but invading a country and overthrowing its government. After all our expenditures of blood and treasure, we have managed neither to expel the Taliban from the country, nor to create anything like a modern nation.
Even as he has been ending the war, President Obama had wanted Karzai to sign an agreement allowing for a minimum force of U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan after this year. But Karzai won’t sign, and the order has been given to remove all U.S. troops by the end of 2014.
It’s way past time for that, as it is for military spending to be subjected to the same scrutiny as any other aspect of government when politicians, conservatives in particular, demand “cutting government spending.”
We’ve found that combating terrorism has mainly to do with intelligence and police work, not military invasions. The cost of empire is simply too high in a modern world where most countries don’t look to a savior to rescue them.
We’ve spent far too many of our financial resources on militarism and preparation for war, when our infrastructure goes begging and too many of our people can’t meet the costs of college, energy, and health care.
Let’s reject all the nonsense about “another American century” abroad, and concentrate on meeting the needs of our own people.
It’s time to take a sharp ax to military spending, and to relieve ourselves of the burdens of empire.
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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at RickDem117@gmail.com.