Conversion from a military dependent society.
How to save $500 billion annually and human society in the process.
Iraq was a trap that America imperialists could not resist. That trap has sprung and the result will be US defeat. Regardless of all talk in Washington and elsewhere of what is to be done next in Iraq (e.g., Baker’s Iraq Study Group), the essential fact is that those doing that talking will have very little or no impact on the situation developing in Baghdad. There basically exist only two options for the Bush regime: 1. Stay and bleed and cause greater suffering among all others. 2. Leave, so as to mitigate further damage. The latter course, may cause an escalation of the civil war, but one is reminded of how for years it was claimed that our leaving Vietnam would trigger a blood bath. It did not. This is a different situation, but Sunnis and Shiites are more likely to eventually reach a modus operandi if the US military isn’t in their midst.
If Bush and his handlers had half a brain between them, they would order the Green Zone government to “insist” on our withdrawal. But they don’t. Since the Bush regime cannot yet swallow option 2, it will stay with option 1, the horrendous status quo, which gets ever worse as the contradictions continue to manifest at an accelerating pace. Besides the human damage, the greatest damage will be to US diplomatic power and to the political power of those who lied to justify and continue what has become “the greatest foreign policy debacle in American history”. This likely consequence is the silver lining.
What would be the economic consequences of abject defeat in Iraq for average US citizens? Outside of those who might own large holdings of stock in Hummer or other similar capitalist ventures associated with the military-industrial complex, the economic consequences would very likely all be very positive. Just the supplemental appropriations for Iraq alone are hundreds of billions annually that your tax dollars wouldn’t necessarily be wasted on. That would be thousands of dollars per American household that each taxpayer could hypothetically keep. Alternatively, those savings could be spent on pressing domestic needs, such as universal healthcare, which would be an economic boon to almost everyone except insurance company executives. But we need not stop there. If the US citizenry had the same attitude toward war and the proper use of one’s national military forces that Europeans have, we could save half a trillion dollars a year.
Nearly constant warfare was a staple of European history for millennia. From Athenians vs Spartans through the Hundred Years War to Waterloo and eventually to Hitler’s bunker, European internecine warfare was endemic and almost perpetual. But the technology of slaughter became so overwhelming that after WWII some incredibly prescient individuals in France including Charles de Gaulle decided that further punishment of the Germans would be counterproductive in the long run and that a new era of relations must be initiated, subordinating nationalism. They inaugurated multi-national boards to jointly conduct their mutual rebuilding and reindustrialization. The French-German rapprochement involved reaching out to old enemies and seeking means of to a cooperative and integrated future. The European Union, the world’s most successful experience of transcending nationalism, was the eventual fruit of this process. As a result, there has not been a war between European nations since 1945, despite the Cold War, a historically unprecedented achievement. Now, such a war is hard to imagine.
In the course of its development, a corollary foundational belief has become deeply entrenched throughout Europe; that war is not a legitimate means of conflict resolution between nations (nor a legitimate means to enrich your ruling class). An extension of this corollary is that it is not legitimate to station large numbers of your nation’s soldiers outside your national boundaries unless they are requested by international authority. These European attitudes towards militarism were learned through centuries of experiences so gruesomely bloody as to dwarf anything in American history, culminating in the over 40 million European casualties in WWII (over 100 dead Europeans for every American killed in that conflict) along with immense destruction of vital infrastructure and cultural treasures. The resultant anti-militarism now manifests in their near complete reliance on diplomacy and international authority to resolve international issues.
These anti-militarist attitudes on the part of Europeans stands in dramatic contrast with attitudes of Americans who believe it is quite normal to use force to achieve foreign policy objectives, who belittle international authority and who consider having one’s military personnel stationed all over the Earth as quite normal. The most central objective of any effort to reform the US must be a huge diminution of US military power, including the unilateral disarmament of 99% of the US nuclear arsenal (and the rest through negotiation) and the closing of all US military bases in other countries. This is not some radical socialist idea. Name any other country that has bases scattered all over the globe as does the US. There is no comparable example.
Demilitarization would also free up hundreds of billions of tax dollars annually for more useful purposes that actually benefit the great majority of the US population. We could have universal healthcare, massive infusions of money in public education, bolstering low income public housing stocks, and the development of environmentally friendly energy sources and public transportation systems, just to mention of few alternative expenditures that would become possible. The amount saved would be so vast that the US could end global hunger as a side line. No argument would remain against the US endorsement of the International Court and the rule of law in international affairs.
Adopting the attitude toward war held by the overwhelming majority of Europeans would not be such a radical idea. We would not be asking everyone to convert to being socialists. But such a conversion would provide the funds for many other desirable alternatives. It would also remove the US form the top of the list of pariah states and lead to the reestablishment of the US as a respected global citizen.