I cannot think of a time in US history when Congress was more divided. Most recently, the debates have been centered around spending. In the midst of the divisive debates regarding the debt ceiling, something momentous happened that very few took notice of: Republicans and Democrats not only agreed not to cut defense spending, they actually agreed to raise the defense budget.
That sound you heard from Capitol Hill last week was a deafening silence as nary a word was raised in disagreement.
The fact that we live in such divisive times and both sides so mindlessly agree on spending billions of dollars to attain safety and security shows me how hegemonic militarization has become in our society. We have so completely given ourselves to the idea that billions of dollars of militarization and force can bring us safety and security that we do not even question such expenditures.
The question I hope you will honestly ask yourself is this: with all of the spending on militarization and policing, do I honestly feel safer?
In 1960, the US spent $47 billion on defense. In 2022, we spent $877 billion. $877 billion is more than what China, Russia, Ukraine, India, United Kingdom, Germany, France, South Korea, and Japan spend COMBINED. They spent $849 billion. The United States accounted for 40% of worldwide defense expenditures. We are 5% of the world’s population. What’s more, we incarcerate 25% of the world’s prison population. And we currently spend 10 times more on defense than on education.
But has all of this made us feel any safer?
According to the Business Insider, the $877 billion was made up of
- $295 billion to military operations and maintenance (O & M),
- $264 billion to procurement and research and development (R & D), and
- $167 billion to military personnel.
Of the funds for O & M and R & D, I read in one place where close to half of this went to private companies or contractors. Whatever that actual number was, there is no telling how much money was spent to secure those funds for defense contractors in lobbying and campaign contributions. And I will spend some future posts highlighting the amount of fraud and corruption such obscene budget numbers generate, but I wanted to simply point to this now because once again we must ask: with all of the spending on militarization and policing, do I honestly feel safer?
While I am saddened we spend so much money on defense, I am frankly outraged that we do so without debate. I mean, for me to even ask this must mean that I am not patriotic, or that I am a socialist, or that I am an empty-headed, pie-in-the-sky liberal who does not know what the real world is like. I get it. You probably have thought that as you have read this.
I am fine with the accusations. There is probably some truth in all of them. But I am troubled that we have, without thinking, much less debate, simply accepted that safety and security is attained by pouring billions of dollars into the business of militarization. I believe it is sinful.
We spend hundreds of billions of dollars on militarizing other countries, militarizing the border, militarizing our ports of entry, militarizing the police, even militarizing our schools. Yet, the same people demanding we spend even more on the business of militarization are the same people saying LOUDLY that we aren’t safe! When those politicians (of both parties) make the not-so-subtle racist accusations of societal decay through urban crime or border “invasions,” followers of Jesus must be the ones to stand up and shout to the heavens, “THE BILLIONS BEING POURED INTO MILITARIZATION ARE NOT WORKING!!!”
All I want to suggest in this post – at least for now – is that perhaps spending hundreds of billions of dollars each year on the business of militarization is never going to bring us the safety and security we need. Security is the deepest need we have as individuals or collectively as a society. None of our other needs can be met until we feel safe and secure. And though we continue to spend obscene amounts of money on achieving peace through force and militarization we never stop to ask why. We never stop and ask if this approach is working.
I believe it isn’t.
Militarization is as prevalent as racism and just as sinful.
We are not free, my friends.
There is another way.