Sen. Lindsay Graham unwittingly makes the anti-war crowd’s point:
Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., translated Cheney’s argument that defense spending is “not a spigot you can turn on and turn off, that you need to keep money flowing in a predictable way so you can plan for the next war.”
Ah, yes! We must “plan for the next war”! This is what we call the Permanent War Economy. Because if we didn’t “plan for the next war,” then what? What other options might be at our disposal the next time some uneducated people from a rudimentary Third World country terrorize the nation armed only with boxcutters? Amazing to think of the possibilities.
Indeed, this was the entire point of Rachel Maddow’s excellent book, Drift. If we’re constantly planning for the next war then war becomes inevitable. This was not what the founders of our nation intended — far from it.
In Drift, Maddow writes of Thomas Jefferson’s opposition to standing armies thusly:
“Were armies to be raised whenever a speck of war is visible in our horizon,” he warned Congress in his sixth annual presidential message, “we never should have been without them. Our resources would have been exhausted on dangers which never happened, instead of being reserved for what is really to take place.”
Of course, America’s history is not one of being on a permanent war footing, as Maddow notes. Far from it. We didn’t plan for World War II — World War I was supposed to be “the war to end all wars,” remember? Consumers sacrificed, industries were nationalized, men signed up for the armed services, Rosie The Riveter went to the factory, Mom canned produce from the victory garden, families bought war bonds, and Hollywood went to work churning out the propaganda. In less than four years it was all over. Amazing, isn’t it? Our soldiers returned victorious and we rewarded them with an incredibly generous thank-you: the GI Bill offered low-interest mortgages, business loans, tuition and living expenses for those wishing to go to college or vocational school, unemployment compensation, and more.
Fast forward to 2008, and we have Republicans like Sen. John McCain and Pres. George W. Bush opposing a new GI Bill for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans because it “will hurt the military’s efforts to retain its troops.”
Yes of course. Because you don’t stand down in the Permanent War Economy. Wars never end. Occupations never end. We must feed the beast. We must give people an incentive to sign up for military service, and removing other viable options for employment and opportunity are a great way to go about that. In the Permanent War Economy, we must keep “planning for the next war.” The cycle never ends.
Or does it? Alternately, we can take Graham and Cheney at their word and realize what they’re really saying: war is a choice. We really don’t need to “plan for the next war.” Our military is already 10 bazillion times bigger than that of every other nation on earth combined. Can’t we just say we’re done and call it a day?
Instead of planning for the next war, why don’t we:
• Plan to be global leaders in alternative energy via that “Apollo project for green energy” we’re always hearing about;
• Plan to feed and educate every one of our citizens;
• Plan to cure cancer, which as we all know isn’t just one disease but thousands of diseases;
• Plan to create a network of bullet trains around the nation so you can go from, say, Los Angeles to Las Vegas or San Francisco in an hour and a half;
• Bring high-speed internet to every rural community in the country;
• Cut the population of stray dogs and cats in this country by 75%;
• Jet packs. Dammit, shouldn’t we have our jet packs by now?
Those are just a few thoughts off the top of my head. I just think there’s a bunch of better stuff we could be planning for besides the next war.