Permanent War State

The American republic died at Appomattox in 1865, replaced by a national government that has gradually evolved into an empire in a permanent state of war.

Most of us don’t pay much attention to such stuff as history and perspective. Certainly the news media don’t. Nevertheless, there are consequences of living in a war state, both to our own individual freedom and to our pocketbooks.

This past week, President Bush made a big deal about signing a military authorization bill with a $30 billion increase. Here we are, 12 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and without a credible enemy in sight we are still spending nearly $400 billion annually on defense. It is not really the cost of defense, but rather the cost of an empire.

The United States is the largest arms dealer in the world. Since 1992, the United States has exported more than $142 billion worth of weaponry to states around the world. Keep this in mind when you hear Washington politicians decry the proliferation of weapons such as air-to-ground missiles. We’ve exported more than two-and-a-half times as many weapons as the No. 2 and No. 3 states — the United Kingdom and Russia, respectively.

In 2001, total world arms transfer agreements were worth nearly $26.4 billion, and the United States accounted for 45.8 percent of them. The U.S. arms industry, by the way, is the second-most-heavily subsidized industry after agriculture. In 1999, the United States supplied arms or military technology to 92 percent of all the conflicts around the globe. This military largesse often goes to nondemocratic countries with abominable human-rights records.

But in addition to being the world’s chief arms peddler, we also train the military personnel in more than 70 countries and have our own troops stationed in nearly 100 foreign countries. It has not been unusual for Americans to end up fighting people with American equipment and American training. The missiles on the wings of the Chinese fighter plane that collided with our intelligence aircraft were Israeli copies of American missiles. People trained and armed by the CIA during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan founded much of al-Qaida.

It’s unnecessary to the real defense of the United States and its people. There is no country on Earth in a position to invade us with conventional forces. Only two countries, Russia and China, have the capability of attacking us with intercontinental ballistic missiles. Terrorists, while they are now receiving the bulk of the government’s propaganda attention, cannot threaten our national security in any way, though they can, of course, kill some of us. But remember that in 2001, terrorists killed 3,000 of us, while 90,000 of us died in accidents. Even our own homegrown criminals killed 13,000 people, or four times as many as the terrorists. Police departments didn’t get a $30 billion budget increase.

Scaring the home folks with “enemies at the gates” is the oldest ploy in human history for justifying an all-powerful government. Give us your money and your liberty, and we will protect you from the barbarians. Of course, the supply of barbarians proves to be infinite, for as soon as one enemy is defeated or collapses, another is manufactured.

Unless we find a way to reverse course and return to our republican ways, our imperial government will collapse under the weight of its own profligate spending and corruption. A government that lies, keeps secrets, spies on its own people and tries to control every aspect of their lives is a far cry from the American republic that existed from 1787 to 1865.