As I have watched this dispiriting presidential campaign unfold, one of the many things that is depressing is the devotion of the candidates to the use of military force.
The United States has been at war my entire life, either overtly or covertly. That period of time covers a number of major US wars including Vietnam, the first Persian Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The Congressional Research Service estimates those wars cost—through 2010, not 2016—just shy of $2 trillion for military operations alone. That excludes costs of veterans benefits, interest on war-related debt, or assistance to allies (Source: Costs of Major U.S. Wars, by Stephen Daggett, Specialist in Defense Policy and Budgets, June 29, 2010, Congressional Research Service).
In fiscal year 2016, our nation is spending more than $800 billion for military defense, veterans affairs, and assistance to allies. Tens of billions of additional dollars each year are spent by taxpayers to service the portion of the vast national debt that is due to military expenses.
We are a militarized nation. Our leaders, almost all of whom are Christian, are militarists and believe might makes right, that we are an exceptional country, and that we must intervene in the affairs of other nations when it suits our interests. We even spy on our allies.
Dr. King stated a year before his assassination, “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin—we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
We have not undergone that revolution of values, we are not on the right side of the world revolution, and the giant triplets have conquered us.
No presidential candidate offers a coherent way out of this path to doom and none offers a systematic critique of our plight. There was a day when militarism was a negative word. No longer. Most of the candidates pay obeisance to all things military.
We as a nation are utterly devoted to what theologian Walter Wink referred to as “the myth of redemptive violence.” Essentially, if you hit me then it’s OK for me to hit you back. This worldview is profoundly anti-Jesus.
The United States, which already spends more on the military than most of the world combined, intends over coming years to spend about $1 trillion to rebuild its nuclear arsenal, a new long-range bomber, and more nuclear-powered and armed submarines. We remain constantly in search of enemies.
This year alone, we will spend billions upon billions on a long list of weapons including but not limited to the Joint Strike, Raptor, Eagle, and Super Hornet fighter planes; Osprey, Chinook, Hercules, Apache, and Black Hawk helicopters; nuclear aircraft carriers, Aegis destroyers, littoral combat ships, submarines, and assault ships; medium-range, ballistic, standoff, hellfire, ICBM, and cruise missiles; Aegis, THAAD, Patriot, and PAC-3 missiles; space-based infrared, global positioning, evolved expendable launch, and advanced extremely high frequency systems; tanks, tactical, and amphibious combat vehicles; Predator, Grey Eagle, and Reaper drones. The list goes on and on. This is akin to taking our national wealth and burying it in the ground.
We worship Baal and have erected temples and pillars in his honor all over our land. Our gods are iron and metal and death. We have already been carried away into spiritual exile from our hopes, our dreams, our values, and from the God we profess to love, follow, and obey. We have done what was evil in the sight of the Lord. The blood of millions is on our head. The word of the Lord is not known.
Will we repent?