No peace on earth
By Stephen Tuttle | Nov. 27, 2016
Ah, yes, the season of peace on earth. Uh-huh.
We might think after 15,000 years of what we euphemistically call civilization we’d have found a better system of dispute resolution than killing each other. We would be wrong.
Wars currently rage in various forms in at least a dozen locations around the globe. In some places, like Iraq, automated, mechanized killing goes on unabated. In others, like Darfur, machetes and clubs serve the same purpose.
In Afghanistan, home to the longest war in American history, the various sides have racked up more than 1.2 million deaths, including civilians, according to Amnesty International. In Iraq, depending on whose numbers you choose to believe, somewhere between 250,000 and 1 million bodies have piled up.
But those are just the wars that make it to the evening news. There are plenty more.
The Syrian civil war, in which there are at least four distinct sides, has already managed to extinguish 250,000 lives.
Boko Haram, one of the many murderous offspring of al-Qaida and ISIL, is randomly killing folks in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad. That war without purpose has claimed 30,000 lives so far.
The ancient feud between the Kurds and the Turks has spilled into Turkey, Syria and Iraq, and taken 45,000 lives with it.
Then there is the Somali civil war, a bloodbath that has taken 500,000 lives in its three decades plus of barbarity. Various armed clans worked in concert to successfully oust a military dictator only to start fighting each other. Kenya’s military then got involved, working with the nascent Somali central government, its first of any kind for more than a decade.
We can’t forget Darfur, a region in western Sudan. The civil war there started as a protest against what was deemed oppression of non-Arab citizens in the area. The Sudanese government responded with a non-Arab ethnic cleansing program that killed 200,000 and resulted in Sudan President Omar al-Bashir being indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
We have our own carnage in the Western Hemisphere, too. The Mexican drug wars, in which murder and massacres are considered part of doing business, have so far killed 165,000 people.
Unfortunately, we seem to somehow have our paws in every single conflict. If we don’t have advisers or troops then we’re selling arms to one side or every side.
We now have American military personnel, other than embassy guards, in a whopping 150 countries. That seems just a trifle excessive.
We’re in places we don’t need to be staying longer than we need to stay. Some of it is a vestige of wars long over. We’ve got 50,000 troops in Japan, more than 53,000 in Germany and nearly 25,000 in South Korea. All three would seem capable of defending themselves.
We are the world’s largest arms dealer, spend more on the military than any other country by far, have more bases in more places and more military equipment. Our out-of-control over-budget extended-deadline defense spending has been immune to reform since President Eisenhower warned us about it.
We’ve never met a military budget we couldn’t break, a deadline we couldn’t miss or a conflict we couldn’t enter.
For example, we just spent $4.4 billion for one ship. One. It’s big trick is firing a guided artillery shell up to 70 miles. That will come in handy if we need to take Guadalcanal or Iwo Jima again. Unfortunately, each fancy shell can cost as much as $1 million, and even the dummy practice shells are $400,000 each.
More money for more involvement in more war. We spend far more developing better ways to kill people than we do developing better ways to save people from disease.
President-elect Donald Trump, when not talking about which countries he’d like to bomb, did make some noises about pulling back our military entanglements. That would be an excellent idea, especially if coupled with an overhaul of the Pentagon procurement system.
Military intervention should be held to the highest national security interest standards. Are those folks really a threat to us? Do we have a legitimate reason to be fighting them? Is there a better nonmilitary intervention?
Instead of figuring out how to get involved in far-flung civil wars, our instinct should be the precise opposite; how we prevent our young men and women from being sent someplace to be killed by people who don’t want them there.
Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us the lives of nearly 7,000 American men and women in uniform, and more than $1 trillion dollars. That’s more than enough.
We can’t prevent wars or the absurd reasons they’re fought. But we can surely prevent our country from being involved in all of them. The new president could start his America First efforts by bringing our troops home, to America first.