Monday, May 15, 2017

Is America addicted to war?

Only rarely in its history has the United States of America not fought a war, and sometimes more than one at the same time. America was born in war and seemingly that has become its legacy. No wonder that many are asking the question: Is America addicted to war?

Graph 1 and 2 record all the wars the U.S. has been involved in from the American Revolution to the present. Look closely at the two graphs and it is readily apparent that there have been very few years when the U.S. has not been at war. It is remarkable that the U.S. has not become sick of war, but the explanation lies in part in its violent birth. Revolution breeds further revolution.

If we examine only the 12 major wars that the U.S. has fought, there is already enough evidence to prove this addiction. I cannot think of any other country that has been involved in so many wars for so long during its relatively short history. There cannot be any doubt that the U.S. is addicted to war.

Graph 1: American Wars 1775-1900

Graph 2: American Wars 1900-Present

The twelve wars in chronological order are (with the size of American involvement, death, and the reason for the war):

1. Revolutionary War (1775-83). U.S. troops engaged: 217,000. American battle deaths: 4,435. The 13 American colonies fought for independence from British rule to become the United States.

2. The War of 1812 (1812-15). U.S. troops engaged: 286,730. American battle deaths: 2,260.
The U.S. declared war on Great Britain during its war with France.

3. Mexican War (1846-48). U.S. troops engaged: 78,718. American battle deaths: 1,733. The U.S. fought against Mexico over Texas and California, in the name of "manifest destiny."

4. American Civil War (1861-1865). U.S. troops engaged: 2,213,363. Battle deaths: 140,414. The northern states and the southern states fought over slavery and states' rights.

5. Spanish-American War (1898). U.S. troops engaged: 306,760. American battle deaths: 385. Spain declared war on the U.S. because the U.S. supported Cuba's wish to be independent of Spanish rule.

6. WWI (1914-1918). U.S. troops engaged: 4,734,991. American casualties: 53,402. The U.S. joined the Allies (Britain, France, Russia, Italy, and Japan), who were at war with the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey). The U.S. declared war on Germany April 6, 1917.

7. World War II (1939-45 -- U.S. involved, 1941-46). U.S. troops engaged: 16,112,566. American casualties: 291,557. The U.S. joined the Allies (Britain, France, and the USSR) to fight the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan) after the U.S. forces were attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor in 1941.

8. Korean War (1950-53). U.S. troops engaged: 5,720,000. American battle deaths: 33,741.
North Korea's Communist forces fought against South Korea's non-Communist forces supported by U.N. forces, principally made up of U.S. troops. The Korean War was the first armed conflict in the global struggle between democracy and communism, called the “cold war.”

9. Vietnam War (1954-75 -- U.S. involved, 1961-75). U.S. troops engaged: 8,744,000. American battle deaths: 47,410. The U.S. helped non-Communist South Vietnam fight invasion by Communist North Vietnam.

10. Persian Gulf War (1991). U.S. troops engaged: 2,183,000. Allied casualties: 147. U.S., Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, and Italy went to war with Iraq.

11. Afghanistan War (2002). Cause: Afghanistan’s Taliban government harbored Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terrorist group responsible for Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Outcome: The Taliban government was ousted and many terrorist camps in Afghanistan were destroyed.

12. Iraq War (2003). Cause: Saddam Hussein’s alleged possession of illegal weapons of mass destruction and Iraq’s suspected ties to terrorism prompted the U.S. and Britain to invade and topple his government. Outcome: Iraq was defeated and Saddam Hussein removed from power.

These are just the biggest mountains. If you look at the charts, you will notice how many more mountains there are. The U.S. has won many wars, but by no means all; some wars were inconclusive and others were lost. Experts conclude that the U.S. might win a war against the rest of the world combined, but victory is not certain.

The Cold War, the longest war in U.S. history, involved not just weapons and warfare but especially words and ideas. I began in 1945 and was a struggle between the U.S. and the USSR. The U.S. wanted to contain the spread of communism. The Cold War ended in 1990 with the collapse of the USSR. Even this war cost the U.S. enormous funds and contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union.

This almost constant warfare has led to the U.S. as a source for production of weapons.  Warfare has utterly transformed the U.S. economy. Today that is labeled the military-industrial-congressional complex, a three-sided relationship, which results in the largest military spending budget in the world.  The U.S. now spends more than the next ten countries combined.

In 2015 the spending on the military alone consumed 54% of the budget of the U.S.  Aside from the question of the wisdom of spending so much on the military, this measures the cost of the American addiction to war. Not only has the U.S. waged war almost continuously since its inception it also spends more money on the military than any other country and the largest portion of the budget is devoted to defense.

The Defense Department is a misnomer. It should be called the Department of War. When presidents need to boost their popularity, they turn to the military, since such spending and the military itself are immensely popular.  President Trump is no exception.

Via an executive memorandum, Trump detailed plans to fulfill his campaign promises to invest in a bigger military -- including more troops, warships and a modernized nuclear arsenal. He declared he was beginning "a great rebuilding of the armed services of the United States." Later he added:
Developing a plan for new planes, new ships, new resources and new tools for our men and women in uniform-- and I’m very proud to be doing that, As we prepare our budget request for Congress --and I think Congress is going to be very happy to see it -- our military strength will be questioned by no one, but neither will our dedication to peace.
Trump's comments are hypocritical and false. His proposed military buildup is a major departure from the Obama administration on national security issues. It is an ominous development in a nation that is already addicted to war. This is not what the U.S. needs at the moment. 

What the U.S. needs is a large-scale reduction in its military and its defense budget. It does not need almost two million men and women bearing arms and a budget that exceeds a trillion dollars a year. A country that is addicted to war is not ready to listen to the biblical message of Isaiah (2:4, New Living Translation):
The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.

Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares, a sculpture by Evgeniy Vuchetich 
in the United Nations Art Collection

Yet this is the message that the U.S. must listen to and take to heart. The humongous defense budget can be put to better use that to support a bloated military.  If there is ever to be peace on earth, then non-stop war must end. A nation that fancies itself a Christian nation must turn its swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks and overcome its addiction to war. Then and only then shall peace reign on a war-weary world. May there be peace on earth!


No comments:

Post a Comment