“We know that peace is the condition under which mankind was meant to flourish. Yet peace does not exist of its own will. It depends on us, on our courage to build it and guard it and pass it on to future generations. George Washington’s words may seem hard and cold today, but history has proven him right again and again. “To be prepared for war,” he said, “is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” Well, to those who think strength provokes conflict, Will Rogers had his own answer. He said of the world heavyweight champion of his day: “I’ve never seen anyone insult Jack Dempsey.” – Ronald Reagan
“Belief in the efficacy of military power almost inevitably breeds the temptation to put that power to work. ‘Peace through strength’ easily enough becomes ‘peace through war.'” – Andrew Bacevich
I have never served in the military and as such I have never been engaged in combat. The Vietnam War ended in 1975 when I was 14 and the U.S. military draft ended in 1973. Though I have never served our country or set foot on a battlefield the images of the cost of war are ingrained in my mind.
For those of you old enough to remember Dan Rather reports from the war in Vietnam broadcast every night on the CBS evening news with Walter Cronkite you have seen the images. If you had sons, brothers, cousins, or uncles who left the states as happy, carefree kids and returned from South East Asia two or three years later as sullen, quiet and reserved adults you have seen the images too.
In 2015 the United States spent over $600 billion on defense. Since the 1990’s that budget has increased between 17% and 20% annually and has almost tripled in twenty years. What has all that money bought us? Peace through strength or peace through war? It is a question that I don’t have an answer for.
The defense industry spends a lot of money-getting people elected. Some numbers that I have seen recently show that Hillary Clinton has actually received more contributions from defense contractors than Donald Trump. Maybe they are simply reading the tea leaves or hedging their bets since a Trump victory would certainly guarantee a ramp up in defense spending based on Ronald Reagan’s Peace Through Strength philosophy he has adopted.
I have decided that what I would support is a Peace Through Conversation initiative. That rather than blowing each other up we sit down and try to figure out why we want to blow each other up. Rather than guessing or assuming why ISIS hates us, ask and work towards a resolution. Rather than pointing nuclear warheads at North Korea uncover the acceptable paths that will allow us to coexist peacefully. The argument against conversation is that it is easier to negotiate with a mad man when you point a gun to his head. Maybe, but that trick only works if you are willing to pull the trigger.
Maybe I am naive or maybe I have just gotten soft in my old age, but when I hear a Presidential candidate say “I’m good at war. I’ve had a lot of wars of my own. I’m really good at war. I love war, in a certain way but only when we win.” and it is met with a thunderous approval from an audience it concerns me. There are too many hotspots, to many new “Vietnam’s” out there that it would be easy for a Donald Trump to make the case that the only path to peace is through strength. I am sure Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and General Dynamics would agree with this strategy. But remember it is easier to negotiate with a mad man when you point a gun to his head. We don’t need to elect our own mad man, there are already enough of them in power.
Well, come on all of you, big strong men, Uncle Sam needs your help again.
He’s got himself in a terrible jam, Way down yonder in Vietnam
So put down your books and pick up a gun, We’re gonna have a whole lotta fun.
And it’s one, two, three, What are we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn, Next stop is Vietnam;
And it’s five, six, seven, Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why, Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.
Country Joe and the Fish “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag”