I am not a fan of pointless contrarianism. So, this isn’t a post meant for vomiting up a bunch of sentences that begin with “actually…” around your liberal friends so that you can try and prove your private school education really was worth it. But, see, I am also not a fan of pointless tropes. They are two of a kind and I dislike both.
And for a long time, you’ve seen bumper stickers like wondering when the air force will have to hold a bake sale for a bomber and a school will get all the books it wants. The whole idea is that the economics and politics of these are mutually exclusive. That’s cute, but naive.
It would seem that building a huge military just begs for its use. But that’s not really true. Military strategists from Plato to Napoleon to Clausewitz to today have believed “si vis pacem, para bellum.” In other words, a larger military probably makes war less likely.
A large military isn’t the cause of pointless wars. The most pointless wars in the world are now going on between guerrilla groups with light arms all over Africa and Asia. There are virtually no shooting wars today involving combatants with heavy armor and air forces.
It wasn’t a bunch of idle equipment sitting around that got us into Vietnam, either. We had to draft up hundreds of thousands of men and by the end of the war had an almost entirely different arsenal. Iraq as well was less about the “military industrial complex” than it was about the worldwide oil-based political economy. The sustained and inflation-adjusted increase in oil prices since then has benefited oil companies more than military contractors. Private contractors who provide services to the military for their own profit benefitted as well, but to me that actually argues for more spending on the military. Soldiers should be doing those jobs.
Why? Well, for all of the crying on the left about military recruiting in poor areas, few jobs in the military actually involve actually being shot at. On the other hand, they all involve training, learning how to work with people, and offer decent pay and benefits (including healthcare) which the post-industrial post-union economy is not offering to those same people. Thanks, liberal white totebaggers!! I feel so much safer in my crime ridden ghetto than I do in an air force base in Florida learning how to work on aircraft, on a secure base, with good schools for my kids, and healthcare.
The military provides the jobs that the New Economy does not. More people should be in it, not less. As for defense contractors, they provide exactly the kind of knowledge jobs that we should be striving to create. For every time you read about how many things we use in our daily lives were invented by the Apollo project so therefore NASA is a good investment. I agree. But a lot of things invented for military use also make it into our daily lives as well. So, that’s not an argument. Also, a lot of these engineers that hone their skills there go on to do things that don’t involve war. Also, they spend money they earn and put it into the economy like everyone else. If you’re tired of knowledge worker jobs getting offshored, please consider that defense is one thing we are less likely to offshore for security reasons.
So, everyone wins, right? More spending on putting soldiers in the military provides a potential legup into the middle class for many and a securing footing in it is provided by those who can work for the better engineering firms.
But couldn’t we spend all that dough on education? Sure. That would be great, but that’s not what happens. The government doesn’t say, “we’re going to spend $1T this year, now let’s cut it up.” There are separate appropriations bills (11 to be exact). Some things get more than others. When it’s time to cut, it’s unlikely that reducing defense by $1B means $1B more for education. What it likely means is $1B less spent into the economy, which is bad when unemployment is this high.
There is a simple litmus test for being a liberal: does what you’re doing benefit the lives of the most people? Most people need good paying jobs. So, a shorter version is: is this good for workers? Sometimes, you have to get into balancing tests: does shutting the polluting factory outweigh the well being of its workers? If it means they are all in serious danger, then yes. But for some grand vision like “world peace” (which we are not, unfortunately, even on the verge of) just to feed good jobs to the idea? That’s not good for the middle class. It’s good for totebaggers feeling better, but it’s not better for the family down the street with the American car.
If you’re in a depressed economy with otherwise responsible leaders, there is no spending you want to cut. Not right now. And even in better times, it’s hard to conceive of any magic pony plan that will convert all of our defense budget into the schools. This mentality is part of the whole disease of contemporary liberalism. We ask “why are they getting more?” instead of “why are we getting less?” The latter is more apt when there is so much plenty to go around. Fund both. Neither the air force nor the schools should need a bake sale. That one has the political power to make that so isn’t caused by the other.
The entire reason the Democratic Party was feckless and lame for most of our lives was that they did not following this formula, abandoned labor and decided that identity politics, pacifism, and other single issues like “environmentalism” (with no specific reference to which policies) all of which are easily traduced into NIMBY self-parodies when they lose reference to the 99% and become applause lines for dogooderism at Wall Street fundraisers. Thanks, McGovern commission. Thanks, DLC.
And it will go straight back there even given this alleged insurmountable demographic wave if it does that again. Women, Latinos, and Blacks want good jobs too.