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Posts Tagged ‘Militarized Conservatism’

Militarized Conservatism and End(s) of Higher Education

Tuesday 5 April 2011
by: Henry A. Giroux, Truthout

The Pathologies of War

There can be little doubt that America has become a permanent warfare state.(1) Not only is it waging a war in three countries, but its investment in military power is nearly as much as all of the military budgets of every other country in the world combined. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute states, “The USA’s military spending accounted for 43 per cent of the world total in 2009, followed by China with 6.6 per cent; France with 4.3 per cent and the UK with 3.8 per cent.”(2) The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost Americans a staggering $1 trillion to date, second only in inflation-adjusted dollars to the $4 trillion price tag for World War II.”(3) Pentagon spending for 2011 will be more than $700 billion. To make matters worse, as Tom Englehardt points out, “We dominate the global arms trade, monopolizing almost 70% of the arms business in 2008, with Italy coming in a vanishingly distant second. We put more money into the funding of war, our armed forces and the weaponry of war than the next 25 countries combined (and that’s without even including Iraq and Afghan war costs).”(4) Moreover, the United States maintains a massive ring of military bases and global presence around the world, occupying “over 560 bases and other sites abroad”(5) and deploying over 300,000 troops abroad, “even as our country finds itself incapable of paying for basic services.”(6) In spite of how much military expenditures drain much-needed funds from social programs, the military budget is rarely debated in Congress or a serious object of discussion among the public. Rather than avoid squandering resources and human lives on foreign wars, we avoid “the realities and costs of war.”(7)

War is now normalized even as the United States becomes more militarized, moving closer to a national security state at home and an imperial/policing power abroad. Military historian Andrew Bacevich is right in arguing, “The misleadingly named Department of Defense serves in fact as a Ministry of Global Policing.”(8) War has become central to American character, but what is often unacknowledged is that its perpetual wars abroad are increasingly matched by a number of wars being waged on the domestic front. Such a disconnect becomes clear in the refusal of politicians, anti-public intellectuals and the general public to acknowledge how the federal deficit has been run up by our military adventures. As Frank Rich argues, “The cultural synergy between the heedless irresponsibility we practiced in Iraq and our economic collapse at home could not be more naked. The housing bubble, inflated by no-money-down mortgage holders on Main Street and high-risk gamblers on Wall Street, was fueled by the same greedy disregard for the laws of fiscal gravity that governed the fight-now-play later war[s]” in Iraq and Afghanistan and more recently in Libya.(9) Similarly, as the spirit of a hyper-militarized America bleeds into everyday life, politics increasingly becomes an extension of war, and right-wing, liberal and conservative politicians eagerly embrace a militaristic approach to policy and the need to cleanse the social order of any institution, mode of dissent, social group and public sphere willing to question its state of permanent war and its militarized and unchecked embrace of economic Darwinism. These foreign and domestic wars are not unrelated, given that they are waged in the interests of right-wing militarists, neoconservatives, liberals and corporate moguls – all of whom have a political and economic stake in such military incursions abroad and wars at home. Wars make the economic elite even richer just as they undermine civil liberties, public services and public dissent. A hyper-militarized America has not only fueled violations of executive power, it has also promoted armed conflicts that are directly related to an economic crisis that has produced a wave of political extremism in the United States, while furthering the rise of a punishing state that places the burdens of the current economic crisis on the backs of the poor. We seem to have no trouble in spending money for the production of organized violence designed to kill people, but we have little money to spend on education, health care, or other serious social problems facing the United States. As one educational journal pointed out:

This juxtaposition of robust war spending and inadequate support for education highlights the moral bankruptcy of political and economic leaders who seem to find endless piles of money to kill people abroad but not much to educate them at home. And, of course, the relationship is plain: The more dollars spent on war, the fewer available for human needs – whether alternative energy, food stamps, in-home elder care, public libraries or keeping teachers in their classrooms.(10)

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