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Herb Rothschild Jr.: A frightening idea

If the mission of our military were to defend us from attack by hostile forces, it would be impossible to justify its present size, weaponry and deployment. Those are dictated primarily by the quest for global dominance. This is made explicit in the U.S. Space Command’s “Vision 2020,” which proclaims its mission as “Dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect U.S. interests and investment.” Secondarily, our current military has been configured to keep large amounts of tax dollars flowing to the military-industrial-research complex.

I don’t propose to belabor the obvious — that we should remake our military into a defensive rather than an offensive force, which would drastically reduce its size and scope. Doing so would lift a heavy burden from the world’s peoples, including us. Rather, I propose that we consider what might happen if we disarmed ourselves unilaterally and totally.

This thought experiment is an extreme test of what I maintained in my two previous columns: The controlling assumptions of our dominant culture — that humans must compete for the good things in life and there must always be winners and losers — falsify our nature and wrongly characterize most of our behavior. If we are to break free of our dual roles as oppressor and oppressed, we must reject that culture personally and oppose it politically.

As the Space Command’s mission statement indicates, our leaders continue to approach our foreign relations as if the U.S. remains the world’s last best hope for empire. But our empire has been declining since the 1970s, despite our overwhelming military supremacy. Increasingly, global relations are being organized differently.

On the plus side, war among nations is approaching obsolescence and would become rare were the U.S. to disarm itself and stop providing military aid to the few other aggressors, like Saudi Arabia. A growing number of global treaties, international organizations and agencies, plus regional peacekeeping arrangements, are governing political relations among nations. Relatedly, economic relations are so complex and multi-national that wars are far more likely to disrupt than protect economic interests. For example, it’s almost impossible to reconcile our extensive planning for a war against China with the entanglement of our two economies.

On the minus side, the global economy that makes war mutually disadvantageous is dominated by transnational financial and corporate forces which use various forms of coercion to maintain and extend their control. The U.S. puts its military, mainly via covert operations, at the service of an imperial order that is non-national in nature and detrimental to the well-being of most Americans. Were the public to grasp that it’s not U.S. interests and investments that our military is protecting, but those of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Deutsche Bank and Royal Dutch Shell as well as Citibank and Freeport McMoran, we would be less willing to fund it with our lives and money.

With few exceptions, nations are powerless to deter our military aggression militarily. Yet, even we rarely invade these days. And it isn’t fear of losing a war that deters us. Quite the opposite ... our unrivaled military breeds hubris and tempts us to combat. That's because we partially understand what most nations completely understand — that we thrive when we cooperate. Vietnam is now our trading partner, not a menace to our national security, nor we to its. The unthinkable future became the present because we lost that war. Disarmament is not an impossible dream.

— Herb Rothschild's column appears in the Tidings every Saturday.