The Pentagon’s Claim of “Peace Through Strength” Is Just Propaganda

June 9th, 2023 - by Rev. Jesse Jackson / Tribune Content Agency

Military Prowess Provides Neither Peace nor Strength
Rev. Jesse Jackson / Tribune Content Agency

(May 15, 2023) — “Peace through strength” is the lodestar, the guiding assumption, of United States policy since World War II. America maintains by far the strongest military force in the world. We literally police the world. But in the current world, we are discovering that military prowess provides neither peace nor strength. We have the smartest bombs in the world, but our children rank only 22nd in educational achievement. We need to think again about the true sources of peace and strength.

The military and law enforcement budget now consumes about two-thirds of our annually appropriated spending – $1.1 trillion dollars in fiscal year 2022 from a $1.7 trillion dollar budget. We maintain more than 700 military bases in 80 countries. Our armed forces are active in some 127 countries.

The imbalance is apparent. In 2020, Lockheed Martin alone won $75 billion in Pentagon contracts. This is more than the entire budgets of the State Department and the Agency for International Development combined. The National Priorities Project reports that an average taxpayer spent more than $1,000 a year on weapons contractors compared to $270 for K to 12 education and $6 for renewable energy.

Yet there is a bipartisan consensus that the military budget must go up – and the conservative majority in the House is demanding deep cuts across the board on domestic spending.

Consider our reaction to real threats. The horrific terrorist attack on 9/11 took 2,996 lives.

In response, we launched a war on terror and invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Over 20 years, the cost of the war on terror, the Watson Institute at Brown University reports, has totaled $8 trillion and left an estimated 900,000 dead.

In contrast, the COVID pandemic took the lives of 1.1 million Americans. Yet the full budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is about the same as what is spent on one military weapon – the baroque F-35 combat aircraft.

Climate change poses an existential threat, but its current costs are already staggering.

Over the past seven years, $122-billion-dollar weather disasters cost more than $1 trillion in losses, and thousands of lives. Yet over 55 percent of our national R&D budget goes to the military or space programs, and only 4.5 percent goes to energy and natural resources and the environment combined.

These choices also have economic impact. While we invest in weapons, China’s investment in energy transition is 70 percent greater than the United States and the European Union combined. In 2022, China made over 90 percent of the world’s investment in batteries and electric vehicles that will be central to major markets of the next decades. Even Joe Biden’s renewable energy investments – which Republicans want to repeal – don’t come close to matching the resources the Chinese are investing to capture the future.

When you have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. It was a Republican President and former general – Dwight D. Eisenhower – who warned us about the dangers of permanent preparation for war:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Our misplaced priorities aren’t merely bad judgment. They are the result of powerful interests and big money. Military contractors spread their factories into key congressional districts across the country. They help fund think tanks and academic chairs that provide national security hawks with comfortable armchairs. The Pentagon’s advertising budget is greater than that of any corporation.

President Biden promises a “foreign policy for the middle class.” He got us out of Afghanistan and has tried to change priorities to invest in renewable energy, and high technology – the markets of the future. He’s made long overdue investments in rebuilding our decrepit infrastructure. But these changes are, frankly, only at the margins.

As this is written, the U.S. is pursuing a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine, sustaining a war on terror in some 80 countries, gearing up for conflict with China in the South China Sea, inflicting economic sanctions on 30 percent of the world’s countries, while maintaining an empire of bases abroad.

That commitment inevitably drains resources and attention needed desperately to meet the emerging security challenges of our time — such as catastrophic climate change, pandemics, debilitating inequality, and the growing competition from China. What Eisenhower warned us about – “the disastrous rise of misplaced power” — persists.

You can write to the Rev. Jesse Jackson in care of this newspaper or by email at Follow him on Twitter @RevJJackson.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.