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Militarism: Escaping the Trap


January 14, 2018
Washington Newsletter / Friends Committee on National Legislation

Militarism permeates US society. Our budget is skewed towards the Pentagon, local towns depend on military industries for revenue, Washington gives surplus military gear to local police to use against their own citizens. Martin Luther King, Jr. called for a shift from a "thing-oriented" to a "person-oriented" society. "When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."

https://www.fcnl.org/updates/washington-newsletter-militarism-1159

Militarism: Escaping the Trap
Washington Newsletter / Friends Committee on National Legislation

(December 2017 issue) -- Militarism permeates our society. Our nation's budget is skewed towards the Pentagon, and local economies depend increasingly on military industries as contractors reap the benefits. Our government gives surplus military equipment to local police forces and then wrings its hands when police officers see their own communities as the enemy.

People are at the heart of escaping the militarism trap in our country -- both our action and our care for all our neighbors, without exception. In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. called for a shift from a "thing-oriented" to a "person-oriented" society, saying "When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."

We must continue to name and oppose militarism where it appears -- in our communities as well as in our public policies -- and keep working for the alternatives that recognize the Light that is in us all.

Friends have long sought to live, in the words of George Fox, "in the virtue of that life and power that [takes] away the occasion for all wars." What does that commitment look like today, in a country that seems to be moving in the opposite direction?

Militarism permeates our society. Our nation's budget is skewed towards the Pentagon, and local economies depend increasingly on military industries as contractors reap the benefits. Our government gives surplus military equipment to local police forces and then wrings its hands when police officers see their own communities as the enemy.

Abroad, US military drones bring death from the sky, and our military equipment and advisors support violence and aggression. Fear of terrorist attacks has led Congress to abdicate its power to debate US military action, which is only increasing.

Long before President Trump's election, the US was deep in the throes of militarism, what the Quaker Philip Noel Baker called "a deep-rooted and malignant disease." In the United States, military force is equated with effectiveness, while talking, engagement, diplomacy, and cooperation are seen as "soft."

In the last year, President Trump has sent more troops to Afghanistan -- continuing that 16-year-long conflict -- and threatened war with North Korea and Iran. The president and Congress are vying to see who can increase the Pentagon budget the most -- despite the agency's documented mismanagement of billions of dollars. Meanwhile, our leaders propose budget cuts in programs vital to the health and well-being of our neighbors and communities.

Yet we also see members of Congress who are willing to question this approach. We can escape from the trap of militarism when we advocate for policies that commit to the future of all our country's people. We find hope in the power of those people working boldly for peace and justice.

That power is evident in the work of FCNL's Advocacy Teams -- more than 80 across the country -- who are building relationships with their members of Congress to urge them to rein in Pentagon spending. I

t was evident at FCNL's Quaker Public Policy Institute this November, when 450 people lobbied Congress to invest in our communities rather than the tools and weapons of war. Every phone call, letter to the editor, and email urging a different approach to addressing our nation's problems is an antidote to the militarism around us.

People are at the heart of escaping the militarism trap in our country -- both our action and our care for all our neighbors, without exception. In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. called for a shift from a "thing-oriented" to a "person-oriented" society, saying "When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."

We must continue to name and oppose militarism where it appears -- in our communities as well as in our public policies -- and keep working for the alternatives that recognize the Light that is in us all.



The Endless War

he 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force has provided three presidents with a blank check to wage war against anyone, at any time, anywhere in the world without congressional review or approval.

For 16 years, FCNL has lobbied relentlessly for this authorization's repeal -- while the United States has engaged in an ever-expanding war that has not brought stability to any country or reduced the danger of violent extremism. Today, we are working with a growing number in Congress who want to see this endless war ended at last.

Expanding Military Action
Our presidents have cited the 2001 authorization to justify at least 37 military actions in 14 different countries -- everything from the ongoing US war in Afghanistan to lethal drone strikes. Under President Trump, military operations are accelerating.

In his first 200 days in office, President Trump sent his military on more than five times as many lethal combat operations in non-battlefield countries -- such as Yemen and Somalia -- as President Obama did in the final 193 days of his administration.

Article I section 8 of the Constitution states that "The Congress shall have power to...declare war," yet for 16 years Congress has not fully debated whether our country should expand its military operations.

New Energy for Repeal
After years of silence from all but a few members of Congress, more are pushing back against this excessive executive power. Following the death of four US military personnel in Niger in October 2017, Reps. Barbara Lee (CA), Walter Jones (NC), and 46 other representatives from both parties wrote to President Trump, questioning his administration's legal justification for US involvement in the conflict and urging him to seek congressional authorization going forward. They wrote, "We are . . . gravely concerned that the United States is committing itself to a long-term war in Niger and elsewhere in Africa."

In a series of hearings this fall, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee questioned administration officials on legal justification for military action around the world. These hearings could result in Senate legislation to repeal both the 2001 authorization and a companion bill from 2002 that allowed the US to go to war in Iraq.

These hearings come on the heels of efforts in both chambers to force a vote on repealing the 2001 authorization. The House Appropriations Committee added a repeal amendment to the military appropriations bill, but House leadership removed it before the final bill came to a vote. FCNL released a statement opposing leadership's decision.

Sen. Rand Paul (KY) was likewise unsuccessful in getting the Senate to repeal the authorization -- but he called Senate attention to the issue by forcing a debate as part of consideration of a military policy bill. Previously, Congress has refused to seriously consider repeal; FCNL applauds these steps toward a full debate on endless war.

Congress provides a critical check on presidential military actions. The Constitution's framers drew a distinction between the president, who merely commands the military, and a king, who "possesses [the power] of declaring war. . . by his own authority." (Federalist 69). So long as the 2001 authorization stands, it erases that distinction and paves the way for continued expansion of US military action.

ACTION: FCNL will continue to advocate for Congress to fully debate and vote on this authorization and to take back its authority over US war-fighting. Members of Congress also need to hear your voice; Please contact your representative and senators and urge them to support repeal of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force.


Amid Crisis, Diplomatic Paralysis

hen he released President Trump's budget blueprint in March, Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, boldy declared, "Make no mistake about it, this is a hard power budget, not a soft power budget. That is what the president wanted and that is what we gave him,"

President Trump inherited a world embroiled in crisis. From the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation in Syria and Iraq to entrenched violent conflicts in Somalia, Nigeria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and North Korea, all require the most creative tools at our disposal.

Unfortunately, the president's prescription is to increase military spending by almost 10 percent and cut US diplomatic and development engagement by more than 30 percent.

Exit creativity, enter brute force.

In President Trump's first year, US coalition forces have stepped up air strikes in Iraq and Syria, killing an increasing number of civilians. The US is selling more weapons to Saudi Arabia, enabling that country to carry out a devastating war in Yemen, and to Nigeria, with its terrible humans rights record.

Meanwhile, Trump administration officials are restructuring and reorganizing the State Department, reducing our diplomatic capacity. Those bureaus and offices tasked with preventing violent conflict, mass atrocities, and building peace are particularly vulnerable to being eliminated -- despite their proven record of creatively promoting lasting peace. Kenya, Burundi, Sri Lanka, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are among those countries to benefit from US support to prevent and mitigate violence.

FCNL argues that our country needs to invest more in these kinds of civilian-led programs that prevent conflict -- not look for ways to eliminate them. These investments save money and protect US interests. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, investments in peacebuilding will return at least sixteen times the cost of military interventions.

Investing in more military solutions, meanwhile, continues us down the path to perpetual war. In 2016 alone, violence cost the global economy upwards of $14 trillion dollars -- about 12.6 percent of global GDP.

The good news is that Congress is listening. When the president sent his budget request to Congress, many members on both sides of the aisle spoke up against the cuts to diplomacy. In instructions in a funding bill, the Senate Appropriation Committee wrote, "Battlefield technology and firepower cannot replace diplomacy and development."

This legislation maintained funding (albeit at lower amounts than are needed) for programs such as the Complex Crises Fund, the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, and the US Institute of Peace, which FCNL has consistently lobbied to support.

Another piece of positive news is the growth of bipartisan US efforts to prevent genocide and mass atrocities. FCNL is collaborating with congressional allies to advance the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, which would enable the US to respond and prevent the worst kinds of violence and forestall the need for late military interventions once the killing starts.

ACTION:In a world embroiled in violence and complex crises, the Trump administration is pushing us toward foreign policy paralysis. But Congress can help to reverse course. Your members of Congress need to hear your support for funding and legislation that promotes peace rather than violence and gives our country the tools it needs to be an effective leader.


"Law and Order": Militarism,
Racism, and the Criminal Justice System


Law enforcement is supposed to keep us all safe. But communities of color are also concerned about being kept safe from law enforcement.

In many of our towns and cities, police officers feel -- and sometimes even see themselves -- more like an occupying force than community servants. Who can forget the 2014 images of police in Ferguson, Missouri perched on top of tanks, facing down people protesting the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager?

As these images gained traction in the news and on social media, the reality of militarized policing was broadcast across the country, waking up many people to a problem decades in the making: police and policymakers are treating our streets like de facto war zones.

Long before these images jolted our country's consciousness, FCNL was lobbying members of Congress to end the government's 1033 program, which allows police departments to receive free surplus military equipment.

President Obama responded, constraining the transfer of military equipment from war zones to US cities and criticizing the militarization of US police forces. But President Trump is putting the US back on the path of militarized policing. The new administration has authorized grenade launchers, bayonets, armored vehicles designed to withstand roadside explosives, and more to flow back into the hands of police officers.

This equipment reinforces the threats that communities see in law enforcement, widening the gulf of distrust that separates police officers and the communities they are supposed to serve.

Thankfully, Congress is pushing back. Sen. Rand Paul (KY) has introduced bipartisan legislation to stop these weapons transfers. At the same time, Republicans and Democrats are working together to tackle the ways that racism and militarism permeate the entire criminal justice system, from police departments to courtrooms to jails and prisons.

Senators Dick Durbin (IL) and Chuck Grassley (IA) recently re-introduced legislation to reform US prison and sentencing laws. Their bill, which nearly passed in 2016, would give judges more discretion by rolling back mandatory minimum prison sentences that have clogged our judicial system and left thousands of nonviolent drug offenders languishing in prison.

FCNL is leading lobbying efforts to support this legislation, particularly in the faith community. We have mobilized hundreds of grassroots advocates in the last several years to advocate for sentencing reform.

Sentencing practices that prioritize punishment and control disproportionately burden people of color, who are arrested more readily, sentenced more harshly, and treated less compassionately upon re-entry.

Meanwhile, our country's inefficient and expensive approach to law enforcement has come at the expense of resources for education, youth programs, mental health services, and other ways to address the root causes of crime. The Trump administration, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is only making these problems worse.

The president has proposed billions more for police crackdowns and militarization while cutting back on programs that serve communities and investigations into abuse by local police departments.

In November, FCNL organized a press conference in Rep. Bob Goodlatte's central Virginia district to encourage him to act on sentencing reform. The speakers included the Rev. Aundreia Alexander, Esq., an associate general secretary of the National Council of Churches, who said:
"We believe . . . all people were created by God. The system we have now is . . . a penal system that is predicated on retribution and punishment. Once you connect with that system, you have a life sentence no matter what the situation is. It's not right."

More than ever before, Congress needs to act to re-orient the US justice and policing system towards protecting all people in all communities.

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

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