Peace and American Politics
The American people are peaceful most of the time. Yet they are easily aroused and have a very low kindling temperature if you will. It takes very little for America’s national security state to swing into action and gin-up the next intervention or war. The national security state is perpetually poised to go into action, with large portions of the academic, media, consultant, lobbyist, elected official complex ready to support jingoism at the drop of a hat.
When President Reagan’s military buildup was engineered, an article in the Journal of Peace Research showed that opinion in America about military spending was about 40% before and after a two year period, 1979-1980. But during that two year period of the presidential campaign, opinion suddenly switched to about 60% in favor of military spending. What had begun the process was the Lewis Powell memo of 1971 that triggered resurgence on the right of pro big business advocacy. That led to the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the CATO institute, and other largely right wing major think tanks. Lewis Powell later went on to be appointed Supreme Court justice by President Nixon. Cedrick Smith in his book Who Stole the American Dream? pinpoints this Lewis Powell memo as the starting point event. But I cannot separate it from the times, when military spending was declining in the last half of the American Vietnamese War and the Peace Movement and the Civil Rights Movement were in ascendency. Looking back it now seems that reduced military spending in the early sixties, the seventies and the nineties led to countermeasures by the military industrial complex to perpetuate itself. That seems to be the prime reason for the largely fruitless and self-destructive wars of the last 50 years, including Vietnam, Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq. That seems to be the prime reason for the largest peace time military buildup in American history, the military buildup of President Reagan’s first term 1981-1985.
The Iraq War has destabilized the Middle East with al Qaeda and Iran moving eagerly into the void. That and the Afghanistan War have been so disastrous that Secretary of Defense under both President Bush and President Obama, Robert Gates, has said (and I paraphrase) no more Asian Wars, you would have to be crazy to get involved in another Asian War. Two thirds of the American people agreed with Gates not to put ground troops into combat over there. While the right wing is eager to blame President Obama for the President Bush war aftermath and claim he took the troops out too soon, in fact, President Bush negotiated and signed the deal for complete troop withdrawal from Iraq by the end of 2011. Now, a few beheadings by ISIS later, the majority of the American people are now willing to put ground troops into Asia again.
The Republican Presidential Candidates
In 2012 Mitt Romney was proposing a $2.5 trillion military buildup, and most of the current candidates on the right have similar proposals. This includes Trump, who seems to have the biggest military buildup in mind although he seems reluctant to use the military unless it can be quick and decisive. Jeb Bush seems to have in mind a more modest military buildup, but they all seem pretty hawkish about ISIS. Rubio seems to be placed between Jeb Bush and Trump. Cruz has followed Rand Paul somewhat in that he wants to restrain the civil liberties invasion by the National Intelligence Agency and excessive military spending, getting fierce criticism from Rubio.
The Democratic Presidential Candidates
Both Sanders and Clinton agree to varying degrees with President Obama’s policy against ISIS. When Sanders came to Madison, Wisconsin July 1, 2015 before a crowd of 10,000, he spoke in favor of tuition free college and universal health care, but was largely silent on how to pay for it. No mention about tax rates on the rich or cutting the military budget. Since then he has called for a small tax on stock trading to fund college tuition. Clinton has taken slightly more hawkish positions in the past, especially advising a “no fly zone” in Syria in 2011. 250,000 have died in Syria, mostly from barrel bombs dropped by the Syrian Air Force in civilian areas. What either candidate would do with the military budget is not clear.
The Military States
All eleven elections in the Cold War period were won by high military spending states candidates. Military spending states are determined by per capita military spending to measure the degree of economic militarism of a state. Those states were Missouri, Kansas twice, Massachusetts, Texas, California twice, Georgia, California twice, and Texas in chronological order. All seven times low military states candidates were nominated by a major party resulted in losses. Those were New York, Illinois twice, Minnesota, South Dakota, Michigan, and Minnesota. Four times both parties nominated high military spending states candidates and one of them had to lose. Those losers would be California in 1960, Arizona in 1964, Georgia in 1980, and Massachusetts in 1988. After the Cold War, Clinton came from a Deep South slightly below average military state, and Obama came from low military Illinois, but both had clear CIA connections. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski taught Barack Obama at Columbia in 1981 and he then worked three years for the CIA front company Business International in New York. During that time Obama twice went to the Pakistani staging grounds of the Afghanistan Soviet War. The military preference for Obama showed in the fact that of the top 15 military states and DC, Obama won more delegates than Clinton in 14 of the 15. Obama then fulfilled his campaign pledge by tripling troop levels in Afghanistan, even though he allegedly was the peace candidate. He maintained high levels of military spending through his first term, then reduced somewhat. This is consistent with the slow initial recovery picking up steam as the military was reduced.
Trump and Clinton appear overwhelming favorites for their respective nominations. But Cruz, Rubio and Bush come from high military spending states. But New York is Wall Street. Yet military or CIA connections are crucial to past presidencies, Texas or Florida could trump Trump, and moderate military Vermont could edge low military New York. Has the military dominance in America finally changed post Cold War and post Iraq War? We’ll see.
Here is a more detailed paper on the cultural dominance of militarism in America:
Hint: to read this paper for free, you must click on the tiny word “read” in the middle of the bottom of the screen after you go to the above link on academia.edu.
Professor Robert Reuschlein, Dr. Peace,
Real Economy Institute, Madison, Wisconsin
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