December 17, 2015

Republican Candidates Agree: The Largest and Best Equipped Military Isn't Good Enough

Celebrity Apprentice star Dennis Rodman
Celebrity Apprentice star Dennis Rodman and Donald Trump (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I watched the final Republican presidential debate of 2015 with interest because...Trump. And yet, there were really only two things about the debate that stood out to me, neither of which had much of anything to do with Donald Trump. First up was the incessant fear-mongering. Every single candidate on that stage appeared desperate to terrify an already nervous American public and then to present himself or herself as the savior our nation needs. Each candidate wants us to think that we would be safe with him or her and much less safe with any of the rest.

I suppose it is difficult to blame them for doing this. They know that the politics of fear are often effective. When people are scared, they are easier to manipulate. Their ability to reason effectively is diminished, and a skilled politician can take advantage of this. If the candidates and their campaigns are correct that national security and terrorism have become the priority of most likely voters, then going this direction may have been a smart (if ethically questionable) choice.

The second thing about the debate that stood out to me was the utterly ridiculous strategy all the candidates seemed to embrace: dramatically increasing the size of the U.S. military and investing even more than we already are in upgrading military equipment. Unless I am mistaken, the U.S. already has the largest and best equipped military in the world. Aren't we already spending more on what we like to call "national defense" than any other nation by a vast amount? Isn't it true that so much of our national budget goes into this category that we have embarrassingly little left over for things like public education or infrastructure?

If I am right about any of this, I have to ask how an even larger military with even more expensive hi-tech weaponry is possibly going to make us any safer at home. Why should it even fool us into feeling any safer at home? I suppose it might make some sense if we had one of the smaller and/or most poorly equipped fighting forces around. If our enemies were larger and better equipped, there might be a sound rationale for boosting our numbers and equipment. But that just isn't the case, is it?

If we want to keep Americans safer at home, shouldn't we be investing in repairing or replacing elements of our ailing infrastructure? It is far more likely that you will be killed by a roadway hazard than a terrorist attack. Shouldn't we be taking measures to improve public health and safety right here at home? Wouldn't a healthier and more resilient public be better off? Wouldn't these measures be far more valuable when it comes to protecting the average American?

It also sounds like many, though not all, of the candidates would like to supplement their plan to massively increase military spending by abolishing what little remains of our right to privacy. Everything you do or say on the Internet and every phone call you make or receive should be monitored by the NSA. Encryption should be a thing of the past. In short, we should willingly trade away our rights for the false promise of security. I'm really hoping we don't go down this road again like we did after 9/11, but I'm not optimistic.