Today's Abolish The Army Day in Costa Rica.  They abolished the army in 1948 after a civil war. Here's the background to it. It seems a far fetched, idealistic notion in today's world but is it possible for the US to exist without a military? Or has it become indispensible. We say it's for the sake of defense, but is it? Thoughts?

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I don't feel it is far fetched. It would take a change of view by the populous as a whole. A standing army acts like a dare to so many other countries. I will continue to pray for this end.

Hi Steve. I agree a standing army can act as a provocation. But I wonder if, in a situation with someone like a Hitler, no provocation was necessary. Is then the only deterrent threat of retaliation?

When I think about this idea, I just wonder what would happen if we did without a military without any of our enemies doing the same?  It would seem that we would have to come to some sort of agreement with other nations agreeing to do the same, otherwise we leave ourselves open to attack.  Plus, what about the terrorists who play by their own rules?  Even if other countries agreed, there's still that renegade bunch (in all countries) with which to contend.  But it's definitely something worthy of desiring.  

Hi Pat,

It's true that there are always renegades, but the World Trade Center attacks, for example, were a direct result of our involvement with Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War. And our continual backing of Israel, both in the UN with military hardware, foreign aid, etc., in the ongoing crisis with the Palestinians, is a running point in the Islamic world. And who knows what the long-term backlash will be from our invasion of Iraq. Perhaps that has created an entire generation of potential terrorists. If we hadn't had our massive war machine in place, would we have ever considered going to Iraq? What if we abolished standing armies and but still trained our population so that there was a readiness to defend ourselves if need be. That might elminate adventures such as Iraq because you would be asking an entire population to sacrifice for a particular cause - instead of just a professional army. And that might make such wars a harder sell.

Hm. I think it is theoretically possible, but would require a massive paradigm shift. We'd have to stop looking at ourselves as a huge military power. We'd have to reimagine our role in the world, in that right now we're the Big Boys With All The Guns.

On a realistic level, I think we'd succeed at this best if we began with "U.S. without wars", and then as we succeed at non-warring, gradually scaling back the standing military until it goes away. We could then at the same time direct the people and money involved in the military into schools, infrastructure, and other good stuff.

Will that ever happen? I don't know. My instinct is to say "probably not" but that feels horrible and cynical.

Hi Sy,

I think you're right about the paradigm shift. But I think or hope that it's doable. There's a great documentary movie called "Why We Fight" which came out in 2005. It's a look at the history of American warring and the military industrial complex through the lens of our involvement in Iraq. It revolves around Eisenhower's speech on the military industrial complex and radiates out from that to look at 9/11 and where we went after the attack and why. It's fascinating. But what is truly fascinating is that Eisenhower, a man who owed his career and his reputation to his life in the military, was so steadfastly adamant that we not spend one dime more on the military than was necessary because bombs and bullets took food from the hungry, and education from those who needed it, and houses from those who were homeless. His words seem almost radical today, and yet they were spoken in a time when America was much more conservative and in a lot of ways, the world was a more dangerous place with the threat of nuclear war and the like. Now the problem is that it is so implicated in our economic system, we can't even see it. But I wonder if, after the disaster that was Iraq, and the failings of Afghanistan, and the massive financial hole we're in because of the two, and financial meltdown, I wonder if that paradigm shift is revealing itself in some small way. Mitt Romney's promise to boost military spending did not get traction with anyone, least of all the military. They said they didn't need it. I can't remember a president in recent history who could have gotten away with not boosting military spending, or at least pledging to. You're right, being the big kid on the block is how we've always seen ourselves. But when the threats are asymetrical, being the big kid doesn't mean much. You throw a big fist that lands nowhere and someone much smaller takes you down by kicking your foot out from under you. I don't know, but it's an interesting development. And I think people saw right through Romney's idea as simple pandering to a reality that is no longer sustainable when we have so many other problems.

Hi Jody,

That's a really good point about Romney and military spending, I didn't know that. I certainly hope it does signal the beginnings of a shift away from kneejerk rah-rah militarism.

My immediate thought upon reading this discussion is to wonder what we can do right now/in the near future/in the next few years to get this rolling. How would we nurture this shift?

That's a good question Syd. I wonder if we don't have to let circumstances nurture it for us, which isn't too promising. But I think it's delicate because I think it has to begin with practical realities and working from there. The financial situation right now lends itself to practical reality and the necessities of that. Luckily we don't have the big nuclear threat to contend with although there are those who are doing all they can to portray Iran in that light. It's easy to play upon those natural fears to lobby for greater spending or continued spending on arms or weapons systems which is the lifeblood of the system. I think though that when the choices are between people eating, heating oil for people's homes, unemployment and the like, it's an argument that seems more practical than radical. With our tendancy to pull back in the wake of Afghanistan and Iraq, it might be a good time to encourage that tide by arguing for smaller, more agile military that can respond to specific crises. I think that gradual shrinking is part of the key. So that people don't react out of fear that we're stripping away all our defenses. But the hard part is that the military and the defense industry are huge jobs programs that affect every state. You should really see "Why We Fight." I've never seen such a clear explanation of it. How it's become such a part of the fabric. And how we remove ourselves from the reality of what we're producing. But your question is a good one and something that I think we'll have to ponder and pursue.

paradigm shift and doing something like japan was a decade or so was

Hey Roland,

Can you tell me about Japan? You mean the demonstrations agains the nukes and bases, stuff like that?

no their pacifist constitution. and their armed forces being used only for defense only. in recent years they have been pressured by the U S to become more active and stretching that constitution.  this to counter balance growing chinese power in the region. this has upset some others in the region like south korea.

Hi Roland,

It's interesting and yesterday I was reading on a site that 39 percent of the budget goes towards the military and only 2 percent towards diplomacy. I wonder what would happen if that were a bit more balanced and instead of preparing for war, we were working to resolve conflicts before they arise. scroll down.


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