Wednesday, August 25, 2010

National priorities

What blocks the US from instituting a nonviolent national policy toward others on this planet? Our devotion to violence and violent threat. Our military is fearsome and guarantees that we are hated by much of the world, feared by all, and that our ecology and economy are both in downward death spirals.

In the field of conflict resolution we are trained to look for win-win solutions, to examine how to construct possible conflict outcomes that can keep everyone satisfied, if not happy. We seldom say that two bodies of interests are mutually exclusive.

But this is the stalemate we find with the US military budget. It overwhelms and overshadows. It denies and steals. It hollows out everything else and it mandates massive pollution of our natural world even as it takes more and more from the possibilities of full employment, decent universal health care, education and environmental protection. The best source for analyzing this is the National Priorities Project. Spend some time on their website to gain the real numbers that they have made locally relevant.

Economists refer to this as 'opportunity costs,' that is, when we spend limited funds on one thing, we cannot spend those funds on another thing. The opportunities foreclosed by our US military budget are so great that they overshadow and yet are failing to inform our national discussion. It is as though we are stuck in the simplistic Ronald Reagan dictum, "Defense is not a budget issue."

Um, yes it is. And as overwhelming as it is to our economy--make no mistake, it is the root of our recession and unemployment--it is even more corrosive to how the rest of the world perceives us. That is how nonviolent conflict management is made impossible and is the primary source of the stalemate. We cannot be honest brokers of peace and have nearly 1,000 military bases on other peoples' sovereign soil. Everyone on Earth fears the US. What kind of country prefers respect based on fear rather than admiration?

Time to retake and remake our national image. That won't happen until we also solve our other economic problems, since it's all hooked to the military budget, the 1,000-pound gorilla in our living room.

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