But thanks to the peace movement and its intellectual workers in various places, we are finally having an actual debate at some level. Military spending is considered fair game by more and more Americans, who are beginning to get a handle on the qualitative concepts behind quantitative shell games and fearmongering propaganda.
Afraid of bin Laden? Bush and Cheney could never quiiiiiiite manage to get him behind bars. Stay afraid! He might be in a cave or in your closet! Give us most of your tax dollars and we'll keep his Muslim moles from blowing up your office buildings. Shut up. We take no questions. What? Are you unpatriotic? Questions only aid and comfort the enemy and that makes you an enemy too. We do not distinguish.
Now, however, bin Laden is gone and al-Qa'ida is fading--not so much because of the incessant pounding they take from the American military (at a cost of $hundreds of billions per terrorist leader, the most inefficient approach ever devised), but because they alienate everyone around them. The only way to spruce up al-Qa'ida with locals and outraged Muslims all over the world is to do exactly what we have been doing--occupy other peoples' land, humiliate Muslims in their own countries, support the royals and militaristic governments who oppress them, and be sure to terrorize them with drones and other air power that kills far more little girls than terrorist operatives.
Military members often see this and wander out of the foreign entanglement bewilderness with ideas that seem remarkably close to those held by many in the peace movement. Still, the chickenhawks in Congress and the Tea Party push and push to sacralize the military budget with their tired old cliches: "Support the troops" and "Now is not the time to cut and run" and give it all over for "our brave men and women in uniform."
There is so much at stake now and the choices are stark and meaningful. The era of compromising so that the military-industrial complex can belch out a few high-paying jobs while we also have enough to help our most vulnerable is over. We are at the crossroads Eisenhower warned would come, when humanity is hanging from an iron cross of war, when every dollar spent on the guns is a direct theft from those in need. All elements of these wars are coming home, from poverty and exploitation to ecological ruination and violence, from loss of civil rights to a slashed and increasingly useless social safety net.
Let the MIC run over the edge of the fiscal cliff and hold back our children and working Americans. It is one or the other this time, and the war machine is going over sooner or later out of sheer unsustainability. But civil society is sustainable if we craft it right. We simply cannot sustain the war system and we either rise up and cut loose from it or we go over the fiscal cliff with it. Our choice.