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Militarism

Militarism is the ideology that military strength[?] is the source of all security. In its mildest form it is often stated as many more specific arguments for military preparedness[?], all of which tend to assume that to achieve "peace through strength" is the most or only route to achieve peace.

Militarism tends to be defined in direct opposition to peace movements in modern times. Historically the term occurred with reference to specific states engaged in imperialism, e.g. Empire of Japan, British Empire, Third Reich, New Roman Empire[?] of Mussolini, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics under Stalin, Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Today it is often applied to the United Kingdom, Israel and the United States, and many of their opponents, e.g. North Korea, Syria, most of which are small and not threatening to the military power of those states.

One aspect of militarism is the ascendancy of a small clique of military officers[?] to unchallenged power, as in Iraq, Third Reich and most of Latin America up until the 1980s. Some argue this is also true of the modern G. W. Bush administration where many officers promoted under G. H. W. Bush have become influential in U.S. foreign policy[?], and some private citizens, e.g. Donald Rumsfeld who dealt with Saddam Hussein in 1983 as an agent of Ronald Reagan's CIA, have achieved unprecedented power under the Bush Doctrine - part of the New American Century ideology.

One can measure militarism in part by the influence of such figures who advance a militarily-focused foreign policy characterized by support of dictators who support short term goals, their deposition once they become an embarassment, both of which requires substantial capacity to dispense arms, and to invade a country (like Panama or Iraq) that was at one time a convenient ally.

A more objective way to measure militarism is lack of public support. In a briefing on March 20, 2003, Ari Fleischer of the G. W. Bush administration claimed that, among the "over 35 countries" in the coalition of the willing governments that supported the U.S. plan to invade Iraq, there were "1.18 billion people and GNP of 27 trillion dollars" and that they represented every faith, ethnicity and region. This was a fairly transparent attempt to argue that there was such support, thus the US action was not militarist.

Another way to measure militarism is lack of budgetary commitment to other means to ensure peace. As of the commencement of the US invasion of Iraq on that date, the Bush administration had budgeted over US$80 billion for that war, but only US$27 million for post-war reconstruction and so-called nation-building[?]. This despite the insistence of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that nations that invaded other nations without UN Security Council sanction were solely responsible for such reconstruction expenses and for the humanitarian aid[?]. A ratio of over 2000 to 1 for war vs. post-war peace expenses does seem extreme, even when the US tendency to justify political and humanitarian costs as defense costs (to reduce U.S. Congress objections) is accounted for.

Finally, one can measure militarism by the commitment of one's domestic economy[?] to arms or dual-use technology[?] versus products useful solely in peacetime. Israel, North Korea, France, Russia and China in addition to the United States, have devoted immense effort to military research[?] and continue to deploy new types of weapons even while under no particular threat.

Other less tangible signs of militarism include restrictions on free speech as applied to military activities, economic sanctions and discrimination against peace movement figures, e.g. their inclusion on a no-fly list[?] despite their posing no physical threat, and surveillance of the public creating a carceral state or Panopticon.

A disdain for any ecology movement or feminism was another such trait noted by Marilyn Waring[?] in her book "If Women Counted[?]", who argued that militarism was inherent in the UN System of National Accounts[?]. In general the Green Parties have adopted this view in green economics and the more specific and technical human development theory which has built on it. The broadly-stated goal of such movements is to reduce the inherent pollution credit that is part of an industrial policy of making arms, or of war as a means of resolving disputes. Creating such products as depleted uranium ammunition or land mines would necessarily be unprofitable under such a system of political economy, as the long-term health costs of the wastes (ecological and personal and professional, e.g. medical attention) they creat would be prohibitive under full cost accounting, advocated by such systems.

Marxist economics is even more blunt, and states that capitalism is itself necessarily dependent on war and ultra-powerful monopoly on violence to protect regimes of property rights. As intangibles such as intellectual property rights become more important in the economy, the argument goes, more violence and global intervention becomes required to "protect" them, even if the cost to human bodies and ecologies is extreme.

Militarism could thus also be defined as the rejection of these economic arguments, and extreme trust in corporate and military leaders, especially in combination. Recent debates in the U.S. on the privatized military[?], the reliance of U.S. forces on private contractors[?], focus on this major issue.

The fact that major figures such as U.S. Vice President Richard Cheney, a former President of Halliburton, a major contractor to the U.S. military, play such key roles politically and commercially, is viewed by many as at least a conflict of interest, if not an outright abuse of public trust[?]. Such arguments assume of course that there is some control or intention to put one's corporate or crony interests higher on the administration's priority list than priorities that affect more people, e.g. AIDS. A counter-argument is that public figures have little or no control of the events that they face in office, and that placing a corporation in a position to exploit ugly events is more or less exactly the responsibility that stockholders expect executives to undertake. As long as they keep their interests separate in their own mind from the public interest, this argument goes, it is neither a conflict of interest nor is it evidence of militarism, but only a form of pragmatism.

One response is that all arguments for militarism have historically been arguments for pragmatism, and that given the disastrous outcomes of wars and arms races, they must be discounted as, in the long run, not practical at all.

See also: peace movement, military, fascism, hawkish



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