I guess we just learned that money and guns cannot buy you love.
After decades of war, hundreds of thousands of deaths, destruction of the infrastructure of a country, and a massive military expenditure, it seems that the war in Afghanistan is ending. And for only the little price of $2.2 trillion. So much for the effectiveness of military intelligence and planning from the largest military in the world.
I am thinking it’s past time for a peacetime military for sure.
I don’t even remember what this distant war was about. I know that soldiers went to Afghanistan and their sons went to Afghanistan. That’s courageous and sad. It’s said that Afghanistan is the “graveyard of empires.” Or as scholar Zoltan Grossman would write, “Imperial forces get lured into battle, and then get bogged down in a quagmire they cannot win. ... Afghanistan has been at war continuously for 42 years, and the Pentagon has been involved every step of the way, under both Republican and Democratic administrations. … U.S. interventions helped create, arm, and facilitate the mujahedin (jihadist fighters) that took the country away from the more secular direction it had been taking in the 1960s-1980s. Afghan women and girls had rights until 1992, when the U.S.-backed mujahedin defeated the communists, and that was four years before the first Taliban takeover.”
The country has great wealth: precious, strategic minerals and, of course, poppies (the opium kind). All sorts of stuff to fight over. Maybe just let them figure it out; after all, it’s their country.
I’d say that it looks like war is probably not the answer to a lot of things. However, the U.S. isn’t so good at the peace thing. Since 1918, there have been about 250 or so wars, according to Wikipedia: The U.S. has been involved in several of them for sure directly or indirectly as military contractors.
That said, the Department of Defense sees climate change as the largest threat we face; after all, we’ve got catastrophes of biblical proportions right now, from plagues to fires.
“Changing weather patterns, rising temperatures, and dramatic shifts in rainfall contribute to drought, famine, migration, and resource competition,” General Thomas D. Waldhauser, then-commander of the U.S. Africa Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2019. “As each group seeks land for its own purposes, violent conflict can ensue.”
Climate change equals more conflict and instability — that’s the sum. So, first, if the bathwater is overflowing, you have to turn off the tap. That means quit on the fossil fuels. The military can do that easier now that we are out of Afghanistan, given that the DOD is the single largest consumer of energy in the U.S. and, in fact, the world's single largest institutional consumer of petroleum.
So maybe we start on an oil diet. And, then, think about what we spend making sure oil is secure: The United States military spends about $81 billion a year to protect oil supplies around the world!
Like I said, diet time. After all, if the DOD is worried that its bases are going under water, well, they should, just turn off the tap.
I’ve been thinking about how renewables and local economies are the future. The U.S. military is one of the largest proponents of solar and renewable energy, understanding that it gives us energy security. Let’s do more.
Visualize it, a peacetime military. Maybe we add the Biden infrastructure proposal of $2.2 trillion with some manpower from some military heroes, and we make a better world for our grandchildren.
Lester Brown, of the Worldwatch Institute, writes about the needs of an environmental cleanup. Protecting topsoil, reforesting the earth, restoring oceanic fisheries, and other needed measures will cost an estimated $110 billion in additional expenditures per year.
The costliest activities, protecting biological diversity at $31 billion and conserving soil on cropland at $24 billion, account for almost half of the annual earth restoration outlay.
Then there’s cleaning up water tables, some of them contaminated by the military itself (Badger Army Ammunition Plant, Wisconsin, is a good example; Hawaiian military bases are another) and restoring rangelands and fisheries. There’s a lot of ways to spend a couple of trillion which would help us with the times ahead. And if we added the largest military force in the world to problem-solving, not problem-making, well, we would be ahead.
Those are some real heroes, the ones who save Mother Earth, the water, the topsoil, the little animals, and the people. Let’s be about peace, water and future generations, and let’s do that together.
Winona LaDuke is executive director, Honor the Earth, and an Ojibwe writer and economist on Minnesota’s White Earth Reservation. She is also owner of Winona's Hemp and a regular contributor to Forum News Service.