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Can you imagine living in an America freed from constant wars?

By       Message michael payne     Permalink
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I certainly can; it would be a new kind of America where war was no longer such a dominant part of our lives and our national discourse. A nation that could use its great wealth for positive developments such as better systems of education, universal health care, creation of alternates to fossil fuels, improving our infrastructure, and providing a safer environment for our society. That would be, in effect, "American the Beautiful" becoming a reality. But that's not the America in which we currently live.

No, unfortunately, we live in an entirely different kind of America. The America of today is certainly not using its great wealth (still the biggest economy in the world and the wealthiest nation) to build strength into our nation by all those meaningful initiatives I mentioned. Over the past several decades our government and our leaders have drastically shifted America's priorities into expanding our influence and military power all over the world. And our nation and this society have suffered mightily as a result.

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What we need is a new formula for the way we conduct the affairs of this nation. This is a critical issue, something that needs immediate attention and must become an important part of our national agenda; we have to face the fact that this nation is going in the wrong direction; one that must be quickly reversed. But right now there is just too much apathy as we watch in silence and submissiveness while the wealth of our nation is stripped away and used to build an American Empire that neither we, nor the world, needs or wants.

Let's do some fairly radical, innovative and constructive thinking about the state of our nation. Let's do a kind of "what if" analysis that would involve taking one half of our current Pentagon budget of $1 trillion annually and transferring that $500 billion into our general treasury to be used for domestic purposes. What, some will say? That will seriously weaken America and make us less safe

Would the U.S. immediately be thrown into grave danger because there would only be $500 billion (that's $500,000,000,000) available each year to protect the American people on our soil and to protect our interests abroad? If we strategically reduced our approximately 750 military installations around the world would we leave ourselves open to attack by some major power that sees us as substantially weaker? Would we immediately be run over by attacks by Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups that see us as severely weakened and highly vulnerable? Absolutely not. We would still have, by far, the most powerful military forces in the world.

With all our current military might spread all over this planet, why exactly is it that Americans still don't feel safe in their own country? Why do we react with so much fear and anxiety over the possibility of another "shoe bomber" or an "underpants bomber" attacking us? I say that the fear and paranoia persists because Americans watch our military chasing terrorists all over the world while, at the same time, our nation continues to remain extremely vulnerable within our own borders.

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But what will happen with Iraq and the Afghan War is we reduce the spending on defense? In the case of Iraq, that totally fraudulent war foisted upon the American people, the U.S. should simply follow the current plan to have all troops leave that country by the end of 2011; with absolutely no exceptions. The military will try to change or delay that plan but Mr. Obama must not cave in to it.

President Obama has indicated that we will begin troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by mid-2011 and he must develop a concrete plan to follow through. Again, the military is already making noises and beginning to challenge his stated intentions, but Obama must not let the generals make policy decisions about the war. He must stand firm. He is the Commander-in-Chief and, in that capacity, his responsibility is not just to wage war but to also end war when that is in the best interests of this nation; or when it is essential to maintain our economic stability.

My conclusion is that, if the defense budget was cut in half, it would not make America less safe, either here or around the world. What it would do is to put a big dent in the pocketbooks of defense contractors such as Boeing, General Dynamics and others who have, for decades, feasted on the contracts generously supplied to them by the U.S. Congress. So, if we significantly reduce the military budget and transfer funds to domestic needs, we may hurt their bottom lines but we will help America immeasurably.

So, in what positive and constructive ways could we use up to $500 billion a year domestically?

" Improve domestic security; airports, borders, coast guard, fire and police

" Improve roads, bridges, highways, develop high-speed rail systems

" Develop a new green manufacturing industry; solar panels, wind turbines, alternate fuels, electric cars

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" Institute a better education system, universal health care, address environmental issues

I'm not talking about more funding of short term solutions using band aids to generate "make work" that soon disappears. What I am talking about is a completely new approach to rebuild every critical sector of America. This would work best by a concerted effort between government and the business community; government would provide the agenda and funding, and business would provide the expertise and facilities. It must be a repeat of the misguided process whereby government funds were handed over to the banking industry with no conditions of any kind attached.

The fact of the matter is that we can maintain a strong military to protect America from potential enemies and we can also rebuild a stronger nation at the same time. These objectives are actually very complementary; to strengthen America domestically is to guarantee that we will have the resources to continue funding a strong military. If we continue on our present path of economic erosion we will guarantee that, at some point, the resources for funding the military will begin to dry up.

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Michael Payne is an independent, progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues. He is a featured writer on Opednews and Nation of Change and his articles have appeared on many other websites (more...)

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