Whether the mask is labeled fascism, democracy, or dictatorship of the proletariat, our great adversary remains the apparatus – the bureaucracy, the police, the military. Not the one facing us across the frontier of the battle lines, which is not so much our enemy as our brothers' enemy, but the one that calls itself our protector and makes us its slaves. No matter what the circumstances, the worst betrayal will always be to subordinate ourselves to this apparatus and to trample underfoot, in its service, all human values in ourselves and in others.
― Simone Weil
"We will have a military like we've never had before."
What does that mean?
No. No. Stop. Don't wave your hands and make vague noises.
Don't roll your eyes and sigh.
Stop and think about it.
Answer the question.
I mean, it sounds good. Make American Great Again. We'll have a military like we’ve never had before. Sure. Sure. Who wouldn’t want that? What patriotic American wouldn’t want a … um, well, whatever kind of military he’s talking about? It must be better than the one we have now. Right? Must be. Sure. Let’s get us some of that. Got to be better. Bigger. More powerful. Shinier. Yeah! USA! USA!
I mean, right?
But, well, not to be unpatriotic and all, but better … how, exactly?
You did notice that Trump never actually tells you this. Ever.
There’s a reason for that.
You see, the Long Con is based on simple human nature. A confidence game that plays on greed, pride, desperation, fear, hope. Which is why religion is often so very successful at it. It takes skill and commitment to pull off a long-con, weeks, months, years even, to groom the suckers, until the mark finally hands over his money of his own free will. And the most skilled confidence man can fool a mark over and over, convincing him again and again to hand over his money. And the best part is that once, if, the mark ever twigs to the fact that he’s been fooled, robbed by his own greed and gullibility, well, he’s often too embarrassed to do anything about it.
As General Smedley Butler once said, war is a racket.
And the military industrial complex and their shills have been playing this game for a very long time.
The key to this con is greed, pride, desperation, and fear. Or in simpler terms: the refuge of the scoundrel, patriotism.
"We will have a military like we've never had before."
The key to a successful con is letting the mark convince himself. Ohhhhh, yes, like we’ve never had before! You bet. We gotta get us some of that, America!
Never give him too many details, too much information. Let him create those things in his head. Let him build it up in his mind, let him imagine how for just a few dollars down he’ll make a fortune. How many of those Spanish Prisoner scams have you seen? The Nigerian Banker with the fortune in British Pounds Sterling sitting in an African bank and all you need do is hand over a small processing fee for your share of the fortune. Crude and clumsy, and yet thousands fall for such cons every year. You laugh at the suckers, meanwhile the CEOs of Northrup-Grumman and General Dynamics, the politicians, and the media pundits tell you that you need a shiny new warship and a fleet of brand new invisible planes. Pride, you want to be proud of your military don’t you? You don’t want another country to have a better military, do you? No, of course not! Our prestige is on the line. And what about all those threats? ISIS for example! Yes, ISIS. If we don’t fight them over there, we’ll have to fight them over here! You’re gonna need a fleet of shiny new warships to defeat ISIS, folks. How much is freedom worth, they’re cheap at that price. What are you, a liberal fool? Do you want them to murder your children? Don’t you love your children? We’ve got to have this new military! One like we’ve never seen before! Yes, yes!
But what does that mean in detail?
Trump never explains anything, any of his genius ideas, in any detail.
He constantly makes vague pronouncements like this one. And no one ever calls him on it. Not the press. Not the people. Certainly not Congress.
Trump says we need a big beautiful Wall.
And the masses nod or rage depending on their inclination, but what does that mean?
Big! Yes! Yes! Beautiful! Oh, God yes!
Big and beautiful. Beautiful and big.
But what's the goal? Stop illegal immigration? Stop terrorism? Stop drugs? How? What terrorists? What drugs? Which immigrants? What's the plan? What studies and hard data is the plan based on? What are the counter arguments? What other options do we have? Have we looked for any other solution? Where are the studies weighing those options against each other? Where is the cost benefit analysis of each one? The environment impact statements? What are the objectives of this wall? How will you measure if the objectives are being met and what's the backup plan if they aren't? How much will it cost? To build? To maintain over its lifespan? How long is that lifespan? How will we pay for it? Who will build it? How long will it take? Will construction stretch into the next administration? What happens if that administration elects not to continue? Do we get our money back? Who will maintain it? Who will patrol it? How long will it be? How high? How is it better than what we have now?
He never answers any of these questions. He never explains anything. Not only because he doesn’t know, but because he’s conning us.
Trump claims to be a genius. Of course we have only his word for that and he’s a little short on the details of who certified his intellect. We’re just supposed to take him at his word. Stable genius. Sure.
But have you ever actually listened to a real genius?
Stephen Hawking is one of the most brilliant minds who has ever existed. He studies time itself. Time. Try to define that. Go ahead. Try to explain time. Time is … what? Hawking studies things that most mundanes can't even put into words in even a general sense, let alone comprehend in any detail. And yet – and yet – what Hawking is most noted for is his ability to patiently explain that very complexity to ordinary people. He wrote a famous best selling book on it. He gives sellout lectures on it, like some kind of rock star. Even though doing something as ordinary as speaking is horribly difficult for him.
Ever watch Elon Musk describing his plans for the future of humankind? This guy is so many steps ahead of the human race that there is legitimate reason to wonder if he's maybe an alien in disguise, sent here from some advanced civilization out there beyond the stars. Musk can describe the most complex machines – like his Falcon Heavy – the most complex ideas, and why they are so very important for our future, in terms that anyone can understand. All while cracking sly jokes and sending his own car into orbit around the sun.
Trump claims similar genius, yet he can never describe his plans in even the vaguest of terms.
"We will have a military like we've never had before."
What does that mean?
What the hell does that mean?
The United States spends on average 20% of its entire federal budget on the military – and that does NOT include the Veterans Administration or money spent on veterans after they leave the service.
54% of federal discretionary spending is on the military.
4.5% of the Gross Domestic Product is spent on the military, that’s 700 BILLION dollars as of this year.
And Trump and conservatives in Congress tell us that we must increase that expenditure.
We have to.
We have to, right? Don’t you want a military like we’ve never seen before? Sure you do.
But … why?
Why do we need to spend more on the military?
No. NO. That's not a rhetorical question. Why do we need to spend more on the military?
Why? The answer to that question, the ability to answer that question in any detail, is the whole goddamned point here.
We spend on average right now a bit over 4% of the Gross Domestic Product on ... well, I was going to say Defense, but that's not really accurate, is it? War. Military hardware. Weapons. Invasion. Power projection. Occupation of foreign nations. Empire building. Whatever the hell you call it, it's not really defense anymore. Department of Preemptive Mayhem and Wanton Destruction maybe. War, Inc.
Whatever we call it, we spend roughly 4% of our GDP on it.
For comparison, during the height of WWII, spending on the military peaked at 41% of GDP.
That’s a lot. We had to give up a lot of other things to fund the military at 41% of the GDP. But that's back when we were literally fighting for survival, fighting a total war, globally, against two different enemies -- enemies that were a vast alliance of nation states -- simultaneously over literally millions of square miles of the planet. We were fighting in the air, on every sea, and over the land on six continents. Nearly every ship, every plane, every base, entire armies, new technologies, doctrine, plans, alliances, all of it, had to be built from scratch. All of America had to sacrifice, they gave up consumer goods, they rationed food and essentials such as gasoline – hell, it was illegal to own a spare tire for your car, that rubber went to the war. They scrounged for metals, they went to work in the factories, they volunteered for the military, they instituted a draft, they bought war bonds. That’s what it took, and more, to fund the military to 41% of the GDP. They could never have sustained it, if the war went on as long as the current one has.
During the Cold War we spent on average about 10% of the GDP on the military. That was to maintain a global presence and go toe-to-toe with the Soviet Union, with the literal end of the world hanging in the balance every day.
During World War II, during the Cold War, our enemies could have wiped us out. Taken us over, destroyed civilization in a dozen different ways. Now? We face some pissant terrorists and a handful of Third World dictators. They can harm us, certainly. Some of them might even have the power to destroy a city. I won't argue that. They might certainly wreak terrible damage.
But they can't destroy the United States.
They can't end the world.
They can’t topple civilization.
Meanwhile, Between 2001 and 2014, 440,095 Americans died from gun violence on US soil.
You know how many Americans died in World War II? 416,500.
For comparison and lest you think I’m picking on gun violence unfairly, between 2001 and 2014, 534,601 Americans died in car accidents.
Again, for comparison, in the same amount of time, 13 years or so, 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam.
Between 2001 and 2014, the total number of Americans killed overseas by terrorism (as the government defines it) was 369.
Three-hundred and sixty-nine. Total. That’s it. Killed by terrorist overseas.
Inside the US, the number of Americans killed by terrorism during that same period was 3,043 – a tenth of the guns deaths in America that year.
Three-thousand and forty-three. That’s a lot right? Yes it is. But that figure includes the attacks of September 11th, 2001. With the exception of that extraordinary and terrible event, the annual deaths from domestic terrorism (as the government officially defines it) is much, much lower, averaging <10 per year.
Note: as the government defines terrorism. You can't have it both ways. If the government doesn't define a white Christian man with a modified semi-auto assault rifle firing from a hotel window into the crowd as terrorism for the purposes of gun violence, then they can't count it as terrorism for national defense purposes either. Make your bed and lie in it.
That's the threat we face today. Opioid abuse. Gun violence. Car accidents. These things are what kill Americans today. And while, certainly, terrorist states and rogue nations are a threat, comparatively speaking they’re fairly minor when plotted against the things that are actually killing Americans in large numbers right now.
Quick, what percentage of the federal budget is spent on gun violence?
What percentage on car accidents?
What percentage on drug deaths?
We spend 4% and more of our GDP, 20% of the federal budget, on our military and almost nothing on the actual threats that are actually killing Americans.
The politicians and the pundits and the defense industry would have you convinced that our enemies are massed outside the gate and tunneling under the walls. But, fear not, America, for the low, low price of $700 Billion, we can defend you! And most of America is too damned scared to stop and question anything. $700 Billion? What a bargain for our safety, plus, super cool military! USA! USA!
Let me give you an example, one of many: 4,486 American service personnel died in the most recent Iraq War. 2,345 American military personnel have so far died in Afghanistan. More than a million have been wounded.
Now, how many of those deaths were due to enemy airpower?
How many of those 6,831 dead Americans were killed as a direct result of enemy airpower?
Need a hint? It’s none.
Over 17 years of war, no American in that conflict was killed or wounded by enemy aircraft. They were killed by IEDS in infinite variation, RPGs, mortar fire, snipers, small arms fire, suicide bombers, but not one was killed by enemy air superiority.
In fact, how many Americans have been killed by enemy air power since Vietnam?
And yet, we’re spending $1.5 Trillion to build the F-35, because we just gotta have it. And this was the cheap one, the single seater, compared to the F-22, the air superiority fighter, which we also just had to have. Now, sure, technological superiority is great and all, but again, it’s not technological superiority that’s killing our people or threatening our country. Hell, 19 shitheads with boxcutters killed 2,996 of us on 911. All the super invisible fighter jets in the world couldn’t have stopped it. Just as they can’t stop a fanatic with a suicide vest. But, the generals, the defense contractors, the politicians and the pundits have convinced you that the real threat is enemy airpower. Or enemy ships on the high seas. Or enemy tanks. So we’ve got to have new planes and new ships and new tanks.
And yet, ISIS can’t destroy us. North Korea can’t destroy us. They can bring down a building. Blow up a city. Sure, and we need to deal with that threat, I’m not saying we don’t. I’m certainly not saying that any building, any city, is expendable. But they can’t destroy us.
And the things we need to fight ISIS, or even North Korea, well, those things aren’t sexy and they don’t keep multi-billion dollar defense contractors in business. So we buy trillion dollar fighter jets to fight terrorists.
It’s a racket. That’s why you never hear about the details.
The generals, the defense contractors, the pundits, the politicians, they never spell it out. They don’t want you thinking about it, asking questions, getting suspicious that you’re being conned.
Ask yourself something: Where's the upper limit?
At what point do we max out, percentage wise? 10% of GDP? 41% like WWII? And what are we willing to give up to achieve that level of military spending? Nylons and spare tires? Will you buy war bonds and ration gasoline and butter? Will you send your children off to fight a preemptive war somewhere in the world?
How is this military Trump plans to create unlike any we've seen before? What will it do that the current one can’t? How will it be better? Who decided that? What did they base that decision on? How much will it cost? How much will it cost to maintain? How long will it last? What do we have to give up? What are the long term consequences? Ronald Reagan created a massive military, unlike any we'd seen in recent history. We activated WWII battleships and built nuclear cruisers and bought new fighter jets and new tanks. We recruited new soldiers and marched out smartly to show the world our might.
It put us into massive debt and couldn't be maintained.
We had to cut back.
Meanwhile, there was the Soviet Union. They too built a massive military at the expense of everything else in their society. They loved to parade it through Red Square to show the world. Their mighty ships patrolled the high seas and their bombers cruised the skies.
And combined with endless war, eventually that military bankrupted the USSR.
The entire country collapsed overnight without so much as a whimper, and disappeared into history.
Right now, North Korea is building bombs and rockets while their people go hungry. We mock them for this, just as we laughed at Soviets standing in endless lines for bread and toilet paper while their government churned out tanks and nuclear cruisers that they couldn’t afford.
These things should be cautionary tales, not examples to emulate.
"We will have a military like we've never had before."
How come conservatives like Trump never say, “We will have an education system like we’ve never had before.”
We’re going to have healthcare coverage like we’ve never had before.
We’re going to advance science like we’ve never done before.
We’re going to help people we’ve never helped before, feed people we’ve never fed before, spread civil rights to those who’ve never had them before, bring freedom and equality and justice to all like we’ve never done before, give a leg up to every member of our society like we’ve never done, work towards making war less likely and work on lasting peace and prosperity like we’ve never done before.
We’re going to see that everybody has a boat and that the tide raises all of those boats together! Goddamned right, that’s what we’re going to do.
They don’t say it, because they don’t believe it.
Because they are amoral bastards who don’t believe in anything but enriching themselves. They’ve been running this con for a long time. They’ll take your last dime and they don’t give a damn what happens to you.
But here’s the thing: the con doesn’t work unless the victim plays along.
Greed. Pride. Envy. Fear. These are the human traits that make this con profitable.
As such, the countermeasure should then be obvious.
You must ask the questions and demand the answers. You must look past fear and greed and pride and mindless unthinking patriotism.
You must hold this administration, every administration, accountable. Every Congressman. Every Senator. Every general. Every CEO who takes taxpayer money. Every political party. Every media outlet. Every journalist. Ask the questions and demand the answers. Never stop. Show up for every election, no matter how minor. Educate yourself on the candidates and the issues before the election.
When government is of the people, by the people, and for the people, the people – you – are the weakest link.
In the end, as always, if you want a better nation, you have to be better citizens.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.
― Dwight D. Eisenhower