Since 1948, the United States has spent $15 trillion on its military-industrial complex. If there was such a thing as a million dollar bill, you would have a stack of one million dollar bills reaching nearly a mile high to equal this amount of money. It is a sum greater than all factories, machinery, roads, bridges, water and sewerage systems, airports, railroads, power plants office buildings, shopping centers schools, hospitals, hotels, and houses in the country added together. That will buy a lot of bullets and bombs. It is an amount of money that would have completely revitalized the American infrastructure had it be reallocated to useful domestic purposes.
Certainly there are forces that present a threat to American sovereignty and the American people, but it is hard not to imagine what benefit this kind of investment may have yielded had it not been spent for defense. It is also hard not to imagine that much of this expenditure may have been used for the benefit of those who beat the war drum for profit.
I was a United States Marine, volunteering during a time of the conflict in Viet Nam to serve my country in a time-honored tradition. While I was trained to fight and prepared to use that training against an enemy, I have always preferred to look at my role in military service as that of a peacekeeper. In order to thwart aggression it is generally prudent to carry a big stick and know how to use it, whether you have to whack someone or not. Clearly some of that investment in defense has been appropriate, but it is always questionable whether the expense of American lives is worth it.
Among the legends of the United States Marine Corps, I learned about the exploits and bravery of Smedley Butler, the most decorated Marine in history during his lifetime. Butler was a Marine Corps major general, the highest military rank authorized at the time. During his 34-year career as a Marine, he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during the Banana Wars, and France in World War I. Toward the end of his life, he spoke disparagingly about war profiteers and with regret about his time fighting wars. In a speech in 1931, later published in a booklet entitled War is a Racket, Butler said: “A racket is something... conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many.” He further declared, “War is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious racket. It is the one... where the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”
Many of the Marines I served with along with other veterans I have met since my time of service shared my commitment to standing up to keep the peace. It was nice to come across a quote from a genuine war hero and admired Marine Corps leader who shared the same sentiment.