Have you ever noticed how many wars The United States is fighting? We have wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have simmering hostilities in North Korea, Iran and Venezuela among others. We maintain a permanent military presence in Germany, Japan, Korea and Cuba to name just a few (1). And then, we have a multi-billion dollar side industry that sells armaments to other countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel. The United States is the leading supplier of arms worldwide, and military spending is the largest single expenditure on Earth, over $1 trillion annually (2). War is BIG business.
The United States government also engages in some wars that it prefers we don’t consider as wars. At the southern United States border, where an armed U.S. military stands guard and where several hundred immigrants die every year, we are most definitely engaged in a war (3). In foreign countries, with the predatory trade laws of the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund and World Bank, our multinational corporations are waging a war against laborers, subsistence farmers, indigenous cultures and entire national resource bases.
In addition to our “real” wars, the United States has numerous, well-publicized metaphoric wars. Most popular among these wars is the war on terror, but there is also a war on drugs, a war on crime and a war on poverty (as if the impoverished didn’t have it bad enough already).
We also have wars against non-human entities. Clear-cutting forests, mountaintop removal mining, damming rivers and the spewing of toxic chemicals into the air, water and earth should certainly be considered a war on the environment. We are engaged in an extensive war on the atmosphere and climate that will undoubtedly be our undoing if we don’t retreat soon. At factory farms, we war against millions of chickens, pigs and cows on a daily basis.
American individuals have their own daily skirmishes. In our gardens, with real chemical weapons originally developed for warfare, we engage in a war on weeds, insects, invertebrates, fungi and soil microbes. Inside the house we use those same chemicals to annihilate any unwanted pests. If we are sick, we pop a pill of another kind of chemical weaponry to kill the invader, even if the invader is only a construct of our own consciousness.
For every problem or inconvenience, Americans goes to war as a solution; however, most people don’t stop to notice the impact of being surrounded by the perpetual state of conflict in which we live. Furthermore, while all of the above wars are very successful at generating revenues, we don’t seem to be winning any of them.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will require our ongoing military presence into the indefinite future. In spite of our best efforts, illegal immigrants continue to flood into the country (probably because our agricultural industry is begging them to come). The multi-national corporate “free trade” assault on the rest of the economic world has resulted in a global economic collapse and has utterly failed in bringing prosperity to anyone but the multinational corporations themselves. Our war against the environment is not surprisingly, killing us, as no organism can survive without its habitat. Our factory food is making us sick. Even the bugs in our bodies and backyards are fighting back with growing resistance to the ever more powerful chemicals we throw at them.
We don’t have to keep fighting. We can withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and leave them to their own sovereignty, offering as much humanitarian aid as needed (that would be the least we could do after the devastation we have wrought upon their countries). We can create realistic immigration laws that establish a permitting program for workers and offer amnesty to law abiding illegal residents who have been productive members of society for several years. We can create rules of real fair trade to prevent large, heavily subsidized corporations from going into foreign lands and obliterating vital local markets. We can live sustainably with our environment. We can treat livestock humanely or not eat them at all. We can nurture our bodies and our lands so our balanced immune systems and soils can ward off unwanted pests without the need for chemical warfare.
Perhaps it is time to rethink the war strategy of our American culture. While the war profiteers in all their permutations will not be very happy, the rest of us will certainly be much better off with peace instead.
References and Recommended Further Reading