Scaling Down the US Military
John Horgan: The United States is an extremely militaristic culture right now and we are armed to the teeth and we are very aggressive in pursuing our interests violently around the world. Until recently we were in two major armed conflicts. We just withdrew our troops from Iraq. That’s a very good thing. I hope we don’t go back in and we still have troops in Afghanistan. Barack Obama has pledged to bring those troops home.
Our military is also gigantic. It more than doubled since 9/11 and there are no signs that it’s going to be reduced appreciably any time in the future. Barack Obama has talked about maybe a 10% reduction over the next 8 or 10 years, which is trivial compared to how big our budget really is. The United States military budget is roughly the size of all other nation’s military budgets combined. If we cut our military in half just in terms of the annual defense budget it would still be much bigger than China’s and Russia’s combined. I’d like to also see us take the lead in getting rid of our nuclear arsenal. There is absolutely no use for nuclear weapons anymore and it’s very difficult for us to make the case to a country like Iran, “no, you’re not allowed to have nuclear weapons”, when we still have about 8,000 nuclear warheads in our own arsenal. I think it’s hard for us to tell other people that they should respect the rule of law when we are carrying out these illegal assassinations in other places and are answerable only to ourselves.
I think that our militarism helps to perpetuate the kind of fear and insecurity around the world that unfortunately will make armed conflict more likely. I think our hope of course is that other people are too scared ever to engage in any sort of violence or we will retaliate. I don’t think it’s going to work that way. So I see this period as an enormous opportunity for our country, for the United States to show some real leadership because we are so powerful and we of course like to think of ourselves as a peaceful, just, very moral people and I think we have a right to feel that about ourselves.
So I'm hoping that we have the kind of leadership someday, maybe even Barack Obama in his second term that will seize this opportunity and help convince Americans and the rest of the world that now is the time when we can really move passed this period of militarism and war and take those resources and use them to solve some of the other problems that often lead to conflict.
Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.
- Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
- At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Research has shown that men today have less testosterone than they used to. What's happening?
- Several studies have confirmed that testosterone counts in men are lower than what they used to be just a few decades ago.
- While most men still have perfectly healthy testosterone levels, its reduction puts men at risk for many negative health outcomes.
- The cause of this drop in testosterone isn't entirely clear, but evidence suggests that it is a multifaceted result of modern, industrialized life.
Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.
- The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
- Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
- As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.