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.


 

NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller on ​the multiple dimensions of space and human sexuality

Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.

Think Again Podcasts
  • Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
  • What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
  • Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Ideology drives us apart. Neuroscience can bring us back together.

A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.

Sponsored
  • How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
  • To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations.