The Militarization of America

Professor Aaron O’Connell, at the United States Naval Academy, my alma mater, writes today of an important matter:  “The Permanent Militarization of America.”  His touchstone is President Dwight D Eisenhower’s Farewell Address in January, 1961

Eisenhower’s least heeded warning — concerning the spiritual effects of permanent preparations for war — is more important now than ever. Our culture has militarized considerably since Eisenhower’s era, and civilians, not the armed services, have been the principal cause. From lawmakers’ constant use of “support our troops” to justify defense spending, to TV programs and video games like “NCIS,” “Homeland” and “Call of Duty,” to NBC’s shameful and unreal reality show “Stars Earn Stripes,” Americans are subjected to a daily diet of stories that valorize the military while the storytellers pursue their own opportunistic political and commercial agendas…

There is much more, which you should certainly read but he ends with this:

Were Eisenhower alive, he’d be aghast at our debt, deficits and still expanding military-industrial complex. And he would certainly be critical of the “insidious penetration of our minds” by video game companies and television networks, the news media and the partisan pundits. With so little knowledge of what Eisenhower called the “lingering sadness of war” and the “certain agony of the battlefield,” they have done as much as anyone to turn the hard work of national security into the crass business of politics and entertainment.

O’Connell doesn’t mention Andrew Bacevich’s fine book on the same matter,  The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, but it is essential reading for all concerned about this slow, dangerous tilt towards putting military virtue as the template for all virtue.

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