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Geopolitics / ‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
« Last post by RE on Today at 01:36:21 AM »

‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
February 19, 2018 avenger27


No matter how absurd and overblown the concept, the US military has the money to develop it.
Donald Trump has embraced the popular “peace through strength” doctrine (PTSD) with his characteristic panache:

    “I’m going to make our military so big, so powerful, so strong, that nobody — absolutely nobody — is gonna to mess with us,” Trump says. On other occasions he’s said similar things: “We want to defer, avoid and prevent conflict through our unquestioned military strength” (same link) and, a year ago, “Nobody is going to mess with us. Nobody. It will be one of the greatest military build-ups in American history.”

I will acknowledge that the PTSD has surface appeal. Why not show the world the United States is so awesomely powerful that no one in his right mind would even think to get on its wrong side? It seems to make sense in a practical sort of way.

Once people believe that, of course, they are softened up to accept unlimited military spending and the concomitant deficits and debt. As John T. Flynn used to say, military spending is a favorite of big-government types precisely because the conservatives won’t object. Conservatives rail against even small amounts of so-called foreign aid and welfare, but they drool over monstrous sums for the armed forces and spy agencies. (Thankfully, some conservatives don’t.) Progressives, by the way, are not immune to the allure of military spending. When a Pentagon budget cap was debated a few years ago, Rep. Jim Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, a leading progressive, and a Black Caucus leader, opposed it because he feared losing jobs in his district. Military spending thus has something for nearly everybody: strength for conservatives; economic stimulus for progressives. The conservative Keynesians like both justifications.

It takes only a few minutes to see that the PTSD is a racket intended (by some of its advocates at least) to gull the unsuspecting populace into supporting whatever the war party and the Pentagon want. It is handy for parrying the antimilitarist’ charge that its espousers are dangerously reckless, if not outright warmongers. “We’re not warmongers,” they can reply. “A military second to none will prevent war and promote peace. We’re the peaceniks. You doves are the promoters of war.” They are also likely to quote (without knowing the source) Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus’s De re militari, “If you want peace, prepare for war.”

Brilliant! — but the doctrine encases a racket just the same, much as “war is a racket,” as the highly decorated U.S. Marine Maj. Gen Smedley Butler put it. (Please follow that link.) I’d like to meet the grifter who thought it up.

At least one thick book could be written on the flaws in the doctrine. I can sum them up by invoking the law of unintended consequences and the law of perverse incentives, by which I mean the well-established public-choice problems regarding policymaking and voter interest. People may have the best intentions in supporting the PTSD, but they have absolutely no reason to believe the policy would be carried out as they envision. We must expect the worse, or as David Hume charmingly wrote, “Political writers have established it as a maxim, that, in contriving any system of government, … every man ought to be supposed a knave.” Had we listened to Hume, many fewer things would have gone awry.

Trump’s deployment of the PTSD suggests that the U.S. military isn’t already powerful enough to deter an attack. But that is balderdash. The government now spends more on the military than the next 12 countries combined. The recent increase alone was bigger than Russia’s entire military budget.

But that is an understatement because the Pentagon budget is far from the total amount the U.S. government spends on “national security.” Robert Higgs wrote in 2007:

    Hardly anyone appreciates that the total amount of all defense-related spending greatly exceeds the amount budgeted for the Department of Defense. Indeed, it is roughly almost twice as large….

    Lodged elsewhere in the budget, however, other lines identify funding that serves defense purposes just as surely as—sometimes even more surely than—the money allocated to the Department of Defense. On occasion, commentators take note of some of these additional defense-related budget items, such as the Department of Energy’s nuclear-weapons programs, but many such items, including some extremely large ones, remain generally unrecognized.

Thus when George W. Bush formally proposed to spend $583 billion on the military in fiscal 2008, Higgs calculated the real tab at $934.9 billion. The story is the same today. We may reasonably ask: how can Trump know the military isn’t already powerful enough to deter any would-be attacker and how can he know that spending less would make Americans less safe? What we have here is a knowledge problem, which politicians and bureaucrats are likely to exploit in favor of more spending. By PTSD standards, no amount of spending is enough: “If I’m wrong,” the militarist will say, “we’ll blow a few bucks. If you’re wrong, we’ll be speaking Russian, Chinese, Arabic, or Farsi.”

The war party tries to bolster its case by claiming the U.S. military was hollowed out by Barack Obama; thus we must rebuild. Bullfeathers! As Nick Gillespie of Reason pointed out a year ago:

    There’s little doubt that the military is exhausted. Since 2001, we’ve been waging endless wars, including in countries against whom we’ve never officially declared war. We’re still in Afghanistan and Iraq, of course, and all signs point to boots on the ground in Syria sooner or later. War footing isn’t simply expensive (even if we’re spending less on “overseas contingency operations” that we did in the mid-Aughts), it introduces incredible strain and stress throughout the military and society at home.

    But depleted, underfunded, undersized, unready? Please. Defense spending ratcheted up during the Bush years in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq. It hasn’t come close to coming back down. In a nation that has supposedly wound down two of its longest wars and where the principal threat to the homeland is a group of religious extremists who live thousands of miles away (and are, lest we forget, a byproduct of our own failed occupation of the Middle East), we always need more money for defense, right?

To be sure, Trump has doubled down on all the Bush-Obama wars, but those have nothing to do with the safety of Americans. Therefore the personnel could be brought home and the military budget cut.

To put things into perspective, when Dwight Eisenhower was president, at the start of the Cold War, his annual military budgets for seven out of his eight years were under $400 billion (in 2012 dollars) — less than Harry Truman bequeathed him. So why does Trump need $716 billion today (to use the official but incomplete figure) when the Soviet Union is long gone, Russia’s military gets only $47 billion, and China, which spends $192.5, is a major trading partner? (We’ll get to Iran and North Korea shortly.)

Another objection to the PTSD is the temptation the overgrown military establishment presents to policymakers. This was best articulated by Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, who recounts in her memoir how — in the late 1990s, as Clinton was looking to intervene against Serbia — she asked Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell, “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” Here was the supposed chief diplomat more or less saying, “We’ve got this big hammer, so why not see every problem as a nail.”

Government officials, hiding behind classified material, can easily inflate and even create so-called threats, and they have an obvious incentive to do so. Moreover, a big military is going to be a menacing military because it will conduct war games close to other countries; when governments respond, they can be accused of provocation and aggression. (In contrast, American moves are never provocative.) And yes, politicians and bureaucrats lie, especially in foreign policy. War is a lie, to appropriate David Swanson’s book title. Post-Vietnam, we should not have needed to be reminded of this danger, but we sure got a reminder with Iraq in 2002-03.

Who do the PSDT advocates think would attack the United States unless it has a bigger military? Who presents an existential threat? Some will say we no longer need to fear a conventional attack or invasion by a nation-state. What then? Terrorists? What is more ridiculous than the contention that a terrorist organization would be deterred by an even more powerful U.S. military? Osama bin Laden hoped the U.S. government would respond to 9/11 by invading the Muslim world and spending itself into bankruptcy. And does anyone seriously believe a domestic lone wolf, having been “radicalized” after looking at al-Qaeda websites or seeing news accounts of U.S. atrocities in the Middle East, would take the size of the U.S. military into account when plotting retaliation?

Perhaps before we dismiss the nation-state threat we ought to ask if Iran and North Korea are special cases. The leaders of Iran have been called “mad mullahs,” and Kim-Jong Un has been described as insane. But this poses a problem for the PTSD. If those rulers are indeed mad, how can we expect them to be rational enough to do calculate the costs and benefits of an attack? On the other hand, if they are not mad — and we have no reason to believe they are — we may reasonably assume they know they would gain nothing from an attack. A larger U.S. military would not change that; neither would a dramatically scaled-back military. But the large national-security apparatus the United States already has is a daily threat to Iran and North Korea. These so-called threats have been manufactured in Washington, D.C.

For the record, Trump’s military brain trust says the biggest national-security challenges come from Russia and China, not terrorism. “Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security,” the new National Defense Strategy’s unclassified summary states.

Finally, military spending takes money out of the pockets of taxpayers, who, it’s safe to say, have personally important uses for that money. Instead of labor and resources flowing into industries that make consumers better off, they go to politicians, bureaucrats, and all the businesses that long to sell things to the government. This is the infamous military-industrial complex, which is far more pervasive than anything Eisenhower ever had nightmares about. The deep distortion of economic activity is part of the incalculable cost of the national-security state. We literally don’t know what we’re missing because of it.

The way to achieve peace is not to prepare for war but to reject militarism and empire, and embrace nonintervention. Prophecies of war are too easily self-fulfilling. Thus, as a pioneer of modern libertarianism,  F. A. Harper, put it many years ago, “It is now urgent in the interest of liberty that many persons become ‘peace-mongers.’”

 Sheldon Richman, author of America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at  He is also the Executive Editor of The Libertarian Institute.

February 20, 2018
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t

by Nick Pemberton

Photo by Maryland GovPics | CC BY 2.0

Last week there was another tragic mass shooting. The media went on to make this young man a celebrity. Some, including Donald Trump, even painted him as a victim. I still don’t understand why we have to give the names of the shooters in the media. Probably because it makes a better story. CBS head Leslie Moonves said of Trump: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” The same can be said for these shootings.  If stardom has anything to do with the shootings, it is irresponsible to make these people into fixtures of the American psyche. Anyone who watches Quentin Tarantino, Clint Eastwood, or most any American blockbuster would get the sense that violence, although tragic, is normal and heroic.

The personal story of this kid shouldn’t surprise us—white nationalist and animal abuser. This “lonely” guy made his vengeful killing on Valentine’s Day, but if he did have a Valentine he may have been like most of his predecessors, a domestic abuser. Republicans, bought by the NRA, talk about mental health (even though Donald Trump repealed an Obama protection on the mentally ill buying guns). The Democrats, who don’t have many organizations left that haven’t bought their silence made sure to rail against the NRA and the GOP. They are right of course but they don’t have much credibility left given how they act 99% of the time.

The mental health issue is valid too but the Republicans are trying to make all of us as mentally ill as they are. Schools are turning into prisons, in both their physical structure and their philosophical one. Prisons themselves are crowded enough to be schools. The argument what kills (guns or people) is a silly one because they both do. Who could deny that Barack Obama was mentally ill as he dropped drones around the world and expanded the nuclear arsenal? But there is also the obvious point that if Obama was the President of say, a garden club, he wouldn’t be killing as many people because he wouldn’t have the weapons to do so (Obama’s Garden Club would be snooty and pretentious I’m sure, even for a garden club).

We do not hear about the mental illness of our Presidents or their financiers (well we do for Trump but that is only because he tweets as morbidly as he acts). We do not hear about the mental illness of the police, ICE, or generals. We do not hear about the mental illness of the gun manufacturers themselves. No, you are only mentally ill if you kill without a badge. As long as you are an agent of the state (and it’s financiers) you are killing for a purpose—for freedom, democracy, safety—so you are sane, you are often even revered.

To a certain extent the cops are being exposed, although little will change until we gain community control of the police. Let’s give full credit to Black Lives Matter here. But we are still quite behind on the issue of war and peace. The idea that football players kneeling during the anthem is somehow patriotic is an absurd argument made by liberals. We shouldn’t just be upset that America can’t grant freedom to us while we send soldiers to fight for it elsewhere—-we should be saying that putting soldiers in other countries is itself a violation of freedom for people abroad.

A life lost is a life lost though, so we should take these shootings seriously. When a mass shooting happens it is always inexplicable. Therefore it needs explanation. Behind every mass shooter must be a story that we could prevent. It was because gun laws were lenient. It was because his mental health was not treated. It was because of a political agenda. All of these things are true and there is no doubt ways to reduce gun violence through reformative change that are important.

What is not said enough is that gun violence is a natural consequence of a society that solves its problems through violence and conquest abroad. A society that promises an American dream and never gives anything in return leaves a trail of despair. A society that defines success as profit off of others no doubt makes others into adversaries. As long as the cost of living a life that does not do these things is so high the soul splinters making the very act of existing in a capitalist society surreal.

All that being said perhaps we are all tired too of the romanticism of the left when the Republican leaders stomp on common decency. Yet we must know that such outbursts from the margins of society are a result of something larger. That cruelty and violence are so often legalized and celebrated in our society that it creates people who take capitalism and its consequences to their logical conclusion. That for every beaten down person there are only so many ways out and most of the easy ones involve bringing other people down.

That is why more than ever we need to embrace the principles of community and peace in our society. Unions are being busted. Schools are being privatized. People are being evicted from their neighborhoods. People are addicted to their screens. Small businesses are going under. The positive, productive, and peaceful ways to revolt against our rulers are being taken away.

When a mass shooting happens it is scary. In our society it could happen anywhere at any time. It is a glitch in an old broken machine. A spurt of anger that could come from anyone with a grievance. The victims are random. There is no meaning to these tragedies. We all feel powerless. Yet we are addicted to the story. How? I knew it. But how?

Along with our fear comes a rational for our protection. More gun laws. More surveillance. More wars. More police. More violence that follows rules. More violence that has a chain of command.

If we started to talk to each other again maybe we could see that our enemy is common. Our despair is shared. Instead a hero rises from the ashes. He is misunderstood. He is evil. But he is free. His victimhood is recognized as mental illness. Or at the very least he is recognized as the powerful monster he has become. The rest of us clammer for our own break from the foot of capitalism. It never comes. Except on TV.

Anyone who kills us in the name of chaos and terror should be condemned. Yet the refugees dying everyday as they flee climate change and proxy wars get no coverage. The people who have pipelines running through their yards get no coverage. The slaves in prison get no coverage. Neither do the animals in cages on the big farms. We hear about the monsters next door. The “everyday” Americans lurking behind every corner. If only the intelligence groups could have stopped them they say.

Violence by the rich is slightly more predictable because it aims to control. Certain neighborhoods, certain countries, certain acts of resistance merit your punishment. As long as you behave we will save you from those who act evil. The good (the rich, the police, the bosses) will save you from the bad (the poor, the criminal, the worker).

They want us to be scared of each other. They want us to be angry. They want us to feel defeated and powerless. That doesn’t mean the problem isn’t real. There is an answer. It isn’t to hand over the keys to the people who have created a culture that finds power through violence, connection through individualism, and worth through wealth.

As liberals cower in the age of Trump they turn to the FBI, the CIA, the military and the police. They long for the authoritarian smooth talker Barack Obama. They say it is the everyday people who elected Trump and that it is the everyday people who must be stopped. They want the order of their old lives back. Trump is an authoritarian but he is an unpredictable one. Therefore any of us could get struck by a stray bullet as he lashes out against anybody who challenges him.

Liberals want the guns in the hands of the rich. Chaos in Africa and the Middle East will be ignored. So will police occupation of nonwhite neighborhoods. Despite the United States interfering in elections across the globe, 100,000$ from Russia on Facebook means something “serious” must be done (could we get more ominous?). They say calling a mass shooting by a Muslim “Islamic Extremism” is “racist” but they also say we shouldn’t let even let 1% of their refugee population into the country for fear that it would upset the order of society here.

What the latest shooting tells us is that when we pick up arms we are playing by the master’s rules. We are using the master’s tools. And we are shooting our own schools. The revolution towards peace and equality must be nonviolent. Because it seems that sadly most of us still have no idea who our enemy is.

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More articles by:Nick Pemberton

Nick Pemberton is a student at Gustavus Adolphus College. He is currently employed by Gustavus Dining Services. Nick was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. He can be reached at
Geopolitics / Re: Global Systemic Geopolitical Crisis
« Last post by RE on Today at 01:04:57 AM »
One can have an opinion that differs from yours without being brainwashed. I'm not in a position to prove anything about Putin, nor do I feel I need to. I have respect for Mr. Putin, and perhaps as statesmen go he's the best around at the moment.

In the first POTW Poll, I voted for Vlad the Impaler, because he is by FAR the most savvy and competent of the bunch of criminals in charge of the major countries today.  However, he is still completely corrupt.

Surly Newz / Re: The Daily Meme
« Last post by RE on Today at 12:53:45 AM »
My daughter is a really, really good teacher. She's scared. She shouldn't have to be scared to just show up and do her job. She doesn't want a gun. She wants guns to be far away from her campus.

I would start here by buying her a bulletproof blazer for work.

Doom Psychology & Philosophy / Re: Prepping for Death
« Last post by RE on Today at 12:47:52 AM »
It's your death. Do it the way you want. Be glad you have the ability to at least do that. I don't begrudge you.

If I was a healthier specimen, I would probably do what LD would like.  Or buy a boat myself and sail it around the world.  I'd sail the Northwest Passage to find my deserted island off the coast of Maine.  If the SUN☼ Dreamers of LD, WHD & Roamer were all still on board and all 3 were willing to commit to living on the property, I would do it.  But none of them will do that.  LD is not going to bring his boys out to live in rural poverty in MO.  He's going to sacrifice himself OTR in the flattop cabin of an International so his boys can have Aikido lessons in suburbia.

So I don't know what will become of SUN☼ with the money I leave behind, how it will be used.  Hopefully it won't be wasted on a plot of land in the middle of suburbia.  But I know what I can do now before I Buy My Ticket to the Great Beyond, which is to build a monument to the IDEA of SUN☼, one that will last long after I have left this meat package behind.  To me, that is a worthwhile expense.  And yes, I'm the one dying here, coughing my guts up every day.  I get to pick.

Geopolitics / Re: Global Systemic Geopolitical Crisis
« Last post by Palloy2 on February 19, 2018, 09:45:58 PM »
Anarchist...what a shit term. Might as well call yourself a Unicorn.

Anarchy = rule by "no leaders"
It has some examples of working quite well - for example: Catalans during Civil War of 1930s.
I cannot visualise what the first local meeting would be like here - most problems are fixed by leaders agreeing to put the problem aside as a problem to be fixed later. Nothing at all to do with the government.  Some say the islands aren't even a country!  For survival, I reckon on staying right out of it, and agreeing with my leader/landowner family head.

As for your old Empire, I reckon it will be banditry.

Surly Newz / Re: The Daily Meme
« Last post by David B. on February 19, 2018, 08:54:19 PM »
My daughter is a really, really good teacher. She's scared. She shouldn't have to be scared to just show up and do her job. She doesn't want a gun. She wants guns to be far away from her campus.
True Dat!
Here it is the endless bureaucracy and the always growing list of things that they have to work in that are not part of a basic mandate. A teacher friend gets uncomfortable if I ask questions like that. I signed report cards tonight... Lets just say I have rarely read such meaningless prose in my life. Parsing what they meant was almost impossible. My kids are 4 and 6 tell me they can tie their shoes and don't eat paste I'd be happy...  ;D 8) :D
Surly Newz / Re: The Daily Meme
« Last post by Eddie on February 19, 2018, 08:45:00 PM »
My daughter is a really, really good teacher. She's scared. She shouldn't have to be scared to just show up and do her job. She doesn't want a gun. She wants guns to be far away from her campus.
Geopolitics / Re: Global Systemic Geopolitical Crisis
« Last post by Eddie on February 19, 2018, 08:41:52 PM »
One can have an opinion that differs from yours without being brainwashed. I'm not in a position to prove anything about Putin, nor do I feel I need to. I have respect for Mr. Putin, and perhaps as statesmen go he's the best around at the moment. I had some hopes for Obama but he turned out to be quite a disappointment.

I am naturally skeptical about the intentions of all elites, including Putin. I expect nationalism from Putin and attention to self-interest,  just like I expect it from Clinton or Trump or May, or Macron or any of them. And I think they all have more in common with each other than they have with me.

Anarchist...what a shit term. Might as well call yourself a Unicorn.

Surly Newz / Re: The Daily Meme
« Last post by David B. on February 19, 2018, 08:30:40 PM »
a dozen families hiring a teacher to work through the homeschooling curriculum. Online classes, outings, a single room.  We are not forever locked into the model we have. My kids spend 40 minutes each way on a bus. Its a great public school I'm lucky. If it was a school in name only and a dangerous target... no way.
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