The Island Now
Thursday, September 26, 2013
By Bill San Antonio
As the executive director of Peace Action, the nation’s largest grassroots disarmament organization, Kevin Martin said Tuesday he has seen firsthand the militarization of the United States’ foreign policy in the last decade.
But in his lecture at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation entitled “Endless War on Peace,” Martin said he was confident that America’s recent history of military strikes and occupations of nations seen as a threat to national security would evolve into a more diplomatic approach to foreign policy – particularly because of the recent diplomatic efforts to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons and the start of talks with Iran.
“At a certain point, we’re just not going to buy that anymore,” Martin said. “We’re just not going to buy that there’s a terrorist at every corner of the globe.”
Martin began the lecture, which was sponsored by the Shelter Rock Forum, the Great Neck SANE/Peace Action and the Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives, by calling out the names of 11 nations — China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy, Brazil and South Korea – whose combined military budgets equals what the United States spends on its own military each year.
But for all its spending, Martin said the United States is ranked No. 99 on the Global Peace Index, tied with Papua New Guinea despite being known as the world’s last superpower.
“We can’t keep doing this, we can’t keep marauding around the world and trying to kill more terrorists than we create, because we will fail,” Martin said.
Martin said the U.S. spends approximately $600 billion each year on its military and $1 trillion on national security, and in the next 10 years will implement a $200 million arms refurbishment program.
“How do we have any credibility going to Iran or anyone else, saying they shouldn’t have weapons of mass destruction, shouldn’t have nuclear weapons, when we not only intend to keep ours, we intend to modernize them?” Martin said.
Martin also cited a University of Massachusetts study that said military spending is the worst way to create jobs and stimulate the economy, adding that the money America puts toward military spending could better serve the job market if it were used on education.
“Military spending does not help our economy in any way other than keep people employed,” Martin said. “If you can separate the nonsense about the economic benefits of military spending from the real security issues we have in this country, we can win that argument.”
Martin said the mainstream media has more recently played a role in more diplomatic measures in America’s foreign policy.
With Syria, Martin said the mainstream media took greater interest in covering the different angles toward President Obama’s recent request to Congress for a military strike on Syria after those who have been known to be pro-war were coming out against the strike.
Within a day or two, Martin said the media began covering what he called “better alternatives” to avoid the strike, such as sending supplies and weapons to those who are fighting off the Syrian army and rebel fighters who may have ties to terrorist organizations.
“That’s when I knew Obama was sunk, because he could try to scare us or try some fandango, but once better alternatives were out there, he lost control of the conversation,” Martin said.
Martin added that there could be a “spillover effect” from the diplomatic solution toward America’s approach to Syria that could impact future negotiations with Iran over the destabilization of its nuclear program.
“Now diplomacy seems like this limb we’ve learned to use again,” Martin said.
Martin said he does not think major arms manufacturers will continue to have a strong influence in lobbying the federal government into increased military spending, if better alternatives continue to present themselves in America’s foreign policy and people continue pushing for peace.
“If peace actually breaks out, you just can’t justify using such a huge percentage of our tax dollars on tanks and missiles and that $200 million over the next 10 years to refurbish our weapons,” Martin said. “You just can’t justify that anymore.”
If the United States opted for diplomacy more frequently, Martin said the short-term effect would be that other countries would fear and hate the United States less, though its history of invasions and military attacks would likely mean it would take longer for the world to “love us more.”
But the process of healing America’s reputation around the world starts with money coming out of the “war machine” and being put toward more “life-affirming functions,” and for people to “stand up for the values this country says its for” and be more vocal about a peaceful and diplomatic foreign policy, Martin said.
“We have hope, we have real solutions, we have better alternatives, we have better policies,” Martin said. “They have a lot of money and guns and weapons, but really all they have is fear.”