Memo to Obama: How to Convert to A Peace Economy
You have been elected by the first anti-war constituency since 1952, when Eisenhower was elected after promising to end the Korean War. But ending a war isn't the same as bringing peace. America has been on a war footing since the day after Pearl Harbor, sixty-seven years ago. We spend more on our military than the next sixteen countries combined. If you have a vision of change that goes to the heart of this country's deep problems, ending our dependence on war is far more important than ending our dependency on foreign oil.
The most immediate changes are economic. Unless it can make as much money as war, peace doesn't stand a chance. Since aerospace and military technologies remain the United States' most destructive export, fostering wars around the world, what steps can we take to reverse that trend and build a peace-based economy?
1. Scale out arms dealing and make it illegal by the year 2020.
2. Write into every defense contract a requirement for a peacetime project.
3. Subsidize conversion of military companies to peaceful uses with tax incentives and direct funding.
4. Convert military bases to housing for the poor.
5. Phase out all foreign military bases.
6. Require military personnel to devote part of their time to rebuilding infrastructure.
7. Call a moratorium on future weapons technologies.
8. Reduce armaments like destroyers and submarines that have no use against terrorism and were intended to defend against a superpower enemy that no longer exists.
9. Fully fund social services and take the balance out of the defense and homeland security budgets.
These are just the beginning. We don't lack creativity in coping with change. Without a conversion of our present war economy to a peace economy, the high profits of the military-industrial complex ensures that it will never end.
Do these nine steps seem unrealistic or fanciful? In various ways other countries have adopted similar measures. The former Soviet army is occupied with farming and other peaceful work, for example. But comparisons are rather pointless, since only the United States is burdened with such a massive reliance on defense spending. Ultimately, empire follows the dollar. As a society we want peace, and we want to be seen as a nation that promotes peace. For either ideal to come true, you as president must back up your vision of change with economic reality. So far, that hasn't happened under any of your predecessors. All hopes are pinned on you.
© 2009 Tikkun Magazine