Bankrupting the Soviet Union and then Our Own Country

Antiwar conservatives and others have expressed great admiration over the years for a man who died in May of 2008, General William Odom, a man who had the courage to express his opinion, well into his retirement, that the invasion of Iraq was the greatest strategic blunder in American history. He deserves great credit for that, but he seems also to have been involved in the decision of President Carter and then President Reagan and President Bush (the father) to boost our weapons programs in the hopes that the economically incompetent USSR would be forced into bankruptcy by trying to keep up with us.

As the story is usually told, we spent the Soviets into bankruptcy. I don’t really believe that to be the main reason for the collapse of the Soviet Union, but we certainly spent a lot on our military systems and have gone on to spend far more in the 15 years since then. Apparently, no one seems to have recognized there was some level of expenditure at which the United States would also go bankrupt.

And no one seems to have thought about the difficulty of putting the genie back in the bottle. Once we had given over so much of our economy to the production of missiles and cluster-bombs, once the armaments manufacturers had hordes of well-connected lobbyists, once workers in Los Angeles and Detroit had jobs manufacturing weapons, once scientific research had been redirected to projects important to weapons development, how were we to return to normal ways of making our livings rather than ways deformed to the goal of ‘bankrupting the commies’? It’s perhaps fitting that we bankrupted them and went on to use our peace dividend to help bankrupt ourselves.

In his farewell speech, President Eisenhower warned us that the military-industrial complex, a term first used in that speech, was already dangerously large and that was nearly 20 years before the strategy of enlarging it further to bankrupt the Soviet Union. It turns out that General MacArthur warned his fellow Americans, in the early 1950s, of the dangers of an economy in which military production is so important (see A Dial Marked ‘War’: The last resort of our bankrupt elite ).

By choosing to fight sadistic barbarians with their own weapons and their own strategies, we’ve made ourselves like unto the enemies who frightened us so. We’ve chosen to turn our country into the greatest producer in history of products intended to rip apart human beings, to burn through their skin and then slowly through their muscles, to destroy fresh-water and sewage systems. We’re weapons producers and merchants of death. After all, is not a man who kills women a murderer? Is not a man who heals children a physician? Is not a country devoted to weapons production and the support of huge armies and navies and air forces a militarized socialism, however much some profits might remain private?

Now we’re also broke, a state that seems more disturbing to us than our moral degradation. As a Christian, I’d have to suggest we should fear God more and Osama bin Laden less.

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