What's the Real Reason?

The Pentagon is starting to cut weapons programs, and peace groups are bound to cheer.

I don’t just mean pseudo-peace groups funded by the makers of OTHER weapons systems (and these do exist, and you should be wary of any campaign obsessed with ending a particular weapon). I mean ordinary peace groups. Because we’ve been demanding an end to wasteful weapons systems, fraudulent and outdated weapons systems, weapons systems designed for nonexistent enemies. We claimed that those concerns were at least among our real reasons for wanting to cut Pentagon funds.

Well, the Pentagon is about to spend more money than any military ever has in the history of the planet, with less waste, less fraud, and weapons that kill real enemies more effectively. Why aren’t we happy?

We’ve focused our opposition to wars above all on the deaths of U.S. soldiers, but now we’re killing foreigners with unmanned drones involving no risk to any Americans, unless in the delayed form of terrorist blowback. So why aren’t we pleased?

We’ve screamed about the foolishness of fighting a war in Iraq when the devil had taken up residence in Afghanistan. And now we’re escalating the war in Afghanistan dramatically, while only negligibly scaling back the war in Iraq. Now the devil must be in real danger, so why aren’t we thrilled?

We’ve made a lot of noise about the financial cost of wars and weapons and the supposed need to stop funding wars in order to fund human needs. But our government now invents piles of funding many times the size of any war budget and gives it to Wall Street robber barons, making our whole case against killing people look sort of silly. We could just invent funding for schools and healthcare if we wanted to, and keep the wars going too. Or so it appears.

We’ve complained that wars make us all less safe, and our own government’s experts have agreed. Terrorism is on the rise and our nation’s popularity has been scraping bottom around the world. But the attacks of 9-11 and the anthrax attacks have not been repeated. Shouldn’t that satisfy us? Why are we STILL not content.

Because, of course, we did not give our real reasons when we gave all those other ones. We did not say that we oppose killing people because they are people. Period. Sometimes we have said that, and there can be a value in strategically adding other arguments for particular audiences. But there is a danger in overshadowing your real reasons, a risk that you may forget them yourself, and that you may get what you claim to want and then find it odious.

I’ve been arguing in my congressional district that we need single-payer healthcare in order to decrease bureaucracy and create jobs. But there are other ways to do those things, and you can be sure they’ll be found before anyone will back single-payer for those purposes. It’s good to have rebuttal points to predictable and ill-informed opposition. But we must avoid letting our rebuttal points become our central argument. I want people to have good healthcare because they are people. Period.

Think about what you want, what you really want, what the core reasons are for what you want. The right wing may be better at this because their whole philosophy is designed around the merits of selfishness. But the rest of us have to do it too. And when we burrow down to the bottom of what really motivates us, or should motivate us, we’ll find that it’s not electing members of a party, it’s not creating opportunities to cheer for a political team. It’s establishing actual peace and justice for people all over the world.

Working for global peace and justice will look harder than other goals, and may even get you mocked and ridiculed. But what happens if you push for mass-transit as more convenient and they just build more roads and subsidize gas? What happens if you oppose warrantless spying because it’s illegal and they legalize it? What happens if you demand an end to torture because it produces faulty intelligence and then somebody claims it doesn’t? What happens if you promote fair trade policies by waving flags and in the end produce only attacks on immigrants?

I don’t want more efficient weapons, Secretary Gates. In fact, I don’t even want YOU working in my government. I know what I really want and I intend to say it. Peace Now. Justice Now. Honesty Now.