Natural National Defense

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The preamble to the Constitution states that one of the reasons it was ordained and established was to help provide for the common defense. Of the eighteen paragraphs in article I, section 8, of the Constitution, six of them relate in some way to the war, the military, or the militia.

The budgets passed earlier this year by the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate each called for spending about $6 trillion on national defense over the next ten years. This is even though, according to Treasury Department data, “Over the past ten fiscal years, inflation-adjusted Defense Department spending has increased by approximately 54 percent.”

But as economist Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute concluded after his analysis of the fiscal year 2009 defense budget: “The government is currently spending at a rate well in excess of $1 trillion per year for all defense-related purposes.” This would include supplemental war appropriations and the defense-related spending of NASA and the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Energy, State, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, as well as the interest expense on the national debt attributable to defense spending. This means that real defense spending accounts for about 25 percent of the federal budget.

But even using just the stated defense budget, U.S. defense spending dwarfs that of the rest of the world. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Yearbook 2012, which includes a list on the world’s top 15 military spenders in 2011, the United States spends almost as much on defense as every other country combined. The United States spends about five times as much as China and ten times as much as Russia.

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According to a report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States wasted $12 million per day fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But it’s not just that the military wastes money. As Ron Paul said in an interview on Face the Nation: “Those troops overseas aggravate our enemies, motivate our enemies. I think it’s a danger to national defense, and we can save a lot of money cutting out the military expenditures that contribute nothing to our defense.”

What is so mind boggling about the United States maintaining an empire of troops and bases around the world and spending so much money on “defense” is that America has been blessed with natural national defense.

It’s called the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

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Thomas Jefferson recognized this over 200 years ago:

At such a distance from Europe and with such an ocean between us, we hope to meddle little in its quarrels or combinations. Its peace and its commerce are what we shall court

The insulated state in which nature has placed the American continent should so far avail it that no spark of war kindled in the other quarters of the globe should be wafted across the wide oceans which separate us from them.

But rather than view the ocean as a defensive bulwark, naval historian and imperialist Alfred Mahan (1840-1914) instead compared it to a “great highway.” Beginning with the Spanish-American War, the United States rejected the foreign policy of John Quincy Adams and went abroad searching for monsters to destroy.

The first step to end the destructive and immoral interventionist foreign policy of the United States is to bring the troops home and keep them home.

In his suggested “Amendment for Peace,” Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler (1881-1940) proposed the following three points:

1. The removal of members of the land armed forces from within the continental limits of the United States and the Panama Canal Zone for any cause whatsoever is hereby prohibited.

2. The vessels of the United States Navy, or of the other branches of the armed service, are hereby prohibited from steaming, for any reason whatsoever except on an errand of mercy, more than five hundred miles from our coast.

3. Aircraft of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps is hereby prohibited from flying, for any reason whatsoever, more than seven hundred and fifty miles beyond the coast of the United States.

 Butler maintained that such an amendment “linked with adequate naval and military defenses at home, would guarantee everlasting peace to our nation.”

“How would such an amendment insure peace?” he asked, and then answered:

In the first place, the United States is in no danger whatever of military invasion. Even the Navy and Army Departments, which are always preparing for war, and the State Department, which is always talking about peace but thinking about war, agree on that. By reason of our geographical position, it is all but impossible for any foreign power to muster, transport and land sufficient troops on our shores for a successful invasion.

There is another bar to any invasion of the United States by the political dimensions abroad, which prohibit any one nation from leaving its own borders unguarded in order to make war on a foe three thousand or six thousand miles distant. Yet if, by some incomprehensible diplomatic hocus pocus, an agreement could be reached among certain foreign powers whereby they would forget their own differences for the time being and pool their resources in a joint effort against the United States, there still would be very little fear of successful invasion.

Our fleet, bound by this Peace Amendment to stay close to home shores, would be on hand to repel such invasion at sea: if, through some series of unforeseen circumstances or disasters, an enemy army did succeed in landing on our shores — the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific — the entire manpower of this nation would spring to arms. Every American, every man and boy, would be ready, without conscription, without pleading — every American would be ready to grasp a rifle and rush forth to defend his home and his country.

Butler also reasoned that:

The efficiency of our navy can be maintained by maneuvers a few hundred miles off our own coast just as well as it can be maintained by maneuvers thousands of miles away, and almost in Japan’s back yard, where our navy conducted its main maneuvers last year.

THERE is nothing un-American in the Peace Amendment. When our forefathers planned this government, they foresaw no necessity for preparing for wars in Europe: for wars that didn’t concern us. As a matter of fact, after the Revolutionary War had been won and after the new United States Government was established, our army and navy were eliminated. There was no provision for an army or a navy. True, we had a militia. That is, each state had its own militia. We still have them. We call them National Guards now. But the militia, the only armed force in the United States at that time, was not to be used beyond the territorial limits of the United States.

 That’s what our army and navy should be. Home defenders, ready and able to defend our homes, to defend us against attack — that’s all.

 The efficiency of our navy can be maintained by maneuvers a few hundred miles off our own coast just as well as it can be maintained by maneuvers thousands of miles away, and almost in Japan’s back yard, where our navy conducted its main maneuvers last year.

Thomas Jefferson or John McCain? John Adams or Lindsey Graham? Alfred Mahan or Smedley Butler? The Pentagon or the ocean? Which one is better for defense?

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