What is the purpose of the military? I think it is beyond dispute that the purpose of any country having a military is to defend the country against a foreign attack or invasion. One would think that someone in the United States called the Secretary of Defense would know this. Yet, in his remarks on October 10, 2007, before the Association of the United States Army (a private, non-profit advocacy group for the U.S. Army), Defense Secretary Robert Gates envisioned a new role for the U.S. Army: Army soldiers can expect to be tasked with reviving public services, rebuilding infrastructure and promoting good governance. All these so-called nontraditional capabilities have moved into the mainstream of military thinking, planning, and strategy — where they must stay. In his speech Secretary Gates also acknowledged that “U.S. forces will play some role in Iraq for years to come.” Anything but actually defend the country. What the Secretary of Defense is saying is simply this: The United States will take a more active role in rebuilding the infrastructure and restoring the government of countries that it invades, destroys, and occupies. Oh yes, Dr. Gates (he has a doctorate in Russian and Soviet history) did mention that the military defends our freedoms. But as Jacob Hornberger has shown, U.S. troops do just the opposite. Because U.S. foreign policy is aggressive, reckless, belligerent, and meddling; because it has a history of hegemony, nation building, regime change, and jingoism; because it is the story of interventionism, imperialism, and empire; because it results in discord, strife, hatred, and terrorism toward the United States: the U.S. military — the enforcer of U.S. foreign policy — is the greatest force for evil in the world. America’s military heritage is not one of how our troops have repelled invaders, kept us safe from attack, or defended our freedoms. This is a bitter pill to swallow, especially for soldiers who fought for a lie and the families of soldiers who died for a lie. America’s military heritage is unfortunately one of bombs and bullets, death and destruction, intervention and invasion, and occupation and oppression. The purpose of the military has been perverted beyond all recognition. U.S. soldiers serve simultaneously as policemen, firemen, scientists, social workers, and bullies with the world as their precinct, forest, laboratory, client, and playground. Although the military is engaged in very little defense, it is engaged in very real defense spending. The United States spends more on defense than at least the next twelve countries combined. The official budget may only be in the hundreds of billions, but actual defense spending, according to economist Robert Higgs, is now over $1 trillion. Not a dime from the defense budget should be spent on establishing democracy, spreading goodwill, launching preemptive strikes, changing regimes, enforcing no-fly zones, following UN directives, complying with UN resolutions, removing dictators, containing communism, crusading against Islam, training foreign armies, furnishing security in other countries, opening foreign markets, protecting U.S. commercial interests, providing disaster relief, dispensing humanitarian aid, supplying peacekeepers, building overseas bases, stationing troops in other countries, maintaining an empire, enriching federal contractors, supporting the military-industrial complex, or funding the security-industrial complex. It is no longer honorable to serve in the U.S. military. Not when the military is engaged in sending its soldiers thousands of miles away to kill people and destroy their property after “liberating” them from their ruler. Not when the military is garrisoning the planet. The prescription of Dr. Gates is more of the same. In fact, Secretary Gates wants more young cannon fodder: “The Army is expanding by some 65,000 soldiers, and I am prepared to support plans to speed up that process as long as we can do it without sacrificing quality.” As I have maintained over and over and over again, the U.S. military should be engaged exclusively in defending the United States, not defending other countries, and certainly not attacking them. It is U.S. borders that should be guarded. It is U.S. coasts that should be patrolled. It is U.S. skies where no-fly zones should be enforced. A “kinder, gentler” role for the military will only come about in conjunction with a drastic change in U.S. foreign policy. We need a change in foreign policy from an interventionist policy to a noninterventionist one. We need a change in foreign policy from a militaristic policy to a peaceful one. We need a change in foreign policy from a neocon policy to a policy of the Founders. We need a change in foreign policy from that of Dr. Gates to that of Dr. Paul. Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has for decades advocated a return to the noninterventionist foreign policy of the Founders. In a speech on the House floor several months before the United States invaded Iraq, Dr. Paul (he has an M.D. from Duke University School of Medicine) made the case for a foreign policy of peace, prosperity, and liberty: A proper foreign policy of non-intervention is built on friendship with other nations, free trade, and open travel, maximizing the exchanges of goods and services and ideas. We should avoid entangling alliances and stop meddling in the internal affairs of other nations — no matter how many special interests demand otherwise. The entangling alliances that we should avoid include the complex alliances in the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO. The basic moral principle underpinning a non-interventionist foreign policy is that of rejecting the initiation of force against others. It is based on non-violence and friendship unless attacked, self-determination, and self-defense while avoiding confrontation, even when we disagree with the way other countries run their affairs. It simply means that we should mind our own business and not be influenced by special interests that have an ax to grind or benefits to gain by controlling our foreign policy. Manipulating our country into conflicts that are none of our business and unrelated to national security provides no benefits to us, while exposing us to great risks financially and militarily. A foreign policy of peace, prosperity, and liberty would drastically change the role of the U.S. military. In the same speech, Dr. Paul also said: Our troops would be brought home, systematically but soon. Defending our country from outside attack is legitimate and is of the highest priority. Protecting individual liberty should be our goal. This does not mean, however, that our troops should follow our citizens or their investments throughout the world. The mission for our Coast Guard would change if our foreign policy became non-interventionist. They, too, would come home, protect our coast, and stop being the enforcers of bureaucratic laws that either should not exist or should be a state function. If we followed a constitutional policy of non-intervention, we would never have to entertain the aggressive notion of preemptive war based on speculation of what a country might do at some future date. Political pressure by other countries to alter our foreign policy for their benefit would never be a consideration. Commercial interests and our citizens investing overseas could not expect our armies to follow them and protect their profits. With a foreign policy like this, it would once again be honorable to enlist in the military. Even I might stop discouraging Christians from joining the military. What would U.S. foreign policy under a Paul administration look like? Dr. Paul has told us: Under a Paul administration, the United States would trade freely with any nation that seeks to engage with us. American citizens would be encouraged to visit other countries and interact with other peoples rather than be told by their own government that certain countries are off limits to them. A Paul administration would see Americans engaged overseas like never before, in business and cultural activities. But a Paul administration would never attempt to export democracy or other values at the barrel of a gun, as we have seen over and over again that this is a counterproductive approach that actually leads the United States to be resented and more isolated in the world. He has in fact written a whole book on the subject: A Foreign Policy of Freedom. Yes, I know that the promises of presidential candidates are less than worthless. But unlike his fascist opponents, Ron Paul can be believed because he has an impeccable track record to back up what he says. The other candidates have a legacy of evasions, lies, flip-flops, and statism. So, what is it going to be: The foreign policy of Dr. Gates or the foreign policy of Dr. Paul? If the views of Gates prevail then we can look forward to more dead and wounded American soldiers, more dead foreigners, more hatred of Americans, more blowback from our evil foreign policy, more terrorism threats, more trillion-dollar defense budgets, more funding of the military-industrial and security-industrial complexes, more overseas military adventures, and more violations of civil liberties in the name of security. If the views of Paul triumph, then we can look forward to peace, an America-first foreign policy, the saving of billions of dollars, real free trade and travel, the end of the U.S. global empire, and no more preemptive wars, regime changes, entangling alliances, policing the world, meddling in the affairs of other countries, imperialism, taking sides in civil wars, and dismissing civilian casualties as collateral damage. One thing is for certain: Robert Gates will not be the Secretary of Defense in the Paul administration.