The Universal Notebook: Get government out of the defense business

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According to a November Rasmussen Reports poll, 71 percent of Americans are to some degree angry with Washington. We know why conservatives are angry. They nearly destroyed the country and now, powerless and marginalized, they refuse to help fix it, preferring to sit on the sidelines cheering for America to fail. And liberals like myself are upset because the great promise of the Obama administration – out of Iraq in 18 months, meaningful health-care reform, support for gay rights – is yet to be realized.

The pervasive anti-government sentiment fostered by the nattering nabobs of negativism (delusional demagogues of defeatism?) on the tea party right has really gotten to me. But their hysterical fears of creeping socialism, government bailouts and a public health-care option started me thinking. What other powers should we take away from the federal government? The obvious one is the power to make war.

Decommissioning the Defense Department, it seems to me, should have support across the political spectrum (or at least at both ends). Those of us on the peace-loving left will be happier not paying taxes to support wars we can’t support, and those on the bellicose right will get not only the tax rebates they worship, but also the chance to defend the country themselves and make money doing it.

The war against terrorism is America’s first major privatized conflict anyway, so why not turn the fighting of it over to private defense contractors entirely? What we need is a free-market approach to warfare. If you can’t pay for a war, you can’t fight it. It’s that simple. Private wars would have to be profitable. If Exxon-Mobil wanted Iraqi oil, they’d have to raise an army and fight for it. And well-paid corporate warriors fighting for a cause they believed in would naturally be more effective than a citizen army fighting to survive while politicians debate an ever-changing mission.

What this country really needs are warlords. Warlords have kept Afghanistan in a constant state of war for centuries, driving out one would-be conqueror after another. The graveyard of empires and all that. There’s no reason warlords couldn’t be equally successful here in the land of the free and the home of brave. Competition is what made this country great, right?

If we got the government out of the defense business, right-wing militias would finally have a legitimate role to play in American life. And state militias, which are the only reason we have the Second Amendment right to bear arms in the first place, would finally have real power and purpose. You want our borders defended, let the states do it. Imagine the Russians or Chinese trying to invade an Alaska defended by a Clan Palin Brigade mounted on turbo-charged snowmobiles. And I’d put a well-armed Texas State Militia, led by secessionist Gov. Rick Perry, up against a Mexican drug cartel any day.

More than anything else, however, disarming and demobbing the U.S. military might defuse the violent revolution brewing among right-wing extremists. Earlier this year, I kid you not, broadcast bully Sean Hannity, that purveyor of putative patriotic piffle, conducted a poll asking what kind of revolution his listeners favored – military coup, armed rebellion or war of secession.

Yes, sir, de-militarizing the federal government is the best idea I’ve had in years. In order to save the Union, we just may have to disband it. Now that’s change you can believe in.



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The Universal Notebook is Edgar Allen Beem’s personal look at the world around him.