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Force Is Not Necessarily Power

The current upheaval and protest over arbitrary police violence against our own citizens is in part—only part, mind you—a product of the militarization of police. Police departments now have and use armored vehicles and weaponry designed for the battlefield. Hence the call by the Secretary of Defense for dominating the “battlespace" to suppress the demonstrations in our streets. The lack of success in quelling the protestors is not from a lack of firepower or the willingness to use it by the police. The police have awakened the fury of our people by their hubris when using such weapons and tactics. Their thinking that they can shut down protesters by cracking bones is the classic answer to the question might or right. Too many police departments have given their answer.

But it brings up an even bigger and a more controversial question (yes, that’s actually possible). If might cannot reclaim city streets and establish peaceful relations between people, does our country need to be armed to the teeth when facing the rest of the world? Do we need thermonuclear weapons in sufficient quantities to erase the human species from the planet? Do these weapons bring our international goals closer to success? Are these weapons of mass destruction still relevant in a world of asymmetrical warfare? 

As a nation, we act as though might makes us right when facing the rest of the world. We invaded any number of countries since World War II because we could. We talked about freedom and liberty, but US corporations were right behind the troops trying to take advantage of the forceful overthrow of governments. We built a military-industrial-complex of unimaginable size to the man who coined the term—President and former five-star general Dwight Eisenhower—who warned us of its implications. 

Our oversized military was built to “protect” us from the threat of the Soviet Union, and we piled bombs on top of bombs in such numbers that we created dark jokes about a second strike making the rubble bounce. Our military spending and schoolboy posturing put our troops in places where we had no reason to be. Far too many of our interventions only made things worse for the people we were presumably helping from Vietnam to Laos to Cambodia and from Afghanistan to Iraq. The forays into Southeast Asia fulfilled the dangers of the domino theory that we used to justify our intervention—bringing to power throughout the region the very Communists who we said were the greatest threat to the people. We sought to bring, by force, democracy to countries that had no such traditions or institutions, toppling dictators and unleashing even more radical elements to destabilize another region. We succeeded in unleashing violence and war that has yet to end. 

From 1945 onwards, every time we have used our military might to “fix” someone else’s national problem, we have made it worse. Why did we and do we keep intervening in other lands?

First, we have cowards in Congress who will not fulfill their Constitutional duty over declarations of war. The power to declare war is also the power to refuse to declare war and make warmongering presidents accountable to the Constitution. 

Second, it seems easy. We have the planes, ships, tanks, and troops to project our military to any spot on the planet. We seek the easy solutions offered by military might because we are a people of action—actually a people who glorify violence and dehumanize our opponents. If you question that assertion, take a look at online gaming or the most popular movies to see what people enjoy. 

We are now questioning the utility of highly armed and massive police forces in our cities. It brings up the same questions about our national military. The questions are not about the need to have armed force ready and trained, it’s about how much is enough and what other tools might we use to protect ourselves. We purposely ignore a vast array of other methods to de-escalate tense situation and prevent armed conflict. 

Americans are being awakened that force is not the path to better lives. We are recognizing that it’s not the solution and often leaves us with more problems. 

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