Plan for US to transform world

Neil Snarr - Contributing columnist

Our president’s proposed budget for next year would increase our military budget by $54 billion.

We already spend more money on our military than any other country in the world and, in fact, we spend more than the next several countries combined – we now spend $596 billion annually or 35.6 percent of the world’s total annual military expenditures, which is $1,676 billion. (This does not include $65.3B for veterans’ benefits).

The military expenditures of the next eight largest spenders on the military are: 2) China $215B; 3) Saudi Arabia $87.2B; 4) Russia $66.4B; 5) United Kingdom $55.5B; 6) India $51.3B; 7) France $50.9B; 8) Japan $40.9B; 9) Germany $39.4B.

Together these eight high spenders total $567.2 billion, or $28.8B less than what the United States spends annually on our military.

Although it is unlikely that the military spending of any of the eight countries will remain the same in the next fiscal year (some will increase and others will decrease), adding $54B to the US expenditure would result in the annual expenditure increase to $650 billion, or a world’s total of $1,730 billion.

This extreme increase on top of an already gigantean budget raises, at least for me, serious questions. Might we not open our minds to some other possibilities?

Our globe is in very serious trouble right now and I seriously doubt that the security we seek will be found in greater military expenditures. The greatness of the United States was clearly displayed after World War II, between 1948 and 1952, with the establishment of what was called the Marshall Plan.

As one commentator said, ”The goals of the United States in this plan was to rebuild war-devastated regions, remove trade barriers, modernize industry, make Europe prosperous once more, and prevent the spread of communism.” The total cost at the time was $12 billion (ca. $120 billion in today’s currency). It worked!

Would something like that be feasible today? The Marshall Plan had bipartisan support where the Republicans controlled Congress and the Democrats controlled the White House with Truman as president.

There are many ways of looking at such an undertaking – Oxfam, a non-government-organization (NGO), states that, “Annual income of richest 100 people is enough to end global poverty four times over.”

World Neighbors, also an NGO and committed to “eliminating hunger, poverty and disease in the poorest, most isolated rural villages in Asia, Africa and Latin America” gives no dollar amount, but boasts that, “Since 1951, more than 26 million people in 45 countries have transformed their lives with the support of World Neighbors.”

Throughout the world there are individuals and NGOs with success stories to share concerning the establishment of justice and harmony. Some are faith-based and some are not.

One with which I am acquainted is TIKUN, which is directed by Rabbi Michael Lerner of California. He is also the editor of Tikun magazine. He proposes “A National Security Strategy of Generosity and Care. In the 21st century, our security and well-being depends on the well-being of everyone else on this planet as well as on the health of the planet itself.”

He proposes a Global Marshall Plan wherein 1-2 percent of the U.S. annual Gross Domestic Product would be dedicated to the elimination of domestic and global poverty, homelessness, hunger and the establishment of appropriate education, health and environmental regeneration.

Each program has its own goals, reasons for its programs, estimates of its cost and how to finance them. I believe that the United States could provide some of the impetus for such a transformation.

“Turn our swords into plow shares?” We have some 800 military bases in the world with hundreds of thousands of military personnel.

Occasionally they are turned into relief agencies (especially after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami in the South Pacific). Turning our military into relief agencies cooperating with already established international non-government relief agencies would be a miracle, but, I believe, a miracle worth pursuing.

Like the Marshall Plan that emerged after tens of millions were killed during WWII, good, useful and humane things could again emerge.

A better alternative than spending $54 billion for more weapons of violence?

Neil Snarr is Professor Emeritus at Wilmington College.

Neil Snarr

Contributing columnist