Monday, August 1, 2011

A quick case against the existence of the US military

Here is a sketch of an argument against the existence of the US military. It is quite presumptuous, it may be safer to argue for a weaker proposition; that most of the US military should not exist (or perhaps some military operations should not exist); but I will ignore that issue and assume that the argument that I am putting forward--even if not completely convincing will support the weaker proposition. This argument will deal with the ethics of the existence of the military but it will not be an a priori argument; it will deal with empirical data. I will argue that the data supports the following proposition:

it is true that at this point in time the military ought not to exist and that the structures and resources that sustain it shall be redirected for more effective and ethical purposes; to combat the mortal threat of poverty.

At the most basic level the US military M exists for the self defense of  American Citizens. It is concerned with saving lives and combating mortal threats. Thus it follows that if something x saves more peoples lives in more efficient way then the military M we ought to eliminate and change M insofar as the elimination of M supports x. It also follows that if there is a more grave mortal threat x to American Citizens (a more grave mortal threat either takes more lives or threatens to take more lives then then another mortal threat) that M ought to engage with decreasing x.

One of the primary catalysts of the US military operations was the terrorist attack of 9/11. In this attack about 3,000 people died. Let us suppose that the military did not respond to the terrorist attacks but instead completely eliminated itself and poured all the financial prowess of the military-industrial complex into other means of saving lives. Because of this the US was struck with 50 attacks in the year 2001 and each attack caused the death of 3,000 people. In this hypothetical situation 150,000 people died because of the military's non-existence.

What did the military (in this hypothetical situation of course) pour it's energies into? It poured it's energy into reducing poverty. Because more people die due to poverty then they do due to terrorism. As this recent study in the American Journal of Public Health reports in  2000:

162,000 people died due to low social support
133,000 people died due to individual-level poverty
119,000 people died due to income inequality
39,000 people died due to area-level poverty

This study calculated that "4.5% of U.S. deaths were found to be attributable to poverty -- midway between previous estimates of 6% and 2.3%." The total number of deaths were 453,000. Supposing that the study is wrong and that instead of 4.5% of U.S. deaths attributable to poverty, the correct number is 2.3%. This would change the total to 231,533 (100/4.5*453,000*.023). So 81,533 more people die due to poverty then do because of terrorism in this hypothetical situation. Poverty forms a much greater mortal threat then the "war on terrorism." Introducing the assumption that the resources and structure of the US military could significantly reduce deaths attributable to poverty and the case is completely sketched.

I have formulated two basic syllogisms, whether it is necessary that there are two arguments as opposed to one is not a question I will pursue now.

1. The US military exists in order to defend the lives of US citizens.
2. If the US Military redirected it's resources to combating poverty, it would save more US citizen lives then doing otherwise.
3. In order to save more citizens the US military ought to be eliminated and redirected toward combating poverty.

4. The US military exists in order to combat the most grave mortal threats to US citizens.
5. The most grave mortal threat is the existence of poverty.
6. The US military ought to eliminate and change itself insofar as that allows for decreasing the existence of poverty.

Premise 2 and 5 are probably the most questionable. 2 could certainly use more support, unfortunately their is limited empirical examples of what I am proposing. Concerning 5, I may not have done all the research to proclaim that "the most grave mortal threat is the existence of poverty" but I think I have certainly shown that concerns over poverty are more legitimate then concerns over terror. I may pursue the validity of these arguments, as well as weaker arguments on this subject later. What is absolutely true is 2'" If the US military redirected it's resources to combating poverty it would save more lives then doing otherwise." 2' is not restricted to the lives of American Citizens, but instead to all human lives. Certain NGO's save the lives of 3rd world peoples successfully and much more cheaply then they would1st world peoples. So if the US Military doesn't discriminate in the value of American Citizen lives to 3rd world lives it follows that it really ought to be redirected toward combating global poverty. (Not to say that this discrimination is unjustified, though it may be)

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