1. Background
  2. U.S. Wars & Militarism

Getting to the Core of U.S. Militarism

By Diana Ohlbaum, May 1, 2019


Since 9/11, the United States has played an increasingly aggressive, militarized, and confrontational role in the world. Invasion, occupation, drone wars, and targeted assassinations have become so ingrained in U.S. foreign policy that many cannot imagine an alternative. An entire generation of Americans has grown up thinking this behavior is normal

This posture not only makes Americans less secure and less prosperous, but also violates widely shared moral values and basic principles of international law. It comes at an unacceptable human, financial, and environmental cost.

Yet America’s bellicose, domineering approach to foreign policy is not entirely new. The never-ending, unwinnable, and often unconstitutional wars that followed the September 11, 2001 attack, are only the latest manifestation of a system of thinking and behavior that long predates the current dysfunction. They reflect the belief that the United States has the right, the responsibility, and the power to shape the world, using force if necessary.

This is a belief that dates to the earliest origins of U.S. history. From the systematic massacre and forced removal of Native American peoples from their land to the kidnapping and enslavement of millions of Africans to the annexation of Mexican territory and the colonization of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, the United States has taken the path of military conquest from the very beginning.

It thus becomes incumbent upon us, as Quakers, to ask the question: Why is the United States government so reliant on the use of threats, coercion, and military force to pursue its “national security interests” around the globe? Why can’t our policymakers admit this approach is morally untenable and strategically unsound?

This question is the starting point for an effort to develop a roadmap for putting U.S. foreign policy on a more ethical and effective track.

The first step toward changing this landscape is understanding why the militarist paradigm is so broadly accepted by the national security elite and so deep-rooted in American national identity. What are the economic, political, historical and cultural reasons for this approach?

The next step is to identify a practical alternative that not only keeps Americans secure but resonates with widely held morals and values. Some of those who cling to the current set of assumptions do so only because they fail to perceive a viable substitute.

Fortunately, FCNL has already laid much of the foundation for this new vision with its 2013 paper, “Shared Security: Reimagining U.S. Foreign Policy.”

FCNL will be working with a wide array of other organizations to lay out a roadmap or joint action plan for replacing the militarist paradigm with a more inclusive, equitable, and just one.

This roadmap cannot be drawn by one organization in isolation. It must be the shared project of a broad ecosystem of thinkers, activists, and campaigners who will each play a role in carrying it forward.

FCNL brings a unique and valuable combination of experienced lobbyists, a skilled communications team, and a powerful grassroots network that together can help turn this vision into a reality.

Diana Ohlbaum, FCNL’s senior strategist and legislative director for foreign policy, is leading this effort to change the current militarist paradigm of the U.S.

Diana Ohlbaum

  • Senior Strategist and Legislative Director for Foreign Policy

Diana Ohlbaum directs FCNL’s foreign policy lobbying team and leads an effort to replace the current U.S. foreign policy paradigm of military domination and national superiority with a more ethical and effective one based on cooperation and mutual respect.