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

Militarism: Escaping the Trap

November 29, 2017


Friends have long sought to live, in the words of George Fox, “in the virtue of that life and power that [takes] away the occasion for all wars.” What does that commitment look like today, in a country that seems to be moving in the opposite direction?

Militarism permeates our society. Our nation’s budget is skewed towards the Pentagon, and local economies depend increasingly on military industries as contractors reap the benefits. Our government gives surplus military equipment to local police forces and then wrings its hands when police officers see their own communities as the enemy.

Without belief that change is possible, nothing will change; but faith can move mountains. - Diana Francis, The 2015 Swarthmore Lecture

Abroad, U.S. military drones bring death from the sky, and our military equipment and advisors support violence and aggression. Fear of terrorist attacks has led Congress to abdicate its power to debate U.S. military action, which is only increasing.

Long before President Trump’s election, the U.S. was deep in the throes of militarism, what the Quaker Philip Noel Baker called “a deep-rooted and malignant disease.” In the United States, military force is equated with effectiveness, while talking, engagement, diplomacy, and cooperation are seen as “soft.”

In the last year, President Trump has sent more troops to Afghanistan—continuing that 16-year-long conflict—and threatened war with North Korea and Iran. The president and Congress are vying to see who can increase the Pentagon budget the most—despite the agency’s documented mismanagement of billions of dollars. Meanwhile, our leaders propose budget cuts in programs vital to the health and well-being of our neighbors and communities.

Yet we also see members of Congress who are willing to question this approach. We can escape from the trap of militarism when we advocate for policies that commit to the future of all our country’s people. We find hope in the power of those people working boldly for peace and justice.

That power is evident in the work of FCNL’s Advocacy Teams—more than 80 across the country —who are building relationships with their members of Congress to urge them to rein in Pentagon spending. It was evident at FCNL’s Quaker Public Policy Institute this November, when 450 people lobbied Congress to invest in our communities rather than the tools and weapons of war. Every phone call, letter to the editor, and email urging a different approach to addressing our nation’s problems is an antidote to the militarism around us.

People are at the heart of escaping the militarism trap in our country—both our action and our care for all our neighbors, without exception. In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. called for a shift from a “thing-oriented” to a “person-oriented” society, saying “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” We must continue to name and oppose militarism where it appears—in our communities as well as in our public policies—and keep working for the alternatives that recognize the Light that is in us all.