By Bekky Baker, IJPC Program Manager
The year 2021 saw the end of a decades long war as American troops rushed to exit Afghanistan. In the wake of a hasty and unorganized withdrawal, the National Defense Authorization Act was passed, the largest defense spending bill since WWII. It is 24 billion dollars higher than what Biden requested and a five percent increase from last year’s defense budget, despite the fact that we just ended a war.
There was overwhelming support on both sides of the aisle for the defense bill, yet some leaders are calling for an end to the unnecessary spending on the never ending war machine, the biggest polluter and contributor to climate change. This hike in military spending coincides with the reductions, massive changes and limited funding to the Build Back Better Act (BBBA). The BBBA was an attempt to address the burgeoning crises exacerbated by the pandemic, which have only worsened in the new year as Omicron surges across the world.
In truth, the NDAA authorized the spending of $608 billion more dollars per year than the BBBA. Politicians claim to have no money in the budget to grant access to affordable healthcare, reduce poverty and economic insecurity, and invest in clean energy, yet are willing to spend unfathomable amounts of money towards the proliferation of violence.
The military industrial complex is entrenched in shady arms deals and unnecessary weaponry. The largest part of the military budget goes to outside contracts, many of which could be filled by the government themselves. But, perhaps the most terrifying effect of the war machine is that it takes the number one spot of leading contributors to climate change. Climate change is set to displace 216 million people in the next 25 years.
As average citizens, a budget of billions of dollars or the displacement of millions of people is difficult to comprehend. The tactics and weaponry of war have changed so much that it is an effort to decipher what exactly we need to be “safe” and whether mechanisms, weaponry, and tactics are being used to protect us or to fill coffers of politicians.
Namely, nuclear weaponry is not only extremely deadly, but can create globally irreversible impacts. The United States is one of nine nuclear weapons states, despite the United Nations treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, which became legally binding just a little over a year ago. We have yet to even adopt a “no first use” policy, meaning we reserve the right to use nuclear weapons just for feeling threatened.
There are many nuanced arguments to weaponry, safety, global conflict, resources and more that feed and fuel our military industrial complex. But war is a choice, even if it feels insurmountable to overcome. As citizens, we can continue to work towards creating nonviolent communities and ask for more from our government. When we ask for more of our government, we are asking to value people over profit.