There was a quiet remembrance in mid-January of the warning given fifty years ago by Pres. Eisenhower against the military-industrial complex. All that the outgoing president feared in 1961 has come to pass: The permanent alliance of war and profit-making has turned America into a military machine, and one of our most advanced technologies is now the technology of death. The war machinery has already engulfed our elected officials at the highest levels, so the only hope for a return to peace lies with ordinary citizens. The bright side of this picture is that ordinary citizens don't want war. However, that's is a far cry from having the power to do anything about it. As long as the military-industrial complex holds massive sway in Washington -- and in every community where workers depend upon the military for their livelihood -- a frontal confrontation seems fruitless.
Peace has become a do-it-yourself project. It depends upon you and me because no concerted peace movement is yet viable on a mass scale. Our best hope is through a grass-roots change of beliefs. On a daily basis there are effective things each of us can do, at least as effective as the change of beliefs that brought down the Soviet Union. The analogy isn't exact, because Soviet militarism was bankrupt while ours is rich. That's a huge difference, no doubt, but with a change of beliefs, we can alter America's mindset, which is the crucial first step.
Work on your own mindset. Every day, when you are tempted by the media, politicians, or your own conditioning to believe in war, stop and correct yourself. Among the leading false beliefs that must be transformed are the following:
1. Military strength brings security. The more military might we have, the more secure we will be.
2. When we kill people in other countries, it is for their own good. There's a higher purpose being served, such as democracy.
3. Weapons aren't about death. They are about technology and progress.
4. Killing people with high-tech weapons is better than using low-tech weapons. It's more progressive and civilized.
5. Whoever gets killed by the United States either deserved it or we made a regrettable mistake because of human error. Sorry
6. Progress cannot be stopped. Every new weapons system is necessary and inevitable. Anyone who opposes new weapons wants America to be weak.
7. It's normal to maintain a massive standing army in peacetime.
8. The reason that the U.S. goes to war is that we know what's right better than anyone else. "They" make us attack them because "they" are immoral or downright evil.
9. God made us superior. We must make sure the rest of the world stays alert to that fact.
10. Making war is one way we show how superior we really are.
Next, tell yourself one or more concrete ways in which the belief is false. It takes a conscious effort to stop yourself when any of these ideas crops up, but without a conscious effort, these beliefs keep metastasizing without check. Even if there is a grain of truth in a belief, that doesn't justify carrying it to an extreme. Of course we need security, but that doesn't mean that any and all militaristic measures are justified. To change militaristic thinking, first change your own thinking. As a next step, if you are able to, speak up when others espouse these beliefs. Teach your children not to adopt them. Discuss military issues in public or in peace groups if your conscience moves you to.
In one way the analogy to the Soviet Union is apt. Ordinary people in that society were inundated with false beliefs in the form of propaganda about the perfect socialist paradise, the workers utopia. The fact that reality was almost the opposite didn't topple the system. Beliefs had to topple first. Minds that were totally committed to ideology had to be freed. In this country we are committed to equally gripping falsehoods, and until ordinary citizens start talking about what's real, nothing will ever change