THE BLOG

Does Endless War and Illegal Surveillance Sound Like Security to You?

06/18/2015 12:29 pm ET | Updated Jun 17, 2016

In our new film series, some of the smartest thinkers of our time warn that the runaway national security state, and the endless war and surveillance that underpins it, is creating a more perilous world.

So why aren't these issues being discussed by the 2016 presidential candidates? How come new ideas about national security aren't part of the platforms being debated? When will candidates start devising smart, compassionate solutions, not the same old militaristic pathways that, this century alone, have cost over one million human lives, trillions of dollars, and driven a global surge of violence?

Too many candidates are endorsing the conventional political wisdom that more military invasion, occupation, droning and Pentagon spending will somehow make us more secure.

That's why we think that now is a more important time than ever to challenge the status quo.

The Henry A Wallace National Security Forum Series features interviews with 11 experts -- including journalist Glenn Greenwald, activist and scholar Noam Chomsky, political scientist Andrew Bacevich, and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes -- about the critical questions of our day: What does real safety look like, and where did America go wrong?

Brave New Films has a proud history of telling the hidden stories of war, from Iraq to Afghanistan to the domestic war on whistleblowers to drones.

This latest series, moderated by Sonali Kolhatkar of Uprising Radio, is unique in its deep investigation of the origins, human costs, and apparatus of the modern security state.

Our experts examine the security state from all angles, providing in-depth analyses, as well as new information and facts.

Feminist historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz traces the roots of the security state to the birth of the U.S. as a settler colonial nation whose expansion was driven by an "imperialistic urge." Noam Chomsky looks at U.S. empire from its colonial origins to its post World War II decline, arguing that, in the "dimension of violence," America remains far ahead of the world. Others, like political scientist Andrew Bacevich, emphasize the Cold War as an era of rapid security state enlargement, predicated on false assumptions that such expansion can bring safety and stability. And Linda Bilmes looks at how the security state, and the wars it breeds, is built on money borrowed from future generations.

Whatever its origins, the security state comes at a tremendous human cost. Journalist and author Anand Gopal tells us the stories of the "nameless and faceless" occupied -- from Iraq to Afghanistan -- who face a region spiraling into violence as a result of the so-called War on Terror. "Groups like ISIS only exist because of the chaos sewn by the U.S. invasion in 2003 and the subsequent civil war," he emphasizes. Bilmes explains that the toll of war also includes the long-term economic and human costs of sending U.S. troops into harm's way, and then caring for them when they suffer long-term physical and mental wounds as a result.

And then there is the global trail of destruction left behind by CIA interventions across the globe, including torture, covert drone wars, and attempts to oust more than 50 governments since World War II, explains former state department worker turned critic William Blum.

Aggression and intervention have been central to U.S. foreign policy for over a century. In the words of scholar, author, and journalist Stephen Kinzer, "It's not up to the United States to sit in front of a map of the world and decide which countries are going right and which countries are going wrong and deserve American intervention."

But the war is not just overseas. Glenn Greenwald discusses the "surveillance state" exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, noting the "chilling effect" this government spying has on civil rights and democracy itself, as people behave differently -- and less freely -- when they think they are being watched.

The American public is then forced to foot the bill for surveillance. And more than that, we're paying for a global military buildup. The Pentagon budget alone has jumped by approximately one trillion dollars over the past ten years, but given the military's repeated failure of audits, we don't know exactly what its true total expenditures amount to, Bilmes points out.

At a time of high inequality and poverty, this is money that could be going to health care, food aid, and housing assistance. In other words, these public funds could be spent on real security. Likewise, amid historic uprisings from Ferguson to Baltimore, safety cannot be delivered by national guard deployments against U.S. citizens or the militarization of police. Security comes when we address the root causes of public outrage by pursuing real solutions, like access to education and living-wage jobs.

On both sides of the political aisle, presidential candidates can't truly address these domestic needs without taking on the bloated security state. This requires a painful reckoning with our country's bloody policies -- and a reimagining of what safety, democracy, and justice look like.