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Military Base Dependency

Military Base

One of the most disastrous effects of America’s post-World War II embrace of a permanent warfare-state apparatus has been the extreme dependency on domestic military bases that dot towns and cities across America. The situation is akin to a drug addict who lies permanently in bed hooked up to an IV that is feeding heroin into his veins. The people in areas where military bases are located live in a constant state of deep fear that U.S. officials could, at any time, decide to close their base, which, in the minds of the local populace, would spell economic doom to the area.

President Eisenhower alluded to this phenomenon in his Farewell Address in 1961. While he was referring to the entire military-industrial complex and its related weapons industry, the principles he enunciated apply equally well to the thousands of military installations across America:

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

Hardly anyone ever asks whether all these domestic military bases are necessary. If someone does question the need for any particular base, the local populace and local media go into action, pressuring their members of Congress to come to their aid, reminding them how essential their particular base is to “national security” and the local economy.

The fact is that domestic military bases have become part and parcel of America’s welfare state. Yes, welfare state! Like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, farm subsidies, and other aspects of the welfare state, the warfare state has inculcated a mindset of hopeless dependency among vast numbers of Americans. Countless Americans all across the nation lie in constant fear of losing the welfare dole that comes with their local military base.

The question has to be asked: What useful purpose do any of these military bases serve? One gets the feeling that they are like military forts in the 1800s. But those forts were designed to protect the nearby towns from Indian attacks. There are no more Indian attacks. So what are the bases protecting their nearby towns from?

It might be argued that the bases are there to protect the nearby towns and cities from foreign invaders. But there is one big problem with that reasoning: There is no foreign nation anywhere in the world that has the remotest military capability, the money, or even the interest in invading, conquering, and occupying the United States.

Defenders of all these bases might say that they’re there to protect the nearby towns and cities from terrorists. But there are big problems with that rationale. For one thing, it’s the U.S. military and the CIA that are engendering the anger and hatred with what they are doing in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Africa, and the rest of the world that is producing the never-ending threat of terrorism. Stop the imperialism and foreign interventionism and you stop the anti-American terrorism.

Another big problem with that rationale is that terrorism is a criminal offense here in the United States. That’s why accused terrorists are prosecuted in federal district court. Here in the United States, the military is prohibited from serving in a law-enforcement capacity. So, what good are those domestic military bases to fight terrorism domestically when the law prohibits the military from doing so?

Third, even if the law permitted the military to fight domestic terrorism, how much good would all those permanent military bases do to combat the threat of terrorist strikes on some building or some shopping mall? Would we really want the military to be dropping bombs on suspected terrorists here in the United States as it is doing in Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere?

As Eisenhower pointed out more than 50 years ago, the warfare state was an alien form of governmental structure as far as the United States was concerned, one that was antithetical to the principles of limited government on which America was founded.

In fact, if our American ancestors, who had a deep antipathy toward empire, militarism, and standing armies, had been told in 1787 that the Constitution was bringing into existence a federal government that would have an enormous permanent military establishment consisting of thousands of bases, both foreign and domestic, it is a virtual certainty that they would have rejected the Constitution, which would have meant that the federal government would not even have been called into existence.

In his Farewell Address, Ike said that the Cold War necessitated America’s embrace of a warfare-state way of life. He was wrong. America should never have abandoned its principles and its heritage, not even in the name of combatting communism. But one thing is for sure: The Cold War ended a long time ago, which means that the rationale for America’s warfare-state apparatus evaporated at the same time.

It’s time for Americans to do some serious soul-searching about the imperialism, militarism, and addiction to military bases that the warfare state has brought to our land. The warfare state is taking down our nation, even more so than the welfare state. Not only has it produced a mindset of dependency on military largess, not only is it the root cause of the constant threat of terrorism that is being used as the excuse for destroying our liberty at home, it is also a key component to the out-of-control federal spending and debt that is sending the federal government down the road to bankruptcy.

Where to start? A good first step would be to close all the foreign military bases, bring all the troops home, and discharge them into the private sector. A good second step would be to close all the domestic military bases and discharge those soldiers into the private sector as well.

Indeed, why not do both steps at the same time? There is no better way to restore peace, prosperity, harmony, security, and freedom than by restoring a limited-government constitutional republic to our land.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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