The Cost of Military Preparedness
CUT in a stone wall flanking the Plaza of the United Nations is a Bible quotation. Taken from Isaiah chapter 2, it reads: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”—Authorized Version.
Yet, the highest single appropriation in the budgets of most countries today is military spending. So while the nations talk about peace, they spend more for war than for any other item!
In the past six years more than a trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) was spent for military preparedness. In 1969 the cost was the highest ever. Some $200 billion ($200,000,000,000) was spent. That is about twenty-three million dollars for every hour of every day throughout the whole year!
The cost to the United States last year was enormous—about $80,000,000,000. Adding payments to veterans of other wars, interest on the national debt (caused mainly by previous military spending) and arms shipments to other countries, the total came to well over $100,000,000,000. Over 55 percent of all spending was related to war! That is more than the combined cost of programs such as education, health, housing, space, agriculture, highways, welfare, retirement and unemployment.
The Soviet Union’s budget is also heavily weighted toward military spending. And the military spending of the poorer countries is increasing about twice as fast as the world average. While their living standard stagnates, the money they spend on armaments skyrockets. Of this the New York Times said:
“Throughout the emerging nations, in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the poor man’s arms race is gathering speed. For reasons of prestige and defense, so-called underdeveloped countries are buying everything from pistols to the most advanced and costly fighter-bombers, missiles, tanks, radar systems, even submarines. . . .
“Military expenditures of the underdeveloped countries are rising faster than their gross national products, a fact that means that a growing share of their slender resources is being diverted to weaponry.
“Interviews with practitioners and scholarly analysts of the trade suggest that the arms race is virtually out of control.”
Egypt now spends, according to its president Gamal Abdel Nasser, well over a thousand million dollars a year on military preparedness—an expense that it can ill afford. And it is estimated that the Israeli government is spending fully half of its money for the same reason. Said Newsweek: “For tiny Israel these and all the other costs imposed by the escalating Middle East hostilities are very nearly ruinous.”
Members of the United States Congress have attacked many weapons programs as being badly managed and wasteful. For example, the Air Force had been working on a manned orbiting space laboratory. Then the program was canceled. But $1,300,000,000 had already been spent!
A heavy tank program under development was supposed to cost 80 million dollars; it has already exceeded 300 million and is not out of the development stage. Twelve new submarine rescue ships were to cost 36.5 million dollars; now only six will cost 480 million. The F-111 fighter-bomber program was to cost $2,924,000,000; but now the Defense Department admits it will cost $6,260,000,000. A new line of torpedoes was to cost 752 million dollars; but now it will actually cost five times as much!
There is a constant cry for newer and more powerful weapons, making the older ones obsolete. The latest nuclear missiles of the Soviet Union and the United States can wipe out both countries several times over. Yet, they both work to improve their missiles to carry several nuclear warheads instead of one. Professor George Wald of Harvard University, a Nobel Prize winner, said:
“We are told that the U.S. and Russia between them have stockpiles in nuclear weapons with approximately the explosive power of 15 tons of TNT for every man, woman and child on earth. And now it is suggested that we must make more.”
What Could Be Done?
With so much to be done on earth, it is tragic that such a huge part of the world’s wealth is spent for unproductive armaments. What could be done if the nations lived in harmony and used all that money and energy for mankind’s good?
If that were possible, the world’s military budget for last year could have built twenty million homes costing $10,000 each. These would be luxurious in most countries. That many homes would have housed more than the population increase for the year. Think of the work that this would have provided to take up any slack caused by shutting down of armaments plants.
There are many unemployed persons without job skills, even in the United States. There it costs about $2,900 to train an unskilled person for a job. That cost often includes medical attention, transportation and care for dependent children. For a fraction of its yearly arms bill, all the ‘hard-core’ unemployed in the country could have been given job training. Such training would make a person useful, a productive member of society.
The money the world spent on military preparedness last year could have built 200,000 schools costing a million dollars apiece, more than adequate in most countries. Better schools would enable classes to be smaller so teachers could give children more individual attention.
Thousands of scientists spend their time working on weapons of destruction. What could they do if they used their talents to invent ways to overcome pollution? Too, with all that money, how many acres of land could be reclaimed to grow crops to feed the world’s hungry? Farmers could be given training and equipment to improve their crops. Outdoor recreation areas and parks could be vastly expanded. Decent health care could be provided for many more people.
But the truth is that all this is not being done. And there is no indication whatsoever that it will be done in this system of things. Indeed, Atlas magazine of April 1970 reported:
“Horror report straight from the U.N.: At the end of the 1960’s there were more sick, more undernourished and more uneducated children in the world than there were ten years ago. The future? Fifty percent of those who live will never set foot in a classroom.”
Alienation of Public
Growing numbers of people are becoming angered at the constant military spending of the nations when so much else needs to be done. In late 1969 a huge demonstration against war was held in Washington, D.C. Some estimates placed the crowds at between 250,000 and 500,000. Called the ‘March on Washington,’ it was the largest antiwar protest the nation’s capital had ever seen.
Many young men now find military service repugnant instead of heroic as it was considered in past times. U.S. News & World Report noted: “The military establishment, chiefly the Army, is now beset by cases of mutiny, disobedience, racial strife, desertion and an ever-increasing number of absences without leave.” It stated that “there has never been anything quite like it in American history.” Thousands of young men have fled the country rather than be conscripted.
General Earle Wheeler, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, noted the growing hostility of the public toward the ‘military-industrial complex’ and said that if the attitude did not change “it is going to lead to chaos—to disintegration of the [military] services.”
Just how alienated many have become can be observed from the following stinging editorial in the Eagle Rock Sentinel of Los Angeles. It declared:
“The stark, incontestable truth is that all powerful nations on earth, including our own, are clandestinely committed to promoting wars and providing the material sinews for fighting them. At the same time these nations maintain a deceptive image as lovers of peace and officially mouth platitudes about morality and freedom. . . .
“War is big business, perhaps the biggest business in the world. It could be stopped if the big powers wanted to stop it. They are unlikely to do this when material gains are at stake.”
How Much Security?
Does the armaments race really buy security for the nations of this world? Commenting on the huge cost of military spending, the New York Times of March 31, 1970, said: “This is insane. The proliferation of arms in the name of security actually reduces everyone’s security by raising the danger of conflict.”
The Province of Vancouver, after observing that military spending was the costliest item in Canada’s budget, said:
“What good did it do us as a nation? Did it reduce the possibilities of Canada being attacked by an unfriendly nation? Not at all. Nothing in our national armories could stand off a modern attack long enough for our leader to make a farewell speech. . . . It would be funny—if it were not so expensive.”
According to the Norwegian Academy of Sciences, there have been 1,656 arms races since the year 650 B.C.E. It said that only sixteen of them did not end in war, adding: “The remainder ended in the economic collapse of the countries concerned.” How true this pattern has been of our twentieth century! It has seen the greatest arms race in history. It has also seen the most wars, the worst wars, and the worst economic depression ever.
What of the near future? U Thant, secretary-general of the United Nations, said: “I can only conclude from the information that is available to me as Secretary General that the members of the United Nations have perhaps 10 years left in which to subordinate their ancient quarrels and launch a global partnership to curb the arms race, to improve the human environment, to defuse the population explosion and to supply the required momentum to world development efforts.”
A New System Needed
Obviously a very bad situation exists in the world. Surely a new system is needed. The publication World Union of The Hague, Netherlands, stated: “It is now unquestionable that a world government, recognized and accepted as a higher political authority than national governments, must be established as soon as possible.”
But can another system of men work any better than those that have been tried? Where are the leaders who can make it work better? All kinds of men and governments have been tried. History testifies to the fact that all of them have failed to bring universal peace and disarmament.
Yet, there is a government that will without fail bring universal peace and disarmament! It will also take over total control of earth’s affairs and work for mankind’s benefit. And it is no dream. It is a government whose subjects have already ‘beaten their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. They do not lift up sword against others, neither do they learn war anymore.’—Isa. 2:4.
That government is the one Jesus Christ taught Christians to pray for—God’s kingdom. (Matt. 6:9, 10) The facts in fulfillment of Bible prophecy show that it is already ruling from the heavens. Shortly it will crush this entire corrupt system of things out of existence. (Dan. 2:44) Then, Bible prophecy says, “to the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end.”—Isa. 9:7.
Jehovah’s witnesses are loyal subjects of God’s heavenly government. Thus, while not interfering in the affairs of the nations where they live, they personally obey God’s command to ‘beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks and not learn war anymore.’ Universal disarmament has already been accomplished within their ranks. In over 200 lands, they have come to total peace with persons of all nationalities and races.
This is the condition that will prevail earth wide after the end of the present wicked system of things. Why so? Because only those who respect peace will be allowed by God to live in that new order. (Prov. 2:21, 22) Then, there will be no more armaments races, for Jehovah God promises that he “is making wars to cease to the extremity of the earth.” As the Almighty God he is in position to do this, though men are unable.—Ps. 46:9.
How delightful it will be in God’s new order when there will be no more war or war preparations! Then all of earth’s resources and man’s energies will be devoted to constructive pursuits, for mankind’s everlasting benefit.
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The nations spend more on war than on anything else
23 MILLION Dollars per Hour
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Spending related to war cost the United States last year more than the combined cost of education, health, housing, agriculture, space, highway, retirement and other programs