Considered the following words:
What can the world, or any nation in it, hope for if no turning is found on this dread road?
The worst to be feared and the best to be expected can be simply stated.
The worst is atomic war.
The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms in not spending money alone.
It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.
It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.
It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.
It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.
We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat.
We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.
This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.
This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
These words were spoken on April 16, 1953 by President Dwight Eisenhower in a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors (link). We remember that President Eisenhower also warned us, in 1960, about the developing military-industrial complex and what it could do to our country. We have ignored what he said in 1960 and we have forgotten what he said inn 1953.
But in these words, spoken at the beginning of his first term, he was speaking of the cost of war. He put the onus of blame for fear that covered the world in those days on the Soviet Union and their lack of vision for peace in this world.
In the world of its design, security was to be found, not in mutual trust and mutual aid but in force: huge armies, subversion, rule of neighbor nations. The goal was power superiority at all costs. Security was to be sought by denying it to all others.
His references to the cost of war were what we had lost because this country and other free countries of this world found it necessary
. . . to spend unprecedented money and energy for armaments. It forced them to develop weapons of war now capable of inflicting instant and terrible punishment upon any aggressor.
It instilled in the free nations-and let none doubt this-the unshakable conviction that, as long as there persists a threat to freedom, they must, at any cost, remain armed, strong, and ready for the risk of war.
President Eisenhower’s speech was not the speech of a war-monger or a backyard bully but that of a man who had seen the horrors of two world wars and was dedicated to preserving and expanding the peace that followed World War II.
It seems to me that the words that President Eisenhower used to describe the Soviet Union can strangely be applied to this country and its present leaders today. Yet, the fear that dominated the generation that grew up in the 1950’s is gone; the only fear is a fear that the present administration has created and keeps using to justify the war in Iraq (“if we do not fight them there, they will fight us here.”)
By one estimate, we spend $720 million dollars a day on the war in Iraq (link; another summary of the cost is here). Now, I have said and written before that if we want to stop war, we must remove the causes. The money spent in one day for the war would (my thanks to “Shuck and Jive” for the following information):
- Build 6482 homes for American families
- Build 84 new elementary schools
- Provide 34,904 four-year scholarships.
- Hire 12,478 elementary school teachers
- Place 95,364 children in Head Start
- Develop renewable energy in 1,274,336 homes
- Provide 1,153,846 children with free school lunches
- Provide 423,529 children with healthcare
Now, this is what it could do in America but the point could and should be made that it could do the same or more around the world. Would the money that is being spent (and wasted!) on the war in Iraq be better put to use by building the instruments of peace and not the weapons of war? Would it be better to feed the hungry here in America and around the world? Would it be better to heal the sick than kill and maim others overseas and have our young come home in a box or without limbs or their sanity?
Each day that the war goes on is another day that money that could be spent for peaceful uses, uses that would deny terrorists need the reasons for their fight. Each day that the war goes on is money spent and will never be recovered. Each day that the war goes on, young men and women die or are wounded and the future of society is shorten.
It is time that we learn what the true cost of war is; it is time that we begin spending our resources for peace and growth, not death and destruction. The cost of war is unfortunately calculable; but so is the cost of peace. It is time to say that our spending needs to change.