US Department of Defense: Theory versus Practice


Charles Mercieca, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

Over the centuries, people from across every continent realized that not all the glitters is gold. To this end, a lot of sayings or proverbs were formulated as to inspire subsequent generations to be wiser during the journey of their life. The Romans used to say: aliud est theoria, aliud est practica – one thing is theory, another thing is practice. The Italians still have the proverb: tra il dire e il fare c’e’ in mezzo il mare – between saying and doing there is an abyss.

Criteria for Good Judgment

Also, the Italians have another proverb that states: L’apparenza s’inganna – appearance deceives. In the early days of Christianity, ascetical writers told us: Judge a tree by the fruit it gives. This means if a tree looks like an orange tree but it bear lemons, then call it a lemon tree. This is plane common sense. Even here, St. Thomas Aquinas, who stated that all problems could be solved through common sense, warned us that common sense is uncommon, it is rare to find.

In spite of this, we can always still make a good value judgment. First, we try to understand what in theory such an object looks like and then we simply go a step further to see what in practice it proves to be. In this presentation, we will concentrate on the US Department of Defense as to understand fully well its proper nature and purpose. It is fully assumed that through this department the US government tries to protect, to the best of its ability, the American nation.

This military entity, created to protect the American nation, may be viewed as proper or not so proper. Everything boils down to the real concept we have formulated of the word “nation.” Among all possible concepts of this word, it still remains a fact that by nation we simply mean people, in this case Americans. Hence, in anything we do to protect the people’s vital needs even at the cost of sacrifice, may be viewed as a moral obligation. This is in theory the US Department of Defense as presented to the nation.

However, we need to keep in mind that a nation does not refer to the name of a piece of land, which we may choose to designate. It refers to the people living on such a piece of land. In this sense, a nation may be viewed as strong or weak as its people. If they happen to be healthy, then we know we have a healthy nation. If they happen to be fully educated with their respective talents developed to the maximum, then we know we have an advanced nation. If people have good home facilities, then they should all feel safe and relaxed.

Negative Contributions to Society

At this stage, we need to raise some legitimate questions. What kind of contributions the US Department of Defense is making to toward the good health and good education of the American people? For those who may choose to join the military, what kind of humanitarian work or activities they will be trained to perform as to eventually become an asset to their nation and whole world? Judged by what they learn and the means provided to them, there seems to be hardly anything that is positive and constructive.

Many of us might have had the opportunity in the past to observe young men and women who join the military at work in preparation for future mission assignments. There seems to be nothing humanitarian, which trains individuals to carry out work similar to that of Francis of Assisi, Mahatma Gandhi, and Mother Teresa, in addition to numerous others. They are all trained in the accurate shooting of people, the destruction of the infrastructure of cities, and the performing of strenuous exercises as a preparation for eventual wars.

They are never trained in helping the sick, in procuring food to the hungry, in providing the poor with cheap home facilities, and in giving a helping hand to the handicapped. The best way to help people is to provide them with their vital and crucial needs. No wonder why we have so many poor, miserable and homeless people in the United States that feel literally abandoned and hopeless.  The US military acts like they do not even exist. One may say that such work is not expected from the military.

That would be fine. But in this case we need to select our vocabulary better as to communicate to the nation and the rest of the world more wisely and more accurately. In view of this, we may fully realize and well understand why the US Department of Defense is, as a matter of fact, the US Department of War, which concentrates on the production of more devastating weapons, along with the promotion of wars periodically with no end in sight. This explains why this de facto US Department of War has established already 746 foreign military bases in addition to numerous warships across virtually every ocean.

Since the so called US Department of Defense has 100% the same identical mission of a Department of War, we can fully realize and understand why many find it very difficult to view the military as their source of protection. Let us examine the members of the US government both in the Senate and in Congress and explore how they are handling the US deficit problem, which may literally lead this nation to bankruptcy. The Republicans, in particular, want to cut off the social security and the health care of the people, two vital elements on which well over 50 million retired Americans rely fully for their survival.

Exploitation of People at Work

At the same time, Republicans want to continue to pour more money on weapons and wars; on building more foreign military bases and more warships. Here we have insanity at work. Republicans would rather continue with their star wars ventures while letting millions of Americans becoming deprived from their livelihood and health care than the other way round. To this end, they seem to have become experts in double talk in an effort to mislead fully the American people. These government officials have become so addicted to war, that they have now developed a habit that is found to be very difficult to control.

Each time the Democrats try to propose cuts in weapons and military spending Republicans become frantic and resort to a lot of jargon by which they try to demonstrate that cuts in weapons and military spending would encourage terrorists to attack the United States. A careful study of how people around the world tend to view the presence of US military in their country or in nearby nations reveals very negative feelings. The United States’ military presence everywhere is generally viewed as a threat.

Such presence has proven to be needless. Yet, billions of dollars are being wasted weekly on military bases and war machinery to the extent that today the USA is literally on the verge of bankruptcy. A careful study of how every empire in history collapsed reveals that the bulk of money was spent on weapons, military equipment and wars. That is how the Soviet Union collapsed and before it the British, Spanish, Portuguese, and Ottoman empires. And this keeps on going back to the Roman and Persian empires as well.

Although the Democratic Party in the USA has its own defects, yet, it provides a better and a safer government where people tend to suffer much less than under the Republican Party when it is at the helm of the government. One of the phenomenal weaknesses of Republicans consists of the fact that they want to abdicate their governmental responsibility and pass it to the private sector whose job is to exploit the people and make endless money at their own expense.

One of the basic weaknesses of the United States lies in its political philosophy of international relations. US politicians, as a whole, tend to believe strongly that the whole world would respect the United States only if they prove to be a “strong” nation. By this they do not mean economically but merely militarily. This way, they fantasize they are in a position to secure from every country anything they want. Of course, since the USA is a capitalistic nation, the real power lies in the hands of big corporations whose money help elect politicians through whom they may then control the whole government.

Main Goal of Capitalism

In a capitalistic society, the ultimate goal is to accumulate money without any end in sight. In fact, most of the chambers of commerce in the USA have as their slogan: The sky is not the limit. This is the ultimate objective and nothing would stop capitalists from adopting any means, regardless of its nature, that would lead assuredly to this end. It is not a hidden secret that the weapons industry and the military industrial complex have emerged to become a very lucrative business where money is generally made fast and smooth.

When the Soviet Union was viewed as a world power, same way as the United States, many people both in the USA and overseas, tended to view the US Department of Defense as a means that would protect them in the event of Soviet aggression. During this period, the US Department of Defense tended to be viewed on the whole more as positive and constructive. This was due to the apparent fact that this department was viewed as a legitimate hope in the protection of the so called freedom and democracy.

However, shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed, the US Department of Defense emerged in the open to show its real teeth. Those that worked in the manufacture and sales of weapons and the eventual engagement in wars began to view the prospects of peace in sight. Soon after, they came with the slogan: Peace is our enemy. The big corporations especially put great pressure on the US government, to make sure their war material business would not be diminished but that it would continue to grow.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States was faced with the opportunity to develop an international program of disarmament and arms control as to bring into the world a permanent world peace. Instead, the United States embarked upon the largest military build-up in history. Instead of providing the American people with a good health care system, free education, and adequate residential facilities for the poor, it chose to pour billions of dollars on the weapons industry and the military industrial complex.

In practice, the United States government turned the US Department of Defense into the US Department of War in the strict sense of the word. Needless to say, the job of the department of war is to provide as many nations as possible with devastating weapons and even, in a number of instances, to promote wars between them. As a result, the world has emerged to be a much more dangerous place to live in. Countries like Pakistan and India, which have had a history of conflicts and wars, have been equipped with nuclear weapons that have endangered the lives of more than 100 million people in the region.

Importance of Dialogues and Diplomacy

The so called traditional diplomacy has been replaced by threats and wars. Over the past decade alone the United States invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and these wars there are still going on. They are both controlled, for all practical purposes, by the US military, which has deprived the natives of the freedom of movement, in addition to the destruction of the infrastructure of cities that took the lives of tens of thousands of natives mostly women, children, the elderly and the sick. For the United States politicians, mostly Republicans, weapons and wars are viewed as the “holy cow.”

During the summer of 2011, Republicans have proposed the abolition of social security and health care as to use that money not to pay the national debt but, on the contrary, to pass it on to the war industry. They want to have more weapons and wars, more military bases and more warships around the world. If actions speak louder than words, they would rather see the American people deprived of all the necessities of life, be sick and miserable rather than to stop the exorbitant manufacture of weapons, close as many foreign military bases as possible and replace threats and wars with dialogues and a strong diplomacy.

Confronted with such realities, the American people cannot remain silent any longer. They have to draw the line and stop their politicians from their continued abuse of their very own lives. Every two years, the American people have the opportunity to vote in national elections. At such a time, they should oust from the entire US Congress all those senators and representatives who are trying to take money from their livelihood and from their health care needs.

They should then replace them by those that vouch to put top priority on the dire needs of the people rather than on the weapons industry and the military industrial complex. The star wars concept to get what you want through violence is over. As the proverb says, you catch more flies with honey. This means we can solve problems better and more effectively with healthy dialogues and a strong diplomacy.


Charles Mercieca, Ph.D. – President, International Association of Educators for World Peace, Dedicated to United Nations Goals of Peace Education, Environmental Protection, Human Rights & Disarmament.

-Professor Emeritus, Alabama A&M University.

-Hon President & Professor, SBS Swiss Business School, Zurich.

-Member, TRANSCEND-A Network for Peace, Development and Environment.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 1 Aug 2011.

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