George Carlin, among his many astute observations, made this one about the United States shortly after the first Gulf War:
We like war, we are war like people. We like war, because we are good at it. You know why we are good at it? Because we get a lot of practice. This country is only 200 years old and already we have had 10 major wars. We average a major war every 20 years in this country, so we are good at it! And it’s good thing we are, we aren’t very good at anything else anymore. Can’t built a decent car, can’t make a TV set or VCR worth a fuck. Got no steel industry left, can’t educate our young people can’t get health care for our old people, but we can bomb the shit out of your country alright?!
This bit comes back to me today because of a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute explaining that global military spending fell for the first time in 15 years to $1.75 trillion. And who leads the world in this orgy of bombs and missiles? The United States of course, spending more than the next 10 countries combined, or 39% of all military spending on earth.
Here is an illustration of US Defense spending, circa 2011, from the Washington Post’s Wonkblog:
What could the world do with $1.75 trillion that may be more productive? Added to the $1.6 trillion the rich and powerful are able to avoid in taxes each year you have a nice pot of funds to feed, shelter, educate, and care for people. I’m not a peacenik, but if this doesn’t make you shake your head I don’t know what will.
When North Korea started to ratchet up the rhetoric several weeks ago, I was concerned. While many foreign policy experts see Iran as the greatest current threat to American security, I viewed nuclear weapon armed North Korea as far more dangerous. Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons, has a modicum of democracy, and a vast number of young people who consume pop culture, and, for the most part, admire the United States. North Korea is the most closed society in the world controlled by a leader we know little about. In fact the only photo we had of him until his accession to power was one taken when he was 11.
But as the crisis has escalated I can’t stop giggling.
I feel free to do so because first and foremost I am convinced, by people far smarter than myself, that North Korea is doing what they always do and they understand that any significant attack against South Korean, Japan or the United States would result in swift annihilation.
This whole situation reminds of Dr. Strangelove with Kim Jong-un riding the bomb all the way down. I can hear Peter Sellers in my head saying what the North Korean’s apparently told reporters in London today:
At the North Korean embassy in London, they are answering the phone but saying little.
“As far as we know, we are not giving any statements,” a North Korean official told Reuters, declining to give his name and saying all necessary information was already available on the website of the North Korean state news agency KCNA.
Yesterday you had word of North Korea advising Russia and other countries to remove their diplomatic staff. Again, Peter Sellers, “You must leave sir.”
If North Korea was saying nothing but moving troops and equipment, I might be worried. Until then, I’ll stick with Dr. Strangelove.