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Luke Lenard

Co-Founder, Clean Our Oneida Lakes (C.O.O.L.)

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Changing the U.S.A.'s focus from militarism to humanitarian efforts and social projects.

Please read and please continue to add to the idea.

Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S.A. has been the world’s only “superpower”. We have since then maintained the largest peace time military budget this world has ever seen. Today politicians argue about what programs should be cut and which should have less funding. From the perspective of an 18 year old student from Wisconsin I have come to the conclusion that it is time for us to end our reign as world’s largest military budget and instead focus on things that matter.
You may ask,” What matters?” My answer would be you. You matter and because you matter, that is what we should focus on. We should give a truly universal health care system in this country, equalize the wealth disparity (I’m not saying eliminate it, just prevent there from being a 40 billionaire and 10 dollar person in this country at the same time), and then lead the world in humanitarian aid in the rest of the world (I know that we already donate a ton but we can do more).
I ask you why not do something completely radical for a change! Instead of taxpayer money going to a million dollar missile, we pay for 10000 trees to be planted. Instead of a new war, we start a new railroad system. Instead of a culture of militarism, we create a culture of filled with humanitarians.

Thank you to all who read this and please be thoughtful with any suggestions or comments.

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  • Aug 18 2011: Dwight D. Eisenhower's warning of April 16, 1953, before the American Society of Newspaper Editors:
    '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 is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children . . . This is not a way of life at all in any sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.''

    Eisenhower was not exactly a wide eyed liberal, yet the man saw what we do need to see. Luke I think that dialogue on this question is something sorely lacking all the way from Orange County CA to the White House. It is not just about doing good as a country, but being good as a country. Sometimes, there is more payoff in a cup of rice than there is in a grenade.

    Thanks for asking.
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    Aug 22 2011: I may not understand U.S.A's administration system but I have to say that I agree with you.My point is that America have the potential to gain a lot of positive achievements and reduce some of their problems IF they cut their expenditure on the military.One of the problems about America is their relations with the outside world.Let's face the facts, USA's image in the East or at least in the Muslim world is no longer as positive as it used to be.Maybe by spending less towards the military can change all that.Anything is possible.
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    Aug 18 2011: Thanks for the post. I think one of the first things that needs to be done is to make all the political campaigns clean from economical support from lobbyists. The companies who benefits from war do contribute much money to the campaigns and can set some of the agenda when the president/congress are in power.

    I would like to see a public funded campaign where the candidates doesn't need to "sell their soul" to get elected.
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    Aug 27 2011: Luke,


    This article from TIME Magazine shows how military vets are engaging their significant skills and abilities in public and and private service industries.

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2089337,00.html

    While it doesn't represent an upending of the military/industrial complex, it does represent a remarkable evolution in the ranks, if nothing else. General David Patraeous is among those who sees the post-war promise these military leaders can provide as constructive agents of non-violent solutions in and for America.

    Andrea
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      Aug 28 2011: I enjoyed the article, thanks for sharing :)
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    Aug 19 2011: Luke--

    Your views remind me of peace leader Coleen Rowley. She is best known, including as Time's Person of The Year and recipient of retired CIA leaders award for Integrity in Intelligence, for uncovering mishandling by the FBI that had delayed the arrest of 9/11 terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui.

    She and others are finding cross-partisan support at campaign events, including ones this week by both John Boehner and President Obama.

    Here is a piece that covers remarkable evolutions in attitude by bipartisans at Iowa's recent Straw Poll she and others witnessing, around which they are building a growing movement:

    http://dynamicshift.org/archives/peace-activists-find-bi-partisan-support-at-straw-poll

    Andrea
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      Aug 19 2011: I'm glad that I'm not the only one to come to these conclusions. Really, when one thinks about it, the only people who do not benefit are the large war profiteer corporations in our countries. Even the soldiers will benefit because they will be home with their families and not have that chance to come home in a body bag.
      Thank you for sharing!
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        Aug 19 2011: Luke--

        Our soldiers are struggling with tremendous battles both before and after their deployment. The suicide rate has skyrocketed in their ranks. Troublingly, it is increasing in never-deployed military, not only those who have served in battles.

        Reintegration efforts often fall short. The best answer appears to be sustained engagement as stakeholders and leaders in home communities. Not as victims of war (though some clearly are) but for what they have to offer of service and to build culture. These men and women (as all) want to be seen as people who serve a higher purpose, with the skills and abilities they have. And they know far more than how to follow orders to seek and destroy enemies.

        They also know how to work hard striving for a common cause, develop interdependent relationships and trust, and get things done.

        Andrea
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          Aug 19 2011: Then as you suggested earlier, they should be used at home to build infrastructure, teach, and lead
  • Aug 19 2011: I love this idea - and we need lots more young people (and old people too) putting their energy on this. With even a few thousand loud voices demanding this change, it could snowball into a massive movement.

    I truly believe we need a "revolution of consciousness" i.e. revolutionary creativity in making this happen. This IS still a democracy and it's long overdue for all of us to speak up and lead the charge...

    Great posts.
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    Aug 18 2011: For anyone who questions my age in this, I am not the only one who has suggested this idea and hopefully I am not the last. As for the unemployment that might occur with less military, remember that we will be using our money for useful causes then and thus you could get a job as a designer, a humanitarian worker, a solar panel construction worker, and maybe our government with this shift would pay for the planting of trees instead of oil. Thank you Michael for the quote, it is directly on the path that I was thinking and It is the sad truths of this country.
    I heard that yesterday, 1 in 5 kids do not receive enough food in this country. Shouldn't that be the main focus for this country?
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    Aug 18 2011: "The crisis is a crisis of conscientiousness ... Man, he still as he was. He is still brutal, violent, aggressive, acquisitive, competitive and he has built a society along these lines."
    - Jiddu Krishnamurti

    The problem America has is pride and power. Imagine for a moment how outrageous it would be to Americans if China or Russia had bases in our country. It all comes from a general disregard and overall ignorance of it's citizens. The answer to bringing your idea to life is simple: getting people involved with their country.

    We are STILL a Democracy. We are STILL responsible for our own actions, and so we STILL have time to make it right. Unfortunately, with a population as large as ours.. it's almost impossible to bring the peoples true desires to light. I suggest a division of the states.. ONLY a suggestion.

    Succession is a big part of our Constitution, and there is nothing unpatriotic about it. If America was, say, split into four pieces and worked together as a counsel to help one another.. we would probably be much more prosperous.
  • Sep 1 2011: Without getting into a semantic discussion on “focus” I think an argument can be made that a review of DOD spending may be sensible.

    Is there now a 21st century paradigm shift in play as manifest by the recent Arab Spring & as seen by the work of the Global Peace Initiative, e.g? I think it is worth a discussion & could & perhaps should be recognized & addressed as part of any collectively governing body's decision making.

    Wouldn’t a present day more comprehensive defense strategy be one that attacks the issue from both sides? Meaning to plan its workings more comprehensively, proactively, in serving also to help establish peace?
    Call it comprehensively applied defense & that initiative centralized through a Dept of Peace, just as some of the founding fathers, & one in particular, wanted right from the beginning.

    With such an initiative a very significant amount of money can be saved & applied to the humanitarian concerns as Luke suggests.

    Humanitarian concerns might also bring a review of foreign aid where, among other obvious considerations, Trade vs. Aid initiatives should be considered which would be overall considerably less costly & foster considerably better feelings towards our country.

    Just a thought - the State Department receives fifty-four billion dollars & the Department of Defense five hundred and eighty-three billion dollars, whereas, while bills for a US Dept of Peace are stalled presently in Congress (while there are numerous bi-partisan co-sponsors in both the House & the Senate), in February 2011 Congress cut off all funding for the US Institute of Peace (a bipartisan institute started under Ronald Reagan) which was funded at a mere forty-four million dollars…

    More discussion can be found in the media platforms for our in post-production movie at www.facebook.com/Thecongressmansdinner & www.Thecongressmansdinner.com. I am certainly open to all ideas & initiatives & welcome all participation. Thanks, Bob
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      Sep 1 2011: This definitely would be a step in the right direction and the figures for how much funding was given to the Institute of Peace is appalling! Also the concept of both sides resolving a issue such as terrorism without the need for an invasion would be an amazing accomplishment.
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    Aug 28 2011: I think the word "focus" is a bit misleading....
    US defence spending is less than 5% of GDP, in line with Russia, Singapore etc.
    Way less than KSA, Israel, UAE etc.
    Given that 95% of the mission of the USA is not militaristic, but focus on making plumbing supplies, computer chips, automobiles, incubators etc, I think we need a sense of perspective.
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      Sep 1 2011: James,

      With due respect, I think your focus is a much more misleading than this young students is.

      5% GDP doesn't sound too bad until one realizes that the Department of Defense (DOD) is by far the largest portion of the US government budget. At $550 billion (a 3% increase from 2010 budget) it represents 25% of public expenditures.

      Notably, this $550 billion does not include these related budgets:
      $124 billion -- Veteran's Affairs
      $54 billion -- Homeland Security
      $54 billion -- State Dept. (includes $$ for Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan defense stabilization missions)
      $14 billion -- nearly 1/2 of $31 billion Energy budget allocated for nuclear weapons.
      $325 million -- from Justice Dept for counterterrorism & national security
      Classified funds of the National Intelligence budget, which includes: counterterrorism &: "strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the additional U.S. forces being deployed there."

      From what I can see in the official US budget none of these are, by any stretch of imagination or semantic interpretation, allocated for making plumbing supplies, silicone chips, cars or incubators (for babies--or businesses). Spanking new F16's are spendy, and don't do much for that "non-militaristic" mission you mention.

      More salient to your point, or to call it into question -- depending on how cheeky you feel mine is:

      Budgets for GDP-improvement focused departments, combined cost less than 1/2 the DOD's "main" budget and a are mere fraction of total funds related to defense;

      $9 billion -- Commerce. It was slashed from a comparatively piddling $14 billion
      $116 billion -- Labor. Cut from $172 billion
      $71 billion -- Education. To create educated workforce to improve economy and tax revenues.
      $994 million -- Small Business. Less than $1 billion for the plumbers, tech start-ups, parts suppliers, and...business incubators.

      Doesn't this seem a little out-of-whack from an economic perspective?

      Andrea
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        Sep 1 2011: A couple of things:

        The question was about the "focus" of the USA per se, not government spending. I just think the word focus doesn't apply when 95% of US GDP has nothing to do with defence.

        Secondly. Andrea, you really are raising the question of what is the role of a government, and to what extent it is there to meddle in the lives of citizens or be the citizens' servant. I don't know the right answer, but I can't think that it is the government's job to tell citizen's how to live their lives.
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          Sep 1 2011: James,

          If the Q wasn't about government spending why did you bring defense spending up in your response? Where does your 5% GDP figure come from? And/or, where does your assertion "95% of USA mission is not militaristic" come from?

          I am aware that Defense contractors profits were $24.8 billion in 2010.
          Defense stocks have risen 67 percent, since 2001 compared to 8 percent for the S&P index as a whole. Defense lobby expected to exceed $64 million in 2011. ($64 million spent in 2010; $33 million as of July 2011) And
          Super Congress (12 influential leaders) have received $700,000 million in defense lobbying past 5 years.

          And, I'd refer you back to Luke's Q. In the first paragraph he mentions "military budget," twice. and later mentions "taxpayer money going to million-dollar missiles." Which indicates to me he, as many Americans do, sees the focus of USA tied up with the focus of government spending."

          Since citizens in our democracy ostensibly are the government (the preamble to our Constitution begins: We the People, in order to create a more perfect union...) it is entirely apropos to weigh in our views of how our government spends our money, as it relates to our national mission and the taxes we pay to forward causes, as Luke says that "matter."

          Andrea
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        Sep 1 2011: US Govt spending as 5% GDP on Defence is verified by a zillion sources, but the SPRI put 2010 at 4.7% for example.
        I take the question to mean what is the "mission" of the USA, and Defence is a tiny part of that.... 95% of the mission, of industry and endeavour, is on making microwaves, corn-cobs, autos and passenger jets. SURE, 5% of the overall economy of the US is given over to Defence, but 95% isn't!!!
        That's why I think the word "focus" is wrong.
        For the word "focus" to be correct, US Defence spending would have be more than 10x it's current level...and then I might accept the word focus!
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          Sep 1 2011: James,

          I disagree. And you are confusing your measurements by crossing sectors from public (government spending) to private (enterprise and business). But to draw on this awkward math, lets look at it with your assumptions:

          If the US mission is focused, as you argue, on enterprise and economy:

          1. Why is a quarter of the national budget being directed to defense?
          2. Why is the national economy getting only a 1/4 of the funds going to military?
          3. Why is the military only producing 5% GDP?
          4. Why are so many businesses failing if they represent 95% of the GDP and, in your view, the main mission of the US?
          5. Where is all this military lobbying and money coming from? If it's military is such a small contributor to GDP?

          And, finally, what percent of those microwaves, cars and passenger jets are produced by US materials, manpower and manufacturers? (I'll give you benefit of the doubt that corncobs are actually home-grown.)

          Andrea
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          Sep 1 2011: I agree with Andrea's statements and would like to add that although our budget for the military is only "5 percent of our economy", if you compare how much we spend with that of other countries, you would find that we spend more than the next 24 top spending countries on the military. Our "national threats" are assumed to be china and russia but combined they spend around 20% of our military budget. So although as a total our military budget isn't a huge percentage of our spending, it is a huge price-tag when compared with how little other countries spend on theirs. Why couldn't the United States spend a comparable amount to China on our military?
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      Sep 3 2011: Luke,

      You pose a good point. Regards the perceived national threats you mention: both China and Russia have experienced steady GDP growth over several quarters, while the US has experienced steady declines.

      China is at the top of the world heap, with 9.7%.growth.
      Russia 4%
      US 1%, and also behind Germany, France, Canada and others.

      Among what is troubling here is US military spending as percent of GDP has meanwhile been increasing. And, to echo your point, China's military spending is less than half of US, at 2% GDP.

      Regards the sectors James mentions,

      China is world leader in automotive manufacturing, with triple revenues of US. And just last week it surpassed the US in sales of PCs, a trend not expected to reverse anytime soon.

      So, while the US is deploying more money to saber-rattle and support wars that do as much to isolate it from allies and others on both global and locals scenes during its deficit crisis, China el al are quietly creating economic growth.

      The result looks something like "planned obsolesce" that seems to me like an Econ-101 faux-pas. It seems somewhere the bottom-line has fallen off the spreadsheet. And the US has (intentionally or not, though I imagine largely the latter) handed its posterity over to its competitors.

      Andrea
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    Aug 27 2011: As almost all know, the US empire is falling down. And the only hook to grab aafter the final fall is the war in any form, style or shape. The military efforts from US are just to reduce the foreign countried to a only one point of view about "freedom and democracy". The results are very sad. In all the world almost all the countries have a lot to said about the US presence in military or politic issues. The so called "humanitarism" (whatever means that) is an forgotten topic in the US foreign agenda. The US dont tolerate that any people lives different from the american dream. The war is in all fronts. Hollywood and Disneyland are just two major examples in strategic capabilities. but the US forgot a little detail...we all are tired of the "so easy american smile". Remember S11. The infinite algebra equilibres the equation.
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    Aug 19 2011: I was wondering today just how much money the USA has spent in my lifetime on the military. I wonder how much that would be with interest? Can you imagine what life would be like for every citizen of the USA if that money had all been plowed into the country and its people?
    Can you imagine just how different the world might be if Vietnam never happened?

    Can anyone give an estimate of how much money we are talking about?
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      Aug 19 2011: Debra --

      The US spends more on defense than the next 17 top-spending countries. China, the US biggest competitor spends 1/6 of what the US spends on defense. Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

      Some numbers I'm hearing:

      $650 billion 2011
      Up by $7 billion dollars in the nine years between 9/11 (2001) and 2010.
      Defense contractors profits: $6.7 billion in 2001 to $24.8 billion in 2010.
      Defense stocks have risen 67 percent, compared to 8 percent for the S&P index as a whole.
      Defense lobby expected to exceed $64 million in 2011. ($64 million spent in 2010; $33 million as of July 2011)
      Super Congress (12 influential leaders) have received $700,000 million in defense lobbying past 5 years.

      Andrea
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        Aug 19 2011: In terms of how much is spent on the military each year, it comes to about 650 billion dollars... It's quite sad
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        Aug 22 2011: I am truly grateful for the efforts to quantify the amounts we are referring to here. Thank you Andrea.
        I wish we had a pie chart or a bar graph that illustrated those amounts glaringly against the kind of spending that would lead to social good- eg- comparing those amounts of money to caring for your elderly, medicare cost, pension costs or even day care for children of working mothers or healthcare for all children under 16 years of age.

        Of course, I am beating the drum that pounds out a beat that says something like "Why are we (American citizens) will willing to pay to kill people overseas (and I would like to have a number for all those killed by American military action in countries other than the USA) while we are not willing to pay to support life for our own citizens?"

        The USA was once the envy of the world because life in America was supposed to be good, benificent and full of opportunity. How did you lose that? I hope that you know that when you lose your way- it affects the rest of us globally.
        • Aug 22 2011: Debra
          We lost it when we lost the idea of being a beacon, and became a machine gun. We lost it when "taking care of us and ours" became more important than really doing good somewhere.

          I think we lost our way when selfish individualism took the place of caring benevolence, when the open hand became a clinched fist.

          It will take a lot to change who we are in order to affect what we do.
  • Aug 18 2011: Wait, my job is based on the "US focus on militarism" and as I recall, "humanitarian" and "social projects" don't really pay the bills... so you want me and millions of others to be unemployed just so "we" can feel better about ourselves?

    I forgot, you have 18 long years of wisdom. That wisdom will help you account for the lack of tax income from millions of unemployed people. I guess those unemployed people will have more time to "plant trees."

    The world is the way it is for a reason and a "radical change" is not always the best approach.

    Maybe we can start with small steps such as asking people to try and spend time with their family and plant a tree.
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      • Aug 19 2011: Luke said, "We should give a truly universal health care system in this country, equalize the wealth disparity" and "Instead of taxpayer money going to a million dollar missile, we pay for 10000 trees to be planted."

        This sounds a bit like welfare governance or socialism to me. It is the same pony but dressed to look like a duck.

        Maybe, at one time, I profited from the desire by people to explore space and now many Americans are no longer interested in that peaceful pursuit of the great unknown. They only seem to concern themselves with what they are entitled to.

        A lot of people are so quick to spur the spear and shield that protects them and then are surprised when flowers fail them. And I say, "Why should we have to choose between the spear and the flower?"
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          Aug 19 2011: Trust me when I say that there are millions of Americans who are interested in space, it has just become a back story with the many conflicts we are fighting in. With your spear and flower analogy, I see no connection to this as we have truly never tried to end our militarism and thus we have never picked up the flower. As for your statement that this sounds like "welfare governance" or "socialism", I'd reply that with my idea we would be achieving a peaceful democracy that cares about the one thing they truly need, the people.
          I mean what is there for the military to defend, if everyone back home starves, dies of inadequate healthcare or is living on the streets?
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      Aug 19 2011: Bob--

      What if the US military were deployed to use their leadership, organizing and culture-building savvy in our country?

      Andrea
      • Aug 19 2011: To what end?

        The main issue I have with the notion posed by Luke is that he wants to shift government focus away from national defense to "humanitarian social projects" and, to me, national defense is a government responsibility and "social projects" i.e. planting 10,000 trees is NOT.

        Think about what are true government responsibilities. The taxpayers require some form of national defense but the taxpayers should not be paying for government social engineering.

        The various wars are something of a different matter but still tied to the government budget. We can end the wars but should not completely scrap the whole idea of national defense for money to pay for government welfare and social projects.
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          Aug 20 2011: Bob--

          I'm with Robert Gates on this one. When he called on Congress to make $1 Billion in cuts he noted that military spending of things like F16s which are light-years ahead of any military competitor, he prioritized the mission of the US military to take care of soldiers health and well-being. Which neither the military, nor the government is succeeding in.

          The majority of veterans will experience homelessness, and suicide rates for military personal both deployed and never deployed are astronomical, and far beyond the civilian rate. Their divorce, domestic violence and unemployment rates appear to be higher than civilians, as well.

          My version of military coming home to show leadership and culture building would divert both their abilities and funds to social services to help care for them--and others in similar social needs situations.

          I don't call that social engineering, I call that service. It's what the military and government is called ed to do. Serve their country.

          Andrea
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      Aug 22 2011: Dear Bob, The focus of your initial post is on YOUR OWN JOB. It is an interesting perspective to be willing to put your job ahead of world peace while being willing to accept the 'collateral damage' of the loss of life in other countries as just the price of doing business and of keeping you employed. NICE.