US: Military in the Debate?

The military budget bill for 2024 has become a symbol of America’s problems and political polarization.

Normally the legislation, which this time presents an expenditure of $886 billion for the Armed Forces, is passed by the House of Representatives with broad bipartisan support.

In fact, it could almost be said that the U.S. Armed Forces enjoyed a privileged political position. Or rather, that they were beyond the debate of the moment.

Above all, they are a not-so-small parallel microcosm of U.S. society. The Armed Forces’ more than 1.5 million members are sons, nephews, nieces, brothers, uncles, neighbors, friends. That explains in part the respect and affection most Americans have for their military. Military veterans represent just over 6% of the country’s adult population.

Part of it is also that military service offers the possibility of social, professional and economic advancement, inside or outside the institution. It is the idea, more or less fulfilled, of the citizen-soldier.

But that connection also means that the U.S. Armed Forces have sometimes become a social laboratory. And this time is no exception.

The military budget bill often includes other measures, and the lower house, controlled by a Republican majority in which a group of 30 far right members of Congress have enormous influence, passed a bill by 219-210 that included measures to block Pentagon policies to reimburse the travel costs of troops seeking abortions; end coverage of transition surgeries and hormone treatments for transgender troops; eliminate diversity and inclusion programs; and limit specific flags that can be flown on military installations — especially LGBTQ pride flags.

The legislation, at least as it stands, will probably never pass the Democratic-controlled Senate. In fact, Democrat Joe Biden’s administration felt that the legislators have conflated national social debates with the security needs of the country.

It is worth remembering that it was the integration of the Armed Forces that dealt a near-fatal blow to racial segregation after World War II, and that it was the Armed Forces that stopped the McCarthyism “witch hunt” of the 1950s.

Ironically, both interventions took place under Republican administrations.

But it is also worth remembering that the need for national security and supplying the U.S. Armed Forces has created that gigantic “military-industrial complex” denounced in 1961 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address, and that they have become a cause in their own right: In military operations, it is often not justice or reason that is at issue, but the fact that U.S. troops are involved and should not be abandoned.

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About Stephen Routledge 162 Articles
Stephen is the Head of a Portfolio Management Office (PMO) in a public sector organisation. He has over twenty years experience in project, programme and portfolio management, leading various major organisational change initiatives. He has been invited to share his knowledge, skills and experience at various national events. Stephen has a BA Honours Degree in History & English and a Masters in Human Resource Management (HRM). He has studied a BSc Language Studies Degree (French & Spanish) and is currently completing a Masters in Translation (Spanish to English). He has been translating for more than ten years for various organisations and individuals, with a particular interest in science and technology, poetry and literature, and current affairs.

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