Guns vs. Butter

Guns vs. Butter
by Audley Z Darkheart

Since the Libyan protests began, the debate over the US led NATO enforcement of a “no-fly zone” has raged nearly everywhere– news outlets, op-ed pages, blogs, even facebook. It all boils down to one fundamental question: Should the United States be dropping bombs on yet another sovereign nation?

My answer is a simple and passionate “no”. I have no interest in discussing whether or not Operation Odyssey Dawn is a truly humanitarian effort, nor do I want to be dragged into another argument over the justification of killing Gadhafi’s forces. Instead I would like to dust off that old standby, the guns versus butter debate.

For as wealthy as the US is, we still have a finite amount of resources. We are told by those in power that we are in a budgetary crisis and programs must be cut in the name of balancing the budget. The rhetoric goes something like this: Regular middle-class American families need to tighten their belts and make do with less and the government should follow suit. Austerity measures will lead us into economic recovery.

Republican lawmakers would like to cut $61 billion out of the upcoming budget. Not for profit organizations such as Planned Parenthood and Swords to Plowshares (an organization that provides services for low income and homeless veterans) face losing all of their federal funding. The EPA and Clean Air Act would be virtually gutted. The EPA would be stripped of its ability to regulate air and water quality and impose restrictions on CO2 emissions, all in the name of deregulation and saving money. Republicans have not forgotten about the fight over healthcare reform, either, as they are proposing to completely defund the Affordable Care Act. What about our wonderful, liberal Democratic lawmakers? They are apparently along for the ride. To avoid a government shutdown, Democrats are willing to cut between $30-$35 billion dollars from the federal budget, mostly from healthcare spending and agricultural subsidies (Washington Post, March 26).

After all of my research for information on the upcoming budget cuts (okay, it was an hour Googling “budget cuts” while drinking beers), I cannot find any mention of any reductions to military spending. Cutting the defense budget, it seems, remains a political hot potato. No one wants to touch it.

According to ABC news (March 25), the military effort in Libya has cost $258 million so far, with estimates of $30-$100 million per week to continue the conflict (New York Daily News, March 23). With no end in sight and no exit strategy, there is no way to tell how many weeks we will be involved. There is no way to estimate how much will ultimately be spent.

To connect all of the dots, the federal government spends roughly $317 million on Planned Parenthood and Title X services every year (New York Times, February 17), which (according to Republicans) need to be cut to balance the budget. Yet somehow, in a week’s worth of fighting in Libya, we were able to spend nearly that amount. Which is it? Do we have the money or don’t we? Should the US be involved in another war (to call it anything else is simply dishonest at this point) when our citizens are suffering?

Our government has answered those questions loud and clear. Waging war is an acceptable expenditure, no matter the costs, but providing much needed services to Americans of all income levels is not. Protecting our national self interests at home is not as important as protecting foreign oil fields.

I have been called “morally bankrupt” because I am a pacifist who does not want to see the US involved in another war. For those of you who think this of me, I implore you to look long and hard at what is happening here at home and honestly tell me that you think spending millions (perhaps billions) fighting a foreign military is an acceptable use of our money.