Military

2020 Exposed the Myth of American “Security”

By Sarah Lazare, In These Times

The “security state” not only failed to keep us safe, but worsened the coronavirus pandemic and unleashed violence on the people hardest hit.

If there’s one cen­tral les­son to take from 2020, it’s that the coun­try with the most well-fund­ed ​secu­ri­ty state” in the world is also one of the least secure places on Earth. Fac­ing a dead­ly pan­dem­ic that rav­aged the globe, the Unit­ed States leads the world in over­all deaths, and is fourth in deaths per 100,000 peo­ple. Our cut­ting-edge, top-of-the-line, tril­lion-dol­lar ​nation­al secu­ri­ty” appa­ra­tus was not only help­less in the face of an actu­al dan­ger, but repeat­ed­ly made that dan­ger far worse by fore­clos­ing on a more humane social response — and unleash­ing vio­lence on the very peo­ple hard­est hit.

This hor­rif­ic fact should be a wake up call that chal­lenges the very premis­es of how we per­ceive ​threats” and dan­ger as we enter the 2020s.

The con­cept of ​secu­ri­ty” is an orga­niz­ing prin­ci­ple behind how the U.S. gov­ern­ment allo­cates pub­lic resources. The U.S. mil­i­tary bud­get is, by far, the most heav­i­ly fund­ed in the world — larg­er than the mil­i­tary bud­gets of the next 10 coun­tries com­bined. Accord­ing to the Nation­al Pri­or­i­ties Project, in 2019, the mil­i­tary bud­get account­ed for 53% of the entire fed­er­al dis­cre­tionary bud­get, which Con­gress deter­mines through the appro­pri­a­tions process every year. This per­cent­age jumps con­sid­er­ably when you con­sid­er the ​mil­i­ta­rized” bud­get that encom­pass­es spend­ing on U.S. wars, impris­on­ment, the war on drugs and immi­gra­tion crack­down (the Nation­al Pri­or­i­ties Project put the ​mil­i­ta­rized bud­get” at 64.5% of dis­cre­tionary fed­er­al spend­ing in 2019). Ear­li­er this month, as unem­ploy­ment soared and Amer­i­cans wait­ed in miles-long bread­lines for food, Con­gress over­whelm­ing­ly passed a $740 bil­lion Nation­al Defense Autho­riza­tion Act for 2021. House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi (D‑Calif.) praised the mil­i­tary bud­get from the House floor, say­ing it ​strength­ens our secu­ri­ty.” (Pres­i­dent Trump has threat­ened to veto the NDAA over key griev­ances, includ­ing his insis­tence on the inclu­sion of a pro­vi­sion pro­hibit­ing the renam­ing of mil­i­tary bases that give trib­ute to Con­fed­er­ate figures.)

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