Is America Necessary? Conservative, Liberal, & Socialist Perspectives of United States Political Institutions

By Henry Etzkowitz; Peter Schwab | Go to book overview

3 THE PENTAGON
The basic questions this chapter will address are:
Who is the military? Is it the army, navy, air force, and marines? Or does the military incorporate a larger complex of individuals and institutions including major industries and other branches of government?
What is the role of the military in American life, and which interests does it represent?
What role does the population have, if any, in influencing the formation of military strategy?
What should the role of the military be in the republic of the United States?

These questions represent the major issues which the authors in this chapter argue from explicit and explicit conservative, liberal, and socialist principles.

Conservatives hold that the military consists of the bureaucrats of the Pentagon and the branches of the armed services. They believe that the existence of the United States fundamentally depends on the strength of our military, for the military is the only instrument that the United States has to call on when our national security is in danger. No other institution exists which can effectively defend the territory of the United States. Any criticism of the military is seen as wrong because it weakens American military might and thus threatens the existence of our nation. Conservatives think that most problems can be solved by force. For example, in Vietnam no real and honest attempt was ever made by the United States government to negotiate the differences that existed between the parties. Negotiations were used only as a delaying tactic until a further application of force could be initiated. The use of armed force was seen as the only effective way of solving the Vietnamese war.1 In the domestic sphere, armed force is seen as the ultimate way of solving intractable social problems. When, in 1967, Detroit ghettos erupted into violence because the social and economic needs of the ghetto were not met, federal troops were sent in to control the situation. Conservatives were unwilling to meet the demands of the people who desired a better way of life, and thus force rather than arbitration had to be the answer.

Conservatives do not see the American public as important in setting military strategy because ordinary people are seen to be ignorant of military affairs. These are held to be highly complicated issues only to be dealt with by technical experts. The overall perspective of conservatives is that the military is the fundamental political institution upon which the very existence of our nation rests and it should be accorded due respect as the guarantor of our sovereignty.

According to liberals, the military consists of the Pentagon and the armed services. But, because of the enormous power the Pentagon wields in contracting for goods and services, it has the ability to misuse its authority. An example of this misuse is cost overruns in producing military equipment. Liberals believe that the Pentagon and armed ser

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