My Response to the State of the Union and the Idea of the Indispensable Nation

With the end of U.S. troop presence in Iraq and according to many leading economist, the “Great Recession” having ended  over 18 months ago in June 2010, President Obama in his State of the Union Address attempted to turn the last page on the Bush II era and outline his vision for a new America.

Perhaps the most telling statement from his speech was, “But America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs, and as long as I am President, I intend to keep it that way.” This single sentence lays bare the President’s intentions to continue down the path of U.S. interventionism and push for global military and political and economic hegemony. So even in his attempt to claim America is back, and articulate a new direction, we really just heard more of the same: American imperialism at the expense of human needs and the principles of freedom and self-determination. The overwhelming applause by Democrats and Republicans to this sentiment made clear that our national political leadership is united with President Obama in a vision of the United States as the center of the world, telling the world what to do.

I agree with the President’s call for investment in the nation’s infrastructure and clean energy, to take care of veterans, to pay for many other human needs and for the rich to pay their fair share. But none of that will matter as long as our foreign policy is based on militarism instead of diplomacy and guided by the arrogant premise that America’s interest supersedes all other nation’s ambitions to chart their own course. Our nation will continue to be embroiled in wars of intervention and aggression as U.S. interference in regional conflicts will invite retaliation and resistance. Our nation’s limited resources will continue to be wasted on building a military capable of projecting global power to ensure U.S. dominance.

The President demonstrated the truth about these misplaced priorities when he referenced a $500 billion savings from the Pentagon budget. Upon closer examination, these so-called savings are not really cuts, but rather a reduction in previously projected increases in Pentagon spending. In fact the Pentagon budget will not be cut at all but will continue to grow even though at present the U.S. accounts for approximately 41% of global military expenditures. The U.S. budget is 6 times more than the next highest spender, China. Moreover, while $500 billion sounds like a lot, the number is over a 10 year period in which total Pentagon spending will top $700 trillion dollars. The “savings” amounts to less than 7%.

At a time of rising budget deficits, millions suffering from job loss, mortgage foreclosures, homelessness and a bleak economic future, our nation is at a crossroads. With the end of the Iraq War, the death of Osama bin Laden and the relative demise of al Qaeda, we must look back on the past ten years and ask ourselves what have we learned? Was war the answer to the problems we faced as a nation the morning of September 12, 2001? Did we lead ourselves into the conflict with blowback from years of a foreign policy based on exploiting Islamic violent jihad against the former Soviet Union? Did our friendly relationship with dictators like Saddam Hussein and Hosni Mubarak put us on the wrong side of history? As we look to the future will militarism and the pursuit of economic and political world dominance simply lead to more distrust and conflict as Arab nations emerge from their peoples’ movements for self-government and self-determination? Is it really possible for the U.S. to impose its will on the expanding economic powers of Brazil, Russia, India and China? Can the U.S. really claim to champion freedom while at the same time direct a global empire not that different from the one the founding generation decided they had to break free from?

The challenge lies before us. As peacemakers and justice seekers working with emerging and growing movements like the Occupations, and across the full spectrum of economic and social justice struggles, we must develop, communicate and live a new vision of human coexistence and international cooperation. With the world facing the Armageddon – like threats of climate change and nuclear war – the future of the world rests in our hands and in the urgency of our efforts. We must unite in our determination to change the priorities of our country. Most important, we must practice what we preach: tolerance, peace and justice providing a model of our vision to follow and not just empty words to be ignored. Now is the time. Let us think, let us plan and let us act.


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About Michael T. McPhearson

Currently Michael is executive director of Veterans For Peace and co-chair of the Don't Shoot Coalition, A Saint Louis based coalition that formed in the aftermath of Michael Brown's police killing death in Ferguson, MO. From August 2010 to September 2013, Michael worked as the National Coordinator with United For Peace and Justice. He is a former board member of Veterans For Peace and as well as Executive Director from 2005 to 2010. He works closely with the Newark based People’s Organization for Progress and the Saint Louis centered Organization for Black Struggle. Michel also publishes the expressing his views on war and peace, politics, human rights, race and other things. Michael also launched website as an effort to change the discourse and ignite a new conversation about Dr. Martin Luther King’s message and what it means to live in just and peaceful communities.