Without a Military!
Can That Ever Be Us?
By Lila Garrett
"We hold onto our military as though they
were saviors instead of instigators. What
would happen if we faced reality? What
would happen if we recognized that we
start more wars than threaten us? What
would happen if industry did not depend
on war material to kick off our economy?"
coming down from a 4th of July high. I must admit I do feel a pang of
joy that our country was born and that I am a part of it, warts and
all. I could do without “the rockets red glare and the bombs bursting
in air”…a tradition we maintain with idiotic pride instead of regret.
aside from our practice of celebrating war, of proudly owning a gun
(over 300 million of them are out there…one for every man, woman and
child in the United States), aside from allowing a handful of
billionaires buy the candidates we constantly elect….aside from all of
this, there’s something about us that’s incredibly lovable.
basically optimists. Maybe that’s it. We believe in the Constitution,
which is more than you can say for the the Supreme Court. Despite the
fact that we’re in perpetual war, we basically believe in peace. We
really do. Not just us so-called lefties. The majority of Americans
long for peace.
then are we in perpetual war? Two things. We’ve allowed our economy to
become dependent on it by rewarding companies who take their consumer
businesses out of the country and send them to countries with cheap
labor. That way the 1% reason they’ll starve out American unions. They
haven’t fully succeeded yet but they never stop trying.
we allow ourselves to buy into the language cynically concocted by
public relation teams who are in the business of whipping up paranoia.
ISIS is coming, they convince us. There is a terrorist around every
corner, they imply. Illegal immigrants rape and murder us. (Just ask
Donald Trump.) People of color will take over our country! White
Americans will become a minority! Therefore let’s kill every
African American youth we can find. Better yet, let’s have the police
do it for us.
does this ugly epidemic of paranoia come from? Its core is our
government’s basic belief that “might makes right”. War is good for the
winners, so let’s make sure that’s us.
philosophy fails to recognize that there is no winner in wars. At least
no long-term winners. Take Germany. Yes. they surrendered in World
War 2. But what is the most advanced, successful, monetarily
secure country in Europe? Germany. In the short term they lost. In the
long term they won…big time...
examples: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. Aside from the wreckage of
those destroyed countries, where are our winnings? In the hands of the
arms industry, the 10th of 1% who cleaned up in those wars. They clean
up in every war…leaving the broken bodies and devastated terrains
we hold onto our military as though they were saviors instead of
instigators. What would happen if we faced reality? What would happen
if we recognized that we start more wars than threaten us? What would
happen if industry did not depend on war material to kick off our
economy? What would happen if we had no military? Am I dreaming? Would
we be ruined? Would we survive? Has it ever happened?
dear friends, it is happening now. So let us celebrate all that is good
in our country by recognizing how much better it could be if the center
of our existence was not wedded to war. Let’s talk about a country who
did exactly that. A country which got rid of the military arm it once
depended upon. Was it ravaged? Did it go bankrupt? Is it functioning?
And if so how well?
talking about Costa Rica. And what a story! Here’s the author of “War
is a Lie” and nominee for the Noble Peace Prize David Swanson to rave
about it. It should only happen here!
Costa Rica Abolished its Military, Never Regretted It
Film: Costa Rica Abolished its Military, Never Regretted It
forthcoming film, A Bold Peace: Costa Rica’s Path of Demilitarization,
should be given every possible means of support and promotion. After
all, it documents the blatant violation of laws of physics, human
nature, and economics, as understood in the United States — and the
violators seem positively gleeful about it.
1948 Costa Rica abolished its military, something widely deemed
impossible in the United States. This film documents how that was done
and what the results have been. I don’t want to give away the ending
but let me just say this: there has not been a hostile Muslim takeover
of Costa Rica, the Costa Rican economy has not collapsed, and Costa
Rican women still seem to find a certain attraction in Costa Rican men.
How is this possible? Wait, it gets stranger.
Rica provides free, high-quality education, including free college, as
well as free healthcare, and social security. Costa Ricans are better
educated than Americans, live longer, are reported as happier (in fact,
happiest in the world in various studies), and lead the world in the
use of renewable energy (100% renewable energy lately in Costa Rica).
Costa Rica even has a stable, functioning democracy with far greater
(required) participation, ballot access, diversity of platforms, and
popular support than the gerrymandered, Citizen-United, Diebolded, home
of widely tuned-out Bush v. Clinton reruns.
is it that U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders only ever
mentions Scandinavia as a place to learn from, and usually not
military-free Iceland either? Could it be that military abolition is
just not an acceptable topic in U.S. politics?
Rica has developed a culture of peace, including an educational system
that teaches children nonviolent conflict resolution. As someone who
grew up being told that we should not use violence, while
simultaneously noticing that my society’s biggest public project was
the U.S. military, I can only imagine the power of consistency found in
an educational curriculum that walks its own talk. Costa Rica has built
up a society of low violence and of, as one speaker in the film
describes it, “an attitude of non-aggression toward the poor.” The
Ticos describe support for the welfare state and for cooperative
businesses as “solidarity” and “love.”
did this come to be? The film provides more context than I was
previously aware of. Rafael Calderón Guardia, president from 1940 to
1944, began the welfare state in a major way through a unique pre-Cold
War coalition of support that included the Catholic church and the
communist party. In 1948 Calderón ran for president again, lost, and
refused to recognize the results. A remarkable man named José Figueres
Ferrer, also known as “Don Pepe,” who had educated himself at Boston
Public Library and returned to Costa Rica to start a collective farm,
led a violent revolution and won.
made a pact with the communists to protect the welfare state, and they
disbanded their army. And after his own troops threatened a rightwing
coup, he disbanded his own army, that of the nation of Costa Rica,
hombres que ensangrentamos recientemente a un país de paz, comprendemos
la gravedad que pueden asumir estas heridas en la América Latina, y la
urgencia de que dejen de sangrar. No esgrimimos el puñal del asesino
sino el bisturí del cirujano. Como cirujanos nos interesa ahora, mas
que la operación practicada, la futura salud de la Nación, que exige
que esa herida cierre pronto, y que sobre ella se forme cicatriz más
sana y más fuerte que el tejido original. ”Somos sostenedores
definidos del ideal de un nuevo mundo en América. A esa patria de
Washington, Lincoln, Bolívar y Martí, queremos hoy decirle: ¡Oh,
América! Otros pueblos, hijos tuyos también, te ofrendan sus grandezas.
La pequeña Costa Rica desea ofrecerte siempre, como ahora, junto con su
corazón, su amor a la civilidad, a la democracia.”
Of course Costa Rica could abolish its army only because it had no enemies!
you might think, if such a mental process can be called thinking. In
reality, Costa Rica was surrounded by enemies, hostile dictatorships
all around, not to mention the longstanding Monroe Doctrine U.S.
dominance of any Latin American nation that stepped out of line. On top
of which Calderón and friends plotted a counter-revolution from
Nicaragua and attempted it in 1949 and again in 1955, with the support
of U.S.-backed Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio “Tacho” Somoza García.
did Costa Rica do? On the model that Jefferson and Madison envisioned
for the United States, Figueres maintained the ban on any standing army
but called up a temporary citizens’ militia to fight off the invasion
what if a more powerful invasion had come? I think there are two
answers to that. First, Costa Rica is not occupying nations all over
the globe, blowing up families with drones, torturing people in secret
prisons, arming dictatorships, defending Israel’s acts of genocide,
etc. — that is to say, Costa Rica is not creating enemies. Secondly, if
the United States were to attack Costa Rica, no military might on the
Costa Rican side could possibly prevail. The best defense against such
an attack is, in fact, to possess no military that might be blamed for
some incident as grounds for war.
used a citizens militia and then disbanded it. He expanded the welfare
state, extended the right to vote to women and Afro-Caribbeans, and
nationalized banks and electricity. Then he retired peacefully, later
to be elected president twice more, in 1953 and 1970. He lived until
1990, the victorious general who did what Eisenhower never dared:
abolished the military industrial complex.
U.S. government, under President Reagan, tried to force Costa Rica into
military conflict, but Costa Rica proclaimed neutrality. It did not
maintain this neutrality as absolutely as one might like, but it never
became home to a big U.S. military base as did Honduras.
1985, Oscar Arias was elected president on a peace platform, defeating
Calderón’s son campaigning on a platform of militarization. Although
the U.S. was threatening sanctions, and although 80% of the Costa Rican
people opposed the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, over 80% in
Costa Rica opposed any militarization. Reagan scared Americans of
communists in Nicaragua, but seems not to have scared the Ticos at all.
On the contrary, Arias met repeatedly with Reagan, turned him down on
at least all the main points, and gathered nations together to
negotiate peace in Central America — for which he was given a Nobel
Peace Prize that may have actually served an appropriate purpose.
withstood Reagan’s pressure was not an individual or a political party,
but Costa Rica’s culture of peace. A new threat came in 2003, when
Costa Rica joined the Coalition of the Willing (to attack Iraq). Costa
Rica provided only its name, no actual participation. But a law student
named Luis Roberto Zamora Bolanos successfully sued his own government
in Costa Rican courts and forced Costa Rica out of the coalition.
While the film doesn’t go into it much, the same lawyer sued Arias and others repeatedly to keep weapons companies and U.S.
ships out of Costa Rican territory. In 2010 the U.S. helped overthrow
the president of Honduras and flew him to Costa Rica. The U.S. uses its
drug war as an excuse to put military ships in Costa Rican waters.
2010 Nicaragua took over a Costa Rican island, at least in the view of
Costa Rica. Had Costa Rica possessed a military, a war would likely
have begun. While Costa Rica did send its “police” to the area, not one
bullet was fired. Rather the dispute was resolved in international
courts, as all such disputes should be.
Rica has now gone for 66 and a half years without the problems that
militaries have brought to other Latin American nations. Militaries in
small nations have been used for U.S.-backed coups, but not for
anything more beneficial. The film cites statistics: the United States
has directly overthrown 41 Latin American governments, and indirectly
another 24, between 1898 and 1994.
idea that Costa Rica needs no military because it is protected under a
U.S. military umbrella would be laughable if there weren’t people who
believe it. Costa Rica has opposed U.S. militarism and promoted
demilitarization around the world, running up against powerful U.S.
lobbying on behalf of U.S. weapons dealers. When Arias obtained a U.N.
vote on a treaty to ban arms sales to any nation spending more on
weapons than on its people, the only No vote was from the U.S.
Rica is also facing the destructive effects of corporate trade pacts,
rising inequality, and crushing poverty. Yet it is still far from as
unequal as the U.S.
film presents a fair portrait, flaws included. I watched it with my
9-year-old son who now wants to move there. The film includes video of
past and current presidents, activists, professors, and journalists. It
even includes extensive commentary from Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera as
a long-shot presidential candidate seeking to uphold Costa Rica’s
pacifist traditions in a manner that Japan’s president is of course not
attempting. Then we see Solís surge ahead and win. He is now president.
BC Guest Commentator Lila Garrett is a television screenwriter and a radio host. She hosts Connect the Dots
on Pacifica Radio. "Connect The Dots" is a political radio talk show
where the most controversial subjects are presented by well known
experts with a progressive point of view. Live Mondays 7-8 am on (KPFK 90.7FM L.A./98.7FM Santa Barbara).