During my recent visit to my hometown of Laredo, Texas, as I was heading out of town toward Corpus Christi, I passed by the former site of Laredo Air Force Base. Serving as a training base for new pilots, the base was a prominent part of Laredo life when I was growing up.
During that time, public officials and much of the citizenry were scared to death that the base might close. Like many people on the dole and like many other American communities with military bases, Laredoans were convinced that without LAFB, the city would die.
Then, in 1973 the unthinkable happened. U.S. officials announced that the base was being closed. The official explanation was that the base was no longer needed given the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam. The unofficial reason was that President Nixon had decided to retaliate against Laredo for supporting Nixon’s Democratic Party opponent in the 1972 presidential election, Sen. George McGovern.
Reflecting their disdain for a private-property system and their love of socialism, U.S. officials decided to deed the land to the City of Laredo rather than auctioning it off to private owners. The base property land included not only the landing strips, which ultimately became the city-owned Laredo International Airport, but also all the surrounding buildings and properties that composed the entire military base. That put the Laredo government in the rental business, immediately making it the biggest landlord in town. My father used to remark that the area had become “Little Cuba.”
In fact, I have never verified this but the rumor was that in the deed to the city of Laredo, the federal government included a provision entitling it to take back the property whenever it deemed necessary, with no payment to anyone. It would be difficult to find a better anti-private-property provision than that. Even if the city government decided to divest itself of “Little Cuba” by selling off its publicly owned property, what private investor would put any money into property that can be taken anytime by the federal government at no compensation?
In any event, after the base closed, the economy of Laredo took off, with the city embarking on a decades-long boom that continues to this day. The fear that Laredo would die from losing its military base never materialized.
Of course, Laredoans aren’t the only ones who feared losing their military dole. The same mindset characterizes people in cities and towns across American that have military bases or big military projects in or near their communities. Most everyone lives in deep fear of what would happen if the military suddenly closed their bases or cancelled their projects.
Actually, closure and termination of military bases and projects would be one of the best things that could ever happen to America, including those communities that have become dependent on the military dole. Like the welfare dole, the warfare dole is a depressant and suppressant of vitality, energy, and dynamism. It ends up sapping a community of these virtues, instead tending a society toward dependence, subservience, and passivity, much like a drug addict.
Let’s not forget the moral aspect of all this: the fact that communities with military bases and projects are fighting their hearts out to continue plundering and looting their fellow Americans through the income-tax system in order to make sure that their bases and projects continue to be funded. It’s a war that the recipients of the military dole wage against their tax-paying fellow citizens all across the country.
But let’s face it: Along with inculcating people with a mindset that glorifies and praises the military establishment, creating bases and big military projects across America has been one of the most successful strategies that the U.S. national-security establishment has ever implemented since the conversion of the federal government to a national-security state after World War II. By building military bases and implementing big military projects all across America, the Pentagon and the CIA have guaranteed themselves a permanent existence. They knew that once they got Americans dependent on the military dole, they had them.
In his remarkable Farewell Address, President Eisenhower alluded to this dramatic … and dangerous … development. He stated:
Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
But as everyone knows, security and liberty did not prosper together. Instead, Americans today live under an omnipotent government where the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA wield such totalitarian-like powers over the citizenry as assassination, indefinite detention, torture, and surveillance.
At the same time, Americans now live in constant fear of terrorist retaliation from people abroad who have been victimized by the U.S. national-security establishment, which has been killing people in the Middle East on an ongoing basis for some 25 years.
At the same time, federal spending and debt for welfare, warfare, and regulation continues to go through the roof, portending economic and financial bankruptcy.
But hey, at least Americans have their military bases, right? Not surprisingly, all too many Americans simply block out of their minds that the dole system, both welfare and warfare, is the root cause of America’s many woes.
For more information about what the conversion of the federal government to a national-security state has done to our nation, see my ebook The CIA, Terrorism, and the Cold War: The Evil of the National Security State.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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