We aren’t giving peace much of a chance, are we?
One of the few accomplishments of the Biden administration has been to end the imperialist war in Afghanistan. Those of us born in late 2001 had never known a time without American soldiers dying pointlessly in a foreign nation.
And it was pointless — unless you invested in Lockheed Martin or some other defense contractor. During our 20-year plunder of Afghanistan, defense contractors benefitted from nearly half of the $14 trillion spent on the war.
Now there is a crisis in Ukraine. Russia is amassing troops at its borders because Ukraine wants to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a historically anti-Russian alliance. Many fear Russia will invade Ukraine. And once again, defense contractors at Raytheon and Lockheed Martin have dollar signs in their eyes, openly boasting the benefits they expect to receive.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Defense Minister downplayed the threat of a Russian invasion and criticized the media for causing panic — and the president of Ukraine criticized the American government for evacuating diplomats.
It’s almost as if the American government wants a war with Russia.
The crisis in Ukraine demonstrates just how often the interests of the state are not the same as those of the people — in fact, their interests are often quite antagonistic.
The people want their basic needs met. They want food, adequate shelter, healthcare and access to a good education. The state wants to plunder oil fields in Iraq or maintain global hegemony by admitting Ukraine to NATO in return for the right to build military bases next door to their foreign adversary, Russia.
Our government knows what the people want, and they also know public interests are completely alien to what they want. But they need soldiers. And how can they get them? Before, they would just draft them and ship them off to die in a jungle to thwart foreign communism. But they haven’t done that since 1973.
So, what now? Only 12.5% of Americans would be interested in joining the military as a career or transitional step. To the recruiter, that number is alarmingly low — how can we get more kids to join? Oh, those crafty capitalists. So you want to go to college? Here’s a gun. So you want healthcare? Here’s a gun.
‘We’ll get you everything you need,’ they say, ‘and in return, you must fight and possibly die for our imperial interests. And even then we might not get you everything you need.’
Since 2001, to get federal funding, schools have been required to welcome military recruiters into high schools and give the military their students’ contact information. And the reactionaries worry about what’s going on in schools! Critical race theory? Absolutely not. Military recruiters preying on the needs of 17-year-old students? Of course!
And this is just the reality of the U.S. We must also consider the needs of the people in Ukraine and Russia — a war would only make their lives worse. It’s easy for ignorant American liberals to “stand” with Ukraine oceans away on Twitter, but what about when they’re in economic ruin post-war?
And it’s easy to despise Vladimir Putin — he deserves to be despised — but what of the Russian people? Just like us, they have no say in what the oligarchs who run their government are doing.
Young people must say no to all of this. We must start saying “no” to fighting for the interests of capital, and we must demand that our needs be met without deadly strings attached. We must have international class solidarity — our workers will not fight their workers. We must finally resign U.S. imperialism to the dustbin of history.
Jared Quigg (he/him) is a sophomore studying journalism and political science.