As you can see from the above photo, which was taken at Hickam Field (now known as Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam) on Oahu in 1940, the U.S. military has maintained a large presence in Hawaii for a long time. In fact, since the U.S. annexed the islands in 1898 (the U.S. Navy’s wanted Pearl Harbor for a coaling base). It’s funny, really: the U.S. military began its time in Hawaii as a force of occupation, and has since evolved into a massive economic engine that drives $50 billion into the local economy each year, according to this Hawaii Public Radio story from this morning.
The story, if you listen to all three minutes and 28 seconds of it, does a fine job of outlining the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce’s view that possible federal sequestration budget cuts in two years could devastate our state’s economy. HPR reporter Wayne Yoshioka (who is himself a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and decorated Afghanistan veteran) quotes from numerous military and chamber officials who talk up considerable doom should those spending cuts go into effect.
The cuts could lead to the loss of around 20,000 local jobs, one chamber official says. The reduction of military forces in Hawaii could reduce retail sales by more than a billion dollars, says another. The story ended with a chamber official urging listeners to contact their legislators in hopes that they would oppose further military cuts in Hawaii.
What the story doesn’t do is explain that this sort of fear is just another bit of evidence that the U.S. military-industrial complex that outgoing President Dwight Eisenhower warned us against in his 1960 Farewell Address is not only still alive and well, but has gotten the nation completely addicted to war.
“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience,” Eisenhower said in the speech. “The total influence–economic, political, even spiritual–is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government.”
As writer James Ledbetter noted in this Dec. 13, 2010 New York Times essay, Eisenhower “was concerned about more than just the military’s size; he also worried about its relationship to the American economy and society, and that the economy risked becoming a subsidiary of the military.” Though military spending as a percentage of the whole U.S. gross domestic product is a lot lower than it was in 1960, here in Hawaii, it still takes up a massive part of our state’s economy.
Ideally, the amount of funding dedicated to the military is a function of what we want the armed forces to do. But here in Hawaii, where we’ve become addicted to the spending practices of soldiers, sailors and airmen stationed here, military policy is just more, more, more. Hawaii Public Radio doesn’t have to advocate the point of view that this is a bad thing, but it would be nice if they’d at least acknowledge that such a point of view exists.
Photo: US DOD/Wikimedia Commons