Can Military Spending Be Controlled?

Courtesy Reuters

Nineteen sixty-nine may be remembered as the year Americans woke up to the importance of an issue that was to be a dominant one in the 1970s. The question of Viet Nam still had the emotional clout. The great ABM debate still captured most of the headlines. But more and more people were beginning to see that bigger and more permanent than both of these was the question of whether America's military spending could be brought under more rational control. In the winter of 1969 it became increasingly clear that we had to find a way to reorient our national priorities so that imperative human needs on the home front were not always being shunted aside because of the claims of "national security." No longer could it be successfully argued that we could afford the needed amounts of "guns and butter." A difficult choice-or at least choices-had to be made, and would have to be made repeatedly, for many years to come.

The issue of military spending is more than just newly discerned ; it is in fact new in its dimensions. For the first time in history, each of two great antagonists has the power to destroy the other and security depends almost entirely on the gruesome theory of "mutually assured destruction." At the same time, the satisfaction of basic human needs has become more of an imperative than ever before if we are to survive as a society, because today for the first time those needs can be met and the people, including the poor, know it.


Until World War II Americans generally had been suspicious of "standing armies" and had been inclined to keep the armed forces on meager rations, except in time of actual war. Even the experience of World War II itself did not change this feeling. Right after V-J Day the cry was "Bring the boys home!" and, with a sigh of relief, America demobilized. But, only two years later, with the growing threat from the

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