Warning: Militarism is highly addictive and destructive

In most places in Canada, We ban smoking in public places and strive to limit the promotion and availability of tobacco products, and rightly so because smoking is very addictive and destructive.  Those who smoke are seduced by the affects of nicotine (it calms, yet stimulates), and they become addicted to the adverse by-product.  Smoking is extremely costly, in many ways.  It can be said that smokers are victims; they are not bad people.
Militarism -  the culture of war and military admiration - is similarily highly addictive and destructive.  There is an undeniable allure to military machinery and bravado. 

From the crisp uniforms to the grit of combat soldiers, there is an ancient mystique about “fighting men” [and women].  We applaud the soldier’s honour and sacrifice, and for good reason approve of their desire to serve their country.  Yet, the addiction, more often than not, causes us to gloss over the countless others who are sacrificing in their public service.  Military tools (tanks, jet fighters, etc.) are high tech, and we are impressed by the power they possess, not to mention the bang they make.  Moreover, just as Hollywood once glamorized smoking, we too are being seduced into believing the glorified myth that we must fight and kill for our freedom and that our nation’s enemy is a bad guy, worthy of destruction.  And, just as nicotine calms and stimulates, militarism calms us with the belief that we are safer if we are militarily powerful, and that sense of power also stimulates us into asserting our will on others–using brute force instead of peaceful alternatives.  It should be noted that history teaches us that enhanced military force rarely goes unused.

Similar to tobacco, militarism is addictive and very destructive. It produces its own self-perpetuating culture in a society that is based on the fear of not having enough military.  This sensation is similar to the panic in withdrawals.  The addiction becomes a preoccupation.  It brings all things military into constant public focus and screams that military spending is never enough: more and more is needed, again and again–the cry of the addict.  Militarism demands devotion and support, and those who see the consequences and question the destructive patterns are berated as unpatriotic or idealistic extremists.  Moreover, like nicotine, militarism is a great deceiver because it is destructive and it lies.  Hiram Johnson correctly said, “The first casualty when war comes is truth.”  The base purpose of the military is war, and war kills and destroys, period.  In addition, militarism


drains resources away from benevolent and social service spending.  Another casualty is the health and well being of one’s own country.  Military spending is wasteful, environmentally destructive, eschews public scrutiny and creates its own culture (military industrial establishment) that greatly influences politicians.  Once firmly in place, it is very difficult to dismantle because of its sway over politicians.  In addition, the militarism addiction persuades us to put our faith in brute force instead of God.  Faith loses, and fear prevails as love, justice and righteousness are slaughtered on the altar of arrogant self-preservation.

Some symptoms of drifting into militarism addiction: a jet fighter fly-over at a football game; military adoration at a hockey game; accepting military recruitment in high schools; importance of patriotic symbols over respected national values and virtues (such as flags stuck to hockey helmets), and a disproportionate focus on all things military.  Does a school teacher’s sacrifice in Ontario receive the same respect and attention as a civil servant’s sacrifice in Afghanistan? 

And finally, there is the media’s infatuation with the military.  Canadians are also sacrificing and serving their country and humanity by doing irrigation projects in Colombia or by being a social worker in Nunavut.  Why is a disproportionate amount of the media attention on the war in Afghanistan?

I have lived many years in an addicted nation,the USA. I am passionate about being a pacifist, but I’m not an idealist.  We will always have a military; however, because of its addictive and destructive nature, let us treat militarism like we treat tobacco products. Moreover, let us respect the people involved in the military at the same time as we strive to “kick the habit.”   

Gordon Allaby, Pastor
Osler Mennonite Church
Osler, SK