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Time for a Peace Budget

New Year’s resolutions seldom work maybe because they usually end on New Year’s Eve, but last night under the electric blue moon it occurred to me that a nation can have resolutions, too. So, for this new year, America’s resolution might be to take some of the egregious money now spent on making war, and mark it for peaceful enterprises instead.

When you consider that, just last month, Congress approved more than $636 billion for the Defense budget, with nearly $130 billion alone going to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is nothing short of obscene that not a dime was spent to incentivize manufacturers, and private industry, to see profit in that which is good for humankind instead of that which is destructive.

The spending plan Congress passed along to the president, according to Bloomberg News, contains nearly $3 billion for the acquisition of another 10 Boeing Co. C-17 transports despite Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggestion, early last spring, that the C-17 program end.

The budget also includes nearly $500 million for F-35 fighters built by General Electric Company, as well as a few dozen additional aircraft built by Lockheed Martin.

War is quite a lucrative industry which got me to thinking…what if we wait until July, 2011, and take the president at his word that the deescalation in Iraq, and Afghanistan will be complete, and what if there were to be no surging into Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, or North Korea, you think maybe, just maybe, the 2012 budget Congress sends off to the president might include a peace budget?

Say, for instance, Congress were to appropriate even 10% of what it endows to Defense for peaceful activities instead of combat operations that would mean more than $6.36 billion. But, better still, why not propose that 20% of the budget, or about $13 billion, for 2012 which could go instead for:

developing an infrastructure of peace, and encourage corporate investment in environmentally-friendly apparatus like electric cars, solar power, innovative farming methods, and clean air subsidizing green jobs, and business that protect, instead of plunder, the environment reconstructing those parts of the earth ravaged by war, and not just those we decimated for the sake of getting those reconstruction contracts ending poverty, hunger, and global economic inequity which is at the root of global warfare. A hybrid economy must emerge, and one that combines the best of the free market while, at the same time, protecting and preserving the social good. stopping rape, and genocide, in Darfur, and throughout Africa combatting religious and racial intolerance demilitarizing the planet, and setting a deadline for global nuclear proliferation establishing an international venue where enemy nations can meet regularly to resolve their disputes through dialogue and negotiation instead of armed combat. Yes, this is what the United Nations was supposed to do, but it’s not working, is it? The U.N. isn’t the last stop on the train, just as it replaced the League of Nations, another organization must be formed that will do more than threaten economic sanctions, or be the bully pulpit of warring factions.

Okay, so this is a lot to ask for, and clearly not something that can happen in a year or two, or even in a decade, but given that the U.S. has already spent somewhere around $3 trillion on war in Iraq alone, $13 billion seems like a mere drop in the bucket, but it sure as hell is a good place to start.

JAYNE LYN STAHL is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.

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JAYNE LYN STAHL is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.

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