FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

‘Modernization’ is Media Code for Military Build-Up

Photo by DVIDSHUB | CC BY 2.0

One of the most effective rhetorical tools in normalizing massive military budgets is to treat spending billions — and sometimes trillions — of dollars as something one has to do in order to be “modern.”

“Modernization” is, after all, an attractive label. Who doesn’t want to be modern? Consider just a few examples from recent reporting on military spending.

“The Department of Energy said the money was needed to modernize and restore the country’s nuclear weapons complex,” Reuters reportedof a $15 billion, one-year budget request for nuke spending.

“Pentagon Budget Seeks Billions for Modernizing Nuclear Arsenal, Missile Defense,” The Hill mumbledabout a related $37 billion request.

The Army, meanwhile, will get many billions more “as the service struggles to modernize while simultaneously fighting wars in current conflicts,” wrote the National Interest.

“U.S. nuclear policy is aimed at deterring Russia,” CNN explained, “through the modernization of the U.S. arsenal.”

Finally, notes a Reuters headlineon the world’s most expensive (and still not operational) fighter plane, the “F-35 Fighter Modernization Could Cost $16 Billion Through 2024.”

Other variations include the verbs “overhaul” or “rebuild.” The idea is that something has fallen into disrepair and simply needs to be put back together.

How vast new expenditures on weapons that can already end civilization can be justified in either financial or moral terms is simply breezed past. A “modern” United States is self-evidently preferable to a pre-modern one, and the United States must be “modern” to “keep pace” with perennial bad guys like Russia and China.

As the media monitoring group FAIR has shown time and again, the media almost always frames the U.S. asreacting to military escalations by others.

The idea that Russia and China could themselves be responding to long-existing U.S. plans for a military buildup is never entertained. Nor is it often pointed out that the U.S. spends roughly three times as much on its military as China — whose population is more than quadruple ours — and about 10 times as much as Russia.

It’s essential, after all, that the United States — when it’s not stumbling around like a hapless giant — always be the party responding, not provoking. The “modernization” frame plays into this narrative nicely: The U.S. military is simply updating its massive arsenal, as you would your iPhone software — an inevitable and therefore not at all hostile act.

Indeed, “modernization” has been a popular framing used by the media to casually report on the United States’ constantly growing empire for over a hundred years.

Look at the New York Times alone: “Our Big Warships to Be Modernized,” a Timesheadline declared in 1922. “Alliance Plans to Modernize Armed Services,” it reported in 1953. “Air Force Seeks to Modernize and Strengthen U.S. Defense System,” was the paper’s report in 1972. In 1980, a Timesstory was “Navy Plans to Modernize World War II Battleships.”

Things the government is somehow never obligated to “modernize” include health care, education, and family leave policy.

Instead, the potential funds spent on bringing these programs up to the standard of other wealthy countries are framed as massive tax hikes, and those who promote such programs are challenged to “find the money.” They’re often not treated as any part of a “modern” norm for which the U.S. must strive.

But a slick, sprawling U.S. military — with all the latest toys and bombs — certainly is. And anyone suggesting otherwise, the story suggests, is clearly stuck in the past.

More articles by:

Adam Johnson is a freelance writer and contributing analyst to Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting.

April 26, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
As Trump Berates Iran, His Options are Limited
Daniel Warner
From May 1968 to May 2018: Politics and Student Strikes
Simone Chun – Kevin Martin
Diplomacy in Korea and the Hope It Inspires
George Wuerthner
The Attack on Wilderness From Environmentalists
CJ Hopkins
The League of Assad-Loving Conspiracy Theorists
Richard Schuberth
“MeToo” and the Liberation of Sex
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Sacred Assemblies in Baghdad
Dean Baker
Exonerating Bad Economic Policy for Trump’s Win
Vern Loomis
The 17 Gun Salute
Gary Leupp
What It Means When the U.S. President Conspicuously and Publicly Removes a Speck of Dandruff from the French President’s Lapel
Robby Sherwin
The Hat
April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail