Military Suicide: One More Reason to Abolish War

The Pentagon issued its annual report recently on suicide in the military, and it provides us with very sad news. Despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars on programs to stem this crisis, the suicide rate for active-duty U.S. troops rose to 28.7 per 100,000 during 2020, up from 26.3 per 100,000 the previous year.

This is the highest rate since 2008, when the Pentagon began keeping detailed records. In a joint statement, U.S. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and General James McConville, the Army chief of staff, reported that “suicide remains a significant challenge for our Army,” and acknowledged they had no clear understanding of what was causing it.

Perhaps they should take a closer look at the impact of training, arming, and employing young men and women to kill other human beings. There have been countless stories of the trauma caused by these practices.

Why do most Americans accept this as a cost of maintaining national security? Have we been brainwashed by the deep pockets and widespread power of the military-industrial complex as President Eisenhower forewarned in his farewell speech in 1961?

Most Americans think that sacrificing the mental health and the lives of our men and women in the military is simply the cost of protecting the United States. Some die on land, some on the sea, some in the air, and some will take their own lives. But do we really need to sacrifice the lives of so many people, in this country and in other lands, to keep us safe, secure, and free? Can’t we find a better way to these goals?

Advocates of a democratic world federation believe that we can move from the law of force, which relies on the sacrifice of lives, to the force of law where problems are solved in a court of law.

If you think this is impossible, consider the fact that, before, during, and after the American revolution, states that formed the United States engaged in armed conflict with one another. George Washington was extremely worried about the stability of the nation under the weak central government provided by the Articles of Confederation, and for good reason.

But, when the constitution was ratified and the nation moved from a confederation to a federation, the states began resolving their disputes under the authority of the federal government rather than on the battlefield.

In 1799, for example, it was the new federal government that satisfactorily settled a lengthy interstate dispute that, over a 30-year period, had erupted into bloody struggle between armed forces from Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

Furthermore, look at the history of the European Union. After centuries of bitter fighting among European nation states, the European Union was established with the goal of ending the many bloody wars among them that had culminated in the disaster of World War II. Although the European Union is not yet a federation of nations, its integration of previously feuding countries has laid the groundwork for federation and has been remarkably successful in halting war among them.

Can you imagine a world that solves its problems in a court of law instead of crushing the lives of millions of men and women? Imagine these steps to it.

First, we transform the United Nations from a confederation to a federation of nations with a constitution that guarantees universal human rights, protects our global environment, and outlaws war and weapons of mass destruction.

Then we create the global institutions needed to establish and enforce world law with justice. If a government official breaks the law, that individual would be arrested, tried, and if found guilty, put in prison. We can end war and, also, secure justice.

Of course, we’ll need checks and balances to make sure no country or authoritarian leader can dominate a world federation.

But we can make the world a better place without training, arming, and employing young men and women to kill people of other lands and, thereby, leaving our soldiers to face the consequences, including not only death on the battlefield, but mental anguish and suicide.

Donna Park is Chair of the Board of Directors of Citizens for Global Solutions Education Fund, a 513(c)(3) headquartered in Washington, DC.