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vance_war_empire_militaryThis talk was given at the Authors Forum at the 2014 Austrian Economics Research Conference at the Mises Institute.

I would like to thank Joe Salerno, Mark Thornton, and the Mises Institute for allowing me to talk about my newest book. I would like to talk about how the book came about, its relation to some of my other books, and the book’s content, theme, audience, reception, cover, and emphasis. I look at the book as an antidote to military exceptionalism.

War, Empire, and the Military: Essays on the Follies of War and U.S. Foreign Policy (hereafter just War, Empire, and the Military), cannot be fully understood without reference to the companion volume I published last year, War, Christianity, and the State: Essays on the Follies of Christian Militarism (hereafter just War, Christianity, and the State). But these books cannot be fully understood without reference to the one book that preceded them: Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State (hereafter just Christianity and War), the second edition of which was published in 2008 and the first in 2005. This is the book I was encouraged to repudiate and shred when I took delivery from my printer. But even that book cannot be fully understood without reference to a single article titled “Christianity and War” that was published on October 29, 2003, on It was at a conference here at the Mises Institute in 2003 that Lew Rockwell asked me to write something for him on war from an evangelical perspective. And the rest, as they say, is history. Read More→

Categories : Articles, Book Reviews, War
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Pray for Our Troops

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I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
(1 Timothy 2:1)

While driving recently on Maitland Boulevard in central Florida, I came upon a billboard with a simple message: “Pray for Our Troops.”

Although I am often very critical of the actions of U.S. troops, I do believe—in spite of what people may think—in prayer for our troops. This is because, as evidenced above, the Bible exhorts us to pray for all men, which includes U.S. troops.

The problem is not the idea of praying for the troops, but the usual prayers that are offered on their behalf. When the typical church-going, prayer-saying American Christian sees such a billboard or is enjoined in church to pray for our troops, he generally thinks:

  • Pray that our troops be kept out of harm’s way.
  • Pray that our troops defeat our enemies.
  • Pray that our troops defend our freedoms.
  • Pray that our troops keep us safe.
  • Pray that our troops find terrorists who want to do us harm.
  • Pray that our troops eliminate the threat of al Qaeda.
  • Pray that our troops rid the world of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Pray that our troops spread democracy and freedom.
  • Pray that our troops avenge 9/11.

Some Christians, if they were honest, would pray that our troops’ bombs, bullets, grenades, missiles, and mortars hit their targets. Or if they were really honest, a war prayer for the twenty-first century.

The problem with these prayers is that no thought is ever given to:

  • Where our troops go.
  • Why our troops go.
  • Whether our troops should go.
  • How long our troops should stay.
  • What our troops do when they are there.
  • How much it costs to keep our troops there.
  • How many innocent foreigners die because our troops went.
  • What physical and mental condition our troops will be in when they return.
  • Whether our troops are really defending our freedom.
  • Whether our troops are creating more terrorists because they went.
  • Whether our troops are actually a global force for good.
  • Whether whatever our troops accomplish is worth one drop of American blood.

None of these things matter. We are continually told to pray for the troops, thank the troops, and support the troops—and to do so unconditionally.

But because I have considered these questions about the activities of our troops, and pay attention to what really goes on in the military, I think we should instead:

  • Pray that our troops come home from overseas.
  • Pray that our troops stop fighting foreign wars.
  • Pray that our troops don’t kill foreign civilians.
  • Pray that our troops don’t rape foreign women.
  • Pray that our troops stop invading countries.
  • Pray that our troops stop occupying countries.
  • Pray that our troops get out of the military as soon as they can.
  • Pray that our troops don’t fire their weapons.
  • Pray that our troops don’t sexually assault military personnel.
  • Pray that our troops don’t frequent brothels.
  • Pray that our troops don’t commit suicide.
  • Pray that our troops don’t get addicted to drugs.
  • Pray that our troops stop helping to carry out an evil U.S. foreign policy.
  • Pray that our troops stop making drone strikes.
  • Pray that our troops stop making widows and orphans.
  • Pray that our troops are only used for genuinely defensive purposes.
  • Pray that our troops stop intervening in other countries.
  • Pray that our troops don’t die for a lie, like those who died fighting in Iraq.
  • Pray that our troops don’t die in vain, like those who died fighting in Afghanistan.
  • Pray that our troops think about the morality of their “service.”
  • Pray that our troops refuse to obey immoral orders.
  • Pray that our troops never become troops by saying no to the military recruiter.

One does not have to be religious to see that these prayers are noticeably different from the previous ones. Think about this the next time you see a billboard or church sign that says “Pray for Our Troops.”

Originally published on

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The Cult of the Uniform

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There are a number of distinctly American symbols that evoke feelings of pride, nationalism, and patriotism. There is the Constitution. There are monuments like Mount Rushmore, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Jefferson Memorial. There are structures like the Statue of Liberty and the Liberty Bell. There are buildings like the White House and the Capitol. There are also things that there are many of: American flags, bald eagles, dollar bills, and images of Uncle Sam and the Great Seal of the United States.

In the last ten or so years, these symbols have all been superseded by one image that is so powerful and so overwhelming that it drives some Americans to tears and causes others to act in the most nonsensical and irrational of ways.

I am referring to a military uniform.

Not just any military uniform, of course, but one of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines. And especially a uniform adorned with lots of badges, awards, medals, ribbons, and insignias. Naturally, a uniform that indicates that a member of the military has been in combat is far superior to a uniform not so ornamented. Read More→

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Pulling Down Strongholds

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strongholdI have a confession to make. I have been accused of writing with an agenda. I hereby plead guilty. For those who are new to or to my writings and suspected that I had an agenda, your suspicions are confirmed.

Although I write about a lot of different things—abortion, libertarianism, the military, conservatism, the Republican Party, foreign aid, the minimum wage, discrimination, the war on drugs, vouchers, Social Security, Medicare, taxation, federalism, foreign policy, free trade, the Constitution, the free society, food stamps, government regulation, the U.S. empire, the state, gambling, theology, the U.S. government, English Bible history, the federal budget, war, economics, education, gun control, the welfare state, the warfare state, health care—I must confess that I do write with an agenda—an iconoclastic agenda.

My mission in life is to destroy anti-biblical Christian traditions about economics, politics, government, war, the military, and the state that are near and dear to the heart of many Christians, too many Christians. It doesn’t matter what their theological persuasion—Catholic, Baptist, Reformed, Anglican, Orthodox, Lutheran, Charismatic, Fundamentalist, Evangelical—there are enough of these anti-biblical traditions circulating for members of every group to have a handful.

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Is Obama gutting the military?

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I am not a fan of Barack Obama. But since there are a lot of things that could be said about the president—all of them bad—it was perplexing to me why some far-right conservative Christians would lie about him when expressing their displeasure. It was perplexing until I realized that their real agenda was honoring their true god—the U.S. military.

I think the only good thing that could be said for Obama is that he apparently loves his family. I have written on several occasions about his radical associations, his life spent in the service of racial preference, his aberrant Christianity, his warmongering, his welfare statism, his abominable heath care act, his economic ignorance, his disregard of the Constitution, his drug warring, his dangerous views on gun control, his destructive foreign policy, and his overall extreme left-wing views. I believe Obama to be one of the worst presidents in American history. He is almost as bad as George W. Bush.

I have seen it written by conservative Christians that Obama is gutting the military. Well, since the Bible says to “prove all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), I think we need to take a look at some facts and figures to see if this is the case or if these conservative Christians are just polluting the air with lies about a man that an abundance of negative things could already be said about.

Obama was elected in 2008 and took office in January of 2009. He was reelected in 2012. During the first two years of his first term, the Democrats controlled both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Democrats have controlled the Senate ever since; however, Republicans regained control of the House in the 2010 election, and have controlled it ever since. This means that every bill signed into law by Obama during the 112th Congress (2011-2013), and every bill that will be signed into law by Obama during the 113th Congress (2013-2015), was first passed, or will be passed, by the Republican-controlled House.

There are two major pieces of legislation passed by Congress every year that relate to the military: the National Defense Authorization Act and the Department of Defense Appropriations Act. Let’s look at the last three times that the Republican-controlled House passed these bills. It should be noted that the federal government’s fiscal year begins on October 1 on ends on September 30 of the following year. This means that fiscal year 2014 begins on October 1, 2013.

The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2014 (H.R.1960) was passed on June 14, 2013, by a vote of 315-108. The Republican vote was 212-18. The Department of Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2014 (H.R.2397) was passed on July 24, 2013, by a vote of 315-109. The Republican vote was 220-8. This latter bill authorizes $512.5 billion for

(1) military personnel; (2) operation and maintenance (O&M), including for the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, environmental restoration, overseas humanitarian, disaster, and civic aid, former Soviet Union cooperative threat reduction, and the DOD Acquisition Workforce Development Fund; (3) procurement, including for aircraft, missile, weapons, tracked combat vehicles, ammunition, shipbuilding and conversion, and purchases under the Defense Production Act of 1950; (4) research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E); (5) Defense Working Capital Funds and the National Defense Sealift Fund; (6) the Defense Health Program; (7) chemical agents and munitions destruction; (8) drug interdiction and counter-drug activities; (9) the Office of the Inspector General; (10) the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System Fund; (11) the Intelligence Community Management Account; and (12) overseas deployments and related activities, including military, reserve, and National Guard personnel, O&M, the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund, the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund, procurement, RDT&E, and the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Fund.

But according to the United States Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request Overview Book, President Obama requested $526.6 billion for these purposes. This means that House Republicans approved less spending on defense than Obama requested. Looks like it is House Republicans who are gutting the military.

The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013 (H.R.4310) was passed on December 20, 2012, by a vote of 315-107. The Republican vote was 205-30. The Department of Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2013 (H.R.5856) was passed on July 19, 2012, by a vote of 326-90. The Republican vote was 225-11.

The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012 (H.R.1540) was passed on December 14, 2011, by a vote of 283-136. The Republican vote was 190-43. The Department of Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2012 (H.R.2219) was passed on July 19, 2012, by a vote of 336-87. The Republican vote was 224-12.

Whatever the amount of Obama’s two previous defense budgets, the fact is simply this: They could not have been set without the full support of the Republican-controlled House.

But, of course, neither Obama nor the Republicans are gutting the military at all. From the Overview Book, here are the figures for U.S. defense spending beginning with fiscal year 2001:

FY01, $287.4 billion
FY02, $328.2 billion
FY03, $364.9 billion
FY04, $376.5 billion
FY05, $400.1 billion
FY06, $410.6 billion
FY07, $431.5 billion
FY08, $479.0 billion
FY09, $513.2 billion
FY10, $527.9 billion
FY11, $528.2 billion
FY12, $529.9 billion
FY13, $527.5 billion

Obama’s first defense budget was fiscal year 2010. Rather than gutting the military, it sure looks like he is expanding the military. According to Treasury Department data: “Over the past ten fiscal years, inflation-adjusted Defense Department spending has increased by approximately 54 percent.”

What is even worse about Obama’s non-existent cuts to the military is that real defense spending, according to economist Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute, is “well in excess of $1 trillion per year for all defense-related purposes.” And according to defense analyst Winslow Wheeler, “The Pentagon’s budget has increased, over time, much more than the Defense Department tells Congress, and the public.”

But even if military spending were actually what it appears on paper to be, it is still too high. This is because the majority of U.S. military spending is for offense, not defense. The military should be gutted, as I have maintained in scores of articles on the military.

Military spending is basically a jobs program, as retired U.S. Army colonel Andrew Bacevich explains in his book Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War (Metropolitan Books, 2010):

Each year the Pentagon expends hundreds of billions of dollars to raise and support U.S. military forces. This money lubricates American politics, filling campaign coffers and providing a source of largesse – jobs and contracts – for distribution to constituents. It provides lucrative “second careers” for retired U.S. military officers hired by weapons manufacturers or by consulting firms appropriately known as “Beltway Bandits.”

So, why would conservative Christians—who consider lying to be a sin—lie about Obama gutting the military when, as I have maintained, hundreds of negative things could already be said about him?

The conclusion is inescapable: the god of some conservative Christians is the U.S. military. It is their “golden calf.” They are Christian warmongers. They are imperial Christians. They are guilty of military idolatry. Their childish devotion to the military has clouded their judgment. Lying about Obama is fine as long as it leads people to pity their gutted god.

Is Obama gutting the military? If only it were so.

Originally posted on on September 9, 2013.

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