SOC 2390 Lecture Notes - Elite, Extortion, Symbolic Interactionism
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The Costs of Militarism
• The U.S. defense budget was roughly $291 billion in 2000 – about $1000 for each person in the United
States. Put another way, military spending accounts for 16 percent of the federal budget.
Why has U.S. military spending remained high, even after the cold war and the fall of the Soviet Union?
1) Some argue that the world remains a dangerous place. Even though the Soviet Union no longer exists,
thousands of nuclear weapons remain in place in what is now the Russian Federation. Further, the U.S.
faces threats from many other nations and must be prepared to respond to regional conflicts.
2) Others argue that the powerful interests in the United States actually benefit from high levels of
military spending. They see the U.S. as dominated by a military-industrial complex, a political alliance
involving the federal government, the military, and the defense industries. From this perspective, U.S.
militarism is less a matter of national security and more a matter of power and profit for the country’s
• The devastation from an all-out nuclear war would go beyond description. The potentially destructive
effects of nuclear war can be seen in the U.S. attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. In an effort to
end World War II, a U.S. aircraft dropped a 1.5-kiloton atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing 130,000
people either instantly or over the next few months as a result of the deadly radiation that rained on the
• Today, some nuclear warheads held by governments throughout the world are more than 4,000 times
as powerful as the bombs that were dropped on Japan. Scientists estimate that a nuclear war would kill
more than 160 million people outright and that more than 1 billion people would die in the first few
hours as a result of radiation poisoning, environmental contamination and destruction, and massive
Civilians as Casualties
• The trend toward more civilian casualties that began in World War II has continued in subsequent
wars, including the Vietnam War and the Gulf War. Some analysts report that civilians accounted for
75% of all war-related deaths in the 1980s and nearly 90% in the 1990s.
• A demographer employed by the U.S. Bureau of the Census calculated that 40,000 Iraqi soldiers were
killed during the war but more than 80,000 Iraqi civilians, mostly women and children, were killed in air
strikes—13,000 in “precision bombing” and 70,000 as a result of disease associated with the systematic
destruction of water purification and sewage treatment systems in their country.