It came as a shock. Raised as I was in a nation enamored of weaponry, I did not realize that many countries in the world do not have armies. In some places, such as Israel, service in the military is compulsory. In approximately twenty nations, however, people are secure enough not to require armies. It’s probably symptomatic that such nations are fairly small in land area. The more you’ve got, the more you want to protect. Without materialism would we even need militaries? Yes, we fight over different religious beliefs, but those conflicts are tied to a sense of ownership as well. This is “our land” and don’t “you” tell us what to do in it! I can imagine a world where armies need not exist. The key, it seems to me, is love.
In a Simpsonesque way, of course, hostile aliens might invade. Could we not try to come to a peaceful resolution? Or could we not learn to protect ourselves without having to be in a position to destroy those who might prefer a more socialistic lifestyle? Those who might look different? Those whose moral standards push us to think more broadly? Like many people I’m dismayed at the unconscionable size of our military budget. Killing the world once over is no longer enough. Now we have to try to pollute space as well. Where are those aliens when we need them?
The fact is nations exist on this earth without standing armies. They don’t cause trouble and some of them are extremely bookish (no surprise there). Can we imagine what our world would look like with an education budget swapping places with the military one? Do we dare even think such dangerous thoughts as peace and mutual goodwill? Is no-one big enough to stand up to Adam Smith (with kudos to Thomas Piketty for trying!)? The wealth of nations could be applied to make well-fed security mostly a reality. We lack the will. Well, most of us do. I draw comfort knowing that several small nations around the world feel no need to waste their budgets on weaponry. Their rich may not own dozens of houses fit for dozens of kings, but they have perhaps a peace of mind that no amount of military might can give. We don’t seem to understand that weapons cater to fear, and that, as one religious text says, “perfect love casts out fear.”