Posts Tagged ‘US military’


January 24, 2013

I just read, in the latest New Yorker, Jill Lepore’s remarkable article (“The Force”) about the history of American military spending. And a few days ago I heard, on NPR’s Fresh Air, the rebroadcast of an interview with¬†Cullen Murphy, the author of a book (God’s Jury) about the Catholic Inquisition. And I was struck by a certain resemblance. Both the US military (or, more generally, the security apparatus including the military and “intelligence”) and the Inquisition (or, for that matter, the Catholic Church itself) are typical human organizations in that, whatever their intended function may be, once such an organization becomes established its primary function becomes its own preservation and growth (in power if not in numbers).

This happens even if the intended purpose becomes moot for one reason or another. The March of Dimes, founded by Franklin D. Roosevelt in order to combat polio, did not disband after polio was essentially eliminated but simply changed its mission. And the function of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, whatever its nominal mission (“to improve the lives of people affected by cancer”), was to promote the image of its founder as a philanthropic hero. With that image in shatters, the foundation will just try to live on (as the Livestrong Foundation) and be strong. Live strong, indeed: this could be the motto of most organizations.