What an awesome country, America.
Birthed in a blaze of black-powder guns, forged in civil war and tempered by the use of atomic bombs, we are the world’s undisputed superpower. No. 1 with a bullet on pretty much every global weapons chart — and proud of it.
Yes, we are exceptional. We have more than 300 million privately owned firearms, a cache that is but a tiny inward reflection of the massive, publicly owned armament we use to project our strength abroad. Don’t mind our half-hearted “gun control” advocates. They are also owners of a military whose $600 billion-plus budget is larger than the military budgets of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, the United Kingdom and India combined, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Don’t envy those “developed” countries that have “fewer guns” than we do. We underwrote NATO defense last year to the tune of $582 billion. That’s three times more than the rest of the 27 NATO members combined. When they need a gun and someone who knows how to shoot it, we are on speed dial.
Sure, some of our hundreds of millions of small arms were used to commit 355 mass shootings in as many days. And that number doesn’t even include the vast majority of shootings, which frequently involve people killing someone known to them or those who turn guns on themselves.
But let the world beware: Such a high tolerance for spilling our own blood shows only that there is no limit to the hemorrhaging we are willing to inflict on others. We may mourn, if ever so briefly, for innocent victims of a mass shooting, but we will not flinch when a U.S. drone unleashes Hellfire missiles on, say, a wedding party in Yemen.
Speaking from the Oval Office on Sunday, President Obama served notice on the Islamic State, the terrorist organization that is believed to have inspired a married couple in San Bernardino, Calif., to kill 14 people at an office party last week.
“We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us,” Obama said, using an acronym for the Islamic State.
Obama added that “thousands of airstrikes” already had been ordered against ISIL, that Special Operations forces had been deployed in Iraq and Syria, and that he was prepared to use “every aspect of American power.”
Yet our thirst for blood was nowhere near quenched. Obama’s critics called his remarks “weak.” Even his supporters called the speech “cautious.”
What a kick-butt country, America.
On the day before Obama’s speech, the nation’s capital logged its 152nd homicide this year. Asked about the cause of such killings, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier had told The Washington Post this summer that individuals’ “choosing to settle arguments or disputes through extremely violent means” has been a “common theme” in this year’s homicides.
Like country, like city.
Obama may have come off to some as a mild-mannered professor during that speech. But it is hard to imagine Donald “Ban the Muslims” Trump being any more lethal when it comes to waging war. Don’t forget who runs those “Terror Tuesday” meetings at the White House and who approves the “kill list” for those drone strikes that America loves so much.
After investigating U.S. drone strikes two years ago, journalist and filmmaker Jeremy Scahill told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, “They’re just zapping people, you know, in acts of pre-crime.” That’s how gangbangers do it, too.
In a 2013 speech about the use of drones, Obama conceded that “it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties,” adding that “those deaths will haunt us as long as we live.”
But if reaction to his speech is any indication, what the United States wants is for Hellfire missiles to rain down on the Islamic State until it is forced to say “Uncle Sam.”
Perhaps Obama’s greatest blunder was pointing out a most inconvenient fact: Islamic State “fighters were part of the insurgency that we faced in Iraq,” he said. In other words, we were having to come to grips with mistakes of the past. So be it.
And if chickens start coming home to roost, so help us, Smith & Wesson.
To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/milloy.