In recent weeks, as Black Lives Matter protests have erupted across the nation in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd, some have begun to question whether or not we should have military bases named after soldiers from the Confederacy. As is often the case when people engage in empty identity politics, we end up asking the wrong question. Undoubtedly, there should be no military bases named after Confederate soldiers. They were traitors to the country and defenders of racism and slavery. But even if we renamed all the bases, there would still be a huge problem: most of these bases should not exist!
As the Democratic Party and its liberal base have abandoned progressive economics over the last 30 years, they have increasingly engaged in culture war issues to keep their voters happy. More often than not, this means engaging in cynical identity politics meant to virtue signal and, at best, create representational change instead of offering up serious civil rights improvements. Liberal identity politics is about winning votes and elections, not improving peoples’ lives. So it asks is if we should rename these forts instead of asking us whether or not all these forts should exist in the first place.
The U.S. military is much bigger than it needs to be. The U.S. spends way more money on its military than any other nation on the planet despite the fact that we have no serious military rivals. We wage never-ending operations that do not accomplish anything (other than enriching weapons manufacturers)and, more often than not, create more “enemies” than they destroy. Having this giant military apparatus is part of America’s imperialist past and present. American imperialism will not be any more acceptable when these bases are renamed, but that is exactly what this cynical identity politics is trying to do. Thus, Fort Bragg becomes Fort Frederick Douglass and we will be called on to celebrate this symbol of U.S. war-making.
This is the same kind of nonsense that asked liberals to cheer because the new head of the CIA was a woman, despite the fact that CIA is engaged in crimes all over the planet and that this particular woman, Gina Haspel, was involved in the CIA torture program. Would liberals cheer the new and absurd “Space Force” if the general in charge was a woman and the first space weapon system was named after Helen Keller or Martin Luther King?
The big issue in regard to all these military bases in the U.S. and around the world should not be their name, but rather, should they exist at all?