For months the debate has raged in Vermont over the possible replacement by the Air Force of the Vermont Air National Guard’s aging fleet of F-16 fighter jets with state-of-the-art F-35 jets. Not only will the controversial new fighters cost $115 million a piece, but they will be significantly noisier than their predecessors. For that reason the debate has been framed primarily as an environmental impact issue. As many as 2,000 homes near the Burlington International Airport might have to be abandoned, if the screaming meemies are adopted.
But there is a much more fundamental question that seems to have garnered all too little attention from Vermonters. Why does Vermont need any fighter jets, whether they be F-16s or F-35s, based at the Burlington International Airport? From whom are they trying to protect us? The Québécois, Yorkers, or the New Hampshire Free State? Or does someone truly believe that either China or Russia might attack tiny, irrelevant Vermont? What would they do with it? Imagine the thrill of an outside invader capturing Vermont’s state capital Montpelier, which has a population of less than 10,000. Vermont has no permanent military bases, few military contractors, no big cities, and no strategic resources other than an aging nuclear power plant.
I believe all military aircraft should be banned not only from the Burlington International Airport but from Vermont’s airspace. Vermont should become the country’s first military no fly zone, just like Libya was during the recent war.
Although Vermont has no anti-aircraft guns or missile launchers to shoot down intruders into its airspace, it does occupy the moral high ground. It could become a role model for other states and small countries to follow.
Obviously the U.S. government will challenge the Vermont military aircraft ban, but the Vermont Attorney General should doggedly pursue the case until the U.S. Supreme Court rules against the ban. Just as Vermont town meetings have in the past called for a ban on nuclear weapons, the end of the war in Iraq, and the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, so too could they call for a ban on military aircraft in Vermont’s airspace.
A Vermont no fly zone, or perhaps just a call for one, would send a clear signal to the White House, the Congress, and the rest of the nation that, “Enough is enough. We are sick and tired of the condescending arrogance of the American Empire and its foreign policy based on full spectrum dominance, might makes right, and imperial overstretch. We are utterly disgusted with President Obama’s drones, Navy Seals, death squads, and kill lists.”
Who knows, maybe Vermont’s moribund, complacent war mongering Congressional delegation, Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Congressman Peter Welch might get the message too?
Thomas H. Naylor
June 23, 2012
Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of Affluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for Meaning.