Saturday, February 23, 2008

The End of War

Not the end of conflict, certainly not the end of fighting . . . but it is worth considering that as we blindly multiply our efforts toward a supremacy-gap between ourselves and the rest of the world in military hardware, the enemy is dissolving before our eyes. What can we possibly be thinking? More to the point, what can the rest of the world possibly think we are thinking?


Not the end of conflict, certainly not the end of fighting . . . but it is worth considering that as we blindly multiply our efforts toward a supremacy-gap between ourselves and the rest of the world in military hardware, the enemy is dissolving before our eyes. What can we possibly be thinking? More to the point, what can the rest of the world possibly think we are thinking?

Since the end of the Cold War arms race, lacking any credible opponent, we have created an overheated race with ourselves.

Since Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man, it’s been a dicey thing to forecast the end of anything. Still . . .

  • A war with China? Unthinkable for both nations.
  • Russia? Not a chance.
  • Muslim jihadists? No doubt, but one can hardly call that a war. That we have elected to call it one has cost us dearly.

Poverty Until we and our Arab allies make fundamental changes in the way we see and treat and relate to the massive neglect and impoverishment of native populations, we can expect the terrorist incidents to increase. But that's hardly unique in the world and hardly something amenable to force of arms, that’s a difficulty we share within our own society.

But it’s not a problem solvable by increasing our arsenal of aircraft carriers, sophisticated jet aircraft, nuclear submarines or Bradley fighting vehicles. Ronald Reagan’s and Donald Rumsfeld’s vision of the control of space has no purpose in the discredited (and ineffective) vision of Shock and Awe changing world politics.

Hitler Yet that kind of mindless and wasteful military spending is an enormous liability to the United States. We're seemingly devoted to scaring to death the remaining powers in a world of diminishing major powers. Our military budget equals that of the rest of the world and doubles it. What the hell is in our head? Is this a Jeffersonian vision of America? One would hardly think so, but it’s agonizingly close to the Hitlerian model.

Having finally (and at untold expense) escaped the Cold War, is there a purpose (other than the enrichment of McDonnel Douglas and Lockheed) in spurring China to an arms race? Consider the proposition;

  • That China or Russia was frantically engaged in the business of anti-missile screens that included radar bases in Toronto or Cuba (anyone remember the Cuban missile crisis?)
  • That either of those countries unilaterally rescinded their nuclear treaties with us in order to begin a Star Wars project of unknown cost and purpose
  • That one or the other (or both) publicly stated their aim to dominate space and monitor all other nations’ satellite and space-based activity
  • That one or the other (or both combined) had a military budget 20 or 30 times the size of ours
  • That either (or both) had declared a policy of pre-emptive attack on sovereign nations (strictly on the basis of their own perception of threat) and then used that false claim to attack and ravage a client Arab nation.

It’s possible under those circumstances, just possible, that we might feel threatened, a tad nervous, somewhat concerned about intent.

There isn’t a rational reason in the world to be doing what we are doing, other than world dominance by military threat and conquest. As a nation, we espouse democratic ideals and practice a barely disguised form of colonialism.

Maybe we’ve given up on idealistic democracy.

Shockdoctrine Disaster Capitalism failed us.

The world is turning its back on the IMF and World Bank. Perhaps after devastating democracy in Central and South America in the 70’s and 80’s, wrecking the emerging Russian and Asian democracies in the 90’s and the current all-out destruction of what was to have been the Islamic democratic experiment in Iraq, the world no longer trusts the American brand.

U.S. democracy in the export version; How do I dominate thee? Let me count the ways.

If an export loses market-share, the Harvard Business School model suggests changing the design and marketing of the export. The marketing still claims to be the spread of democracy, but the design is radar bases in the Czech Republic and Poland.


(Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker) Regime change was one of the stated goals of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Unlike cleansing the place of weapons of mass destruction and breaking up the alleged Baghdad-Al Qaeda nexus, it was a reality-based goal; and, unlike the other two (which were as unattainable and unnecessary as ridding the moon of green cheese), it was actually accomplished. Saddam Hussein’s regime has indeed been changed—though what it has been changed into, of course, is not quite what was intended.

And regime change, it turns out, is infectious—a militarily transmittable disease, almost invariably fatal, so far, to any political party or head of government so careless of hygiene as to have had intimate relations with the Bush Administration’s Mesopotamian misadventure.

The contagion set in less than a year into the war, when, three days after the Madrid terrorist bombings of March 11, 2004, Spain’s conservative government, which had sent thirteen hundred soldiers to Iraq, was defeated at the polls. The soldiers were out within three months. In May of 2005, it was the turn of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, of Italy, President Bush’s loudest West European supporter, who had sent three thousand troops; his successor, Romano Prodi, brought them home.

In June of this year, Tony Blair was finally obliged to relinquish his grip on Britain’s Labour government, largely because of Iraq; the new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has signalled that he intends to withdraw Britain’s troops—some five thousand of the original commitment of forty-five thousand remain—by the end of 2008. Six weeks ago, Poland’s premier, the twin brother of the country’s President, lost to an opponent whose platform included bringing back the nine hundred Polish troops that are still in Iraq.

A week ago last Saturday, John Howard, the second longest serving Prime Minister of Australia, became the newest casualty of this political epidemic.

Other countries whose voters have dispensed with the services of leaders who enrolled them in Bush’s “coalition of the willing” include Hungary, Ukraine, Norway, and Slovakia.

Hertzberghendrik Hertzberg fails to mention that Iceland recalled its Iraq contingent as well--a single female officer, but still, yet another shoe dropped among the coalition of the willing.

One can hardly foretell the end of war without listing those who are no longer on board as allies and, inarguably, Hertzberg's list is impressive. If war is no longer the nomenclature of the fighting yet to come, then we must name it. Possibilities include

  • the shot from the dark,
  • Paul Simon’s bomb in the baby-carriage,
  • the suicide bomber in Starbucks or perhaps
  • the clean-cut guy walking confidently into the American Embassy in Prague.

In any case, hundreds of billions on an all-service vertical takeoff jet fighter-bomber seem a waste when the current model is so superior that not a single plane has ever been lost in combat. Nor do weapons piloted from closed rooms in Arizona make all that much sense when the target is one among a thousand bearded, robed Islamists on a crowded street.

What does make sense is easing the fear-driven and idiotic restrictions that prevent the Pentagon, State Department, FBI and CIA from recruiting native Arabic speakers from across the spectrum of Muslim nations. It helps immensely to understand those intercepts and it’s difficult to insert a kid from Brooklyn into a jihadist organization in Pakistan. We’re at least ten years behind that curve already. But, lest you think lessons have been learned, check this out from last October;

(Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker 10-8-07) At a White House meeting with Cheney this summer, according to a former senior intelligence official, it was agreed that, if limited strikes on Iran were carried out, the Administration could fend off criticism by arguing that they were a defensive action to save soldiers in Iraq. . . The former intelligence official added, There is a desperate effort by Cheney et al. to bring military action to Iran as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the politicians are saying, ‘You can’t do it, because every Republican is going to be defeated, and we’re only one fact from going over the cliff in Iraq.’

But Cheney doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the Republican worries, and neither does the President.”

Bush-Cheney, the authors of this decade’s debacle on all fronts (military, foreign affairs, economic) can hardly be expected to apologize or even admit to the breadth, width and depth of their folly.

Newyorkerlogo It makes me grin that investigative journalism has migrated from the New York Times and Washington Post to the pages of The New Yorker. Is there a message there?

The wholesale shutdown of Boeing’s military division, Lockheed and other major (and minor) military contractors isn’t viable. How the hell do you shut down something so large and prevalent, without destroying our necessary ability to keep ourselves moderately and effectively armed?

Certainly whole divisions dedicated to turning out militarily indefensible army-against-army hardware ought to be diverted to building bridges, high-speed rail and other necessary upgrades of American infrastructure before we simply fall apart under the load of yet another useless submarine.

The End of War (or not) seems an honest enough question for the current (still standing) presidential candidates. But then honesty is a scarce commodity these days and the combined ability of military lobbyists to buy whatever votes are necessary to keep this useless and wasteful pot boiling are always at hand. The cowboys of Dr. Strangelove are in the driver's seat.

It would take a real patriot to face down those forces of darkness. But the country and the world is ready--as ready as they will ever be.


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