Thursday, March 22, 2018

Whacking Self-Sown Weeds


by Gaius Publius

In a nice piece at TomGram ("On Seeing America’s Wars Whole: Six Questions for A.G. Sulzberger," h/t Naked Capitalism) Andrew Bacevich takes the new editor of the New York Times to task for not adequately covering America's endless war in the Muslim (and increasingly, the African) world:
I ... want to suggest that obsessing about this administration’s stupefying tomfoolery finds the Times overlooking one particular issue that predates and transcends the Trump Moment. That issue is the normalization of armed conflict, with your writers, editors, and editorial board having tacitly accepted that, for the United States, war has become a permanent condition.
Bacevich doesn't fault the Times for not covering these events, but for failing to connect the dots, something it never fails to do when covering Russian adventures abroad.

The Shape of the Forever War

What struck me most about the piece, however, were the dots themselves. Displayed as he displays them, they seem to connect themselves:
* Over 6,000 days after it began, America’s war in Afghanistan continues, with Times correspondents providing regular and regularly repetitive updates;

* In the seven-year-long civil war that has engulfed Syria, the ever-shifting cast of belligerents now includes at least 2,000 (some sources say 4,000) U.S. special operators, the rationale for their presence changing from week to week, even as plans to keep U.S. troops in Syria indefinitely take shape;

* In Iraq, now liberated from ISIS, itself a byproduct of U.S. invasion and occupation, U.S. troops are now poised to stay on, more or less as they did in West Germany in 1945 and in South Korea after 1953;

* On the Arabian Peninsula, U.S. forces have partnered with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud in brutalizing Yemen, thereby creating a vast humanitarian disaster despite the absence of discernible U.S. interests at stake;

* In the military equivalent of whacking self-sown weeds, American drones routinely attack Libyan militant groups that owe their existence to the chaos created in 2011 when the United States impulsively participated in the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi;

* More than a quarter-century after American troops entered Somalia to feed the starving, the U.S. military mission continues, presently in the form of recurring airstrikes;

* Elsewhere in Africa, the latest theater to offer opportunities for road-testing the most recent counterterrorism techniques, the U.S. military footprint is rapidly expanding, all but devoid of congressional (or possibly any other kind of) oversight;

* From the Levant to South Asia, a flood of American-manufactured weaponry continues to flow unabated, to the delight of the military-industrial complex, but with little evidence that the arms we sell or give away are contributing to regional peace and stability;

* Amid this endless spiral of undeclared American wars and conflicts, Congress stands by passively, only rousing itself as needed to appropriate money that ensures the unimpeded continuation of all of the above;

* Meanwhile, President Trump, though assessing all of this military hyperactivity as misbegotten -- “Seven trillion dollars. What a mistake.” -- is effectively perpetuating and even ramping up the policies pioneered by his predecessors.
Emphasizing Bacevich's main point, Tom Engelhardt asks us in his introduction to "imagine what kind of coverage [Russia] would be getting if, almost 17 years after it had launched a 'Global War on Terrorism,' Russian troops, special operations forces, airplanes, and drones were still in action in at least eight countries across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Niger, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen".

I can't get past that list, however. It's stunning in its scope. From it I draw a different set of conclusions.

Liking What Trump Is Doing; Wishing Someone Else Were Doing It

As Bacevich points out, we're "whacking self-sown weeds." The implications are frightening. My takeaways:

• The entire Establishment is waging this global war. With bipartisan consent we'll be at war forever unless a truly peace-minded, anti-Establishment candidate is elected president, and even then he risks being brought back down by the government that answers to him, elected or not. With respect to war policy, Sanders is such a candidate, perhaps, and there may be others. Yet no one else of his popular stature and appeal, with his authenticity and viability, has yet emerged.

• The Washington elites are crazy if we view them through the lens of their own words. To decry Trump as in the pocket of Russia one minute...
and increase his domestic spying powers in the next...
is crazy by that measure.

For another, simpler explanation, consider this: It isn't crazy logic that drives them, but calculated hypocrisy. Why hypocrisy? Because...

• Leaders of the ruling bipartisan consensus like most of what Trump is doing; they just want someone else doing it. Perhaps Pence, to choose just one.

Enough Democrats were ambivalent about the Trump tax cuts, for example, that they campaigned softly (and ineffectively) against it, unlike their vigorous (and effective) campaign to protect their president's signature achievement, Obamacare.

Enough Democrats voted for former Eli Lilly president Alex Azar to run HHS to get him confirmed.

And enough Democrats will vote for torturer Gina Haspel as CIA director to make the confirmation bipartisan. After all, 14 Senate Democrats (plus Angus King) voted to confirm pro-torture Mike Pompeo as CIA chief, and Pompeo almost immediately appointed Haspel as his deputy. No one in DC wants to piss off the CIA. As Chuck Schumer noted, it would take a fool to do it. (Trump, at one time, was such a fool. Now, not so much.)

Will the next round of power-holding Democrats keep us out of war and take the CIA out of the torture business? It's fair to be extremely doubtful.

It's therefore fair to conclude this war will last forever, will be waged at our will, where and as long as we choose. It's also fair to ask: Is forever war, fought forever abroad, a stable new world order? Or failing to be reduced, will it expand and come home?

The Weeds Whack Back

A prediction: This war will come back to bite us. It will come back home to the shopping malls, airports, schools and hospitals of America. Not just the large, big-city ones, but the regional ones as well, those in the "heartland" where live the solid citizens who blissfully rubber-stamp everything the bipartisan war-making leaders want to do.

After all, with a volunteer (undrafted) army deployed abroad and just "lone gunmen" at home to be troubled about, why should heartlanders care about foreign deaths, so long as their fossil fuel–iPhone lifestyle is provided for? When the combatants stop looking like lone gunmen, however, and start looking more like the organized terrorizing warriors we've become overseas, perhaps they'll care then.

But caring, if it comes, will come too late. A non-military government, in substance already lost, will be lost in form as well. The next new American state will be born, a naked military one, but c'est la guerre as they say: It can't be helped.

The implications of that next change, including the implications for climate change mitigation, have a world-historical shape. Life in the "homeland" will be very much different from this one, if or when the U.S. military starts to fight the forever war here like it's fighting it abroad. Teasing out the shape of that new American state is beyond the scope of this piece, but your imagination may suffice to paint the picture.


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At 11:22 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Nope they'll just listen to their corporate masters & bow their heads cause they're bought & paid for as they always are business or corruption as usual in Washington.

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Ten Bears said...

I pointed this out frequently, back in he day, every empire who has ever gone into Afghanistan was within a generation no longer an empire. History only repeats to those paying attention.

At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The entire Establishment is waging this global war. With bipartisan consent we'll be at war forever unless a truly peace-minded, anti-Establishment candidate is elected president."

As long as stupid and complicit voters only believe in 2 parties, neither of which will ever be "peace-minded" (the CMIC makes big donations, remember), we'll be conducting wars as participants or vendors or both forever... or until the empire implodes.

I disagree with the assessment of Bernie. He proved in '16 that, in spite of what he SAYS, he's a 'go along to get along' kind of democrap. His campaign before he turtled to the $hillbillary vote fraud tended to make people forget the years he spent being Clinton, Pelosi and obamanation apologist.

A good piece that I'll file in the "DUH!!!" drawer.

At 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The US "government" has invested American military personnel in places where this is no strong central government with the power to keep the population under control.

Two separate studies of the mineral wealth of Afghanistan (one promoted by the UN and one by the Pentagon) have made the expediture of American lives for Afghanistan’s Vast Reserves of Minerals and Natural Gas seem to be “The War is Worth Waging” to the investor class who will never spill their own blood in the pursuit of this profitability.

Africa is in this condition, or soon will be. It hasn't been possible to "properly" explore and assay African mineral wealth as the cost of doing so would prove to be prohibitive. Or at least it was until China began to invest money in developing East African resources. Knowing this, do you still wonder what the hell US Special Forces personnel were doing in Mali?

The world's wealthy consider most of us humans to be surplus, and they are more than willing to expend our lives for their benefit. The coming decades are going to see wars fought over resources as never before in history. Those to benefit from such wars aren't going to be toting weapons in the effort to be modern-day freebooters. Those who do fight, if they survive, aren't even going to get a thank you. They will be cast aside and left to fend for themselves no matter their physical or mental damage in serving that cause.

Don't doubt me. Look at the threats Trump is making against the VA and ask a veteran how they feel about that.

We the People are going to have to exert our political power to end this travesty. We don't have control over the two corrupt faces of the Big Money Party to which we are deemed persona non grata. We are going to have to take that power ourselves, and it will be messy.

As much as I detested Maggie Thatcher, she did say one thing which now applies: "There Is No Alternative".

At 2:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:02 makes a great point.

There seem to be 3 reasons for our perpetual war stance:
1) dominate resources (like oil... read PNAC)
2) Profits for CMIC concerns and boards
4) global hegemony (the better to keep the dollar as the de-facto global reserve currency)

While our warmaking now relies less than ever on "boots on the ground", we still send thousands at a time into the grinders.
The CMIC did learn one lesson from the viet nam era. No more draft to cull cannon fodder broadly from the population. As the dead pile up, you create an entire population to resist.
We now have a kind of military caste, where the cannon fodder now comes from a much smaller slice of the population (legacy families who donate many members to the warmaking plus the very poor who have no other options and, therefore, are irrelevant to the money). Combined with the lower total casualties, the percent of the total population "feeling" the burden is much less.
Add to that the media capture by the money, and having that media purvey all manner of military fellating memes for the stupid and gullible society to parrot... and you have what we have -- perpetual war for fun and, most of all, PROFIT.

At 11:27 PM, Blogger Procopius said...

I'm sure Mr. Bacevich knows better, but for some reason chose not to bring it up. Of the 2000, or maybe 4,000 or more U.S. troops in Syria, at least 700 are not "special operators." They are ordinary Marine artillerymen and probably some number of Marine infantrymen as well. I believe there are soon going to be many more as John Bolton takes over as National Security Adviser. Mattis, as Secretary of Defense, has taken care to stay hidden, so we don't know to what extent he's been urging war with North Korea and/or Iran and/or Russia and/or China.

At 2:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kiss your draft-age relatives good-bye. For corporate profit they are going to die.


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