Monday, April 15, 2013
America's Enemy-Industrial Complex
You can own all the locomotives and all the rolling stock in the world but they're useless without tracks. The same logic holds true for the world's largest, most fearsome military. What good is it without an ample supply of enemies?
Just as General Motors needs people to buy Chevys, the U.S. military/industrial/commercial warfighting complex needs a world full of potential enemies and, when it runs short, it has to scrape the bottom of the barrel to come up with some imminent threat, no matter how implausible. Tom Englehardt of Tom Dispatch says the villain of last resort at the moment is some pudgy weirdo from North Korea.
In the previous century, there were two devastating global wars, which left significant parts of the planet in ruins. There was also a "cold war" between two superpowers locked in a system of mutual assured destruction (aptly acronymed as MAD) whose nuclear arsenals were capable of destroying the planet many times over. Had you woken up any morning in the years between December 7, 1941, and December 26, 1991, and been told that the leading international candidate for America's Public Enemy Number One was Kim Jong-un’s ramshackle, comic-opera regime in North Korea, you might have gotten down on your hands and knees and sent thanks to pagan gods.
The same would be true for the other candidates for that number one position since September 11, 2001: the original al-Qaeda (largely decimated), al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula located in poverty-stricken areas of poverty-stricken Yemen, the Taliban in poverty-stricken Afghanistan, unnamed jihadis scattered across poverty-stricken areas of North Africa, or Iran, another rickety regional power run by not particularly adept theocrats.
...We constantly hear about “threats” to us and to the “homeland.” And yet, when you knock on the door marked “Enemy,” there’s seldom anyone home.
Few in this country have found this striking. Few seem to notice any disjuncture between the enemy-ridden, threatening, and deeply dangerous world we have been preparing ourselves for (and fighting in) this last decade-plus and the world as it actually is, even those who lived through significant parts of the last anxiety-producing, bloody century.
Let’s admit it: enemies can have their uses. And let’s admit as well that it’s in the interest of some in our country that we be seen as surrounded by constant and imminent dangers on an enemy-filled planet. Let’s also admit that the world is and always will be a dangerous place in all sorts of ways.
...And let’s admit as well that, in the wake of [America's recent] wars and operations, Americans now have more enemies, more angry, embittered people who would like to do us harm than on September 10, 2001. Let’s accept that somewhere out there are people who, as George W. Bush once liked to say, “hate us" and what we stand for. (I leave just what we actually stand for to you, for the moment.)
...The U.S. ...is probably in less danger from external enemies than at any moment in the last century. There is no other imperial power on the planet capable of, or desirous of, taking on American power directly, including China. It’s true that, on September 11, 2001, 19 hijackers with box cutters produced a remarkable, apocalyptic, and devastating TV show in which almost 3,000 people died. When those giant towers in downtown New York collapsed, it certainly had the look of nuclear disaster (and in those first days, the media was filled was nuclear-style references), but it wasn’t actually an apocalyptic event.
Creating an Enemy-Industrial Complex
Without an enemy of commensurate size and threat, so much that was done in Washington in these years might have been unattainable. The vast national security building and spending spree -- stretching from the Virginia suburbs of Washington, where the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency erected its new $1.8 billion headquarters, to Bluffdale, Utah, where the National Security Agency is still constructing a $2 billion, one-million-square-foot data center for storing the world’s intercepted communications -- would have been unlikely.
Without the fear of an enemy capable of doing anything, money at ever escalating levels would never have poured into homeland security, or the Pentagon, or a growing complex of crony corporations associated with our weaponized safety. The exponential growth of the national security complex, as well as of the powers of the executive branch when it comes to national security matters, would have far been less likely.
Englehardt has written a compelling and timely article and it's well worth checking out in its entirety. Even for Canadians it serves as a cautionary tale of what lies in store for nations who sign on as America's Foreign Legion which is pretty much what the F-35 is all about.
Forget about the cost of that goddamned airplane or all of its delays and shortcomings - forget about all the crap you hear from the opposition parties in Ottawa. They haven't got the guts to talk about what's really important in the F-35 debate, the outsourcing of Canada's military and foreign policy. And even the Australians have figured out that's a dangerous and high-risk gambit.