Monday, February 02, 2015

The Seven Deadly Traits of a Permanent Warfare State

Classic military science holds that war is a state of affairs that exists between periods of peace.  In other words, war is intended to achieve peace on terms acceptable to the victor.  War is not an end unto itself.  Well, guess what?  That was then, this is now and, today, war is a highly profitable end unto itself.

How is it possible to turn a democracy into a permanent warfare state? Former colonel turned academic, William J. Astore, identifies the seven keys to perpetual war.

1. The privatization of war

The U.S. military’s recourse to private contractors has strengthened the profit motive for war-making and prolonged wars as well. Unlike the citizen-soldiers of past eras, the mobilized warrior corporations of America’s new mercenary moment—the Halliburton/KBRs (nearly $40 billionin contracts for the Iraq War alone), the DynCorps ($4.1 billion to train 150,000 Iraqi police), and theBlackwater/Xe/Academis ($1.3 billion in Iraq, along withboatloads of controversy)—have no incentive to demobilize. Like most corporations, their business model is based on profit through growth, and growth is most rapid when wars and preparations for more of them are the favored options in Washington.

2. The embrace of the national security state by both major parties: 

Jimmy Carter was the last president to attempt to exercise any kind of control over the national security state. A former Navy nuclear engineer who had served under the demanding Admiral Hyman Rickover, Carter cancelled the B-1 bomber and fought for a U.S. foreign policy based on human rights. Widely pilloried for talking about nuclear war with his young daughter Amy, Carter was further attacked for being “weak” on defense. His defeat by Ronald Reagan in 1980 inaugurated 12 years of dominance by Republican presidents that opened the financial floodgates for the Department of Defense. That taught Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council a lesson when it came to the wisdom of wrapping the national security state in a welcoming embrace, which they did, however uncomfortably. This expedient turn to the right by the Democrats in the Clinton years served as a temporary booster shot when it came to charges of being “soft” on defense—until Republicans upped the ante by going “all-in” on military crusades in the aftermath of 9/11.

Since his election in 2008, Barack Obama has done little to alter the course set by his predecessors. He, too, has chosen not to challenge Washington’s prevailing catechism of war.

3. “Support Our Troops” as a substitute for thought. 

You’ve seen them everywhere: “Support Our Troops” stickers. In fact, the “support” in that slogan generally means acquiescence when it comes to American-style war. The truth is that we’ve turned the all-volunteer military into something like a foreign legion, deploying it again and again to our distant battle zones and driving it into the ground in wars that amount to strategic folly.

4. Fighting a redacted war. 

War, like the recent Senate torture report, is redacted in America. Its horrors and mistakes are suppressed, its patriotic whistleblowers punished, even as the American people are kept in a demobilized state. The act of going to war no longer represents the will of the people, as represented by formal Congressional declarations of war as the U.S. Constitution demands.

5. Threat inflation: 

There’s nothing new about threat inflation. We saw plenty of it during the Cold War (nonexistent missile and bomber gaps, for example). Fear sells and we’ve had quite a dose of it in the twenty-first century, from ISIS to Ebola. But a more important truth is that fear is a mind-killer, a debate-stifler.

Back in September, for example, Senator Lindsey Graham warned that ISIS and its radical Islamic army was coming to America to kill us all. ISIS, of course, is a regional power with no ability to mount significant operations against the United States. But fear is so commonplace, so effectively stoked in this country that Americans routinely and wildly exaggerate the threat posed by al-Qaeda or ISIS or the bogeyman du jour.

6. Defining the world as a global battlefield: 

In fortress America, all realms have by now become battle spheres. Not only much of the planet, the seas, air, and space, as well as the country’s borders and its increasingly up-armored police forces, but the world of thought, the insides of our minds. Think of the 17 intertwined intelligence outfits in “the U.S. Intelligence Community” and their ongoing “surge” for information dominance across every mode of human communication, as well as the surveillance of everything. And don’t forget the national security state’s leading role in making cyberwar a reality. (Indeed, Washington launched the first cyberwar in history by deploying the Stuxnet computer worm against Iran.)

Think of all this as a global matrix that rests on war, empowering disaster capitalism and the corporate complexes that have formed around the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, and that intelligence community. A militarized matrix doesn’t blink at $1.45 trillion dollars devoted to the F-35, a single under-performing jet fighter, nor at projections of $355 billion over the next decade for “modernizing” the U.S. nuclear arsenal, weapons that Barack Obama vowed to abolish in 2009.

7. The new “normal” in America is war: 

The 9/11 attacks happened more than 13 years ago, which means that no teenagers in America can truly remember a time when the country was at peace.“War time” is their normal; peace, a fairy tale.

What’s truly “exceptional” in twenty-first-century America is any articulated vision of what a land at peace with itself and other nations might be like. Instead, war, backed by a diet of fear, is the backdrop against which the young have grown to adulthood. It’s the background noise of their world, so much a part of their lives that they hardly recognize it for what it is. And that’s the most insidious danger of them all.

Yes, this is all true of America but ask yourself to what extent these have taken hold in Canada, especially during the Harper years.  Have we not become a Surveillance "national security state"?  Of course we have.  Do we not cleave to the "support the troops" mantra so readily exploited for political gain and manipulation of the public?  Have we not inflated the threats we face, especially ISIS?  When was the last time Canada did not have military personnel deployed in an active combat zone?  Has the Canadian military not become a de facto Foreign Legion for the United States?  Is that not what the F-35 is all about?

We may not qualify as a permanent warfare state but we're a branch plant operation of one.  

We were warned.  We were all warned.


Edstock said...

As disturbing as the American political situation is, there will be consequences.

The Black Swan has yet to appear . . .

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, Ed. Thanks for the link. The unpredictability foreseen by this Black Swan theory is just a tad unsettling.

CV SoG said...

Great post Mound - I'd say this American Multinational Corporation Establishment are the biggest threats to humanity, in that they block progress to dealing with global warming.

The Mound of Sound said...

They're no longer "American multinationals" CV. They seem to be morphing into essentially stateless multinationals capable of defying or at least working around laws of individual states. The proof will come when 'American' aerospace or defence companies establish stand alone enterprises abroad to compete for a rival country's defence work. And, yes, by rival country I mean China.

So far the big bucks are still in the US but if America was to slash its military spending while China increased its own, loyalties we assume to exist may evaporate.

One thing holding China back is its lack of jet engine technology. Western companies have that technology at their fingertips.