Yves here. This post is an important, sobering description of how US military overreach became institutionalized.
By William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) who edits the blogThe Contrary Perspective. Originally published at TomDispatch<
It’s 1990. I’m a young captain in the U.S. Air Force. I’ve just witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, something I never thought I’d see, short of a third world war. Right now I’m witnessing the slow death of the Soviet Union, without the accompanying nuclear Armageddon so many feared. Still, I’m slightly nervous as my military gears up for an unexpected new campaign, Operation Desert Shield/Storm, to expel Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein’s military from Kuwait. It’s a confusing moment. After all, the Soviet Union was forever (until it wasn’t) and Saddam had been a stalwart U.S. friend, his country a bulwark against the Iran of the Ayatollahs. (For anyone who doubts that history, just check out the now-infamous 1983 photo of Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy for President Reagan, all smiles and shaking hands with Saddam in Baghdad.) Still, whatever my anxieties, the Soviet Union collapsed without a whimper and the campaign against Saddam’s battle-tested forces proved to be a “cakewalk,” with ground combat over in a mere 100 hours.
Think of it as the trifecta moment: Vietnam syndrome vanquished forever, Saddam’s army destroyed, and the U.S. left standing as the planet’s “sole superpower.”
Post-Desert Storm, the military of which I was a part stood triumphant on a planet that was visibly ours and ours alone. Washington had won the Cold War. It had won everything, in fact. End of story. Saddam admittedly was still in power in Baghdad, but he had been soundly spanked. Not a single peer enemy loomed on the horizon. It seemed as if, in the words of former U.N. ambassador and uber-conservative Jeane Kirkpatrick, the U.S. could return to being a normal country in normal times.
What Kirkpatrick meant was that, with the triumph of freedom movements in Central and Eastern Europe and the rollback of communism, the U.S. military could return to its historical roots, demobilizing after its victory in the Cold War even as a “new world order” was emerging. But it didn’t happen. Not by a long shot. Despite all the happy talk back then about a “new world order,” the U.S. military never gave a serious thought to becoming a “normal” military for normal times. Instead, for our leaders, both military and civilian, the thought process took quite a different turn. You might sum up their thinking this way, retrospectively: Why should we demobilize or even downsize significantly or rein in our global ambitions at a moment when we can finally give them full expression? Why would we want a “peace dividend” when we could leverage our military assets and become a global power the likes of which the world has never seen, one that would put the Romans and the British in the historical shade? Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer caught the spirit of the moment in February 2001 when he wrote, “America is no mere international citizen. It is the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome. Accordingly, America is in a position to reshape norms, alter expectations, and create new realities. How? By unapologetic and implacable demonstrations of will.”
What I didn’t realize back then was: America’s famed “containment policy” vis-à-vis the Soviet Union didn’t just contain that superpower — it contained us, too. With the Soviet Union gone, the U.S. military was freed from containment. There was nowhere it couldn’t go and nothing it couldn’t do — or so the top officials of the Bush administration came into power thinking, even before 9/11. Consider our legacy military bases from the Cold War era that already spanned the globe in an historically unprecedented way. Built largely to contain the Soviets, they could be repurposed as launching pads for interventions of every sort. Consider all those weapon systems meant to deter Soviet aggression. They could be used to project power on a planet seemingly without rivals.
Now was the time to go for broke. Now was the time to go “all in,” to borrow the title of Paula Broadwell’s fawning biography of her mentor and lover, General David Petraeus. Under the circumstances, peace dividends were for wimps. In 1993, Madeleine Albright, secretary of state under Bill Clinton, caught the coming post-Cold War mood of twenty-first-century America perfectly when she challenged Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell angrily over what she considered a too-cautious U.S. approach to the former Yugoslavia. “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about,” she asked, “if we can’t use it?”
Yet even as civilian leaders hankered to flex America’s military muscle in unpromising places like Bosnia and Somalia in the 1990s, and Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, and Yemen in this century, the military itself has remained remarkably mired in Cold War thinking. If I could transport the 1990 version of me to 2015, here’s one thing that would stun him a quarter-century after the collapse of the Soviet Union: the force structure of the U.S. military has changed remarkably little. Its nuclear triad of land-based ICBMs, submarine-launched SLBMs, and nuclear-capable bombers remains thoroughly intact. Indeed, it’s being updated and enhanced at mind-boggling expense (perhaps as high as a trillion dollars over the next three decades). The U.S. Navy? Still built around large, super-expensive, and vulnerable aircraft carrier task forces. The U.S. Air Force? Still pursuing new, ultra-high-tech strategic bombers and new, wildly expensive fighters and attack aircraft — first the F-22, now the F-35, both supremely disappointing. The U.S. Army? Still configured to fight large-scale, conventional battles, a surplus of M-1 Abrams tanks sitting in mothballs just in case they’re needed to plug the Fulda Gap in Germany against a raging Red Army. Except it’s 2015, not 1990, and no mass of Soviet T-72 tanks remains poised to surge through that gap.
Much of our military today remains structured to meet and defeat a Soviet threat that long ago ceased to exist. (Occasional sparring matches with Vladimir Putin’s Russia in and around Ukraine do not add up to the heated “rumbles in the jungle” we fought with the Soviet leaders of yesteryear.) And it’s not just a matter of weaponry. Our military hierarchy remains wildly and unsustainably top-heavy, with a Cold War-style cupboard of generals and admirals, as if we were still stockpiling brass in case of another world war and a further expansion of what is already uncontestably the largest military on the planet. If you had asked me in 1990 what the U.S. military would look like in 2015, the one thing I wouldn’t have guessed was that, in its force structure, it would look basically the same.
This persistence of such Cold War structures and the thinking that goes with them is a vivid illustration of military inertia, the plodding last-war conservatism that is a common enough phenomenon in military history. It’s also a reminder that the military-industrial-congressional-complex that President Dwight Eisenhower first warned us about in 1961 remains in expansion mode more than half a century later, with its taste for business as usual (meaning, among other things, wildly expensive weapons systems). Above all, though, it’s an illustration of something far more disturbing: the failure of democratic America to seize the possibility of a less militarized world.
Today, it’s hard to recapture the heady optimism of 1990, the idea that this country, as after any war, might at least begin to take steps to demobilize, however modestly, to become a more peaceable land. That’s why 1990 should be considered the high-water mark of the U.S. military. At that moment, we were poised on the brink of a new normalcy — and then it all began to go wrong. To understand how, it’s important to see not just what remained the same, but also what began to change and just how we ended up with today’s mutant military.
Paramilitaries Without, Militaries Within, Civilian Torturers, and Assassins Withal
Put me back again in my slimmer, uniformed 1990 body and catapult me for a second time to 2015. What do I see in this military moment that surprises me? Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, for sure. Networked computers everywhere and the reality of a military preparing for “cyberwar.” Incessant talk of terrorism as America’s chief threat. A revival, however haltingly, of counterinsurgency operations, or COIN, a phenomenon abandoned in Vietnam with a stake through its heart (or so I thought then). Uncontrolled and largely unaccountable mass surveillance of civilian society that in the Cold War era would have been a hallmark of the “Evil Empire.”
More than anything, however, what would truly have shocked the 1990 version of me is the almost unimaginable way the military has “privatized” in the twenty-first century. The presence of paramilitary forces (mercenary companies like DynCorp and the former Blackwater, now joined with Triple Canopy in the Constellis Group) and private corporations like KBR doing typical military tasks like cooking and cleaning (what happened to privates doing KP?), delivering the mail, and mounting guard duty on military bases abroad; an American intelligence system that’s filled to the brim with tens of thousands of private contractors; a new Department of Defense called the Department of Homeland Security (“homeland” being a word I would once have associated, to be blunt, with Nazi Germany) that has also embraced paramilitaries and privatizers of every sort; the rapid rise of a special operations community, by the tens of thousands, that has come to constitute a vast, privileged, highly secretive military caste within the larger armed forces; and, most shocking of all, the public embrace of torture and assassination by America’s civilian leaders — the very kinds of tactics and techniques I associated in 1990 with the evils of communism.
Walking about in such a world in 2015, the 1990-me would truly find himself a stranger in a strange land. This time-traveling Bill Astore’s befuddlement could, I suspect, be summed up in an impolite sentiment expressed in three letters: WTF?
Think about it. In 2015, so many of America’s “trigger-pullers” overseas are no longer, strictly speaking, professional military. They’re mercenaries, guns for hire, or CIA drone pilots (some on loan from the Air Force), or warrior corporations and intelligence contractors looking to get in on a piece of the action in a war on terror where progress is defined — official denials to the contrary — by body count, by the number of “enemy combatants” killed in drone or other strikes.
Indeed, the very persistence of traditional Cold War structures and postures within the “big” military has helped hide the full-scale emergence of a new and dangerous mutant version of our armed forces. A bewildering mish-mash of special ops, civilian contractors (both armed and unarmed), and CIA and other intelligence operatives, all plunged into a penumbra of secrecy, all largely hidden from view (even as they’re openly celebrated in various Hollywood action movies), this mutant military is forever clamoring for a greater piece of the action.
While the old-fashioned, uniformed military guards its Cold War turf, preserved like some set of monstrous museum exhibits, the mutant military strives with great success to expand its power across the globe. Since 9/11, it’s the mutant military that has gotten the lion’s share of the action and much of the adulation — here’s looking at you, SEAL Team 6 — along with its ultimate enabler, the civilian commander-in-chief, now acting in essence as America’s assassin-in-chief.
Think of it this way: a quarter-century after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. military is completely uncontained. Washington’s foreign policies are strikingly military-first ones, and nothing seems to be out of bounds. Its two major parts, the Cold War-era “big” military, still very much alive and kicking, and the new-era military of special ops, contractors, and paramilitaries seek to dominate everything. Nuclear, conventional, unconventional, land, sea, air, space, cyber, you name it: all realms must be mastered.
Except it can’t master the one realm that matters most: itself. And it can’t find the one thing that such an uncontained military was supposed to guarantee: victory (not in a single place anywhere on Earth).
Loaded with loot and praised to the rafters, America’s uncontained military has no discipline and no direction. It never has to make truly tough choices, like getting rid of ICBMs or shedding its obscenely bloated top ranks of officers or cancelling redundant weapon systems like the F-35. It just aims to do it all, just about everywhere. As Nick Turse reported recently, U.S. special ops touched down in 150 countries between 2011 and 2014. And the results of all this activity have been remarkably repetitive and should by now be tragically predictable: lots of chaos spread, lots of casualties inflicted, and in every case, mission unaccomplished.
The Future Isn’t What It Used to Be
Say what you will of the Cold War, at least it had an end. The overriding danger of the current American military moment is that it may lack one.
Once upon a time, the U.S. military was more or less tied to continental defense and limited by strong rivals in its hegemonic designs. No longer. Today, it has uncontained ambitions across the globe and even as it continually stumbles in achieving them, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, or elsewhere, its growth is assured, as our leaders trip over one another in continuing to shower it with staggering sums of money and unconditional love.
No military should ever be trusted and no military should ever be left uncontained. Our nation’s founders knew this lesson. Five-star general Dwight D. Eisenhower took pains in his farewell address in 1961 to remind us of it again. How did we as a people come to forget it? WTF, America?
What I do know is this: Take an uncontained, mutating military, sprinkle it with unconditional love and plenty of dough, and you have a recipe for disaster. So excuse me for being more than a little nervous about what we’ll all find when America flips the calendar by another quarter-century to the year 2040.
“Military overreach” is a nice way I guess of putting the US ruthless/reckless plan for military control of the planet.
It´s name is POWER-HYBRIS. Trying to put the Roman Empire in the shade is asking for the same end.
“The military wants to do everything everywhere”. And Americans like it that way: THAT’s the problem. Between Hollywood, TV, every Politboro news organ from Business Insider to Fox News, National Friggin’ Geographic fer chrissakes extolling military porn, no wonder the plebs are so bloodthirsty. Last Christmas for the first time when Norad tracked Santa Claus on his journey from the North Pole his sleigh was escorted by two fighter jets. Gotta get ’em young.
Doesn’t seem to matter to anyone that the American military has not won a major engagement since WWII. Oh, except Grenada. America’s defining National Myth Monster rolls on.
Dennis Kucinich proposed a Department of Peace, just fund the hell out of it. Since the plebs operate in a “conscience-free zone”, pay enough people to shout “Peace Now!” at every possible turn and you might move the needle. Worked a treat in 1971.
It’s crushing to think how if even a fraction of the trillions sunk into maintaining military bloat–the F-35 boondoggle, or the mercenary contractors first come to mind–had been invested in U.S. education system, health care, and/or civic infrastructure, so many people and families would be alive and thriving today. And who knows if one of them was the next Marie Curie, George Washington Carver, or Hedy Lamarr?
‘Not so much a country with an army as an army with a country’ they used to say about Prussia. The US is increasingly beginning to resemble that description. Historically, countries with unconfined militaries end up in wars because sections of the military decide there must be a war, not because the civilian leadership decides. What his happening now in parts of the world (most notably Ukraine and elsewhere in eastern Europe) is beginning to resemble Manchuria in the 1930’s, when an unconstrained Japanese army simply decided to start a war (actually, more than one war) without even bothering to consult with Tokyo. Increasingly I do not think it is relevant who sits in the White House, the crucial decisions are not made there.
We’re the modern-age Sparta.
According to Boehner, our military can’t survive on a dime less than $604,000,000,000 a year. Because “it’s downright shameful … to even contemplate turning our backs on American troops.”
Every time you cut funding for an F-35 or a drone or a nuke, little baby Jesus weeps.
With one sad exception: our inequality extends to who bears the ultimate burden for that Sparta-like militarism. We’ve fobbed off imperial policing to mostly poor rural whites and Hispanics (blacks have largely internalized which way the wind is blowing and their participation rates in recruitment have dropped significantly). Every Spartan male who was not a Helot was a soldier. Here, we’ve upended that relationship so that those at the bottom make up the soldiery and those at the top never go near a barracks.
Plenty of blacks as well. Basically it is a well funded jobs program…….do nothing jobs…….huge benefits……out of sight medical care abuse……..as General Casey said, “a health care system that occasionally kills a terrorist.” What other industry exists in the US that can offer an average citizen a middle or lower middle class income? Local Fire? Good luck if you don’t have relatives and same with police.
The insane expense of operating the military and the impossibility of shutting it down or limiting it in any way it is a good part of the military’s (not to mention the empire’s) Achilles heel. The other part is it’s clunky, crusty, internal structure so resistant by hubris and habit to change and reason as Astore aptly describes. But it’s cold comfort.
As always with our Empire, the tragedy is that we seem fated to go through all the machinations, but worse all the unnecessary suffering put mainly on the innocent, of a system that has reached that level of complexity or what ever it is that triggers the downward spiral of self destruction.
Not so much like Sparta. It’s really more comparable to the late Roman Empire, when the individual legions became self-funding by looting, completely out of the control of the central government, and started acting as independent powerbases, overthrowing the emperor as often as they did their jobs…
“What his happening now in parts of the world (most notably Ukraine and elsewhere in eastern Europe) is beginning to resemble Manchuria in the 1930’s, when an unconstrained Japanese army simply decided to start a war (actually, more than one war) without even bothering to consult with Tokyo. ”
Also a good historical comparison. Japan was very lucky that the US decided not to utterly obliterate the country at the end of WWII. I hope the US is so lucky when the chickens come home to roost here.
Increasingly I do not think it is relevant who sits in the White House, the crucial decisions are not made there.
Hard to argue that point, but I suspect in reality it does matter in an odd sort of way. Executives have a sort of uncontrolled control like a car where the steering wheel is so loose as to be almost, but not quite, worthless. The President (and Obama with his narcissism is a pip for this) whirls the wheel and imagines he is at the helm, but the whole contraption, in reality, responds with a confused will of its own.
“Historically, countries with unconfined militaries end up in wars because sections of the military decide there must be a war, not because the civilian leadership decides”
Yes – think of the German Reichs I, II and III in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
It’s also notable that such countries LOSE their wars, because the sections of the professionalized military who want a war are narrowly-educated louts who don’t understand geopolitics. They can be crushed easily by politician-warlords like Napoleon or Mao.
It reminds me of how Bomber Command became like a giant machine during WW2. A bureaucracy which once put in motion ( as Kurt Vonnegut was told by a high level officer within it ), just kept on rolling even when it was realised, by many of the cogs working with in it that it was no longer serving a supposedly useful purpose.
There is a possibility that officer might have been the scientist Freeman Dyson, & here he talks about the sense of helplessness, when knowing something is very wrong within the organisation you are working for, but knowing that there is nothing you can do to change it :
Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer: “America is no mere international citizen. It is the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome. Accordingly, America is in a position to reshape norms, alter expectations, and create new realities. How? By unapologetic and implacable demonstrations of will.”
“Triumph Des Willens” was a huge fad last century. It came to a bad end 70 years ago.
Actually the best comparison is not Rome but Charles V, who also dreamed with Rome, like all European power-mongers ever. Like Charles V, the endless campaigns of the USA only manage to erode the empire, like Charles V, every other “second” power is trying to erode the influence of the USA, mostly with success, like Charles V, the hypertrophy of the military relies on an huge pile of debt, impossible to pay. The main difference is that Charles V used old-school money (silver and gold), while the USA uses paper-money.
It’s kind of an ouroboros of European imperialism: the beginning and the end of it.
Good comparison, but I’d also point out the Sun King of France, who also dreamed of being on top of the world, invaded lots of countries, lost all the wars he got involved in… it was a couple of kings later that the French Revolution happened.
I think the author is trying to say that our Democracy has been hijacked.
Military people tend to give too little credit to propaganda. Its an Empire of Illusion as much as it is an Empire of Chaos.
Americans have been too complacent about international relations. This allows our bought government a free hand for overseas adventures. But the war comes home in a variety of ways, from spying to cuts in social spending to militarized police and more.
H O P
I don’t think he is trying to say – he is saying it. Very clearly and concisely and encompassing all aspects of military malfeasance. The 1990 perspective is appropriate and chilling for those of us whose memories as adults reach back that far. It truly was a watershed moment, even perhaps a greater one than the 2000 election as far as this country’s potential for actual reversal of course is concerned.
Well done, Mr. Astore.
I understand the man’s thinking and praise him for it, but he doesn’t take the ultimate step which Chalmers Johnson did–to understanding that since NSC68 it was always about aggrandizement, not “containment.”
As an historian of Britain, the interesting thing for me intellectually (emotionally if find this all sickening and appalling) is how there was always a constituency for retrenchment in the UK, but it never cohered here, or hasn’t since Pearl Harbor. British defence spending was always cut after wars. Hell, it was Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1920s who carried through the so-called Geddes Axe and slashed the services unmercifully. Despite a vast empire, the British establishment was always leery of paying the high taxes needed for a huge military. I guess we owe a lot of this to Nixon closing the gold window and the death of Bretton Woods. Our unique position as issuer of the global currency with no check on how much of it we can issue makes our military extravaganzas possible.
In the “WTF America?” department, I wonder what James Levy and William Astore think of Michael J. Glennon’s “National Security and Double Government” ?
The title sounds like it sails close to the borders of the Deep State, but this review I just read:
says ‘This is no secret conspiracy nor a plot to deprive Americans of their civil liberties. It is the unintended consequence of a thoughtful attempt to head off the very threats that those attempts have inadvertently created’
Which sounds eerily like stevie’s relay of Freeman Dyson’s comment about Bomber Command above:
‘A bureaucracy which once put in motion ( as Kurt Vonnegut was told by a high level officer within it ), just kept on rolling even when it was realised, by many of the cogs working with in it that it was no longer serving a supposedly useful purpose’
So, if it’s just a blind monster driven by thousands of little bureaucratic decisions it should be easier to stop than if it’s actually an evil cabal of bad guys, yes? A last quote from Glennon casts some doubt:
“the term Orwellian will have little meaning to a people who have never known anything different, who have scant knowledge of history, civics, or public affairs, and who in any event have never heard of George Orwell.”
A fiat-money empire can be a household or not a household.
The choice is up to the people…the masters of the house.
“You have chosen…wisely.”
See Spot run! Run, Spot, run! See Dick shoot Jane! Shoot, Dick, shoot! See Dick show Vlad how to shoot, American style! And make tactical decisions just like successful US military! No more topheavy command and control! Except realtime GoPro Battlespace management by fatass dudes at Global Network-Centric Interoperababble Battlespace consoles!
“War In Ukraine,” now we know who the official Good Guys are!
We be fu___ed. Like Totally,, Timmy!
The most telling bit is that these glorious, freedom loving defenders of free Ukraine are speaking in … Russian?! WTF??? They speak Russian and the US trainers’ instructions get translated to them in Russian. I guess they haven’t had time to learn proper Bandera while fighting other Russian speakers…
I think this is the authors most significant blind spot:
We are not now nor have we ever been a democratic America. Beginning with the oft cited point by me that the D word does not exist in the Constitution. I say this understanding that the people even in a Democracy would likely approve if not demand to be a horrifically violent bunch. Who will change this, the Green party? Maybe, but only in a Democracy, the kind which abhors secrecy and lies as much as bloody war mongering itself.
I think this way as well. I sometimes think we really jumped the shark in the Cold War because we created so much advanced (mostly secret) technology it would stagger us all to learn about it. But the Cold War was the perfect window of history to accomplish this applied science. And now we are in a kind of existential crisis. Yes it was and is expensive to advance science at such a pace. And we will never know how that money has been spent because it’s all top secret. I wish we could apply block chain accounting to military procurement. Pin down every penny. And for this reason: that money could have been spent on creating a sustainable world but it was “misallocated” as the capitalists like to say. We failed to modernize our brains and our economy at a critical time. We should send the entire military to the psychologist and appoint a very enlightened bunch to change course at the DoD. The new Secty of Def is a curious guy. Almost likeable. I’d personally love to see the greatest oxymoron – a true peace, green peace preferably, even if it is a fascistic peace. It could be a great new economy.
You’re right – the money could been spent on creating a sustainable world.
Printing more doesn’t address the issue if we don’t correct the misallocation, and when we correct it, we will likely see we don’t need to print more.
Tinkering at the margins won’t work. Do what Ron Paul said: bring the troops home. When asked when he would do it, he replied “as soon as the boats can get there”.
THAT’s the world we need to be imagining: America with an unbelievably strong, successful fighting force (1/10th it’s current size) ready to defend our borders against every conceivable threat. Take another 1/10th of the force and put them to work on American soil building roads, bridges, TRAIN TRACKS, and hospitals HERE for a change. Aim 1/10th of the force to R&D, techno-science and manufacturing advancements they are already so good at. Loudly announce to the Taiwanese and the South Koreans and the Europeans and the Israelis that they must pay for their own defense. Faced with the impossibility of doing so just maybe they would find new ways to cooperate with their neighbors rather than simply hiding behind the World’s Apex Bully.
Words change meeting. There is nothing profound about noting America is a republic not a democracy. The Constitution starts with “we the people” and was ratified by conventions not governments. Since the D word means the people’s thing, I think we can really put this to rest.
What I find interesting is that the American people are becoming more and more suspicious and fearful of big government but are still enamored and almost fawning of a big military as if they are two separate things. They believe politicians are corrupt but the military brass are honorable and respect worthy. I’m not sure if this is caused by Hollywood, but there is a real cognitive dissidence in the minds of the American people. I hope they’re able to wake from this fantasy before it’s too late.
…I like the creative use of “dissidence” (misbelief) in this comment. I expected to see “dissonance” (inconsistency), but misbelief better describes the American mindset. A refusal to accept reality.
I don’t know if it’s ALL Hollywood’s fault, but they certainly have something to do with it. The military parasitic complex doesn’t cooperate with Hollywood projects like Top Gun for nothing. And it’s not just Hollywood, but news media which serves up blatant propaganda as “news” (yellowcake!) & pays members of the military-parasitic class to yabber away on network teevee. Not to mention the NFL which takes Pentagon dollars for salutes to soldiers. It’s like an oxoplasma gondii infection, where the protozoans take over rodent brains and drive them towards the cats.
Government is not just for building bridges.
Military is a big, big part*.
Let’s not overlook this reality when we are not being skeptical (but we should be) of the unlimited money creation authority (so claimed, but debatable) for the government to spend (so that it will trickle down to you), especially when we can do better – we can take away military spending and use it for all those things mentioned above (which we desperately need) by Harriet, at 4:02AM.
*Big Brother says he’s being ignored.
A good start would be to re-institute compulsory national service with NO DEFERMENTS. If there is pushback from uncooperative draftees, maybe that is valuable feedback that should be listened to. I am sure it was a dream come true when the brass got their professional, all volunteer army, and could then forge ahead with their plans knowing there would be little resistance from inside. For all of the untidiness of the Vietnam era protests, there was valuable feedback indicating the citizens had lost interest in pursuing that lost enterprise. If the policy makers knew that their children and grandchildren (and themselves !) were about to become cannon fodder they might think twice about starting new adventures.
You idea of compulsory national service with NO DEFERMENTS is a delusion. The rich will NEVER EVER EVER serve with the grunts. Get that straight. Short of revolution (and even then probably!!!).
We already know the criminal laws don’t’ apply to the rich. And we expect them not to get out of the law when not just their freedom (ie being sent to the slammer) but their lives are at stake. Yea right. As always we will die, they will profit. That’s the case even with voluntary recruitment. And it will be the case if they get the draft only no peasants will have any choice but to die in wars for their profit.
And the feedback from Vietnam took how many years to end the war? How many dead Americans? (dead Vietnamese too, yes but I’m talking about the war being ended out of self-interest and it’s impact on Americans, or rather that NOT actually happening historically, or at least not until it had gone on forever).
You want to give our unaccountable rulers in an ever more unaccountable government more power to send us to die (neo-liberals “go die” isn’t nothing, compared to being made to die and kill). Hasn’t Fast Track and the TPP at least shown us that there’s no democracy in the White House, no democracy in the Senate. And as everyone knows there’s no democracy in the Supreme Court. What’s left that cares what the populous wants? Maybe the House if the stars perfectly align.
If you want to make policy makers responsible for their wars, why not just send them and their children to die in them? They are rarely influenced by us anyway.
It’s sometimes as if we hardly need our rulers to stuff horrible nonsense down our throats (and they do of course), when sections of the population beg for it themselves. Few in power have argued for a draft lately (thank heavens for small mercies, maybe a draft is buried in the TPP text for all we’d know!). Well then we better do so. “Please, please, oh wise ruling class you haven’t done enough until you make my children die for you. Just as long as you promise it will be equal, and everyone will have an equal chance of dying, including your children, it will be equal right …. right?”
A draft over my dead body. There aren’t enough horrors in the world to worry about. I mean I understand wanting some kind of accountability if they read about another wedding being bombed, another kid having his legs blown off or being made into pink mist by the U.S. empire. But a draft of the powerless (the 99s) is questionable as a solution to that, but is certain to ruin THEIR lives. People who come back from these stupid wars are killing themselves right and left from the trauma already.
Our imperial military has no use for a draft. That just means more unreliable Troops that might , as they’ve done before, mutiny or decline to obey orders. I’m waiting for still newer versions of the Soldier’s Oath, that omit that stuff about supporting and defending the Constitution. The part about obeying LAWFUL orders is fading out, and drones and autonomous battle robots and UAVs and boats and sub’s and missiles (and mercenaries, for wet work in meatspace, are just so much more reliable, from the Brass Hat’s perspective. Too tired to look stuff up tonight, but a whole lot of planning is going into getting rid of GIs with their long term costs and problems.
So you need not fear having to become a dead body to resist a massive conscription… The Thing this post describes is a stage IV metastatic malignancy. Now we can all go back to our “Call of Duty” and
Blow some heads off, or a quick round of “Game of War” where you have a chance to ” build an Empire that will Last Forever!!” A little different theme than “Sim City,” right?
A drafted army is full of voters who want to get out either by winning or getting out. A professional army is full of people who want to stay in and have good references. The real guy from “A Few Good Men” got away with his behavior for so long because no one wanted to be labeled as not a team player. That clown at the VA Shinseki was praised as a great team player.
Edit. Meant as a reply to Henry
The people in the USA are a little more diverse than that. Many do not harbor such grand feelings about the military. Recall how many were opposed to actions in Syria, Iran, Ukraine. Back in 1990, there was some hoo-rah, but that was largely propaganga based. Many, like the author, were simply confused by Desert Storm. Of course, the light show streamed on TV made those predisposed to being led around by their noses fell all warm and fuzzy, so there was that support to show. That was also a time where the “markets” were just about to lift off and escape from reality, so there was so much $$$ for people to swim in that there was not any pain from these skirmishes, so they didn’t give it a 2nd thought. Without thinking, there is only the flashing screens, which do seem to be used by TPTB at every opportunity to mold the thoughts of the masses. At every point in our progression to this point, there was no shortage of Hollywood/propaganda. This is predictable, however. I believe it was Goebbels that said that it works the same in all times and places, and I’m sure that this is correct. I recall reading that a large percentage of the Germans & the Japanese had no idea of the reality of their situation during or even near the end of WW2.
As pervasive as the propaganda is, the USA has such a wide variety of people that they are trying to herd cats, with about as much success as expected. The main thing to remember is that all that is happening militarily is not in support of the USA, but rather of the moneyed interests, which are not actually contained within the borders of the USA, and is is many ways counter to the interests of the people in that country. There are many contributors to our political campaigns who are not US citizens. Even our super-rich consider themselves to be of a super-national class rather than US citizens. All of this is not about the USA. Our remaining political system still has some of the pesky remnants of a democracy, so there is some need to win us over to keep the charade going. We see that this is not going so well (i.e. TPP). Still, I’m sure that the MIC gets funding (official and unofficial) regardless of what the people think, just as the TBTF banks get what the need as far as trillions in credit/bailouts, simply because this structure maintains the status of the moneyed interests, which are again super-national. Of course, there are factions within these moneyed interests that would fight each other to the death given the logical progression of events.
Like you, I hope that there is much more wakening. People right now are in that phase of just coming out of sleep, and many are completely confused and disoriented. What a mess. Such is life.
Our super-rich are American-citizen patriots who support military spending, and at the same time, super-nationals with global profit outlook.
They are a long way from the provincial “we speak only one language” American middle class of the 50’s. They are fully aware of the global consequences of printing money (hot money in and out, but more significantly, as shown in this article – mutant military) here.
They know there is only one exceptional country that needs never to take out foreign currency loans.
They know there is only one exceptional country that can print fiat money as much as it wants and the rest of the world will share her burden (unlike say, Ukraine who can print as much as she likes, but no one other country will participate in economic-pain-sharing with her).
Per the Merriam–Webster dictionary : Patriotism – : having or showing great love and support for your country
Show me one way our super rich prove this love and support.
All I see is self-love and love of power. Support? How is hiding wealth in offshore accounts and shell companies supportive of their country? Show me the ranks of these rich that have volunteered for military service.
Prince, the head of Black Water was Navy SEAL.
Should have put quotation marks around ‘patriots.’
You commentators have it all wrong. After all, what would the Land of the Free be without its most viable industry, the manufacture and distribution of weapons of death? Conventional manufacturing and all the jobs it once generated have been off-shored to whatever country comes closest to pure slave labor. Farming has been subsumed into a form of industrial sharecropping , with the chief beneficiary being companies like Monsanto that control the genetic structure of the crops and banksters that supply credit to purchase the chemicals and machinery that are the primary inputs into what was once called farming.
The largest volume of “productive” activity in the country is in “finance” which has exactly the same contribution to the welfare of the nation as a vampire has to that of its’ host.
Liberals wring their hands because of what they see as the shortcomings of President Obama, ignoring his contribution to the welfare of the country. Under his leadership the US share of international arms trade has grown from a mere 60% to over 80%. Thank god we have at least one industry that still leads the world.
One word: Corruption
Congress allocates the funds. The Presidency and the Congress use the “military” as the definitive self-licking ice cream cone, channeling these vast and wasteful appropriations of fiat money to their cronies, while claiming to be anti-Big Government (it was former Nixon-strategist Mevin Phillips who pegged the Bush dynasty as nothing but a snarling hyena-pack of war-profiteers). Our Fearless Leader, congress-critters, and their cronies will find the rise of unaccountable surveillance and assassination described above to be a convenient resource when the masses who have been out-sourced by globalization continue with ever-larger Katrina/Ferguson/Baltimore-style uprisings. Just watch.
I will, but hopefully from a “resilient” sideline…
I agree with the points of this post. It just does not bring them to a logical conclusion.
Without the draft and tax on the wealthy, none of the wars that America is fighting from Ukraine to Somalia will be won. Simply stated, these privatized conflicts are a means to extract the remaining wealth from Americans until they are so burdened with debt that infrastructure and government collapses. North America will be borderless fiefdoms separated by language and cartel enforcers; that is if mankind avoids nuclear war, plagues, or a climate collapse.
OK, my third comment, this subject is very close to my heart.
Everyone uses an outdated lens when looking at war today, the old paradigm had nations seeking to acquire territory, resources, factories, the “spoils of war”. But today *war making itself* IS the treasure: no reason to try to capture and hold territory or resources, the mere act of making a new war pumps dollars to the corporate and government elites. We waste endless ink trying to parse the strategic implications of this or that conflict, who is in it, and what they could gain. That’s meaningless today: just go start punching someone, anyone. This explains America’s flailing around the globe, desperate to find a new enemy at every turn. The Cold War ending was a giant blow to these forces, the GWOT worked well for a while but is getting stale, hence the glee at demonizing Russia. In between we punch Libya, try to punch Syria, get all bloodthirsty about Iran…I mean it’s just so obvious. None of these have to have any glimmer of rationale about being in our “strategic interest”, when KFC gets multi-million $ no-bid contracts to set up shop behind the trenches, you know the fix is in.
I generally agree, but I think that there is another dimension: exerting stronger control over the population as its standard of living declines ever more. The War on Terra ushered in the legalization of the tools for control: domestic surveillance, the militarization of police, the creation of the fusion centers, etc. Of course that’s good for bidness, so we really have a twofer. So for all the justified criticisms toward the author’s belief that we actually had a democracy, he is correct that whatever crapp and imperfect illusion of freedom there was is taken away gradually.
The MIC gets rich, but there’s really no other purpose? No oil, no pipelines, no minerals, no petrodollar, no markets to neoliberalize and conquer, noone to overthrow who is not going along, no strategic military bases to establish?
I dunno, if Iraq was about the oil, then why didn’t we get any? The Chinese did. And I’m not sure how we neo-liberalize markets with the military…threaten we will invade? I know Hilary threatened Sweden with reduced cooperation/funds if they didn’t lighten up on Monsanto…pretty sure she didn’t say we would invade though.
And as far as installing our own bad guys, maybe it’s the one-two punch: green helicopters to get rid of the previous guy, then the rep from the IMF shows up for the Economic Hitman routine.
Through NATO’s military umbrella, NATO being the PC name for the US military occupation of the “allies”. When dependent on the US for defense from the “enemies” we spend so much time and treasure to cultivate, we ensure our native compradors’ loyalty and also their protection from the natives in case they get restless and dissatisfied. Full spectrum dominance, baby!
Reply to: “Open the Pod Bay Doors, Hal……..”
Great line/scene in “Crimson Tide”….directly speaks to your note of “…..war being the enemy (para)…”
Denzel Washington…….”In my opinion, the true enemy is war itself”
(In reply to a pompous “Captain (Gene Hackman) of a nuclear sub”, query as to what Denzel W. believed the “true enemy” is/was…….)
This column is quite lopsided. Iraq is over, the US is not invading Yemen, there may yet be a nuclear deal signed with Iran, and Russia is contained (for the moment) in Ukraine. The 21st Century is all about Asia and China…and the US pivot to Asia continues.
The US provides target intelligence to the Saudis, so it is a proxy war. And how, pray tell, is Russia contained in Ukraine? The events of the past coupe of days point to the beginning of Western retreat from Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russia and China went to great length to project an image of cooperation, with the leadership inseparable during the Victory Day parade and Chinese formations marching on the Red Square (with Russian formations set to return the courtesy in August’s celebrations of the end of WW2 in Beijing). Which shows that the pursuit of the pivot to Asia will only gobble ever increasing amounts…
Because the Russians are barely involved. If they were in the Ukraine, there would be non stop propaganda from the usual suspects. Instead, they put up images from other times or places, but if they had evidence, Powers would be banging a shoe at the UN.
This column is quite lopsided. Iraq is over
Are you serious?
, the US is not invading Yemen,
But our poxy KSA is. Fully armed and supported by the US.
there may yet be a nuclear deal signed with Iran
Let us hope that will happen.
, and Russia is contained (for the moment) in Ukraine.
Have you been paying attention? Russia is in the process of winning its position with respect to Ukraine. Did you you even read Kerry’s statements at his press conference in Sochi a few days ago? The contents of Minsk2? Russia’s statements on federalization of Ukraine that were made last year?
turn off your t.v.!
A lot of the points made in this post are a little dated. Some sound like the author drank too much of the KoolAid passed around at the time and it’s finally wearing off. Just touching on one:
“The U.S. Army? Still configured to fight large-scale, conventional battles, a surplus of M-1 Abrams tanks sitting in mothballs just in case they’re needed to plug the Fulda Gap in Germany against a raging Red Army.”
Around the end of Poppy Bush’s [Mr. CIA and Mr. Shadow Iran Contra Man] Iraq war, the US Army was organized around Corps or Division size force structures best suited for a large scale war. However, following Desert Storm, many of the planners and theorists were re-thinking these basic structures as well as the larger strategy for structuring the world-wide Army forces. “Modular Army”, “Army Modernization” grew into large scale efforts to re-structure and re-equip the Army forces. These efforts coincided with changes to the Army mission. I didn’t follow this process and its history well enough to trace its history — but today’s Army is organized around modular brigade structures similar to the kinds of smaller force structure the Marine Corps have used for years to enable quick deployment of smaller self-contained forces — “expeditionary” forces. [If you’re interested, I believe the Army’s Mission Statements and Planning documents are available to the public so you could trace the evolution in thinking if you wanted, but first better make several large urns of coffee.]
I don’t know about the hordes of mothballed Abrams, but I believe they exist. What impressed me were the large numbers of Humvees issued to units and replaced in theater with Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles using some specially created paperwork and paid for using the unit’s discretionary funds. The armor on the initial versions of the Humvees was too thin. “Up-Armor” Humvees replaced Humvees and in turn were replaced with MRAP vehicles as it became evident the Up-Armor Humvees were too vulnerable to improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The force structure designs still allocated Humvees the last I was involved with that work. As far as I know many of these expensive vehicles ended up in storage. For a while they were considered temporary bridges to the future force built around the Future Combat Systems (FCS), a multi-billion dollar boondoggle which I suspect still haunts the Army higher command when they struggle for DoD dollars today. Bottom line is that a lot of waste very profitable to the large defense contractors who paid for the Bush trademark, was created during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But this colossal waste isn’t evidence that the Army is still organized to fight a major ground war with Russia. It is good evidence that mistakes were made and saving face is more important than saving tax-payer money, and besides none of the big Defense contractors complained.
Pretty much spot on the reorganization of the Army. It began about 2001 with the introduction of the Stryker and accelerated in earnest after we went after Saddam. Remember, during the initial invasion it still was divisions (though stripped down) who did the deed. M1A2s are still being procured, matter of fact, even though there are already a ton of these dinosaurs around. What’s more, the development of M1A3s is set to start in two to three years. General Dynamics has to pay the shareholders, don’t you know…
Humvees: awesome dune buggies just as long as no one is shooting at you with RPGs or setting off IEDs. The Iraqi rascals even had a sense of humor: I’ve personally seen IED locations marked with red, white, and blue ribbons to help the triggerman time his blast perfectly. Forget light armor, most humvees had none initially. It was either a stamped metal doors for the combat arms or plastic on tube frame for combat support. A few up-armored humvees here and there. When we deployed in the end of 2003, my unit had no armor of any kind on our humvees. The production of up-armored humvees was just ramping up Stateside, meanwhile combat arms were receiving completely inadequate bolt-on armor kits. Support units were receiving none, even though this was a war with no rear where every unit could become frontline in a heartbeat. The more enterprising of them would get their hands on scrap armor and torches and fashion themselves a Mad Max version of humvees and 5-ton gun trucks. It was mostly worthless protection but it did provide a bit of psychological boost to soldiers. Not much urgency to actually provide proper protection until that dude went of on Rummy in Camp Udairi in Kuwait and people in the States could support our troops not only with yellow ribbon magnets but also by demanding that more money be spent of the war machine. Because the concept of bringing the troops home and not being in constant wars is just unthinkable for the modern American consumer….
The military needs to prove it’s relevance, so it’s out creating enemies. That’s basically it. FBI and CIA have joined with them, take the case of the FBI actively recruiting, with money, poor people to act like terrorists so they can show how much we need them. 4 people set up and convicted
“Above all, though, it’s an illustration of something far more disturbing: the failure of democratic America to seize the possibility of a less militarized world.”
As Perry Mason would say, assumes facts not in evidence.
More like ‘the failure of a militarized America to sieze the possibility of a democratic world‘.