By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. GP article archive here. Originally published at DownWithTyranny
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 opportunitiesfor 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…
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 16, 2017
and increase his domestic spying powers in the next…
55 Democrats voted against your constitutional rights and opposed the USA RIGHTS amendment. Had 26 voted the other way, we would have won. Among them is Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff. pic.twitter.com/7WHwPFGEIm
— Daniel Schuman (@danielschuman) January 11, 2018
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.
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 guerreas 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.