America’s War Exceptionalism Is Killing the Planet

By William Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and history professor. His personal blog is Bracing Views. Originally published at TomDispatch

Ever since 2007, when I first started writing for TomDispatch, I’ve been arguing against America’s forever wars, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, or elsewhere. Unfortunately, it’s no surprise that, despite my more than 60 articles, American blood is still being spilled in war after war across the Greater Middle East and Africa, even as foreign peoples pay a far higher price in lives lost and cities ruined. And I keep asking myself: Why, in this century, is the distinctive feature of America’s wars that they never end? Why do our leaders persist in such repetitive folly and the seemingly eternal disasters that go with it?

Sadly, there isn’t just one obvious reason for this generational debacle. If there were, we could focus on it, tackle it, and perhaps even fix it. But no such luck.

So why do America’s disastrous wars persist? I can think of many reasons, some obvious and easy to understand, like the endless pursuit of profit through weapons sales for those very wars, and some more subtle but no less significant, like a deep-seated conviction in Washington that a willingness to wage war is a sign of national toughness and seriousness. Before I go on, though, here’s another distinctive aspect of our forever-war moment: Have you noticed that peace is no longer even a topic in America today? The very word, once at least part of the rhetoric of Washington politicians, has essentially dropped out of use entirely. Consider the current crop of Democratic candidates for president. One, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, wants to end regime-change wars, but is otherwise a self-professed hawk on the subject of the war on terror. Another, Senator Bernie Sanders, vows to end “endless wars” but is careful to express strong support for Israel and the ultra-expensive F-35 fighter jet. The other dozen or so tend to make vague sounds about cutting defense spending or gradually withdrawing U.S. troops from various wars, but none of them even consider openly speaking of peace. And the Republicans? While President Trump may talk of ending wars, since his inauguration he’s sent more troops to Afghanistan and into the Middle East, while greatly expanding drone and other air strikes, something about which he openly boasts.

War, in other words, is our new normal, America’s default position on global affairs, and peace, some ancient, long-faded dream. And when your default position is war, whether against the Taliban, ISIS, “terror” more generally, or possibly even Iran or Russia or China, is it any surprise that war is what you get? When you garrison the world with an unprecedented 800 or so military bases, when you configure your armed forces for what’s called power projection, when you divide the globe — the total planet — into areas of dominance (with acronyms like CENTCOM, AFRICOM, and SOUTHCOM) commanded by four-star generals and admirals, when you spend more on your military than the next seven countries combined, when you insist on modernizing a nuclear arsenal (to the tune of perhaps $1.7 trillion) already quite capable of ending all life on this and several other planets, what can you expect but a reality of endless war?

Think of this as the new American exceptionalism. In Washington, war is now the predictable (and even desirable) way of life, while peace is the unpredictable (and unwise) path to follow. In this context, the U.S. must continue to be the most powerful nation in the world by a country mile in all death-dealing realms and its wars must be fought, generation after generation, even when victory is never in sight. And if that isn’t an “exceptional” belief system, what is?

If we’re ever to put an end to our country’s endless twenty-first-century wars, that mindset will have to be changed. But to do that, we would first have to recognize and confront war’s many uses in American life and culture.

War, Its Uses (and Abuses)

A partial list of war’s many uses might go something like this: war is profitable, most notably for America’s vast military-industrial complex; war is sold as being necessary for America’s safety, especially to prevent terrorist attacks; and for many Americans, war is seen as a measure of national fitness and worthiness, a reminder that “freedom isn’t free.” In our politics today, it’s far better to be seen as strong and wrong than meek and right.

As the title of a book by former war reporter Chris Hedges so aptly put it, war is a force that gives us meaning. And let’s face it, a significant part of America’s meaning in this century has involved pride in having the toughest military on the planet, even as trillions of tax dollars went into a misguided attempt to maintain bragging rights to being the world’s sole superpower.

And keep in mind as well that, among other things, never-ending war weakens democracy while strengthening authoritarian tendencies in politics and society. In an age of gaping inequality, using up the country’s resources in such profligate and destructive ways offers a striking exercise in consumption that profits the few at the expense of the many.

In other words, for a select few, war pays dividends in ways that peace doesn’t. In a nutshell, or perhaps an artillery shell, war is anti-democratic, anti-progressive, anti-intellectual, and anti-human. Yet, as we know, history makes heroes out of its participants and celebrates mass murderers like Napoleon as “great captains.”

What the United States needs today is a new strategy of containment — not against communist expansion, as in the Cold War, but against war itself. What’s stopping us from containing war? You might say that, in some sense, we’ve grown addicted to it, which is true enough, but here are five additional reasons for war’s enduring presence in American life:

  • The delusional idea that Americans are, by nature, winners and that our wars are therefore winnable: No American leader wants to be labeled a “loser.” Meanwhile, such dubious conflicts — see: the Afghan War, now in its 18th year, with several more years, or even generations, to go — continue to be treated by the military as if they were indeed winnable, even though they visibly aren’t. No president, Republican or Democrat, not even Donald J. Trump, despite his promises that American soldiers will be coming home from such fiascos, has successfully resisted the Pentagon’s siren call for patience (and for yet more trillions of dollars) in the cause of ultimate victory, however poorly defined, farfetched, or far-off.
  • American society’s almost complete isolation from war’s deadly effects: We’re not being droned (yet). Our cities are not yet lying in ruins (though they’re certainly suffering from a lack of funding, as is our most essential infrastructure, thanks in part to the cost of those overseas wars). It’s nonetheless remarkable how little attention, either in the media or elsewhere, this country’s never-ending war-making gets here.
  • Unnecessary and sweeping secrecy: How can you resist what you essentially don’t know about? Learning its lesson from the Vietnam War, the Pentagon now classifies (in plain speak: covers up) the worst aspects of its disastrous wars. This isn’t because the enemy could exploit such details — the enemy already knows! — but because the American people might be roused to something like anger and action by it. Principled whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning have been imprisoned or otherwise dismissed or, in the case of Edward Snowden, pursued and indicted for sharing honest details about the calamitous Iraq War and America’s invasive and intrusive surveillance state. In the process, a clear message of intimidation has been sent to other would-be truth-tellers.
  • An unrepresentative government: Long ago, of course, Congress ceded to the presidency most of its constitutional powers when it comes to making war. Still, despite recent attempts to end America’s arms-dealing role in the genocidal Saudi war in Yemen (overridden by Donald Trump’s veto power), America’s duly elected representatives generally don’t represent the people when it comes to this country’s disastrous wars. They are, to put it bluntly, largely captives of (and sometimes on leaving politics quite literally go to work for) the military-industrial complex. As long as money is speech (thank you, Supreme Court!), the weapons makers are always likely to be able to shout louder in Congress than you and I ever will.
  • America’s persistent empathy gap. Despite our size, we are a remarkably insular nation and suffer from a serious empathy gap when it comes to understanding foreign cultures and peoples or what we’re actually doing to them. Even our globetrotting troops, when not fighting and killing foreigners in battle, often stay on vast bases, referred to in the military as “Little Americas,” complete with familiar stores, fast food, you name it. Wherever we go, there we are, eating our big burgers, driving our big trucks, wielding our big guns, and dropping our very big bombs. But what those bombs do, whom they hurt or kill, whom they displace from their homes and lives, these are things that Americans turn out to care remarkably little about.

All this puts me sadly in mind of a song popular in my youth, a time when Cat Stevens sang of a “peace train” that was “soundin’ louder” in America. Today, that peace train’s been derailed and replaced by an armed and armored one eternally prepared for perpetual war — and that train is indeed soundin’ louder to the great peril of us all.

War on Spaceship Earth

Here’s the rub, though: even the Pentagon knows that our most serious enemy is climate change, not China or Russia or terror, though in the age of Donald Trump and his administration of arsonists its officials can’t express themselves on the subject as openly as they otherwise might. Assuming we don’t annihilate ourselves with nuclear weapons first, that means our real enemy is the endless war we’re waging against Planet Earth.

The U.S. military is also a major consumer of fossil fuels and therefore a significant driver of climate change. Meanwhile, the Pentagon, like any enormously powerful system, only wants to grow more so, but what’s welfare for the military brass isn’t wellness for the planet.

There is, unfortunately, only one Planet Earth, or Spaceship Earth, if you prefer, since we’re all traveling through our galaxy on it. Thought about a certain way, we’re its crewmembers, yet instead of cooperating effectively as its stewards, we seem determined to fight one another. If a house divided against itself cannot stand, as Abraham Lincoln pointed out so long ago, surely a spaceship with a disputatious and self-destructive crew is not likely to survive, no less thrive.

In other words, in waging endless war, Americans are also, in effect, mutinying against the planet. In the process, we are spoiling the last, best hope of earth: a concerted and pacific effort to meet the shared challenges of a rapidly warming and changing planet.

Spaceship Earth should not be allowed to remain Warship Earth as well, not when the existence of significant parts of humanity is already becoming ever more precarious. Think of us as suffering from a coolant leak, causing cabin temperatures to rise even as food and other resources dwindle. Under the circumstances, what’s the best strategy for survival: killing each other while ignoring the leak or banding together to fix an increasingly compromised ship?

Unfortunately, for America’s leaders, the real “fixes” remain global military and resource domination, even as those resources continue to shrink on an ever-more fragile globe. And as we’ve seen recently, the resource part of that fix breeds its own madness, as in President Trump’s recently stated desire to keep U.S. troops in Syria to steal that country’s oil resources, though its wells are largely wrecked (thanks in significant part to American bombing) and even when repaired would produce only a miniscule percentage of the world’s petroleum.

If America’s wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen prove anything, it’s that every war scars our planet — and hardens our hearts. Every war makes us less human as well as less humane. Every war wastes resources when these are increasingly at a premium. Every war is a distraction from higher needs and a better life.

Despite all of war’s uses and abuses, its allures and temptations, it’s time that we Americans showed some self-mastery (as well as decency) by putting a stop to the mayhem. Few enough of us experience “our” wars firsthand and that’s precisely why some idealize their purpose and idolize their practitioners. But war is a bloody, murderous mess and those practitioners, when not killed or wounded, are marred for life because war functionally makes everyone involved into a murderer.

We need to stop idealizing war and idolizing its so-called warriors. At stake is nothing less than the future of humanity and the viability of life, as we know it, on Spaceship Earth.

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30 comments

  1. Toske

    U.S. leadership’s message to the world:
    “We have the weapons, manpower and money to ruin your country if it tries to upset our dominance (e.g. the Petrodollar), and we don’t care how long our invasion has to last, nor whether we “win” by some passe definition of the word. Our citizens will go along with whatever narrative we feed them, so don’t you worry about our ability to make it happen, no matter the cost to them in blood and treasure. Be careful now.”

    Reply
    1. JTMcPhee

      “War is a racket.” Can’t have that said too often. All the stuff that MG Smedley Butler described in 1935 is still the case, and worse, today. For anyone who hasn’t read his booklet, here it is: https://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html

      Another item that can gain from renewed and repeated attention is the much older wisdom laid down by Sun Tzu:

      1. Sun Tzu said: In the operations of war, where there are in the field a thousand swift chariots, as many heavy chariots, and a hundred thousand mail-clad soldiers, with provisions enough to carry them a thousand li, the expenditure at home and at the front, including entertainment of guests, small items such as glue and paint, and sums spent on chariots and armor, will reach the total of a thousand ounces of silver per day. Such is the cost of raising an army of 100,000 men.

      2. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men’s weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength.

      3. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain.

      4. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.

      5. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.

      6. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.. http://www.artofwarsuntzu.com/Art%20of%20War%20PDF.pdf

      “There is no instance of a COUNTRY having benefited,” as opposed to the parasites and tumors that plague the whole nation, all the stuff that Astore notes as the systemic drivers of perpetual war.

      I’d offer once again that the US imperial War Department, in its massive Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, has a bureaucrat’s hyperdozen of precise definitions of all the terms that characterize the whole vast Milo Minderbinder Enterprise. Here is a random one I came across that seems to capture the essence of the whole whirligig (there are many more):

      Adaptive Planning and Execution — A Department of Defense enterprise of joint policies, processes, procedures, and reporting structures, supported by communications and information technology, that is used by the joint planning and execution community to monitor, plan, and execute mobilization, deployment, employment, sustainment, redeployment, and demobilization activities associated with joint operations. Also called APEX. (JP 5-0)

      But nowhere in that dictionary will you find a definition of “war,” except by inference from the hundreds of times the word is used in compound words and phrases. Nor will you find a definition of “peace,” except by inference from its inclusion in other entries, as below:

      peace building — Stability actions that strengthen and rebuild a society’s institutions, infrastructure, and civic life to avoid a relapse into conflict. Also called PB. See also peace enforcement; peacekeeping; peacemaking; peace operations. (JP 3-07.3)

      peace enforcement — Application of military force, or the threat of its use, normally pursuant to international authorization, to compel compliance with resolutions or sanctions designed to maintain or restore peace and order. See also peace building; peacekeeping; peacemaking; peace operations. (JP 3-07.3)

      peacekeeping — Military operations undertaken, with the consent of all major parties to a dispute, designed to monitor and facilitate implementation of an agreement (cease fire, truce, or other such agreement) and support diplomatic efforts to reach a long-term political settlement. See also peace building; peace enforcement; peacemaking; peace operations. (JP 3-07.3)

      peacemaking — The process of diplomacy, mediation, negotiation, or other forms of peaceful settlements that arranges an end to a dispute and resolves issues that led to it. Also called PM. See also peace building; peace enforcement; peacekeeping; peace operations.
      (JP 3-07.3)

      peace operations — Multiagency and multinational crisis response and limited contingency operations involving all instruments of national power with military missions to contain conflict, redress the peace, and shape the environment to support reconciliation and rebuilding and facilitate the transition to legitimate governance. Also called PO. See also peace building; peace enforcement; peacekeeping; and peacemaking. (JP 3-07.3) https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/dictionary.pdf

      “Peace” is thus a fortuitous and ephemeral and rare period between episodes of “military missions and operations.” It’s a state that has to be maintained and enforced by military force. That kind of Lexicon controls the available framing of thinking about instituting something other than the crap that is going on now.

      And another interesting lacunae in the Dictionary is the absence of any definition of “success” or “victory.” The former term appears multiple times in the Milbabble bureaucratic jargon, as here:

      completeness — The plan review criterion for assessing whether operation plans incorporate major operations and tasks to be accomplished and to what degree they include forces required, deployment concept, employment concept, sustainment concept, time estimates for achieving objectives, description of the end state, mission success criteria, and mission termination criteria. (JP 5-0)

      But “success” or its synonyms are never defined.

      And “victory?” Never defined at all, not even used anywhere in the Dictionary. Says something about the nature of the whole Pentagram and its worthless General Officers and Colonel Corps and their corporate appendages. Not a thought given to “victory,” an embarrassing notion to these failures in command, who gin up wars at the end of immense supply lines that run on forever and exhaust the wealth of the nation and run uncounted numbers of “soft target collateral damage” humans over the cliff. The Brass seem well aware that these are wars improvidently, but short-term-profitably, started, and wars that they don’t eve expect to ever, you know, “win,” so don’t draw attention to the charade by being stupid enough to define a term, “victory,” against which their activities and losses can be measured.

      Sun Tzu said that “15. The general that hearkens to my counsel and acts upon it, will conquer: let such a one be retained in command! The general that hearkens not to my counsel nor acts upon it, will suffer defeat:—let such a one be dismissed!” There’s occasional and desultory talk about offloading The Imperium’s losing generals, a bit of a good idea, but a very limited one measured against the advice of Sun Tzu about how to identify situations where engaging in “war” is stupid and a death wish for the nation that nevertheless chooses “war.” One can match every one of Sun Tzu’s metrics on what constitutes stupid war with every element of “policy” in America’s imperial forever war making.

      Reply
  2. Ignacio

    For me the best metaphore of the military complex is a metastatic cancer. What makes this article genuinely true is the identification, first and foremost, of military expenses as the root of the never ending wars. The non-militarized, but otherwise powerful, US that existed before WWI, healing from the civil war, changed through both WWI and WWII to the military superpower is now. Americans can rigthly blame europeans and japanese for this turn but looking backwards all the time is not leadership. It is laggardship. Cancer cells are also laggards slowly growing and rotting all around.

    Reply
  3. cnchal

    > It’s nonetheless remarkable how little attention, either in the media or elsewhere, this country’s never-ending war-making gets here.

    Oh come on, man.

    Every second night on the national news is a heartwarming story of the happy child that sees GI Dad or Mom pop out of a confetti filled balloon and the joyous reunion of the family. Happy, happy, happy!

    Oh look, there’s David Muir riding in a helicopter with an army helmet on his head. How dashing and daring. Oh, now he is talking to the little boy on the ground with no family anymore, how sad. Lucky it’s not your child, eh?

    Lots and lots of attention, with a thick application of Bernays sauce to inhibit the brain’s logic function.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      The NFL is our surrogate when it comes to warfare…

      The league does as it’s told, whether having all the coaching staff wear clothing with camo hoodies, or the ex-players/coaches in the broadcasting booth wearing American flag lapel pins, as if they were the President unsure of his citizenship and in need of a constant reminder. A MILF on the sidelines will gleefully describe in loving terms, a successful bomb thrown on coverage blown, and perhaps the cheerleaders on the Patriots could do a Kabul appearance, cheering on the troops @ a USO show there?

      Reply
      1. cnchal

        > The league does as it’s told paid.

        There is a price tag when selling venality. The military blows money on bombs. Why not blow money onto the NFL? The billionaire owners could use the money for important things, like for instance, float moar yachts.

        See, socialism works, just not for the peasants. Particularly the maimed peasants back home from the battlefield.

        Reply
        1. sierra7

          So many NFL pre-game exercises display all the seeds of the “Nuremberg Rallies”……Goebbels couldn’t do it any better!!
          Thoroughly disgusting!
          Waging war is easy; it’s waging peace that is hard.
          Americans don’t do “hard”…….
          (I should add that many other governments don’t do hard either when it comes to peace)
          It’s just that we do have the power to lead to some form of “peace” in this world; it just isn’t as profitable as war. And, doesn’t feed the ego as well…….sad.

          Reply
  4. Martha

    Your themes of ‘endless war’ and ‘give peace a chance’ are at once timeless,,, and timely:

    After brainstorming ideas for a new climate cooperative over the weekend, I was excited to spot the following Guardian (guardian.co.uk) website headline this morning: “John Kerry launches coalition to fight climate crisis: ‘We are way behind’ ” But my initial enthusiasm turned to dismay when reading that the coalition is branded ‘World War 0’. And after following the Guardian’s link to the coalition’s website I was even more depressed. They used the language of war to describe the climate crisis:

    “We’re uniting unlikely allies with one common mission: making the world respond to the climate crisis the same way we mobilized to win World War II. Join the movement to achieve net zero carbon emissions and create millions of new jobs in the process. Together, we’ll win this war. Join us and enlist today.”

    Already that language has been changed on the site’s front page, but it can still be read on today’s snapshot at Internet Archive Wayback Machine (http://web.archive.org/web/20191202043319/https://worldwarzero.com/)

    Reply
    1. JEHR

      There is a very good rationale for labeling every effort at change as a War: war on drugs, war on poverty, war on Terrorism, war on….. (you name it). It seems that war has befuddled the brains of even the best people America offers the world. And it all seems catching as other nations invoke the same wars in their own efforts at making things better or at least different. Only a huge, monstrous catastrophe will enlighten the people and I do not know what that may be but it will first arrive on home soil as suggested in the article.

      It is amazing how deluded and how self-aware a people can be at the same time! I feel such empathy for those who are trying to make the necessary changes.

      Reply
  5. urblintz

    I find it disturbing that the only politicians named in this piece are Sanders, Gabbard and Trump, as if war lust is only now condensed into some implacable force defining our culture. I’m 63 and the USA has been warring somewhere on this earth (or supporting others doing the same) during my entire life.

    Reply
    1. anon y'mouse

      perhaps that is the point—that our war addiction is so overwhelming, that leaders who are for changing direction on other issues still can’t wrap their minds around it.

      it is telling when the very people who should have been, in an alternate universe, calling for an end to these things try to hide behind tentative statements that ultimately support it.

      whether they do that from true belief, or simply for election purposes is probably irrelevant. in the end, it is the same. they can’t speak the unspeakable–PEACE. the very idea is verboten in our society. we have our own conception of “peace” and that means not being bothered with visuals of blown up bodies, nor being shown directly that resource wastage over there leads directly to our society being driven to what were once considered “third world” levels (yes, i know the term is derogatory) in nearly all of its aspects.

      we can’t even educate our people “for free”, or give them clean water and working sewerage, much less health care and high speed trains (Uzbekistan has one, but we don’t). but we can blow ____ up all over the world. and we have trained our citizens to be content, and even happy with that. maybe Sanders, Gabbard et al are merely similarly brainwashed? they are definitely not ignorant of these facts, so what could be their reason for continuing to support it?

      Reply
  6. urblintz

    “Adam Schiff, Donald Trump’s primary antagonist in Russiagate, and now impeachment, is wholly owned by the defense industry. His interest in selling American weapons to Ukraine ties directly to campaign contributions he receives from the corporations that manufacture these weapons.

    If fealty to the law were applied, all of the senior members of the George W. Bush administration plus those in oversight positions in Congress would be in prison for the U.S. War of Aggression against Iraq and illegal torture. This would include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who, as a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, was told about the CIA’s illegal torture program and signed off on it. The history of the rich using the law as a lever of social control renders the liberal theory of it implausible, no matter how passionately it is argued for.” https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/12/02/ukraine-the-new-cold-war-and-the-politics-of-impeachment/

    Reply
    1. pjay

      Thanks for this link — an excellent summation of our current situation. Counterpunch is often disappointing these days, but it still publishes some good work. Rob Urie’s is some of the best.

      This article is mainly a fine history lesson on the realities (vs. the propaganda) of Russiagate/Ukrainegate. But here is Urie’s concluding paragraph:

      “The establishment Democrats are determined to have it their way. Screw democracy, screw the will of the people, screw the wellbeing of the people, screw acting on the people’s behalf, they’re going to elect themselves a billionaire. And, they’d be fine with a right-wing rebellion— rich people love fascism. We’re on our own. Work for Bernie. Vote for Bernie. Thanks for the political clarification Obama!”

      Reply
    2. sierra7

      See the documentary:
      “The Report”
      https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=The+Report
      It is a remarkable piece of work; it really sticks to the real events that show how our own elected leaders are subservient to the CIA, other intelligence agencies…..and scary to think that the CIA has not boundaries when it comes to upsetting event the congressional/senate leaderships to pursue their own agendas which in too many cases are contrary to pursuing a peaceful world. The closest piece of historical work that even comes close to exposing our “deep state” intelligence (oxymoronic) agencies pollution of our democratic system would be the “Church Commission Reports” (Put in your browser or go to your local library and request) many decades ago. All Americans should have been required to read this past report in secondary schools. Maybe we might not be in the mess we are in today if we had. How many more lies do we have to be told by all our “elected” leaders before we revolt????

      Reply
  7. DJG

    Thank you. This is today’s must-read article.

    And Astore makes the uncomfortably accurate insight into U.S. hybris:

    Before I go on, though, here’s another distinctive aspect of our forever-war moment: Have you noticed that peace is no longer even a topic in America today? The very word, once at least part of the rhetoric of Washington politicians, has essentially dropped out of use entirely.

    Moral bankruptcy, helped along by the bipartisan consensus, the business class, and the academics who have hallucinations of The End of History and such.

    Ironically, the U S of A is lucky that the officer corps of the military is highly educated and highly trained. These have led to some (slight) restraint.

    Ironically, we also see more and more of the Military as Résumé Builder from the likes of Mayor Pete and Sen. Tom Cotton (a veritable low-life out of a Sinclair Lewis novel).

    And the war has come home–also being covered up–in the form of stresses, illness, patriotic fakery, patriotic sycophancy, and suicides.

    Reply
    1. RBHoughton

      Well said DJG and thanks for commenting. Complete agreement here. I wish to also emphasize Astore’s pertinent list of five causes of war addiction. I will circulate those five to interested friends.

      Reply
  8. Frank Little

    Watching football over the weekend I was struck by how many ads there were for the various branches of the US military. Each one shows people bombing unnamed cities or moving through a bombed out urban environment and there wasn’t even an attempt to give a moral or principled rationale. There was just the imperative to defend the nation and don’t worry too much about who will be on the receiving end of those guns and bombs. Amoral militarism is certainly not new, but it’s interesting that they’ve dispensed with the idea that the wars we’re fighting are good or necessary when trying to market themselves.

    Reply
    1. a different chris

      Yes and “defend the nation” somehow by being on the other side of the planet. Um, okay.

      There is only one real solution: make everybody serve. A super-draft, that doesn’t miss anybody’s kid. That will wake some people up.

      Reply
    2. jefemt

      Frank, I thought you wuz swinging from a bridge in Butte? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Little_(unionist)

      While we outspend the next closest aspirational warrior nation by 8x (last I looked), the human nature of warring seems to not be the exclusive domain of the US- now or in history.

      As a species, we have never tried ‘not war’, ever. My take is that we are on the existential brink, maybe beyond it.

      As to the NFL, sporting their military togs, and ads, the part I adore the most is that the ads are, ‘paid for by the _____ (insert branch of the military).
      Certainly, they are not paid for by the tax mules, as expenditures far exceed revenues collected by the gubmint. Is it an oblique advertisement for MMT, and ‘reverse ‘socialism”— privatize gains, socialize costs?

      Complete non-sequitur— Auburn v. Alabama game was something else again…

      Reply
  9. Susan the Other

    The military has always been strategic. They attempt to foresee all the dangers to our society (well, not poverty, crappy education, bad food, tent cities and poop in the streets – but at least the dangers to the most comfortable among us…). The things that could upset those in power. The oligarchy. The MIC lives. And it controls us like a dictatorship. Which is why the word “peace” is blacklisted. The MIC has expanded its mental horizon since WW2, foregoing hot war for cold war and scientific progress, relentlessly patronizing places on earth that could provide natural resources and corporations that manufacture hideous weapons. It’s systemic from the manufacturing of consent to the corporations to politicians to financiers and to war on a moments notice. We should look at it as an enormous resource. And use it for continuously better purposes. The fact that most concerns me, other than too frequent genocide, is the ability of the MIC to analyze accurately the future. They have been one step ahead of climate change since the 50s. The fear back then was a new glaciation. I recently read something to the effect that there were people back then who were claiming that we could postpone a new glaciation by using fossil fuels, for 50 thousand years. So at this point, if that was actually a tactic, it has gone off the rails. It is proving extremely hard to control the level of CO2 from rising forever because we have an economic system that requires forever growth. And intentionally so because we needed all that money coming in to pay for the very expensive military. Hence, perhaps, forever wars. I always wonder what the latest military seance is trying to divine. But one thing is clear and that is that the military creates its own job security, however inadvertently. My guess is they are smart enough to embrace the GND and they will.

    Reply
  10. Anarcissie

    War seems to have been the common if not universal practice of humans since before they were human, according to the anthropology and ethology I read. The particular configurations of this habit or institution in the United States of 2019 are probably the result of material conditions rather than ideology. Broadly speaking, we have capitalism, in which an elite rule through ownership and control of the means of production and social coercion, and industrialism, which greatly magnifies the energy available to human beings, thereby magnifying the both the difficulty and the payoff of control.

    In the last few centuries, this situation seemed to work out on the political stage of the industrial world as a system of states, some of which are great powers (imperial states) and others who follow and if possible cozy up to the great powers, or are crushed by them unless they can stay out of the way. As industrialism and technology progress, they give more power to the various states, which inevitably come into conflict with one another as they seek to protect and increase their power and control.

    With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States and its band of satellites and imperial domains temporarily became the last man standing. But while power lends power, it also corrupts. It seems clear that with sufficiently intelligent leadership, the US could have constructed a monopolar world of comparative peace and prosperity that might have kept the world safe for capitalism and especially its elites for a long time. Just a few fake wars would have been needed from time to time to discipline the wogs and buck up the homies.

    Instead, in accordance with the law of corruption by power, the elites deteriorated and are now disintegrating. Hence, the blind continuance of traditional and instinctive behaviors, like the forever wars now regularly spawned by the military and spook factions of the present ruling class, while these and other factions at the center fight with one another instead of dealing with major external problems. It would be remarkable if this progression did not occur given what we see in the ‘haunted sleep’ of history.

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  11. Livius Drusus

    Unfortunately, the American populace generally supports our insane military culture. The military is the most trusted institution in the United States and even in supposedly peaceful Western Europe.

    https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/04/trust-in-the-military-exceeds-trust-in-other-institutions-in-western-europe-and-u-s/

    A frightening number of people, especially young people, would be open to military rule.

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/harvard-researchers-startling-findings-young-people-open-to-military-rule/

    Militarism is one of those issues where I wonder if we can entirely place the blame on elites. Sure there is a lot of jingoistic propaganda. Other commenters have mentioned the military presence at NFL games. But you have to wonder if Americans love militarism for their own reasons. One possible reason is that for many Americans identification with American military power is the only way they can obtain high status. You might be barely paying your bills, up to your eyeballs in debt and generally miserable but you are an American and we are the biggest, toughest, meanest dog on the block when it comes to military matters.

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    1. turtle

      I think militarism is an extension of an instinct prevalent in the vast majority of humans: self-defense. Of course, going from self-defense to imperialism is a grotesque distortion of that instinct, but still rooted in it.

      One could argue that going up to the point where the military serves to defend the actual territory and resources of the country is a fairly organic outgrowth of the self-defense instinct. However, going beyond that to outward aggression like the US does is indeed a massive distortion of that instinct, and that is only made possible through massive propaganda.

      So yes, the NFL and the mainstream media in general are an integral part of what makes the US foreign aggression possible, all because of money.

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  12. Anthony G Stegman

    The idea of “peace” is so quaint. In our aggressive hyper-capitalistic society war is necessary in order to avoid being crushed. Peaceniks are seemingly nice people, but they are so naive and are not to be taken seriously. It’s cyber-Monday. Gotta have that one day shipping!!

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  13. sierra7

    “Well over a half billion dollars is shelled out annually by the Pentagon to propagandize and galvanize public support of its wars based nearly entirely on lies — because, after all, war crafted to prop up the military-industrial machine’s profiteering can indeed be a tough sell.”
    https://thefreethoughtproject.com/pr-budget-penagon-war-propaganda/
    What in the world is the Pentagon going with a “public relations” budget????
    And, one that reaches almost 1/2 billion dollars???????
    This subject is really a bottomless pit!

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  14. Everyday joe

    The culture of glorifying war is part of the American DNA and more so after 9.11.
    The natural progression of this is fascism to take root at home. It is a matter of when , not if.
    That is the cost of glorifying war.

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  15. Rex

    Our first permanent, unwinnable, expensive war of occupation, the Viet war, had to be ended because the public would not accept the high U.S. casualties. But now that these casualties are at a level acceptable to the public, the wars may continue permanently transferring huge sums to the wealthy. Consider that some 80% of our trillion dollar military budget goes to contractors and you can see why these permanent wars are permanent. Such wars are simply part of what we’ve come to recognize as cannibal capitalism, the destruction of the planet to enrich the few.

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