A Lifetime “at War”

Yves here. Englehardt describes how US war-making has been a continuing exercise starting with World War II. It’s important to recognize that before that, US military budgets were modest both in national and global terms. But with manufacturing less specialized, the US was able to turn a considerable amount of its productive capacity to armaments in fairly short order.

A second point is as someone who was in Manhattan on 9/11, I did not experience the attacks as war. I saw them as very impressive terrorism. However, I was appalled at how quickly individuals in positions of authority pushed sentiment in that direction. The attack was on a Tuesday (I had a blood draw and voted before I even realized Something Bad had happened). I was appalled to see the saber-rattling in Bush’s speech at the National Cathedral on Friday. On Sunday, I decided to go to the Unitarian Church around the corner. I was shocked to hear more martial-speak. And because the church was packed, I had to sit in the front on the floor, which meant I couldn’t duck out.

By Tom Engelhardt. Originally published at TomDispatch

Here’s the strange thing in an ever-stranger world: I was born in July 1944 in the midst of a devastating world war. That war ended in August 1945 with the atomic obliteration of two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, by the most devastating bombs in history up to that moment, given the sweet code names “Little Boy” and “Fat Man.”

I was the littlest of boys at the time. More than three-quarters of a century has passed since, on September 2, 1945, Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and General Yoshijiro Umezu signed the Instrument of Surrender on the battleship U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay, officially ending World War II. That was V-J (for Victory over Japan) Day, but in a sense for me, my whole generation, and this country, war never really ended.

The United States has been at war, or at least in armed conflicts of various sorts, often in distant lands, for more or less my entire life. Yes, for some of those years, that war was “cold” (which often meant that such carnage, regularly sponsored by the CIA, happened largely off-screen and out of sight), but war as a way of life never really ended, not to this very moment.

In fact, as the decades went by, it would become the “infrastructure” in which Americans increasingly invested their tax dollars via aircraft carriers, trillion-dollar jet fighters, drones armed with Hellfire missiles, and the creation and maintenance of hundreds of military garrisons around the globe, rather than roads, bridges, or rail lines (no less the high-speed version of the same) here at home. During those same years, the Pentagon budget would grab an ever-larger percentage of federal discretionary spending and the full-scale annual investment in what has come to be known as the national security state would rise to a staggering $1.2 trillion or more.

In a sense, future V-J Days became inconceivable. There were no longer moments, even as wars ended, when some version of peace might descend and America’s vast military contingents could, as at the end of World War II, be significantly demobilized. The closest equivalent was undoubtedly the moment when the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, the Cold War officially ended, and the Washington establishment declared itself globally triumphant. But of course, the promised “peace dividend” would never be paid out as the first Gulf War with Iraq occurred that very year and the serious downsizing of the U.S. military (and the CIA) never happened.

Never-Ending War

Consider it typical that, when President Biden recently announced the official ending of the nearly 20-year-old American conflict in Afghanistan with the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops from that country by 9/11/21, it would functionally be paired with the news that the Pentagon budget was about to rise yet again from its record heights in the Trump years. “Only in America,” as retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and historian William Astore wrote recently, “do wars end and war budgets go up.”

Of course, even the ending of that never-ending Afghan War may prove exaggerated. In fact, let’s consider Afghanistan apart from the rest of this country’s war-making history for a moment. After all, if I had told you in 1978 that, of the 42 years to follow, the U.S. would be involved in war in a single country for 30 of them and asked you to identify it, I can guarantee that Afghanistan wouldn’t have been your pick. And yet so it’s been. From 1979 to 1989, there was the CIA-backed Islamist extremist war against the Soviet army there (to the tune of billions and billions of dollars). And yet the obvious lesson the Russians learned from that adventure, as their military limped home in defeat and the Soviet Union imploded not long after — that Afghanistan is indeed the “graveyard of empires” — clearly had no impact in Washington.

Or how do you explain the 19-plus years of warfare there that followed the 9/11 attacks, themselves committed by a small Islamist outfit, al-Qaeda, born as an American ally in that first Afghan War? Only recently, the invaluable Costs of War Project estimated that America’s second Afghan War has cost this country almost $2.3 trillion (not including the price of lifetime care for its vets) and has left at least 241,000 people dead, including 2,442 American service members. In 1978, after the disaster of the Vietnam War, had I assured you that such a never-ending failure of a conflict was in our future, you would undoubtedly have laughed in my face.

And yet, three decades later, the U.S. military high command still seems not faintly to have grasped the lesson that we “taught” the Russians and then experienced ourselves. As a result, according to recent reports, they have uniformly opposed President Biden’s decision to withdraw all American troops from that country by the 20th anniversary of 9/11. In fact, it’s not even clear that, by September 11, 2021, if the president’s proposal goes according to plan, that war will have truly ended. After all, the same military commanders and intelligence chiefs seem intent on organizing long-distance versions of that conflict or, as the New York Times put it, are determined to “fight from afar” there. They are evidently even considering establishing new bases in neighboring lands to do so.

America’s “forever wars” — once known as the Global War on Terror and, when the administration of George W. Bush launched it, proudly aimed at 60 countries — do seem to be slowly winding down. Unfortunately, other kinds of potential wars, especially new cold wars with China and Russia (involving new kinds of high-tech weaponry) only seem to be gearing up.

War in Our Time

In these years, one key to so much of this is the fact that, as the Vietnam War began winding down in 1973, the draft was ended and war itself became a “voluntary” activity for Americans. In other words, it became ever easier not only to not protest American war-making, but to pay no attention to it or to the changing military that went with it. And that military was indeed altering and growing in remarkable ways.

In the years that followed, for instance, the elite Green Berets of the Vietnam era would be incorporated into an ever more expansive set of Special Operations forces, up to 70,000 of them (larger, that is, than the armed forces of many countries). Those special operators would functionally become a second, more secretive American military embedded inside the larger force and largely freed from citizen oversight of any sort. In 2020, as Nick Turse reported, they would be stationed in a staggering 154 countries around the planet, often involved in semi-secret conflicts “in the shadows” that Americans would pay remarkably little attention to.

Since the Vietnam War, which roiled the politics of this nation and was protested in the streets of this country by an antiwar movement that came to include significant numbers of active-duty soldiers and veterans, war has played a remarkably recessive role in American life. Yes, there have been the endless thank-yous offered by citizens and corporations to “the troops.” But that’s where the attentiveness stops, while both political parties, year after endless year, remain remarkably supportive of a growing Pentagon budget and the industrial (that is, weapons-making) part of the military-industrial complex. War, American-style, may be forever, but — despite, for instance, the militarization of this country’s police and the way in which those wars came home to the Capitol last January 6th — it remains a remarkably distant reality for most Americans.

One explanation: though the U.S. has, as I’ve said, been functionally at war since 1941, there were just two times when this country felt war directly — on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and on September 11, 2001, when 19 mostly Saudi hijackers in commercial jets struck New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

And yet, in another sense, war has been and remains us. Let’s just consider some of that war-making for a moment. If you’re of a certain age, you can certainly call to mind the big wars: Korea (1950-1953), Vietnam (1954-1975) — and don’t forget the brutal bloodlettings in neighboring Laos and Cambodia as well — that first Gulf War of 1991, and the disastrous second one, the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Then, of course, there was that Global War on Terror that began soon after September 11, 2001, with the invasion of Afghanistan, only to spread to much of the rest of the Greater Middle East, and to significant parts of Africa. In March, for instance, the first 12 American special-ops trainers arrived in embattled Mozambique, just one more small extension of an already widespread American anti-Islamist terror role (now failing) across much of that continent.

And then, of course, there were the smaller conflicts (though not necessarily so to the people in the countries involved) that we’ve now generally forgotten about, the ones that I had to search my fading brain to recall. I mean, who today thinks much about President John F. Kennedy’s April 1961 CIA disaster at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba; or President Lyndon Johnson’s sending of 22,000 U.S. troops to the Dominican Republic in 1965 to “restore order”; or President Ronald Reagan’s version of “aggressive self-defense” by U.S. Marines sent to Lebanon who, in October 1983, were attacked in their barracks by a suicide bomber, killing 241 of them; or the anti-Cuban invasion of the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada that same month in which 19 Americans were killed and 116 wounded?

And then, define and categorize them as you will, there were the CIA’s endless militarized attempts (sometimes with the help of the U.S. military) to intervene in the affairs of other countries, ranging from taking the nationalist side against Mao Zedong’s communist forces in China from 1945 to 1949 to stoking a small ongoing conflict in Tibet in the 1950s and early 1960s, and overthrowing the governments of Guatemala and Iran, among other places. There were an estimated 72 such interventions from 1947 to 1989, many warlike in nature. There were, for instance, the proxy conflicts in Central America, first in Nicaragua against the Sandinistas and then in El Salvador, bloody events even if few U.S. soldiers or CIA agents died in them. No, these were hardly “wars,” as traditionally defined, not all of them, though they did sometimes involve military coups and the like, but they were generally carnage-producing in the countries they were in. And that only begins to suggest the range of this country’s militarized interventions in the post-1945 era, as journalist William Blum’s “A Brief History of Interventions” makes all too clear.

Whenever you look for the equivalent of a warless American moment, some reality trips you up. For instance, perhaps you had in mind the brief period between when the Red Army limped home in defeat from Afghanistan in 1989 and the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, that moment when Washington politicians, initially shocked that the Cold War had ended so unexpectedly, declared themselves triumphant on Planet Earth. That brief period might almost have passed for “peace,” American-style, if the U.S. military under President George H. W. Bush hadn’t, in fact, invaded Panama (“Operation Just Cause”) as 1989 ended to get rid of its autocratic leader Manuel Noriega (a former CIA asset, by the way). Up to 3,000 Panamanians (including many civilians) died along with 23 American troops in that episode.

And then, of course, in January 1991 the First Gulf War began. It would result in perhaps 8,000 to 10,000 Iraqi deaths and “only” a few hundred deaths among the U.S.-led coalition of forces. Air strikes against Iraq would follow in the years to come. And let’s not forget that even Europe wasn’t exempt since, in 1999, during the presidency of Bill Clinton, the U.S. Air Force launched a destructive 10-week bombing campaign against the Serbs in the former Yugoslavia.

And all of this remains a distinctly incomplete list, especially in this century when something like 200,000 U.S. troops have regularly been stationed abroad and U.S. Special Operations forces have deployed to staggering numbers of countries, while American drones regularly attacked “terrorists” in nation after nation and American presidents quite literally became assassins-in-chief. To this day, what scholar and former CIA consultant Chalmers Johnson called an American “empire of bases” — a historically unprecedented 800 or more of them — across much of the planet remains untouched and, at any moment, there could be more to come from the country whose military budget at least equals those of the next 10 (yes, that’s 10!) countries combined, including China and Russia.

A Timeline of Carnage

The last three-quarters of this somewhat truncated post-World War II American Century have, in effect, been a timeline of carnage, though few in this country would notice or acknowledge that. After all, since 1945, Americans have only once been “at war” at home, when almost 3,000 civilians died in an attack meant to provoke — well, something like the war on terror that also become a war of terror and a spreader of terror movements in our world.

As journalist William Arkin recently argued, the U.S. has created a permanent war state meant to facilitate “endless war.” As he writes, at this very moment, our nation “is killing or bombing in perhaps 10 different countries,” possibly more, and there’s nothing remarkably out of the ordinary about that in our recent past.

The question that Americans seldom even think to ask is this: What if the U.S. were to begin to dismantle its empire of bases, repurpose so many of those militarized taxpayer dollars to our domestic needs, abandon this country’s focus on permanent war, and forsake the Pentagon as our holy church? What if, even briefly, the wars, conflicts, plots, killings, drone assassinations, all of it stopped?

What would our world actually be like if you simply declared peace and came home?

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36 comments

  1. Hemanth Kumar

    Here in Asia, many people think the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan was an act of flaying the dying horse, since Japan was staring at defeat even without the bombs. It was a totally callous act of the USA to drop the bombs just to “test their efficacy”.

    Why then the bombs could not have dropped on Germany that was still waging war at that time? Asians smirk and say one) the “collateral” damage of radiation etc., to neighbours like France who were Allies and two) they were (and are) ‘whites’; unlike Japan and its neighbours.

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      I think that you have the dates mixed up. The war against Germany in Europe ended on May 7th and the testing of the first atom bomb was not until 16th July when the first bomb went off at Alamogordo in New Mexico. The following month the two remaining atom bombs that the US had were dropped on Japan. In short, the bombs arrived too late to use in Europe.

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        The bomb was built with Berlin being the first target, but because the war ended a year sooner than what everyone thought it would and making the very first bombs took longer than planned, it was used on Japan. It was probably used as a demonstration for the Soviets, but considering that sixty-six other large Japanese cities had already been completely destroyed by “conventional” firebombing, and in Tokyo’s case, with greater casualties than either nuclear bombing, the Bomb wasn’t really needed. The descriptions and the personal accounts of the destruction of Tokyo (or Dresden and Hamburg) are (if that is even possible) worse than of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

        Honestly, just what new and excitingly horrific ways of killing people the atom bomb used was not clearly understood. They generally thought of it as a bigger kaboom in a smaller package. And honestly, being pre-cremated during an entire night with your family and neighbors in the local bomb-shelter or dying after a few days, weeks, or even a month from radiation poisoning, is not really a difference is it?

        Reply
    2. John Wright

      Another view has the dropping of the atomic bombs was a message, not to Japan, but to the Soviet Union.

      From https://www.nytimes.com/1995/07/30/books/did-we-need-to-drop-it.html

      “FOR 20 years after Harry Truman ordered the atomic bomb dropped on Japan in August 1945, most American scholars and citizens subscribed to the original, official version of the story: the President had acted to avert a horrendous invasion of Japan that could have cost 200,000 to 500,000 American lives. Then a young political economist named Gar Alperovitz published a book of ferocious revisionism, “Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam” (1965). While acknowledging the paucity of evidence available at the time, he argued that dropping the atomic bomb “was not needed to end the war or to save lives” but was Truman’s means of sending a chastening message to the Soviet Union.”

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      1. Timh

        If we accept that at face value, then certainly the second bombing was unecessary. The threat would have been enough. But the US had a second bomb design to test…

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        1. BCD

          Few things working here. The US needed Japan to surrender quickly before Stalin invaded (which they asked him to do) so he couldn’t get his forces onto the island where the Allies couldn’t stop him. Most Japanese feared Stalin and preferred surrendering to the US but the Japanese government was trying to use talks with the USSR to get better terms than unconditional surrender (little did they know Stalin was licking his chops for more territory under his iron curtain).

          The first bomb design (little man) was significantly less ambitious, it was so certain to function they never tested it because a study had proven there was almost no chance it would fail.

          Fat boy was the scientific leap in technology needing to be demonstrated. Building little man was mostly a matter of enriching Uranium vs Fat boy Plutonium enrichment harder and detonation mechanism more complicated. However the end result was a bomb that could produce significantly higher yields with smaller amounts of fissionable material where both the size of the bomb could be significantly reduced and the yield of the device could be significantly scaled up at the same time.

          Fat boy demonstrated the USA could someday be putting nukes on V2 rockets recently smuggled out of Germany. Even more important Fat boy is a precursor to the mechanism that initiates the H bomb fusion devices that Edward Teller would soon be Dr Strangloving.

          Even after Trinity Fat boy still had very high odds of failure. They feared looking like fools if it failed and the USSR ended up with the Plutoniumt. As a result the US Air Force dropped little man first because it was certain to work. After the 1st bomb dropped, the Soviets declared war and began their invasion of Japan which forced Truman’s hand to drop Fat boy too. Even after Fat Boy, war mongers in Japan still refused to surrender where Emperor Hirohito finally overruled them and although there was a military coupe attempted, it failed.

          Thus ended the most bloody conflict in the history of human kind.

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          1. Harold

            I’m not saying it isn’t true, but is there any actual evidence that the bombs were dropped as “a message to the Soviet Union” and not to speed the end of the war?

            Also, who exactly wanted to send this “message”? The US generals were against it, I understand.

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  2. Tom Pfotzer

    “What would our world actually be like if you simply declared peace and came home?”

    a. All those families whose livelihood is based on waging war would have to find a new job. These people will fight tooth and nail to avoid change

    b. The resource grabs by the rich people behind the Oz-like curtain would fail. Their fate would be that of the English aristocrats who have to rent out their castles in order to maintain a roof over their head. These people will fight tooth and nail to avoid change

    c. The general public would have a fire-hose of newly-available resources to direct toward activities which benefit all the rest of the families outside A and B above

    d. Fear-based leverage by the few over the many would be diminished. Attention would be re-directed toward valid problems we all face

    =====

    There’s an interesting question which I see posed from time to time, and often ask myself. It runs thus:

    “Who decides who our “enemies” are, and why they are “enemies”?

    This is a fundamental question which I believe very few of us can currently answer accurately. Yet this question carries a $1.2T per year consequence. That’s a lot of money to allocate toward something we know nothing about.

    One time I asked an acquaintance – who spent a career at CIA – that question. His reply was “Why, Congress decides who our enemies are, and why. Congress then tells the CIA what to do”.

    I wasn’t sure if he truly believed that. It’s quite possible he did, of course, and I’m sure many of the people in group A above surely do think they’re doing honorable and patriotic work.

    Group B above – the people who are actually moving the chess pieces of “the Great Game” – they are pretty clear on who defines our “enemies” and why they are “enemies”. And they wisely don’t stand in front of podiums and explain their actions. These people aren’t visible, or explained, or known because it’s better for them not to be.

    The way to combat manipulation by these predators is to:

    a. Know them by their actions. Predators predate.
    b. Don’t participate. In order for them to predate, they need minions. Don’t be a minion. Instead…
    c. Be the giver, the creator and the constructor of things that are of no use to predators

    Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      It’s not the soldiers but the contractors who live in dumpy overpriced holes like Northern Virginia.

      As to your acquaintance, my godfather was in the CIA in the 60’s and a bit into the 70’s, and he might not say Congress as much as the President’s Chief of Staff as threat they choose what the President sees. You have to remember it’s primarily an organization of boring paper pushers looking to get promoted which requires political patronage. Imagine getting the Canada desk. You’ll be at a dead end unless you paint it as a grave threat. Then there is information overload and just the sheer size of the US. They would file reports, he mentioned an incident in Africa in the wake of decolonization when y godfather was stationed there that maybe warranted the President’s attention, but to get information to the President’s CoS took so long, it was in the President’s daily newspaper before the report could be handled. By then, why care, given the size of the US? Who can get to the Chief of Staff? Congress, so everyone else lobbies them. The CIA director is an appendage of the CoS.

      When the President wants something, everyone jumps, but when the President doesn’t care, everyone is jockeying get for patronage.

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    2. Equitable > Equal

      If you romp around the globe firing missiles indiscriminately, the enemies present themselves. They are enemies because they have come under unprovoked attack.

      Reply
  3. HH

    The war machine is sustained by plutocrats and their sociopathic flunkies in the national security state. How this works is clearly depicted in “The Devil’s Chessboard,” by David Talbot, a deeply depressing chronicle of how Allen Dulles and his brother John Foster Dulles did the dirty work of US corporations worldwide. The arrogance, impunity, and irresponsibility of these men established the framework of our secret government, which remains intact to this day.

    It would be pleasant to believe that this evil persists because of public ignorance, but like the good Germans of the Nazi era, Americans accept that deception, torture, and murder are routinely practiced on our behalf to maintain our high standard of living and to keep us “safe.” The reverence for the operatives of the US national security state is evident throughout our popular culture, and that is a damning judgment on the American people.

    Reply
    1. Tom Pfotzer

      Yes. Succinctly stated, and quite correct.

      Of course the core problems are stationed at the place hardest to get to: right between our ears. This complicity disease runs deep and wide.

      While I often succumb to that same despondency you mentioned, occasionally I interrupt the doom tape to notice that there’s a lot of people who are paddling hard toward a new ethos…like the posters here @ NC, for ex.

      So today I’m going to indulge in a little happiness. Plant a tree. Do something good, something durable, something hopeful.

      Something that offers no real hope of rent extraction potential.

      :)

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      1. JBird4049

        It was nice being accused of supporting the terrorists because I supported the rule of law and human rights, not to mention the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

        WTF do some people think that the Founders wanted an extremely small army, a large organized militia, and passed the Bill of Rights? It was a reaction to what the British Army did to them (using much of the same tactics as the current “justice” system does today.) The ignorance and lack of thinking is really annoying.

        Much of what the British military did was not good. Even now some of it would not be allowed in a court of law, but I do not recall them being nearly as violent, brutal, or deadly in their tactics while enforcing the King’s Law as the current regime or the local police are. That the milder British tactics caused a civil war with in a decade, and that the people then had less to fear from an occupying army as we do from “our” police is disturbing to think on.

        But wars always come home, don’t they? Faux toughness on the supposed baddies here with claims of treason and insurrections on protests and riots now that often would hardly be in the news fifty years ago, so great was the protests and riots happening then. The cry to use the same tactics that did not work overseas to be used here at home. “To keep us safe.”

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        1. Swamp Yankee

          There’s truth to this, but once the war was really on, British and Tory/Loyalist brutality had decisive effects on public opinion, putting lots of people into the Whig/Patriot camp. Tom Paine makes great efforts to publicize British sexual assaults, looting, and general thugishness as they chase the Continental Army across New Jersey in 1776; the cruelty of backcountry British cavalry officers and Tory rangers in the Carolinas was legendary as the war reaches its latter phases.

          And there was brutality on the other side, too, especially for Loyalist elites who faced a kind of “social death.” It was a war, after all, as well as a social revolution. It wasn’t France in 1789 or Russia in 1917, but it was rough, especially given the small population size.

          Reply
    2. FluffytheObeseCat

      Except as Engelhardt just pointed out, the national security state does not “maintain our high standard of living”. It’s an immense net drain on our standard of living. The only Americans made well-to-do or wealthy by it are those who are directly involved in supplying contract goods and services to the system.

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    3. FriarTuck

      I don’t know if Americans “accept” it as opposed to taking a dim view of being able to affect change.

      The levers the average person has to change the behavior of the state is infinitesimal. Add to that the scope of action and Overton window mediated by the hypernormalized press ecosystem just means those in power get to act without restraint.

      Hell, Obama literally said “We tortured some folks” and the media and government barely shrugged. To my knowledge, no one went to jail, no one was brought up in the Hague, and some of the same ghouls that perpetrated such crimes got cushy commenter jobs in the media.

      Right now, localities can’t even keep their police from regularly killing citizens.

      What does the average person do in the face of such things?

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      1. Jason

        Hell, Obama literally said “We tortured some folks” and the media and government barely shrugged. To my knowledge, no one went to jail, no one was brought up in the Hague, and some of the same ghouls that perpetrated such crimes got cushy commenter jobs in the media.

        No one went to jail. Certainly no one went before the Hague. No bankers went to jail either. Even during the nutty Reagan administration, people went to jail for financial shenanigans. Some got long sentences. Hell, the Iran-Contra stuff was at least covered and people were indicted, even if they all got pardoned. Not anymore. These shenanigans are the norm and happen right out in the open. I’d imagine some of it’s been given legal cover. It seems like it’s become the expected behavior within these circles. To act otherwise – to attempt to be honest, in other words – is seen as weak and is mocked as fiercely as a weaker child on the playground might be.

        It’s just a continuing regression. And as you note, it’s an excellent career builder:

        “Looking for a job in mainstream media? Research has shown that reducing your sense of ethics and morality actually helps you get ahead.”

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        1. John Wright

          I like to quote a radio advertisement that a local Northern California bail bondsman ran on one local radio station years ago.

          “Friends don’t let friends do time”.

          Reply
  4. LowellHighlander

    Doubtless, Ms. Smith and Ms. Engelhardt have provided a key public service here. And I speak as a veteran, decorated for service in the War Over Oil (a.k.a. the “Persian Gulf War”).

    Between the vast economic inequality currently raging in our country, the social stratification enabled by access to colleges and universities accepted as “elite”, the trashing of Constitutional protections (e.g. the 4th Amendment, now thoroughly eviscerated owing to the “PATRIOT ACT”), and the rampaging rule by “intelligence agencies” over foreign policy, I see no reason why any father should tell his children that this is a country worth fighting and dying for. [Think: China] Of course, the Empire – just as Rome did in its dying days – will be able to find enough desperately poor who will take the king’s shilling and don the uniform.

    If anyone wishes to prove me wrong, let them work for a substantive “peace dividend” for a 2-3 years. Then we can sit down and talk; I’ll buy the ale.

    Reply
    1. tegnost

      I think Englehart is a “Mr.” but I don’t want to get myself in trouble with the gender neutralization crowd

      Reply
  5. Rod

    And here is a nice companion reading alluding to Media collusion by a CNN colluder:

    https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/29/opinions/lies-told-to-sustain-us-and-uk-mission-in-afghanistan-walsh/index.html

    from the above article:

    In these years, one key to so much of this is the fact that, as the Vietnam War began winding down in 1973, the draft was ended and war itself became a “voluntary” activity for Americans. In other words, it became ever easier not only to not protest American war-making, but to pay no attention to it or to the changing military that went with it. And that military was indeed altering and growing in remarkable ways.

    Because, imo,

    Since the Vietnam War, which roiled the politics of this nation and was protested in the streets of this country by an antiwar movement that came to include significant numbers of active-duty soldiers and veterans, war has played a remarkably recessive role in American life.

    Despite having already ‘pledged’ at my Uncles Invitation, with the Draft’s End, I had great hope my future would see the great Peace Dividand rather than 9 more Opportunity Conflicts.
    Little did that then 21 year old see the brilliance in that Pentagon Strategy.
    I Now firmly support a No Exemption Draft for all post HS.
    Military Service being only one, and a restricted one, of many counter-balancing options available for Public Service for that cohort.

    Reply
  6. Frank Little

    This article reminded me of one of the best Congressional Research Service reports that I’ve read: Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2020. Despite being just a list of dates and locations with a brief description, it comes in at around 50 pages, which I think is a testament to how important foreign military engagement has been to the growth of the US even before 1945. Between these foreign wars and the genocidal war against the indigenous people of the continent I think it’s fair to say this country has been at war since its founding.

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    1. juno mas

      Correct. Even the so called Louisiana Purchase was not really a purchase of land, but a faux “option” to engage in land treaties with the native Americans;.the US chose Indian Wars and relocation treaties that have been violated repeatedly. (This territory is now known as the Red States.)

      The rest of the land extending to the west coast was acquired through conquest with the new nation of Mexico. I guess the only real honest acquisition would be Seward’s Icebox.

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      1. JBird4049

        >>I guess the only real honest acquisition would be Seward’s Icebox.

        Alaska has only been inhabited for a few tens of thousands of years. I would think that the natives should have some say about who “owns” the land even though the Russian Empire did say that they did. The reasons sometimes included the use of guns. As for stealing Mexico’s territory, again that was, and in some areas still is, inhabited by natives who somehow became under the “governance” of New Spain or the country of Mexico despite not being asked about it and often still a majority part of the population in many areas when Mexico lost control.

        Often, Europeans or Americans would show up somewhere, plant a flag, and say that they claimed or owned the very inhabited land, sometimes with farms and even entire cities. Rather arrogant, I would say.

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        1. juno mas

          I agree. Seward’s Icebox was not empty at time of sale. My understanding is that Seward thought it was. So faraway, so cold; no one would be living there, right?

          As I’ve commented here many times, it was small pox not small bullets that allowed the Old World to take the New. There were estimates of 20 million native Americans living on the land now known as Mexico and the US. 90% were felled by Old World disease before Custer lost his scalp to the northern Plains Indians. In a fair fight the Indians would be enforcing the treaties.

          It is amazing how the US continues to engage in war and still lose: Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq. . .Ukraine?

          Reply
  7. kgw

    I remember the words of Patrick Henry in his speech on the floor of the Virginia legislature debating the passing of the new constitution…

    In particular, his views on the standing army : “What does a farmer in Virginia have to fear from a farmer in France?”

    Reply
    1. Democracy Working

      For nearly a decade now every time I’ve read about the war in Afghanistan I’ve thought about Tim Kreider’s mordant 2011 cartoon We Could’ve Had The Moon, Instead We Get Afghanistan. Ten years later, that $432 billion has ballooned to $2.3 trillion (and more) and every word he wrote still stands. :-(

      The author has retired from cartooning and now focuses on essay writing.

      Reply
  8. Sound of the Suburbs

    We are going to have to halt the production lines.
    The warehouses are full of bombs already, there is no more room.

    Biden to the rescue; he’s started dropping bombs already.
    When you have a large defence industry, you need war.
    The only purpose is to use up the output from the defence industry.

    This is what they realised in the 1940s, but we forgot.
    http://delong.typepad.com/kalecki43.pdf

    “The dislike of government spending, whether on public investment or
    consumption, is overcome by concentrating government expenditure on
    armaments”

    Reply
    1. Sound of the Suburbs

      Ran out of edit time.
      Should be two quotes.

      “The dislike of government spending, whether on public investment or consumption, is overcome by concentrating government expenditure on armaments”

      “Large-scale armaments are inseparable from the expansion of the armed forces and the preparation of plans for a war of conquest. They also induce competitive rearmament of other countries.”

      These were the lessons they learnt from the 1930s.

      Reply
  9. Susan the other

    So now, here we are. And how do we create a peaceful world? Refit the US military for a sustainable world. It will prove to be very useful. We and other advanced nations still have the advantage for prosperity but we should not abuse it. The whole idea back in 1945 was for the world to prosper. So I’ll just suggest my usual hack: Get rid of the profit motive. It’s pure mercantilism. And totally self defeating in a world seeking sustainability for everyone.

    Reply
  10. Philip Ebersole

    The Manhattan Project was an enormously expensive enterprise with two components – the development of a uranium bomb (Oak Ridge) and a plutonium bomb (Hanford, WA).

    If no bomb had been used, the project would have been considered a waste of time, and there would have been a congressional investigation. If only one bomb had been used, half the cost would have been considered a waste.

    I’m not saying these were the only reasons for dropping the bombs. The event was, as they say, “overdetermined.”

    Reply

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