Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Nation Obliviously at War

Correspondent Fabius Maximus has a new article entitled America takes another step towards the "Long War"-- Part I which I strongly recommend.

I have written about the nation's blind complacency to the waging of war for almost three years:

Is This A Nation At war? (September 2004)

Katrina, Vietnam, Iraq: National Purpose, National Sacrifice (September 15, 2005)

Bringing the War Home (November 19, 2005)

(Please see 2007 archives and 2005-2006 archives for more entries on the war.)

What bothers me is the willful complacency of the media, a complacency apparently welcomed by the American people, who seem more interested in consuming drugs and other "goods and services" than in pondering what their government is doing with their Military and their taxes.

Are there any true debates about the war which don't split quickly into tired camps of "I support my President" ideologues or those vociferously against the President's policies? Yes, there are, but you have to be a reader of Foreign Policy or Foreign Affairs magazines to find them. Foreign Affairs has a circulation of 154,000, while Foreign Policy has about 110,000 subscribers. So perhaps 300,000 non-active-duty (members of the U.S. Armed Forces) citizens in a nation of 300 million have an informed grasp of the complexities of the war we are currently waging.

Let's be generous and reckon another 300,000 citizens have become informed by reading "on the ground" blogs from the likes of Michael Yon, or the professional military journals like USNI Proceedings or serious journalists/academics such as Fouad Ajami in The New Republic:

Blind Liberation

We should make our peace with Iraq's history

or books such as:

The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace by Ali A. Allawi

Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (American Empire Project) by Chalmers Johnson

Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks

Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War by Michael Isikoff and David Corn

Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran

Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror by Robert Young Pelton

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright

Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror by Michael Scheuer

State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III by Bob Woodward

Reading any two of these books provides a much better window into the realities than any mainstream media coverage. While I haven't read all of these books, I have read reviews and/or selections and on that basis can recommend them to you.

Bottom line: if Americans are ill-informed about the "long war," Peak Oil and the crumbling foundations of our currency and financial system, how can they make good decisions? And if only a few percent of the voting/adult populace can be bothered to become even somewhat informed, then where will the other 95% take us in their blind ignorance?

Yes, there are occasional in-depth reports or informed discussions elsewhere in the media, but in general the war in Iraq rarely makes the front page or the "news" (gag) on TV except as a bit player in a crowded drama.

We all know the reasons to be uninformed--it's far away, we can't do anything about it, we're too busy, etc. But at least we can inform ourselves, can't we? Is that too much to ask of a nation at global war?

As many of you know from previous entries, contributor Harun I. served our nation for many years in elite units of the U.S. Navy. As a result, I have always found his commentaries well-grounded. I sent him the above link and asked for his comments, which I reprint below.

"The piece was interesting indeed. Thank you.

My interpretation of the Chinese proverb was one of an admonition to introspection just as Einstein warned, "In order to form an immaculate member of a flock of sheep one must, above all, be a sheep."

Recently more attention has been drawn to the half billion dollar embassy/palace that the US has built in Iraq as well as the permanent super bases. Very simply, there is no intention to leave. But as usual the media misses the point: building of such an embassy is an insult to the religion and culture of that entire region. We have built what amounts to a symbol of Christian imperial domination in an Islamic land. I am sure it is possible to get more blasphemous but I am not quite sure how. In short we are fomenting what we say we are seeking to quell.

The fact that OPEC central banks are helping to fund this war should not be overlooked. Ultimately this means they are continuing the history of central bank profiteering by funding both sides of a conflict. This also raises the question of whether this 'long war' is to be won or sustained?

One of the critical questions the article fails to consider is whether the conflict is meant to be “won” or sustained. If the 'war' is not meant to be won then there is no need to define victory. If this administration views the war policy as part of a broader plan to maintain expansionist economic policies meant to keep the US economy and therefore the global economy afloat (on life support?) then there is no need to define or seek victory. There is every reason to “stay the course” and to 'surge'.

The Cold War victory was anything but a victory. In the short term it seemed like a victory but it is clear that we have had problems shifting to a peacetime economy. The loss of United Nuclear which built nuclear reactors for subs, and the reduction of Trident submarines contracts cost many jobs at EB in the Groton/New London region. The region hasn’t recovered yet. These are just microscopic examples of what has happened to the Cold war military industrial complex and its effect on the economy.

However, for Russia, this has been a boon. They have been essentially able to downsize and restructure, which has enabled them to emerge on a more solid economic footing. Russia is operating in a surplus and is sitting on much coveted energy reserves. This is not to say that Russia doesn’t have problems, they do, but the collapse of the Soviet Union enabled them to emerge with a much stronger balance sheet comparable to the US. The question that no one bothered asking is, what does a Superpower do with all that military industrial capacity when it no longer has a viable threat? The answer so far seems to be, create a new threat.

In actuality, Cold War policies created the threat for us. All of the black ops and proxy wars and land grabs created the Islamic threat we see today. We may like to think of ourselves as Saints but to the Islamic Middle Eastern community which have endured decades of interventionism by Christian Westerners we are anything but. The Shah, Saddam, and Bin Laden are creatures of our policies, as is the hatred we now face. In that sense we are simply reaping what we have sown.

A couple of the questions facing us now is, how far down this path will we allow ourselves to be led? What are the alternatives in choosing new leadership? Hillary has voted on the wrong side of just about every important issue. She has been to secretive meetings with the Bilderberg group. And regardless of her rhetoric she is backed by large hedge funds to whom she must bow once in office. Personally I am wary of the dynastic quality of having power shift back and forth between two families for several decades. This seems antithetical to a democratic republic.

Just as antithetical is the attendance of secretive meetings with powerful elites. Obama is also beholden to large hedge funds and believes, as does Hillary, that 12-20 million illegal aliens should be put on the fast track to US citizenship through hasty legislation formed in secretive meetings without any thorough study or serious debate of the true complexity of the issue or its ramifications, societal or economic. How can Obama speak of fundamental change?

With the exception of Ron Paul if you vote Republican we will get more of the same pre-emptive, perpetual war madness. At least they are against an open borders policy. As far as the North American Union that is being attempted by this administration, no one is asking and no one is telling. How far down the rabbit hole will we go? The two-party system seems broken with no fix in sight. But all are complicit. The American consumer’s refusal to consciously change behavior patterns despite the facts by continuing to go deeper into debt to live beyond their means is a substantial part of the problems we face.

I repeat that six years after 9/11 this government has failed to do the most basic things to protect its citizens, secure our borders and ports. Our borders remain wide open at the behest of corporate interests and an economy dependent on cheap labor. The lunacy of this balancing act of maintaining the financial charade of a healthy economy and sending an open invitation to terrorist to kill our citizens will soon be clear. The dysfunction of the government of the world's only superpower is utterly incomprehensible but rest assured it will not go long unrewarded."

I would add that the dysfunction of the U.S. government is a reflection of the dysfunction of its people and their culture. It all sounds like so much blah-blah-blah, to rail against the blindness, the greed, the Third-World-like corruption, the mainstream media's laser-like focus on the distractions of new stock market "highs" even as food and oil become unaffordable to working-class Americans. But is it true? No one seems to even want to ask the question, much less attempt an answer.

Can victory ever be declared in a war without an end-point? The answer is no-- this nation is engaged in another "long war" (The Cold War being a similarly war without end) with an ill-defined end. So what is the purpose of a victory-less war? To employ the machinery of a vast intelligence and military bureaucracy left bereft of purpose and funding by the collapse of the Evil Empire? Or as our Navy shrinks from 500 ships to 350 ships, is even the U.S. Military paying a price for the "secret global war" we as a nation are pursuing virtually everywhere?

Sites like this one are only small outposts on the World Wide Web; in the past 7 months the site has been visited 385,000 times by over 151,000 visitors generating 1.2 million hits. Meanwhile Chinese actresses garner 100,000 visitors a day as they discuss their latest hair style, and a site which tracks recently deceased members of gets 100,000 visits a day--and with all those pop-up ads, the proprietor is making a pretty penny offering up ghoulish distractions for a "wired" nation.

Wired to what? Music downloads and social networking, while 8 million Iraqis are without water, power and food, and young American soldiers are perishing every week? How can we as a nation have spent $565 billion (or perhaps more) in Iraq and achieved such horrendously poor results for the expenditure of young lives and treasure? Is the fact that we borrowed the $1 trillion (don't forget the $165 billion expended in Afghanistan and the billions spent elsewhere on the GWOT) from the Chinese make it all OK?

Since it has only "cost" those who voluntarily serve their nation via military duty, then the "cost" is apparently "free" to most Americans. But what about the spiritual cost of our ignorance of what's being done in our name, and our blind acceptance of our leaders' assurances? What of the hidden damage being done to an economy based on profligate borrowing and wild spending both by citizenry and government?

Yes, there is little I can do, or you can do. That has always been the case. But even the smallest gestures can add up, just as apparently "worthless" votes can add up to stunning political transformations. It is important that we try--to become informed, not drugged and complacent, and that we put our money and our votes to work for something other than complacency.

And in an uncanny alignment with today's topic, here is a great Haiku from reader/poet Ron M.:

Lindsay and Brittney
Scapegoats for our vanity
Pawns in Bush's War

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