There has never been a protracted war from which a country benefited.
—Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Reading many of the headlines of late and the constant buzz in the media feeds one becomes apprehensive that we are entering a dangerous age (if we ever left it?) again. The rhetoric of militaristic societies has forever been a form of male boasting, a sort of I’m ‘King of the Hill’ pattering. Yet, this male dominated romance of war has in the modern age brought only shame and misery, ashes and holocaust to the fore rather than the glories of warriors. In our age we’ve seen the automation and mechanization of war to a point that it has become remote control drones and robots that mediate the destruction of anonymous targets of an ill-defined “terrorism”.
The promises of the Obama administration of ridding ourselves of our Middle-East campaigns went awry and we became more enmeshed. With the rise of Trump we’re seeing an even more immediate global threat of extreme war as the rhetoric to overthrow dictators across the world becomes part of another fictional grab to control oil, power, and patriarchal pride. Chemical threat in Syria, Nuclear threat in North Korea… the media is abuzz of leaders willing to sacrifice themselves and their people to maintain power and domination over their territories. Russia, China, Iran and other third nations align against the U.S., Japan, and Europe and their allies in a new cold war of rhetoric all blaming each other for the disorder being promoted around the globe. None taking responsibility for having brought this new sense of insecurity and uncertainty to world stability.
Howard Zinn years ago in his personal history would say,
There is a sense of desperation and helplessness in the land. There is the feel of a country occupied by a foreign power, not foreign in the sense of coming from abroad, but rather foreign to the principles we want our country to stand for. The “war on terror” is being used to create an atmosphere of hysteria, in which the claim of “national security” becomes an excuse to throw aside the guarantees of the Bill of Rights, to give new powers to the FBI. The question not asked is whether the war itself creates great dangers for the security of the American people, and also for the security of innocent people abroad, who become pawns in the game to expand American power worldwide.1
In his book Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War Andrew J. Bacevich who’d seen and lived through the policymaking years of much of the past fifty years of American Empire came to the conclusion that many have come before him that as Lord Acton once iterated: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” He’d go on to say,
The powerful, I came to see, reveal truth only to the extent that it suits them. Even then, the truths to which they testify come wrapped in a nearly invisible filament of dissembling, deception, and duplicity. The exercise of power necessarily involves manipulation and is antithetical to candor.2
Bacevich’s worldview of a positive and ideal America presented and undermined by this shattering of his idealism led him to the conviction that the nation that he’d once dreamed of as a place in which “American power manifested a commitment to global leadership, and that both together expressed and affirmed the nation’s enduring devotion to its founding ideals.” That this dream America had “during my adult life, a penchant for interventionism had become a signature of U.S. policy did not— to me, at least— in any way contradict America’s aspirations for peace. Instead, a willingness to expend lives and treasure in distant places testified to the seriousness of those aspirations. That, during this same period, the United States had amassed an arsenal of over thirty-one thousand nuclear weapons, some small number of them assigned to units in which I had served, was not at odds with our belief in the inalienable right to life and liberty; rather, threats to life and liberty had compelled the United States to acquire such an arsenal and maintain it in readiness for instant use”. (WR: 7)
He’d go on to speak of two aspects of this myth, the American Credo and Trinity:
The credo summons the United States— and the United States alone— to lead, save, liberate, and ultimately transform the world. In a celebrated manifesto issued at the dawn of what he termed “The American Century,” Henry R. Luce made the case for this spacious conception of global leadership. Writing in Life magazine in early 1941, the influential publisher exhorted his fellow citizens to “accept wholeheartedly our duty to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit.” Luce thereby captured what remains even today the credo’s essence. (WR: 12)
While the trinity is an abiding conviction that the minimum essentials of international peace and order require the United States to maintain a global military presence, to configure its forces for global power projection, and to counter existing or anticipated threats by relying on a policy of global interventionism. (WR: 14)
This sense that American had become the World’s policeman, the power that had to maintain order and democracy, had turned into the nightmare of corporate takeover of the global economy through both economic and military interventionism and pre-emptive warfare. Tearing up our contracts, our Bill-of-Rights, and instituting emergency powers the U.S. Government had essentially taken on the role of world dictator under the façade of democracy.
Even now as I watch the daily news it seems we are once again preparing for some kind of major confrontation or event in the world, one that will once again bring war and violence. Looking back at the legacy of American interventionism since WWII one is left with the notion that we alone have created the opposite of democracy in the world, that we have brought nothing but human suffering and degradation to millions of people around the globe through our economic and foreign legacy of both Government and Corporate malfeasance. Nothing justifies war, not even the need to oust blatant and evil dictators across the globe. Yet, American politicians goaded by the profits and power of the great global corporations seem forever bent on enacting war during times of social unrest at home and abroad.
A trite and colloquial cliché of my childhood that usually comes out at such moments is that “What goes around comes around.” This sense that repetition of war brings terror to the homeland can and will be manifested repeatedly unless we can achieve some kind of balance of power in the world today. I don’t believe we will ever achieve lasting peace, it’s another myth we have to get over. The human animal is irrational, no matter all the pretense of Reason we can muster, we are driven creatures ruled by passion not logic and harbor hate, fear, and utter madness in our affective lives as animals. If we ever rid ourselves of passion and emotion we would no longer be animals or human, rather machines and psychopathic murderers who feel nothing but nothing. Death has its own world, the world of the disaffective.
- Zinn, Howard. You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times (Kindle Locations 136-141). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition.
- Bacevich, Andrew J.. Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War (American Empire Project) (p. 3). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.