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Happy Junta Grounds: Militarist Machiavellis Maneuver for More War
First published in Empire Burlesque earlier today, 25 September 2009
Two recent articles provide excellent guides to the brazen Pentagon squeeze play to ensure that the civilian government does not stray from the militarist agenda of more war, all the time, everywhere, always....
These days, the always noxious air of the Beltway is astir with the machinations of the military junta that now dominates the gutted and looted ruins of the American republic. Two recent articles provide excellent guides to the brazen Pentagon squeeze play to ensure that the civilian government does not stray from the militarist agenda of more war, all the time, everywhere, always -- a condition best captured in the marvelous title of the latest volume of Christopher Logue's serial reworking of The Illiad: All-Day Permanent Red.
First up, Tom Englehardt focuses on the powerful proconsul who is directing the squeeze play from the shadows. Yes, we speak of General David Petraeus, an ambitious little beaver with an eye on the White House. Curiously, Petraeus seems to think that – unlike victorious generals-turned-presidents like Ulysses Grant and Dwight Eisenhower -- he can win the Oval Office after directing not one but two failed wars. Even more curiously, he just might be right, especially given the slavishly kowtowing treatment he has always unaccountably received from the political establishment and the corporate media. Good PR, not battlefield prowess, is the only thing that counts these days, in our vastly altered state of permanent war. As Englehardt notes:
I would say that it already has. Obama may or may not have "buyer's remorse," but as Englehardt notes, he has long wanted to "own" this war -- it was a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, the means by which he sought to prove his "national security" cajones -- and now he's got it. I doubt very much if he really is being "forced" into escalating the war -- and I would be astonished if he does not give in and send more troops into Afghanistan, while continuing to expand his deadly, destabilizing forays into Pakistan.
In any case, Harry Truman got away with sacking MacArthur not only because the Pentagon was less overwhelming in those days -- but also because the Joint Chiefs and the rest of the top military brass were themselves sick of the ageing prima donna and his high-handed ways, which had unraveled an imminent victory in Korea and led to the slaughter of thousands of American troops at the hands of the Chinese whom MacArthur had deliberately baited into the war. (This tale is well told in David Halberstam's last book, The Coldest Winter.)
Now the Pentagon is far more powerful. And our modern, cut-rate MacArthur (at least MacArthur had several genuine military triumphs to his credit, unlike Petraeus) is fully backed by the top brass (many of whom are his creatures, as he now controls promotions in the Army). And they are all acting in brazen concert to hogtie the civilian government into doing their bidding, as Jeff Huber, our second good guide, reports:
And of course, as both Huber and Englehardt note, the power structure's mouthpiece par excellence, former military intelligence officer Bob Woodward has played a key role in what Huber calls the Pentagon's "unrestricted information warfare campaign." Woodward passed along a carefully edited "leak" of the "strategy review" by General Stanley "Dirty War is My Business" McChrystal, who is Obama's new commander of the "Af-Pak" front. The heavily redacted document virtually screamed its warning that if the sissy civilians in Washington didn't keep Afghanistan burning at white heat -- by throwing more cannon fodder into the furnace, along with giant bales of cash -- then they, not the Pentagon, will be to blame for the FUBAR that follows.
Then again, any rational, sentient being knows that an escalation of the war will be a FUBAR of monstrous proportions, further destabilizing the most volatile region on earth, killing more and more civilians, driving more Afghans into the insurgency, propping up an utterly corrupt puppet government, wasting billions upon billions of dollars and thousands of American lives, and exacerbating extremism around the world. This is glaringly obvious, but our militarists simply don't care. As Huber notes, McChrystal and Petraeus scarcely bother to put together a coherent strategy for the war:
And to keep the power, privilege and dominance they have come to exercise over our society -- a position of rulership to which they now feel entitled, and which whole generations of Americans are now growing up to believe is the natural order of things. Gary Wills limns the corrupt and corrosive reality of the National Security State in a recent New York Review piece:
Huber holds out a no doubt wan hope that Obama will emulate Eisenhower, "stand up to America’s militaristic madness," and negotiate an end to the Afghan War, as Eisenhower did in Korea. However, the ever-astute Huber certainly knows this is highly unlikely. Obama has never given the slightest indication that he objects in any serious way to the militaristic madness of our globe-striding empire of bases and our permanent war machine. He accepts it in principle, and most assuredly in practice.
And while it is true that we may be seeing the first faint inklings of a distant glimmer of a vague, dim realization by the White House that the present course in Afghanistan -- surge, bomb, kill, repeat -- is, perhaps, not the most productive approach, the only alternative that the administration seems to be considering is "scaling back" the military footprint in Afghanistan (to some unspecified level), while escalating the on-going campaign of attacks on Pakistan -- including the introduction of Special Forces ground troops.
This "alternative" is said to be the course being pushed by Vice President Joe Biden. And one can well believe it: the plan's destructive boneheadedness is certainly redolent of Biden's statecraft, which has included such splendors as supporting the aggressive war in Iraq, calling for the bloody dismemberment of the conquered land, and, of course, successfully spearheading a draconian "Bankruptcy Bill" that has devastated the lives of millions of people while protecting the profits of Biden's paymasters in the credit card industry. This is the man that Obama hand-picked to stand by his side and help devise strategy and policy at the highest levels.
Escalating the war in Pakistan -- with ground troops, no less -- is, to put it bluntly, insane. The efforts already undertaken there have been greatly destabilizing -- in a nuclear-armed nation riven by ethnic and regional conflicts. One thing that does unite the Pakistanis, however, is their vociferous opposition to American attacks on their soil. But the fact that Pakistan is a sovereign nation -- and an American ally -- cuts absolutely no ice at all with the war councils in Washington -- or with their faithful media scribes. Witness the astonishing passage from a Washington Post story about Pakistan's increasing pushback against the heavy imperial hand. Trying to somehow explain this strange reaction, the Post comes up with this:
Can you imagine that! The Pakistanis are "extremely sensitive about national sovereignty." Obviously, this is some kind of strange, barbaric trait of those dark, primitive tribes; for everyone knows that most countries love to have foreign armies carrying out combat operations in their homeland. Certainly, Americans are intensely relaxed about allowing foreign troops on their soil. And good gracious, the Pakistanis even get all het up about foreign governments launching missile attacks into their territory! Again, you would never see this kind of tetchiness in the sophisticated, civilized West.
But American leaders just can't understand why they are unpopular in Pakistan. Here's Obama's super-special envoy to the "Af-Pak" front, Richard Holbrooke, scratching his head about the grubby little Asian ingrates:
We throw good money at these gooks, and they still don't like us to invade their country and kill their people! Really! What does an empire have to do to get a little love around here?
No, I don't think we will see Obama emulating Ike in ending a pointless, unpopular war, or channeling Truman in resisting the political agenda of an ambitious general. If Obama is as intelligent as he is reputed to be, he already knew the score when he threw himself body and soul into the pursuit of the presidency; he went into it with eyes wide open, and made his deal with the devil.
And in the unlikely event that he is actually clueless enough to believe that he can now back out of the deal, and tries to cut down -- or even seriously curtail -- the militarist machine....then he will very likely find himself stretched out in a pine box beneath the Capitol rotunda, a much-mourned victim of the usual "lone nut" gunman.
Chris Floyd has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford University. Floyd co-founded the blog Empire Burlesque, and is also chief editor of Atlantic Free Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column is republished here with the permission of the author.
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This story was published in the Baltimore Chronicle on September 25, 2009.
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