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MILITARISM KNOWS NO DEFEAT August 16, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Humankind/Planet Earth, nuclear free zone..
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Some have contended that Vietnam was not a defeat, because it held the line against Communism in South East Asia.

The question then will nationalism triumph in South West Asia, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the war of terror against Islam following the fall of the Twin Towers.

Vietnam has been now consigned to history, from which lessons might be learnt. Following the Gulf War and the  declaration “the Vietnam Syndrome has been kicked once and for all”, the American Policital Establishment, according to Richard Falk, renewed their confidence in deploying violence to solve social and historical problems -often the ramifications of colonialist arrogance.

Nuclear Weapons  may well be costly to build and maintain but can only be used to threaten, but not use unless to drawdown a terminal nuclear winter. So it is simultaneously an oddity to observe that the sensible proposal to make  the Middle East a nuclear free zone and to substantially reduce the nuclear stockpiles gets no traction. Pretensions aside what reason now do Britain and France have for their nuclear weapons capability?

The problem with conventional warfare, from the militarist perspective in the light of the lessons from Vietnam is that the draft creates popular resistance.  War methodology in Afghanistan is the answer to the Vietnam Syndrome. The counter insurgency manual gave way to drone warfare and night raids, as if the population does not matter. And the home population mostly now indifferent to matters far afield can be effectively sedated by television.

Richard Falk  has an analysis that in a psycho-analysis of militarism to understand why, what he contends is the rational and successful application of military power,  is followed in circumstances that are bound to be unsuccessful.At Al Jazeera he writes:

To get such clarity, we probably need to delve into the collective unconscious of the warmakers, but even without such Freudian probes, there are some obvious dark forces at work in the West. For Europe especially, but also the United States, there is a definite nostalgia for the colonial period when military intervention was efficiently triumphal and conspicuously rewarded with prestige, markets, and resources. There lingers in the West a sense that there must be a way to restore those happy days of global ascendancy despite the formal elimination of colonial rule. Closely connected with this residual imperialism, given some credibility by way of economic globalisation in the 1990s, is the parallel adherence to the realist belief that it is military power that continues to shape world history.

What follows from this search for explanations is what might be described as ‘militarism,’ here defined as the compulsive or addictive reliance on hard power for conflict resolution that is not altered by repeated experiences of failure.

Militarism needs to be distinguished from military power, which can be rationally used to achieve posited goals under certain conditions. Militarism is functional for power elites to the extent that it produces a dysfunctional confidence in the effectiveness of military power that insulates itself from criticism and corrective responses. This enables the military machine to be funded far in excess of its rational relevance to security and other national interests. Under such circumstances those skeptical of military approaches can only hope for non-use as reliance on intervention has recently meant huge increases in expenditures, sacrifices lives, and resulting devastation and massive suffering for foreign lands.

This is what has been happening throughout this period of the decline and fall of European colonialism, and more dramatically in the course of the American effort to take over the task of projecting Western power globally during the last half century. A certain geopolitical plausibility was attached to this huge peacetime investment in military power as long as the Cold War lasted. The US/Soviet rivalry could be understood as a characteristic great power struggle that was fortunately contained by fears of a third world war fought with nuclear weapons. But that plausibility ended when the Soviet Union collapsed, and strategic conflict between leading states shifted its nexus to economic competition. Despite the American initiation of ‘the long war’ after the 9/11 attacks, the idea of achieving security through military dominance became increasingly diversionary, anachronistic, and a persuasive explanation for a series of humbling defeats.

Humbling yes, even humiliating, but not the advent of humility, and that is the crux of the problem. The shooting down of an American Chinook CH-47 helicopter in Afghanistan on August 6th is illustrative. It cost the lives of the 38 persons on board, which included 22 Navy Seals from the elite special forces unit that killed Osama Bin Laden in May. Rather than take this as a warning sign that the counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan was heading for a Vietnam ending, the response of Washington was to call it “a one-off incident” that was not to be regarded as “any kind of watershed or trend.” A Pentagon spokesperson, Col. Dave Lapan insisted, “We still have the Taliban on the run.” The civilian leaders sounded the same note. The new Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, declared “We will stay the course to complete that mission.” And Obama went along: “We will press on and succeed”.

In looking at the American media coverage, it was almost impossible to learn without reading deep into the story that there were also seven Afghan commandos on board the helicopter who also died in the incident. Obama reinforced this jingoist line of response by saying, “My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the Americans who were lost earlier today in Afghanistan”. Not a single word of condolence was expressed for the Afghan victims.

In my view such selective inattention helps us grasp why counterinsurgency is a failure in the world of today. The NATO press release was somewhat more attuned to an acknowledgement of the Afghan dimension of the struggle, reporting that the shooting down of the helicopter “resulted in the death of 38 Afghan and coalition troops.” It is true, of course, that it is natural for the United States to grieve more strongly for the loss of its own soldiers, but to avoid even mentioning the Afghan losses seems morally unacceptable and politically damning.

. . . There is another disturbing aspect of the helicopter incident. During the latter stages of the Vietnam War there was a rising tide of anger at home about the needless sacrifice of American lives. Veterans spoke out against the war as did family members of slain soldiers. No longer. One lesson that was learned by the military establishment from the Vietnamese experience was to get rid of the draft, and rely on a volunteer army. Beyond this, those dying are rarely from the American middle classes, but from the poorest sectors of American racial minorities.

There is no peace movement in the United States despite wars that have lasted over a decade. And in the face of the growing doubts about carrying on the Afghanistan War much longer, in large part reflecting financial strains, Obama is able to say, without arousing any societal or media pushback: “At this difficult hour all Americans are united in support of our men and women in uniform who serve so that we can live in freedom and security.” I think the time has come to say that American freedom and security would be far more benefitted by bringing the troops hope as rapidly as possible, closing hundreds of overseas bases, and dedicating a large portion of the resources released to restore confidence in America’s future within its own borders, which means jobs, education, and repairing infrastructure.

Perhaps the time is long past when the political order in the World should be based on justice for all. If we advance human rights within our own bounded, often tribal conceived political systems, why should not democracy be shared by the globe?

The question arises as budget cuts are made for services to people, as to how sustainable and untouchable will the spending on military industrial complex be, if alternative methods of conflict resolution are successfully employed?

ELSEWHERE:

Some of the issues are the subject of Scott Horton’s interview with Stephen Glain

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