Saturday, March 8, 2008

There are ideals, and then there are ideals

One huge facet of the Zeitgeist of our elites goes as follows: making huge profits is something to be idealistic about.

From the Esquire article on Admiral Fallon via A Tiny Revolution:

Unlike his Arabic-speaking predecessor, Army General John Abizaid, Fox Fallon wasn't selected to lead U. S. Central Command for his regional knowledge or cultural sensitivity, but because he is, says Secretary of Defense Gates, "one of the best strategic thinkers in uniform today."

If anything has been sorely missing to date in America's choices in the Middle East and Central Asia, it has been a strategic mind-set that consistently keeps its eyes on the real prize: connecting these isolated regions in a far more broadband fashion to the global economy. Instead of effectively countering the efforts of others (e.g., the radical Salafis, Saudi Arabia's Wahhabists, Russia's security services, China's energy sector) who would fashion such connectivity to their selfish ends, Washington has wasted precious time focusing excessively on transforming the political systems of Iraq and Afghanistan, as though governments somehow birth functioning societies and economies instead of the other way around.

Waiting on perfect security or perfect politics to forge economic relationships is a fool's errand. By the time those fantastic conditions are met in this dangerous, unstable part of the world, somebody less idealistic will be running the place--the Russians, Chinese, Pakistanis, Indians, Turks, Iranians, Saudis. That's why Fallon has been aggressively hawking his southern strategy of encouraging a north-south "energy corridor" between the Central Asian republics and the energy-starved-but-booming Asian subcontinent (read: Islamabad down through Bangalore and then east to Kolkata), with both Afghanistan and Pakistan as crucial conduits.


The Persian Gulf right now is booming economically, and Fallon wants to harness that power to connect the failed states that pockmark the landscape to the outside world. In this choice, he sees no alternative.

"What I learned in the Pacific is that after a while the tableau of failed, failing, or dysfunctional states becomes a real burden on the functional countries and a problem for their neighborhood, because they breed unrest and insecurities and attract troublemakers very well. They're like sewers, and they begin to fester. It's bad for business. And when it's bad for business, people tend to start restricting their investments, and they restrict their thinking, and it allows more barriers, so we're back to building walls again instead of breaking them down. If you have to build walls, it means you're moving backward."

The American Exceptionalist mindset has allowed for one hell of a cognitive bias: a self-serving bias in which other nations' actions are "selfish" but the actions taken by the US government at the behest of its corporate masters are "idealistic." Ultimately though it all comes down to what is good or bad for business, at least as defined by our CEOs.

Now since Jonathan Schwarz was already kind enough to quote Gen. Smedley Butler's admission that his service to the US military amounted to being a "racketeer for capitalism", I thought I'd add a bit by Butler about the "idealism" that is really manifest in US empire building:

Lest this seem to be the bellicose pipedream of some dyspeptic desk soldier, let us remember that the military deal of our country has never been defensive warfare. Since the Revolution, only the United Kingdom has beaten our record for square miles of territory acquired by military conquest. Our exploits against the American Indian, against the Filipinos, the Mexicans, and against Spain are on a par with the campaigns of Genghis Khan, the Japanese in Manchuria and the African attack of Mussolini. No country has ever declared war on us before we first obliged them with that gesture. Our whole history shows we have never fought a defensive war. And at the rate our armed forces are being implemented at present, the odds are against our fighting one in the near future.

Bruce Gagnon sez:
...we are addicted to war and to violence. The very weaving together of our nation was predicated on violence when we began the extermination of the Native populations and introduced the institution of slavery. A veteran of George Washington's Army, in 1779, said, "I really felt guilty as I applied the torch to huts that were homes of content until we ravagers came spreading desolation everywhere....Our mission here is ostensibly to destroy but may it not transpire, that we pillagers are carelessly sowing the seed of Empire." The soldier wrote this as Washington's Army set out to remove the Iroquois civilization from New York state so that the U.S. government could expand its borders westward toward the Mississippi River. The creation of the American empire was underway.

Our history since then has been endless war.
Ward Churchill sez:
...the U.S. has always postured itself at the forefront of valuing others even as it treats them like toilet paper.
If you read around enough, you'll figure rather quickly that since its inception, the US has always been involved in one military operation or another. I recall while reading Ward Churchill's On the Justice of Roosting Chickens a few years ago the stark reality: the US has never truly been at peace - some interventions were and are larger in scale than others, but not a year goes by in which some sort of military operation fails to materialize (one might get the same basic impression from William Blum's Rogue State, and Killing Hope; Anthony Hall's The Fourth World and American Empire: The Bowl With One Spoon; among others. The rhetoric of such interventions is usually quite lofty and idealistic in tone, but the subtext of that rhetoric can be boiled down to a simple slogan: "property and profits before people."

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