Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Oh yes, let's race to the bottom!

As I was trolling the No Quarter blog, where so many of its proponents are just doe-eyed in their support of Hillary "Back to the Future" Clinton and John "100 Years of War" McCain, and most of the remaining troublemakers are doe-eyed in the support of Barack "Let There Be Hope" Obama, I managed to reprise a quote of Hillary's in which she made it clear that she'd vaporize Iran in a second if Iran so much as sneezed in the direction of the sacred state of Israel. Trolling of course would be entirely unsuccessful if it did not evoke a reaction, and I hit paydirt. Sure enough, some individual started using such fancy terms as "deterrence" and as part of her incantation unleashed the image of the mythical Cold War. That showed me, she though, except for one thing: I never bought the Cold War hype.

To be able to buy into the hype, one has to be able to believe that the "enemy," capital of the International Communist Conspiracy, the USSR, was an "Evil Empire" (as Saint Ronald Raygun once characterized it) hell-bent on destroying all that was true and beautiful about the American Way of Life™. What if instead, something else was going on? What if instead there was no evil intent (at least in the way we usually think of it) on the part of the Kremlin's leaders toward the US; there was instead a lack of trust? What if we said the same with regard to US leaders' intentions toward the USSR? A lack of trust of the USSR led to the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which in turn led to the Kremlin developing its own nuke, which in turn led to a gargantuan arms race between the two empires (or superpowers if one feels the need to be more pc about things). Once one party began to crow about its advantage, the other party, feeling threatened, had to do something to erase the advantage, causing the first party to escalate its expenditures in order momentarily regain its perceived advantage. As in any positive feedback loop, any action by one component stimulates action by the other component. With both empires expending larger and larger proportions of their treasure on building more and more weapons, playing a game of "chicken" that won't end until someone finally pulls away from the precipice, one must ask, cui bono? The average Russians certainly didn't benefit; instead they were beset by shortages, poor infrastructure, etc. Nor did average Americans fare so well. The vast natural resource advantages and industrial advantages were essentially wasted on large stockpiles of highly destructive weapons that no-one wanted and that would in all likelihood would never be used (we hoped). By the time the Cold War was ended (basically when Gorbachev said "enough is enough"), the Soviet Union was bankrupt and about to collapse in on itself. The US was rapidly transitioning from a creditor nation to a debtor nation, after having already transitioned from being a producer nation to a consumer nation. Rather, the beneficiaries were a handful of war profiteers (the term "Military Industrial Complex" should give you a hint as to who the "winners" were) and powermongers. The rest of us have nothing useful to show for it. The "deterrent" was a complete waste.

With the Cold War now history, the replacement war has the same basic mindset - The War On Terra™ operates on a deterrence model. Presumably, the vast military might still possessed by the US serves as a deterrent to potential "terrorists" (i.e., any nation or stateless organization that opposes US hegemony). If need be, as it goes, the US merely need threaten to unleash Armageddon on the enemy du joir, and the "enemy" will cave to US demands. What happens instead, is rather than simply trusting the US to not do anything bad, the "enemy" will do what it can to defend itself. That effort of self-defense becomes perceived as a threat to US leaders, who then escalate the situation by making more threats - either directly, or through proxy client states such as Israel, leading to even more self-defense which gets spun as "evil" and so on. Again, a classic race to the bottom ensues until one of these parties finally opts out (usually due to bankruptcy). Certainly the CEOs of "defense" corporations (Halliburton, Blackwater, etc.) and oil corporations are making out like bandits. Wannabe powermongers seek high offices by promising to "protect" us from the "evil terrorists" by further escalating the rhetoric of The War On Terra™, as well as materially escalating things via more and more military expenditures. The rest of us increasingly suffer, as our ability to afford basics for survival is compromised by inflation and shortages, our infrastructures deteriorate, our education and social services are increasingly underfunded or cut out altogether.

I wish I could believe that it would be a simple matter of some enlightened leader opting out of war of words and deeds, but alas that is unlikely. Rather it will take the equivalent of bankruptcy to end it. If we're "lucky" we'll find a Gorbachev-like figure who will see the writing on the wall and belatedly prepare for the collapse. I wouldn't count on luck - although if you wish to improve the odds, vocally challenge the prevailing rhetoric and ask the simple question: what if "they" (e.g., Iranians, etc.) don't trust the US government rather than being inherently "evil"? What if the government stopped doing things that fostered distrust? And if you don't feel like asking those questions now, I'd ask if not now, when?

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