Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Gonna Study War Some More
There are two main ways of keeping the peace. One is the Johnny Cash method, or don’t bring your guns to town. Movies teach us that this was popular among pinko marshals like Wyatt Earp in the old west. The other is the NRA idea of selling everyone lots of guns so that any one can either scare off or plug troublemakers.
The problem with John and Wyatt's advice was that one was a singer and the other a law man so that they didn’t particularly care about the fortunes of Samuel Colt up here in Connecticut. On the other holster, the advantage of the NRA notion is that it makes lots of money whether or not it keeps the peace. And if America isn’t about making money, what is it about?
Obviously, Cash and Earp have few fans in Washington. The Pentagon, lavishly indulged by lopsided congressional majorities such as those enjoyed by dictatorships, has become mainly a weapons monger. Thanks to its efforts, U.S. corporations peddle more lethal hardware around the world year after year than any other death merchants. Pig heaven is selling to all sides in a conflict. There was a lot of that in Iraq, where huge shipments of arms vanished on arriving from the States, to show up later in the hands of our nominal enemies. Nothing new about that. The U.S. profitably armed both Iran and Iraq in their 1980-88 war that killed a reported million people.
It’s hardly surprising then that defense secretary Robert Gates, who’s there to remind us that when it comes to war there’s no difference between Bush and Obummer, has been trashing the Europeans for not doing enough arms shopping and sabre rattling. Consider this amazing quote from a speech he gave last week at the National Defense University, a Defense Department-financed graduate school for military officers and diplomats:
The demilitarization of Europe — where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it — has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st.”
Gates went on to criticize the Europeans for spending only half as much of their GDP on the military as the U.S. does. He warned that “hostile powers”could be tempted into “aggression” by such puny war budgets.
My first thought on ingesting that inversion of logic and assault on decency is that politicians invoke 2001 and 9/11 to claim they 'changed everything'--in ways, coincidentally, that benefit those making the claim. But, as you and I have noticed, everything is pretty much the same. I didn’t transpose my sock and underwear drawers after 2001 and I didn’t fret more about Muslims with box cutters after 9/11 than I did about Soviets with H-bombs when that was the threat du jour.
Gates doesn’t tell us why peace was okay in the last century but has become dangerous in this one. Neither does he identify the “hostile powers” likely to attack Europe because it doesn’t permit its military-industrial sector to engorge itself as sickeningly as ours does.
My Rough Guide to Rogue Regimes hasn’t listed any new threats to Europe since the Berlin Wall came down. Of course, the Pentagon warns that Persian rockets could hit Luxembourg at any moment, but continentals consider that to be merely a sales promo for Northrup, Lockheed and Boeing.
There’s nothing new about Washington admonishing even historically tranquil states to become sufficiently terrified of whatever dangers the Pentagon invents so that they will purchase U.S. weapons and invite in our forces to protect them from foes foreign and domestic. Reagan’s ambassador to Austria in the 1980s ticked off the locals with suggestions that they abandon neutrality. We’re forever urging quiet little Costa Rica, which has no army, to get itself one--Pentagon outfitted, of course. We’ve made our annoyance clear at the anti-war clauses of the Japanese constitution. No doubt our diplos are working diligently to get the Swiss worrying that neighboring Liechtenstein is a secret aggressor state.
The other side of the coin is threatening perfectly peaceful countries with war so as to gin up profitable arms races. It’s now 31 years that Washington has been claiming Iran is developing nukes to annihilate just about everyone from Oman to Iceland. We’re currently stuffing even more weapons into the Persian Gulf because we say it’s threatened by the Persians, a people who have not attacked another country in 250 years. Venezuela has never invaded anyone or even fought a foreign war. That doesn’t stop Washington and its house media from charging it with scheming to devour Latin America, a fate that the continent can escape only by buying American weapons and accepting ever more U.S. bases on its soil.
The tired ploy of manufacturing crises like those cited above appears to be fading. The vagueness of Gate’s warning about putative "hostile powers" is another sign that our weapons and warfare state has become so natural to us that it's no longer necessary to frighten us with scare stories about evil enemies. Soon wars will be scheduled like tv listings:
  • Somalia invasion set for next Tuesday.
  • Bombing of Ecuador to be summer replacement for subversion of Bolivia.