Monday, May 30, 2011

On Memorial Day
My city of New Haven doesn’t feel a need to guard our municipal security by keeping police precincts in Atlanta, Los Angeles or Omaha. My state of Connecticut doesn’t maintain statal security by assigning troopers to Alaska, Montana or Arkansas. Neither do the mayor of New Haven nor the governor of Connecticut project themselves as national leaders
By contrast, my country’s leaders assert that our national security requires military bases just about everywhere on earth--plus weapons pointing down from the Heavens as well. And our president never stops proclaiming our “global leadership” despite the fact that no world-wide election has ever given cause for such a claim.
These declarations about national security and cosmic captaincy are preposterous. Except for the local compradors, barkeeps and whore masters, few foreigners want an American base in their backyard. By the same token, few are willing to accept "leadership" by the pols, spooks and generals of a different and distant land. Their reaction runs from resentment to resistance. The inevitable result is endless crisis and war.
When Americans die in those wars, it is in service to our empire of power and pelf such as those of the Romans, the Ottomans, Brits, etc. Because our national myth will not admit to that, we dissemble about their deaths. We dare not say they fell to procure oil contracts or even to ensure our “national interests.” It’s more comforting, even though corrupting, to pretend they died for their country or for the freedom of others.
The profits of empire enrich only a chosen few, while the costs of empire in blood and taxes are paid for by the many. Nevertheless, even in this era of austerity, Americans remain willing to buy the myth and pay its price, no matter the amplitude of deaths or deficits. The conventional wisdom holds that we no longer pay attention to our constant wars because they are fought by a professional military rather than draftees. But that doesn’t explain the indulgence that we, and particularly proponents of small government, grant to the Pentagon despite its ginormous record of corruption and incompetence. Americans have long since grown cynical about Wall Street, but still excuse and even adore an equally rapacious “defense” establishment. Maybe if we put our bankers and brokers in uniform, they’d be more lovable as they rob us blind.