Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pointless But Oh So Profitable

Washington — President Obama on Sunday will unveil a new package of NATO initiatives that includes the alliance purchasing a fleet of surveillance drones...

Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing--Vince Lombardi 

     Not anymore, Vince.
     Now its more like this: “American officials acknowledge privately that the bar has been significantly lowered on how success in Afghanistan is defined after 11 years of combat.”
    Vietnam, which ended 37 years ago, was our last war in which losing was controversial. Wars have since become about continuity rather than victory or defeat. It’s not how they end up but how long you can make them last. Likewise, our reasons for making war no longer require justification, let alone debate. Any soldier will tell you that there aren’t any ‘whys?’ anymore; it’s simply a matter of good guys (us) going after bad guys (anyone else). Nothing more needs to be said.
    Also, little disputed is that our president now has the self-granted powers of a potentate. Obama has claimed a prerogative to start wars without notifying Congress, let alone respecting its constitutional right to initiate hostilities (viz., Libya, Yemen, Honduras, etc.) And the president has demonstrated that our permanent state of undeclared and unjustified war allows him to kill anyone, even Americans, anywhere merely on his own word. Ghengis Khan or Joe Stalin couldn’t have asked for more.
    By and large, the nation has taken all of this in stride. Last week, a federal judge in New York ruled out some of the powers assumed by Obama. But no doubt the government will appeal that decision right up to a Supreme Court that’s at least as imperious as the president.
    What's this all about?  First and foremost is that people with power always want more power. War, by its nature, confers the greatest power. The history of western civilization is largely about limiting the lust for power and replacing it with laws. But history is also about the determination of power addicts to evade those constraints.  We are currently in a time of war and economic crisis that favors the power grabbers, and our president is taking full advantage of that.
    Second is what goes with power: wealth.  In 2001, Al Qaeda spent $500,000 (some say much less) to organize and carry out 9/11. Our subsequent universal war on terrorism has so far cost in the trillions. It should be obvious that those two facts have about as much to do with each other as a jack rabbit has to do with a herd of buffalo.  In other words, 9/11 was a handy excuse to escalate (remember that word?) us to a condition of endless war everywhere.
     Those trillions are monies taken from taxpayers and given to the corporations that comprise and command the war machine.  Every time a Pentagon drone launches a million dollar Predator missile against a ten dollar mud hut, those contractors make money, ridiculous and preposterous amounts of money. It’s that accretion rather than any aggression that keeps our wars going.
    It’s a general rule that whenever you commercialize an institution, be it a school, a church or an army, the original purpose of that institution, be it education, faith or fighting, becomes secondary to making money.  Our transition from discrete to constant wars has paralleled the transformation of our military from a fighting force to a profit center.  All that remains is for our wars to to be traded on the NYSE or Nasdaq with our 401K counselors advising us on how best to make a killing in killing.