by Jeff Huber
I subscribe to the school that says we would have ascended to global hegemony if we had stiff-armed “The Great War” and let the Euros slug it out among themselves until they’d lost their taste for war forever. Then we could have dictated terms by which we fed Europe until it could grow another generation of able-bodied men who could take up the plow again. That would most probably have preempted the need for a Second World War to mop up the unfinished business of the first one, and would likely have also averted the emergence of the Soviet Union and the Cold War and our dirty little third world proxy wars in Korea and Vietnam and, most relevant to us now, the first superpower substitute war in Afghanistan, in which we created a guerilla force adversary to defeat the Soviets as payback for Vietnam that we ourselves are hopelessly, haplessly grappling with today.
That’s largely why the New American Centurions aka the neoconservative cabal were able to so completely gain the support of the Rockefeller trilateralists and whatever other theoretical conspirators we suspect to be the hidden masters of the known universe. In September 2000, the Centurions published a neo-imperialist manifesto titled Rebuilding America’s Defenses that proclaimed, in essence, that American had a global leadership responsibility to single-handedly ensure the survival of warfare as a vibrant, ongoing human institution because nobody else had to the oomph to do it anymore.
Our military’s officer corps has become a culture of Petraeus worshiping yes-colonels who pine to become yes-generals. The only warriors who count anymore are the bull feather merchant marines who conjure the pro-war propaganda that their echo chamberlains in the media pawn off on us as “news.” Our country has become the abject servant of the American Pentarchy, that cabal of sandbox generals, bathtub admirals, beltway bandits, AIPAC rats, Warlord Fauntleroys, New American Centurions, post-modern Praetorians, Long War legislators, Dr. Strangeloves, G.I. Joe Six-Packs, Pavlov’s dogs of war, patriotic psychopaths and other oligarchs whose narrow self interests and well-funded efforts have made the long dreamed-of permanent American security state a reality. The military-industrial complex that launched our reign as a superpower is
“We are engaged in a long war…” – Newt Gingrich
“No nation ever profited from a long war” – Sun Tzu
We continue to hurtle further down the slope that leads to the edge of the same cliff that the Athenians and the Romans and the English and the French and the Germans and the Japanese and the Russians drove themselves over. I wrote some years ago that empires have a penchant for becoming footnotes in succeeding empires’ history books because they fail to learn that the military power that brought them to preeminence was insufficient to keep them there.
The United States has arrived at the moment the Romans found themselves in during the reign of Commodus, son of the general and stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius, the last of Rome’s “Five Good Emperors.” They say the acorn never falls far from the tree, but someone must have come along and kicked Commodus down the hill and over the dale.
|Dick Cheney circa 1500.|
Commodus was the first in a long line of Roman emperors to consolidate his power by bribing Rome’s elite military forces into supporting him. Eventually, as Renaissance era political science virtuoso Niccolò Machiavelli noted in his seminal work The Art of War, the Praetorian Guard became “insolent and formidable, not only to the Senate but to the emperors themselves” and in time the Guard “put many emperors to death and disposed of the Empire as it pleased.” That, Machiavelli observed, was decisive point that transformed the Romans into the Italians of his day, a pseudo-confederacy of warring principalities that became a low-hanging-fruit target for foreign interlopers.
Like it or not, the history of humanity is the history of its wars. Other stuff happened, sure, stuff that enriched human existence rather than debased it, but none of our man-made beauty would have been created without the man-made horror that accompanied armed conflict. Italy’s Renaissance period that spanned the 14th to the 17th century, a flowering of literature, science, art, education and intellectual growth, could not have occurred without the internecine violent conflict that Machiavelli chronicled (and played a large part in fomenting. One could justifiably argue that Machiavelli was Renaissance Italy's moral and political equivalent of Dick Cheney, though old Nick leaves dirty Dick in the dust when it comes to cognition). Conflict is, in fact, the very essence of art, as the core purpose of art is to resolve conflict. You will never witness a superior work of art, be it visual (painting, sculpture and so on), language (plays, movies, books and the like), musical (including the dreck you see on the annual Grammy awards) or social (politics, war, sports) that is not characterized by an underlying tension created by opposing forces.
Like other human societies, the America we know today could not have come to be—for better or for worse—without its unrelenting procession of wars. The birth of our nation was its armed rebellion and revolution against the British. We then fought a line of internal and external wars of establishment, consolidation and expansion. The Spanish American War, in which we enlarged and solidified our sphere of influence in the Pacific and the Caribbean, was the war that announced our intention to be reckoned with as an equal of the Old World powers.
America's intervention in World War I America’s insistence that it would have a say in Europe’s affairs. It also, in retrospect, proved to be a prime example of how war aims, especially the aims of optional wars, are seldom realized and, moreover, usually give way to unintended and unwanted consequences.
|Neocon Dick after five centuries|
of cryogenic preservation.
But we let ourselves get stuck on our zippers in the First World War when peace didn’t produce the results Woodrow Wilson had envisioned, and immersion in the Second World War was pretty much unavoidable, as was the rest of the follow-on fornicating mess.
Application of military force in World War II established American as a first-magnitude superpower. Since then, however, our investment in war has produced exponentially diminishing returns. Our best-trained, best-equipped military has only been effective as a force-in-being that, like a fleet-in-being, can exert influence on world events through the simple fact of its existence. Our Cold War arsenal clearly deterred another outbreak of general war in Europe and a global nuclear doom Krieg. But every time we committed ourselves to fuzzy pretext land wars against pathetically inferior forces, we managed to shoot our baby makers off.
By the time the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, America had been on a wartime footing for a half-century, and the shadow powers that be had no interest in allowing the country to become that kinder, gentler, shining city on the hill that Big Daddy and The Great Communicator talked about. We’re still on a war economy for the same reasons we’re still in an oil economy and a tobacco economy. War and oil and tobacco are still making large lucre, and it’s a bad business decision to change products when the old product is still turning a pandemic profit.
|The trilateral power elite.|
Even the neocons must have realized that their stated ambition sounded like so much whack-a-doodle-doo, because they confessed that the American public was unlikely to fall for their shenanigan ideology barring a “new Peal Harbor.” Then 9/11/2001 came along, almost a year to the day after Rebuilding America’s Defenses polluted the information highway, and the neos got just what they were looking for.
The grand-sounding doctrines and strategies we were promised would assure victory in the “new kind of war” we were embarking upon—Shock and Awe and Network Centric Warfare and Counterinsurgency aka COIN and the Revolution in Military Affairs aka RMA and Transformation and the Long War and Persistent Conflict and the rest of the unrefined used horse lunch that the Pentagon and its pet newsmongers have been spoon feeding us for roughly the last decade—have been nothing but one big, red, shiny, fat-assed, expensive failure after the next. Every place we have bombed, boarded, bludgeoned, beheaded and bloodied, from Iraq to the Bananastans to Libya to Somalia to Yemen, looks like a big-city zoo ten minutes after the force-ten earthquake hit it.
Our generals and the sycophant politicians who grovel at their spit-polished feet would have us believe that we now have to dedicate the next 80 years or so into rounding up all the critters we let loose and putting them back in their cages. Well guess what, folks. All them loose critters are making new critters faster than we can give Dick Cheney's pals no-bid contracts to build new cages to put them all in. You cannot win un-winnable wars. The longer you pursue them, the longer it takes to lose them.
We have overreacted to the 9/11 attacks to a degree that must have exceeded Osama bin Laden’s hopes by magnitudes. In exacting revenge for approximately 3,000 American innocents killed in the New York and Washington D.C. guerilla air raids, we have directly caused the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Asians and have destroyed the lives of millions of others. We spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined to wage wars with vaguely identifies adversaries that have no defense budget whatsoever while our economy follows the birds to their summer retreats.
about to grind it to a bitter end.
But heck, who wants to look a 19-year old wounded war veteran in what’s left of his face and tell him all that?
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) is author of the critically lauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon on America’s rise to global dominance.