The United States is now in the midst of three wars… or maybe they’re all just smaller parts of what is to become one big war. In any case, we have reason to be very concerned about where our leadership is taking us.
Does my memory fail me or didn’t Obama say he was going to get us out of Afghanistan and Iraq? I mean, wasn’t that the campaign promise? We were going to close Guantanimo and bring the troops home. Well, now he’s got more troops in the Middle East than Bush had. We are starting to look at who’s going to run for office in the next presidential race and we’re farther away from seeing that promise fulfilled than we were when Obama took office. So why is that? I think the answer is economic. It is about the oil in the Middle East and military Keynesianism.
Well, everyone has probably figured out by now we are really in the Middle East cause they’re sitting on some of the hugest oil reserves in the world, right? With the industrial expansion of the globe and peak oil supply in question we are looking at a precious resource indeed. It’s a global race to the finish and he who owns the oil wins (presumably, at least while the oil lasts). We are struggling to remain the world’s economic leader here in the US. The battle is a ruthless one. Reformed alcoholic and ex-President, George W. Bush, perhaps said it best when he proclaimed the country “addicted to oil.” The US is certainly exhibiting many of the typical behaviors associated with addiction, including denial and telling lies, lies, lies.
A friend of mine in Alcoholics Anonymous once told me the way you can tell an addict is lying is that he’s opening his mouth to talk. So it stands to reason that we are being fed all sorts of untruths by our oil addicted leadership about spreading democracy and our humanitarian motivation for sending aid to struggling rebels, etc- and we, in our own oil dependent lives, eagerly latch onto those lies and repeat them to everyone around us without question. The truth is we are primarily interested in getting control of that Middle Eastern oil, and preserving our own wealth and power. (By the way, did you even realize one of the factions of the rebel troops we are supporting in Libya is Al Queda? Yeah, those guys need a little defending… and maybe some better weapons, too.)
So the seeds of war are spread farther and wider. Now we’re in Libya. Why ever would we want to involve ourselves in more war? “It’s the economy, stupid!,” as ex-President Bill Clinton used to say. For one thing, war is a great way to distract people from any concerns they might have about a failing economy and how poorly the recovery effort is going. For another, it is the best we can do to stay productive these days, or at least to maintain the illusion of being productive. The fact is, we have a terrible unemployment problem and essentially no manufacturing base left in the country. We need war. It comes down to military Keynesianism.
Military Keynesianism can generally be described as a government economic policy where a large amount of spending is devoted to the military in an effort to increase economic growth. The arms industry provides a potentially endless source of cash flow in that it is capable of both generating market demand and fulfilling that demand all at once. At home in the US, there is always a need for security. We must maintain effective defenses against attack. Combined with this is a built in obsolescence in weapons technology. We know historically that he who wields the most advanced weapon wins, so there is always a demand to keep military technology moving forward. Outside the country there is demand from the rest of the world for ever more powerful weaponry as well, and as a leader in the field of development the US is all too happy to supply the market. Selling weapons is a very lucrative export market.
In the latest issue of Philosophy Now, author Mike Fuller examines the views of the great linguist and modern scholar Noam Chomsky regarding military Keynesianism and how it relates to today’s global economy. Chomsky’s view is that in the post Cold War environment, where the world is dominated by one superpower- the US- there is no security threat that would necessitate the massive spending on defense and arms we currently engage in. He sees the domestic and global demand for arms as something we are in large part creating, using fear to keep the system productive. Furthermore, he maintains the government’s rhetoric about the need for upgrading security in a dangerous world is a fiction, at the heart of which lies military Keynesianism, powerful lobbying by unions and private industry, and the promise of “jobs for the boys.”
In his 1997 book Powers and Prospects Chomsky illustrates, “The US share in arms sales to Third World countries has reached almost three-quarters. We must therefore provide them with even more advanced weaponry, so that we can tremble in proper fear. The sale of F-16 aircraft with taxpayer-subsidized loans allows the Air Force to pay Lockheed to upgrade the aircraft and to develop the F-22 to counter the threat they pose.”
Fuller goes on to say, “Even if it is conceded that Chomsky is too cavalier in dismissing the real security and strategic worries in today’s world, and that superpowers do not maintain their status by resting on their laurels, I think it has to be admitted that the security worries are being inflated as an ideological cover for other agendas, such as ‘subsidizing the rich,’ responding to pressure groups, aiding export markets, stimulating the economy and generating civilian spin-offs in research and development.”
It is unlikely a government in the position to do so would not consider tapping the potential for economic stimulus the war machine offers to provide. With the prospect of “civilian spin-offs” in the mix, such as the development of the internet for example, it might even be considered bad business not to take advantage of the fruits of military investment. On the other hand, there is public sentiment to take into account. Weapons kill people. People suffer and die in war. War is a force of destruction, and the public grows weary of it in time. This offers a sort of built-in counter pressure to any tendency for unfettered growth in the military-industrial complex. In a recent article in The Nation, journalist Robert Dreyfus argues that despite the military’s ongoing push for widening expenditures, the Pentagon may soon be facing sizable cuts to its budget.
In the article, military spending analyst Gordon Adams refers to the powerful nexus that includes the Pentagon, military contractors and lobbyists, and military backing from Congressional armed services committees as the “Iron Triangle.”
“If you leave it to the Iron Triangle, it won’t come down,” Adams asserts about the prospect of a shrinking military budget. “But it will come down, and what will drive it are the outside variables, which create a tidal wave that hits defense spending.”
The article continues, “What’s creating that wave… are two intersecting currents. A politics of debt and deficit reduction has taken hold in Washington, tied to an economic crisis that has convinced many that the United States can no longer afford an oversized Pentagon. And for the public, the decade-long trauma of 9/11, which fueled the ‘war on terror,’ has finally begun to ease. War-weary Americans have turned decisively against the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and, according to polls, voters support cuts in military spending. All that creates space on Capitol Hill to take on the Iron Triangle.”
While this is a welcome possibility, I imagine the forces fueling the engine of military Keynesianism will not be quelled easily. We may well see a renewed effort from the powers that be to instill new fear in the American public so as to keep the work of the military-industrial complex efficiently humming along and the Iron Triangle in power. Historically we can see that when all else fails economically, they take us to war. This is really how we finally got out of the Great Depression, ramping up to near full employment during World War II after a decade of floundering attempts at stimulating employment. All it would take to put the fear of 9/11 back into the hearts of the public is another well publicized terrorist attack, and with our involvement in the Middle East progressing as it is we are stoking the coals for just that sort of thing to happen. With a little of the right sort of propaganda thrown onto the ol’ boob tube between reruns of Jersey Shore, Americans could soon find themselves nervously calling for tightened security and more defense spending. In our consumer culture public sentiment is fairly easy to manipulate through media spin alone.
The public may be growing weary of the ‘war on terror,’ but the government is not letting up on the gas just yet. A couple of weeks ago I received a newsletter from the American Civil Liberties Union warning of a new development in the expansion of government war authority. The new National Defense Authorization Act was up for a deciding vote in the House of Representatives, with a new provision for war against terrorism hidden deep inside it. Since that time the act was passed and is now in effect. Essentially it recognizes terrorists and those affiliated with them officially as enemies that may be targeted by the military in warfare, and it allows the president total independent authority to wage war against such enemies anywhere in the world, without end and without congressional authorization. This includes the authority to wage war within the boundaries of the US itself. The ACLU is concerned with the implications.
“The House just passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA),” the ACLU’s blog report states, “including a provision to authorize worldwide war, which has no expiration date and will allow this president — and any future president — to go to war anywhere in the world, at any time, without further congressional authorization. The new authorization wouldn’t even require the president to show any threat to the national security of the United States. The American military could become the world’s cop, and could be sent into harm’s way almost anywhere and everywhere around the globe.”
The stage has been set for further expansion of military power. A good advertising campaign could align public sentiment without much trouble. We really need that oil. We are already involved in three wars in the Middle East. We are economically depressed. This is not a good combination. I am afraid the seeds are being sown for a much larger battle than we have yet seen.
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower
Chomsky on Global Myths and Realities
ACLU Blog of Rights
House Passes Authority for Worldwide War
May 26, 2011
Al Qaeda may already be among Libya’s rebels
March 30, 2011
Taking Aim at the Pentagon Budget
March 23, 2011
Anti-American Extremists Among Libyan Rebels U.S. Has Vowed To Protect
March 19, 2011