The Joys of Perpetual War

September 14th, 2010 by Andy in Perpetual War For a Perpetual Piece of The Action

A bit of an older post, but unfortunately still all-too relevant to our never ending situation in America, by Jo Comerford of the always-fine TomDispatch.com. Here, she brings into a little clearer focus all of the true costs being borne by our society in order to maintain the never ending conduit of public money dedicated to the military industry.

So you thought the Pentagon was already big enough? Well, what do you know, especially with the price of the American military slated to grow by at least 25 percent over the next decade? Forget about the butter. It’s bad for you anyway. And sheer military power, as well as the money behind it, assures the country of a thick waistline without the cholesterol. So, let’s sing the praises of perpetual war. We better, since right now every forecast in sight tells us that it’s our future.

Tom Engelhardt adds his perspective to this from his 2009 column “War Is Peace: Is America Hooked on War?”

When it comes to war (and peace), we live in a world of American Newspeak in which alternatives to a state of war are not only ever more unacceptable, but ever harder to imagine. If war is now our permanent situation, in good Orwellian fashion it has also been sundered from a set of words that once accompanied it.

It lacks, for instance, “victory.” After all, when was the last time the U.S. actually won a war (unless you include our “victories” over small countries incapable of defending themselves like the tiny Caribbean Island of Grenada in 1983 or powerless Panama in 1989)? The smashing “victory” over Saddam Hussein in the First Gulf War only led to a stop-and-start conflict now almost two decades old that has proved a catastrophe. Keep heading backward through the Vietnam and Korean Wars and the last time the U.S. military was truly victorious was in 1945.

But achieving victory no longer seems to matter. War American-style is now conceptually unending, as are preparations for it. When George W. Bush proclaimed a Global War on Terror (aka World War IV ), conceived as a “generational struggle” like the Cold War, he caught a certain American reality. In a sense, the ongoing war system can’t absorb victory. Any such endpoint might indeed prove to be a kind of defeat.

No longer has war anything to do with the taking of territory either, or even with direct conquest. War is increasingly a state of being, not a process with a beginning, an end, and an actual geography.

Similarly drained of its traditional meaning has been the word “security” — though it has moved from a state of being (secure) to an eternal, immensely profitable process whose endpoint is unachievable. If we ever decided we were either secure enough, or more willing to live without the unreachable idea of total security, the American way of war and the national security state would lose much of their meaning. In other words, in our world, security is insecurity.

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