[This essay is part of the ZNet Classics series. Three times a week we will re-post an article that we think is of timeless importance. This one was first published August, 2007.]
All this is very well known. The real issue is why the
At the present time it is losing two wars and creating a vast arc of profound strategic and political instability from the Mediterranean Sea to South Asia, it has resumed the arms race in Europe, and it is making
A large part of the
Political conflicts are not solved by military interventions, and that they are often incapable of being resolved by political or peaceful means does not alter the fact that force is dysfunctional. This is truer today than ever with the spread of weapons technology. The
But all this still begs the issue of why the
In part, expensive equipment and incredibly inflated military budget is premised on the traditional assumption that owning complex weapons gives
To a critical but scarcely exclusive sense, the Pentagon’s penchant for military toys makes an ambitious, aggressive foreign policy essential. Without enemies and conflicts, real or potential, there is no reason to spend money, and this reality often colored its definition of Soviet goals after 1947 – despite the objections of senior CIA analysts. But the Defense Department, and national security establishments in general, are immense and all kinds of constituencies exist in them: there are procurement experts who draw up budgets and go after equipment mindlessly, people who have always dominated its actions, but thinkers too. Each does their own thing and they are often very different. It has always had these contradictions.
But that those who run military establishment have technological illusions, which many ordinary people share in this and other domains of human existence, keeps immense sums of money flowing to arms manufacturers and their minions. There is a very profound consensus between the two parties on arms spending, which began under the Democrats a half-century ago and it will not go away – no matter how neglected the bridges and infrastructure, health, or the like. Arms lobbies are not only very powerful in
It is close to impossible to assign some weight or priority to the arms industry but it must be taken into account that the arms manufacturers have power, strategic lobbies in
Another explanation is ambitious politicians, who will say and do whatever is required to stay in power or gain it. This factor is so familiar that it scarcely requires repeating, but the cynical ways politicians treat polls and American public opinion is a crucial aspect of this question. There are indeed problems with the public but it invariably senses realities and its constraints well before the politicians – who use the public and then ignore it. The party out of office will cater to mass opinion but usually forgets it once it comes to power – as the recent Democratic Party trajectory shows. This is usually the rule but public opinion is an element that cannot be merely gainsaid, and the Korean and
Consensus on ideology and goals is crucial also but that policies fail to work and are increasingly dangerous as a guide to action has been true for a long time and is more obvious as years elapse. The Bush Administration encapsulates it but the basic problem has existed for many decades. What the Bush coterie has seen is the culmination of a logic that is much older. It presides over a catastrophe that began many years ago.
But all in all, these factors have delivered us to our present mess, which may very well exceed any in American history.
Some of the most acute criticisms made of the gross simplisms which have guided interventionist policies were produced within the military, especially after the
The problem, of course, is that few (if any) at the decisive levels pays any attention to the critical ruminations that the military and CIA consistently produce. There is no shortage of insight among
Those in power simply ignore the critical military’s insights, and the vast bulk of officers obey orders. Many of them know better. They have learned the hard way – experience. Neocon intellectuals and scribblers utterly lack it.
We are at point zero in the application of American power in the world: the
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