Posts Tagged ‘Militarism’

Donald Trump didn’t come out of nowhere

March 7, 2017

During the election campaign, I wrote that Donald Trump is intellectually, temperamentally and morally unfit to be President of the United States.  Nothing since then has changed my mind.

But it is not as if Trump overturned a well-functioning system.   The United States was already committed to perpetual war and rule by Wall Street.

My friend Bill Elwell called my attention to an article by Tom Engelhardt, who wrote in part:

Odd as it may seem under the circumstances, Trump’s presidency came from somewhere, developed out of something. To think of it (as many of those resisting Trump now seem inclined to do) as uniquely new, the presidential version of a virgin birth, is to defy both history and reality.

Donald Trump, whatever else he may be, is most distinctly a creature of history. He’s unimaginable without it.  This, in turn, means that the radical nature of his new presidency should serve as a reminder of just how radical the 15 years after 9/11 actually were in shaping American life, politics and governance. 

In that sense, to generalize (if you’ll excuse the pun), his presidency already offers a strikingly vivid and accurate portrait of the America we’ve been living in for some years now, even if we’d prefer to pretend otherwise.

After all, it’s clearly a government of, by and evidently for the billionaires and the generals, which pretty much sums up where we’ve been heading for the last decade and a half anyway. 

Let’s start with those generals.  In the 15 years before Trump entered the Oval Office, Washington became a permanent war capital; war, a permanent feature of our American world; and the military, the most admired institution of American life, the one in which we have the most confidence among an otherwise fading crew, including the presidency, the Supreme Court, public schools, banks, television news, newspapers, big business and Congress (in that descending order).  […]

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Many Americans open to a U.S. military coup

September 16, 2015

A poll by YouGov, a private polling organization, indicates that, if push came to shove, a sizeable minority of Americans, including a plurality of Republicans, would support a military coup in the United States.

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Why the alliance of Netanyahu and the GOP?

March 16, 2015

The overwhelming majority of Jewish people in the United States vote for the Democratic Party, but it is the Republicans who are the strongest supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  And vice versa.  Why is this?

P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu and Sen. Tom Cotton

P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu and GOP Sen. Tom Cotton

I think that Republican hawks see Netanyahu’s Israel as a model of the kind of aggressive, militarist nation that they would like to see the United States become.

American Jewish voters mostly support Democrats because, based on their historical memory as an oppressed people, they favor civil rights, labor rights and humanitarian causes.   These are values rejected by the dominant faction of the Republican Party and by the Likud party in Israel.

I think that another reason is that Republicans appeal to the apocalyptic Christian minority that believes that the establishment of Israel is the fulfillment of a Biblical prophecy about the End Times.  Jewish people in the USA find these Christians scary, recalling their history of persecution, but they are exactly parallel to the apocalyptic Jewish minority in Israel.

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Moral authority and the military

February 9, 2012

The military virtues of duty, honor, country are real and important.  I know a number of young men who led aimless, delinquent lives who straightened themselves out as a result of military service, which provided them a sense of order and discipline they had not found in civilian live.

While the military virtues in and of themselves are good, it is not good that they are coming to be regarded as the only virtues.   A democratic society also needs the civilian virtues of freedom, reason, tolerance.

A society in which the military is regarded as the main source of moral authority is in danger of devolving into becoming like a Latin American or the Middle Eastern nation, in which the armed forces regard themselves as the repository of national honor, with a right overrule civilian leadership.

“Lambert Strether,” who posts on the Naked Capitalism and Corrente weg logs, wrote a good two-part series on this subject, using President Obama’s State of the Union address as his point of departure.  In the first part, he described how the American military’s self-definition has shifted from loyalty to the Constitution and the laws to loyalty to “The Mission,” which in practice is whatever somebody in power says it is. This is an attitude reflected in techno-thriller fiction and movies, in which the hero (sometimes a trained assassin) operates outside the laws and morality of civil society.

In the second part, he contrasted military values with the historic American genius, as described by Alexis de Tocqueville and others.   What Tocqueville found exceptional about the United States of his day was the ability of ordinary Americans to self-organize and initiate projects without waiting for a leader to tell them what to do.  American society was based on initiative from the bottom up, not orders from the top down.

President Obama’s authoritarian rhetoric is deplorable, but it does not exist in a vacuum.  It reflects the way the American political climate and popular culture has devolved in the past 10 years.

Click on Obama’s SOTU, authoritarian rhetoric and civil society Part I and Part II to read the series.  Both parts are well worth reading in full.  The posts originally appeared on the Corrente web log, and were cross-posted to Naked Capitalism.

The new American militarism

October 24, 2011

The U.S. armed forces in the 21st century bestride the world.  There are U.S. bases on every continent; the Pentagon itself cannot state with accuracy how many bases there are.  The United States spends nearly as much on its armed forces as the rest of the world put together.  Spending on weapons system and weapons research is exempt from normal budget constraints.

But even so, the U.S. military is not large enough for its many missions.  It is necessary to issue stop-loss orders to retain troops whose enlistments have expired, and to make the National Guard part of the regular fighting force.

I recently read Andrew J. Bacevich’s  The New American Militarism: How America Is Seduced by War, an excellent book explaining how this came about.  The book was published in 2005, but unfortunately is still as true now as it was then.

Bacevich is a West Point graduate, Vietnam veteran and retired career Army officer who teaches international relations at Boston University.  He is a self-described conservative Catholic, whose first articles on this subject were written during the Clinton administration and published in National Review.  His son, also a career Army officer, was killed while serving in Iraq some time after this book was written.

The U.S. armed forces have greater prestige than at any previous time in American history.  No important politician in either party fails to praise the military.  Movies and television glamorize the military.  Pundits take the military virtues as a model for society as a whole.  Yet few people, especially among the political and economic elite, actually serve in the military.  The disconnect between the military and the citizenry is unhealthy in a democracy, Bacevich wrote.

He said that the welfare of the nation, and also of the military itself, requires that the mission of the U.S. military be scaled back to the Constitutional one of providing for the common defense, rather than imposing a new world order on unwilling people.  He said the size of the U.S. military should be scaled back to reasonable level—say, a budget no larger than the combined budgets of the next 10 greatest military powers.   He said Congress must claw back its authority to declare or refrain from declaring war.  The National Guard should normally serve on the home front and not abroad.

He made good proposals for bridging the gap that now exists between the professional military and the civilian citizenry.  Instead the armed forces should offer to give a free college education or pay the college debts of anyone who enlists for a specific time.  He said all military officers should be required to earn a degree from a civilian college, and then take one year of additional schooling at one of the service academies.   He does not advocate bringing back the draft unless there is a national emergency that requires it, but thinks these proposals would make the military more broadly representative of society.

He had good answers for every question except one—the need to project U.S. military power to assure U.S. access to the oil of the Persian Gulf.   I don’t have a good answer to that one either.

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