The pernicious effects this system has had on our collective cultural mindset, how we view ourselves, each other and our place in the world is incalculable. Our society is ever increasingly built for war and war is what we find – both metaphorically and literally. Is there a connection between our massive military-industrial complex and the off-the-charts violent crime rate of the
Our professional and recreational lives are replete with war-metaphor. In business the objective is to “pre-empt” and “destroy” competition and attack their market-share. Note that I am not calling attention to competition itself, which comes in many forms, but how we often narrowly conceive of competition in zero-sum, kill or be killed, warlike terms. Is it coincidence that the sport that most closely approximates war in form and description, football, with its ceaseless struggle over territory, brutally violent contact, “trenches”, “bombs,” “aerial attacks”, “advances” and “blitzes” has emerged as our national past-time during the same era as our nation’s rise as the world’s sole military hyper-power? The displaced national past time, baseball, is a patient game that mostly features the silent yet grinding physical and mental duel between hitter and pitcher with intermittent bursts of activity. Its reign coincided with the Cold War.
How are American citizens affected by this system? George Bush won his second term election in large part because many of his constituents believed he was the superior candidate on foreign policy and national defense. I personally had long discussions with friends on this topic, some of whom disagreed with most everything else he had done but claimed he was great for national defense because of his administration’s willingness to use military force to hunt down and kill foreign enemies.
It is perhaps this commonly articulated conception of national defense - that wholesale violence is often the preferable and most advantageous option - that demonstrates how the militarization of our culture has warped our understanding of the world and how it works. I have previously cited a Pentagon Defense Science Board study that presented a well documented and cogent case that aggression and war as a counter-measure to the Islamic militancy movement, largely fueled by resentment for past aggression and war, would fail. Independent analysts and specialists, such as Jason Burke, have offered the same insights. They advised that terrorism could best be solved through police like investigation and prosecution; pursue extraditions and aggressively disrupt financial and communication networks. Avoid destructive actions that would quickly spiral out of control. The dynamics are well known and fully understood.
In March 2007, the magazine Mother Jones published the second detailed study that I am aware of that tries to quantify the effects the “war on terrorism” has had on terrorism. They found a seven fold increase, although the very phrase “war on terrorism” makes it obvious what they were likely to find; how far gone is our culture that we don’t see the glaring contradiction in terms that every day appears in countless magazines, news articles, television shows, and on the lips of our political and military leaders as the nonsensical oxymoron it is?
As mentioned, the Mother Jones article was the second study I had seen. The first came from the State Department in a now discontinued annual report titled “Patterns of Terrorism.” The first version of the 2004 edition found that incidents of terrorism had sharply declined from 2003. Bush and his supporters lauded this as proof that his war on terrorism was working (recall that 2004 was election season.) A few weeks later the State Department announced a retraction; they had made an error and, in fact, incidents of terrorism had not declined, but doubled. Bush didn’t bother to offer a follow-up retraction for his first reaction – after all, if the initial erroneous finding was proof that his war was working then by the same logic the corrected version was proof that it was failing - instead he ordered the report to be discontinued, which it was. See no evil, I suppose.
A substantial subgroup of the
“The "right reason" for this war was the need to partner with Iraqis, post-Saddam, to build a progressive Arab regime. Because the real weapons of mass destruction that threaten us were never Saddam's missiles. The real weapons that threaten us are the growing number of angry, humiliated young Arabs and Muslims, who are produced by failed or failing Arab states — young people who hate America more than they love life. Helping to build a decent Iraq as a model for others — and solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”One can almost hear Winston Smith absentmindedly mumbling that "War is Peace." That these sentiments could be stated in one of the nation’s most liberal newspapers by the highly educated, wealthy, and well-traveled oracle of the elite demonstrates to what degree militarism has infected our culture. One of the most likely and obvious consequences of war is to create even more angry and humiliated young men. Some of those failing Arab states are also huge recipients of
Anger and humiliation across the Middle East among young Arab men? Solution: Invade the heart of the Middle East and go door to door. Show willingness to kill (in case there was any doubt.) Economic stagnation and failed states? Solution: Bomb their countries into the future. Cut to close-up of battle-scarred soldier’s face; fade to black.
1. AP, U.S., Britain ranked last in child welfare, in Associated Press. 2007: Berlin.
On poverty, see
Pugh, T., US Economy Leaving Record Numbers in Severe Poverty, in McClatchy Newspapers. 2007: Washington D.C.
2. Justin. Why do they hate us? 2004 December 7, 2004 [cited; Available from: http://americancrackpot.blogspot.com/2004/12/why-do-they-hate-us.html.
3. Bergen, P. and P. Cruickshank, The Iraq Effect:War has increased terrorism sevenfold worldwide, in Mother Jones. 2007.
4. Harrison, S., Did North Korea Cheat? Foreign Affairs, 2005. January/February 2005.
5. Sanger, D. and W. Broad, U.S. Had Doubts on North Korean Uranium Drive in New York Times. 2007: Washington D.C.
6. Friedman, T., Because We Could, in New York Times. 2003.
7. Justin. Public Opinion. 2006 [cited; Available from: http://americancrackpot.blogspot.com/2006/02/public-opinion.html.