Conserving Violence

From Edward S. Herman at Z Magazine:

It is interesting and depressing to see that as Obama calls for some kind of withdrawal or at least substantial cutbacks of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, at the same time he calls for escalation in Afghanistan. By doing this he hopes to ease the threat of vulnerability to accusations of weakness on “national security” and an un- or anti-American “cut and run” perspective. This has long been a problem for the Democrats, who have a mass populist constituency that would like some transfer of government resources to their pressing civilian needs.

The establishment, including the mainstream media, therefore, keeps the pressure on to assure that the Democrats stay in line and the Democrats often compensate, even overcompensate, to demonstrate their integration into an imperialist worldview and weapons culture. Both Gore and Bush wanted a bigger military budget in 2000 (Nader, who wanted cuts, was marginalized). Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the campaign trail called for a larger army to meet U.S. “defense” needs. Now Obama wants us to take on a bigger commitment to violence. This will keep the arms cargo ships and planes busy and the bomb factories and plane and missile factories working at full capacity. Of course, those wanting infrastructure improvements and resources will have to wait and “hope” for a better future after our enemies are defeated and full hegemony and stability are established. They need a good dollop of “vision.”

The law of conservation of the level of violence thus rests on the structure of power and its reflection in politics. If you want to compete in politics in the militarized America of today you can’t scrimp on money for “national security” and you need to display a readiness to exercise a “muscular” foreign policy. If you call for reduced forces in one country, you must urge their increase in another. Keep those muscles in shape and bombs dropping.

One of my favorite quotations from the Vietnam War era was: “I think maybe today we create many Vietcong,” spoken by a Vietnamese collaborator and helicopter pilot when answering a question by Master Sergeant Donald Duncan while both were on a plane that had just dropped bombs on a Vietnamese target. The Vietnam War was a murderous capital-intensive war, with millions of tons of bombs dropped on villages deemed supportive of the indigenous enemy, along with napalm, phosphorus, and crop-destroying chemicals. (Napalm and rice-killing chemicals were used exclusively in the South, which we were allegedly “saving” from the North’s “aggression.”) In any case, this murderous behavior killed vast numbers, but also made any Vietnamese previously harboring doubts about the ongoing struggle extremely hostile to the United States and its local puppets. We had mastered the art of creating enemies.

Read the rest here

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