Endless War Isn’t War
In reading Robert Parry’s Secrecy and Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty From Watergate to Iraq, I came across the following sentence: “Following a global ‘lesser evil’ strategy, the United States….found justification in allying with fascists to defeat the Soviet Union….” The thought in that sentence seems utterly non-controversial. But then another thought popped into my head: “But the purpose of the Cold War wasn’t ‘to defeat the Soviet Union.’” Rather, it was about embedding, enhancing, and extending US power throughout the world. That war was about establishing the US’s imperial regime.
Once I saw this I began to make sense of other phenomena that didn’t seem to make much sense. For example, “victory” in Vietnam was not crucial and, hence, was not determinative of US actions there. The war itself was enough to demonstrate and, thus, enhance US superiority. Even a defeat there could not make much of a dent in that perceived superiority. Similarly, “victory” in Nicaragua or Cuba was not crucial and, hence, not determinative of US actions in those nations. It is the projection of US power that matters because that confirms US superiority. And, of course, anything that threatens that image of US superiority must be taken on, whatever the outcome. US policies that lead to death, destruction, and dislocation are self-justifying as demonstrations of US superiority. That is, they need not be justified by their effectiveness. And, so, despite their acknowledged ineffectiveness, they continue, e.g., in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria.
This points to a crucial difference between, say, WWII and what’s called the “Cold War” or the “War on Terror.” Victory was crucial to WWII, whereas in the Cold War or the War on Terror it is irrelevant, or so marginally important as to be irrelevant. Further, the use of propaganda during WWII and during the Cold War or the War on Terror is also different. Propaganda during WWII was used to help win that war and so, once the war was won, the propaganda could and would end. Not so with the Cold War or the War on Terror: Such propaganda is unending because it is used to perpetuate a regime, a political order, the imperial political order the US has created post-WWII. And because all political orders are, necessarily, unstable and tenuous, such propaganda will continue as long as the imperial political order it serves exists. “Public diplomacy” as a way of manipulating public opinion will be embraced by our elites in both parties, continually.
Preserving US imperialism means preserving the power and authority of those who control that political order, those elites in both parties who have risen to power by virtue of their service to that political order. Hence, admission to those elites needs be denied to those who question US imperialism. No critique of that imperialism is permissible, at least not within its elites. Those who question that imperialism are, logically, subversives and must be dealt with.
Which is to say: Endless war is not war. Rather, it is just a kind of politics, the kind of politics that serves to perpetuate and fortify imperialism. Endless war is merely imperial politics dressed up to look like war. All the flag waving, all the patriotic displays, all the calls for sacrifice are merely tricks that our imperial elites are using to fortify their own power and the political order they serve. Being “unpatriotic,” e.g., by taking a knee during the national anthem or refusing to stand for it, isn’t being unpatriotic. It’s merely dissenting from a kind of politics and political order that never fails to be inhuman.