Time to End Perpetual War
[speech delivered in February 1998, as the U.S. prepared to embark on another bombing campaign against Iraq.]
Is the U.S. world empire decaying? At first glance, this may seem an odd time to be asking the question. The U.S. is prepared to embark on an openly political war with no basis in just war theory. It can only end in further massive suffering for the Iraqi people, and a further diminution of American liberty. And yet it may be going forward, with American tax dollars being chewed up by a horrible war machine on an imperialist adventure.
Right now, no single country in the world is sufficiently powerful to challenge U.S. hegemony and military might. Public opinion seems to be little help. Three in four Americans say they would back bombing raids and ground troops if the Clinton administration orders them. At a time when public respect for government in domestic affairs is at historic lows, the foreign policy apparatus of the empire seems to have escaped serious public scrutiny.
All of this is true at one level. Yet below the surface, we see a different reality. The foundations of empire have begun to crack. U.S. military actions since the end of the Cold War have not replenished the stock of public good will towards the warfare state. On the contrary, they have drawn down the capital built up over the prior forty years when Americans were convinced that the warfare state was all that stood between them and nuclear annihilation by foreign powers. Public enthusiasm for the empire, while still far too high, has waned as compared with 20 years ago, and even since the first war against Iraq.
Virtually every country in the world has announced its resentment against the U.S. attempt to run the world. In particular, the U.S.'s position on Iraq is in the extreme minority. The U.S. does not enjoy a consensus at the UN; world opinion on U.S. global hegemony ranges from hired tolerance to extreme opposition. Pro-peace and anti-U.S. groups are now active in every country where U.S. bases exist.
Important members of the pundit class have already defected, especially from this most recent campaign against Iraq. The military itself is in disarray, crippled by a combination of affirmative action, feminization, and welfare dependency. And the U.S. presidency, which has traditionally given direction and meaning to the empire, now lacks the moral legitimacy to lead the troops, much less to sustain a viable New World Order. Important elements of the establishment itself have split away from the globocop consensus. As a result of all these developments, the U.S. empire is shakier than it has been since World War II.
Surely all of these developments count as bullish for American liberty, because in the final analysis, there can be no reconciling empire and freedom. Either one or the other must go. Either the U.S. government can invade Iraq on a whim or our homes and businesses will be free from invasion by agents of the state. Either the U.S. government will have bases in a hundred countries or our communities will not be permanently occupied by agents and judges working for Leviathan.
The framers intended to keep the U.S. out of foreign wars. They understood that a government that goes in search of monsters to destroy will end up destroying its own people. The foreign-policy apparatus of today inflicts a horrible cost on the world. But the greatest cost of all--or at least the one that should matter to us the most--is the cost to the liberty that is our birthright. Though the American empire will not go without a fight, and the end could be years in the future, its collapse provides us with a great opportunity to do the hard work of restoring out liberty right here at home.
Of course to hear the spokesman for the empire tell it, everything about the global project is in full working order, a line which the media gladly parrot. But it is the nature of the state to lie. It lies about why it is taxing us. It lies about who is getting the money. It lies about its motives for regulating us. It lies about the legitimacy of its power. But no state lies nearly as much as an empire in the conduct of its foreign policy.
So let's examine the structural setting in which the U.S. foreign policy of war and militarism is currently being conducted, beginning first with the domestic political setting. President Clinton, the man who denies having had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, has tried to persuade the American public that Saddam represents a direct threat to our country. But by now, as much as people prefer Clinton to his likely successors of Gore and then Gingrich, he has a serious credibility problem.
One wonders if any president could make a morally credible case for invading Iraq now. Think back to 1990, when George Bush had to make a case for war. He had several huge advantages that Clinton does not have. Iraq had invaded Kuwait. It was a fact. It's true that Iraq may have had a credible case for doing so. The two countries are only separate because of arbitrary lines drawn by the British, and, besides, Kuwait was drilling for oil in Iraqi territory. Plus, the U.S. ambassador to Kuwait, April Glaspie--and this is not in dispute--had already given the go- ahead to our then-ally Saddam.
Nonetheless, Iraq had invaded Kuwait, and once Bush decided he wanted to boost his standing in the polls, that invasion gave the U.S. a clear objective, which was actually rather limited. According to the UN mandate, it was to get Iraq out of Kuwait and restore the ruling family to power. Even so, it wasn't enough to garner support from Congress or the American public. Saddam had to be portrayed as an evil dictator--the new Hitler--wrecking the lives of his own people.
Then the Bush administration had to resort to a series of wild claims that Saddam had nuclear weapons, that he was tossing babies out of their incubators in Kuwait, and that Iraq would also invade Saudi Arabia, monopolize oil, and drive up the price of gasoline. This in turn could bring on a deep recession. As James Baker famously said, this splendid little war was about "jobs, jobs, jobs."
Of course, the result was that the U.S. forcibly kept Iraqi oil off the world market, a result far more restrictive of supply than any scare scenario cooked up by the Bush administration. The U.S. government has gone from warning the world that Iraq may not sell oil to denouncing Iraq for wanting to sell oil, and forcibly preventing it from doing so. The warfare state is capable of stunning levels of perfidy. It is U.S. sanctions, not Saddam's attempt to cartelize Arab oil markets, that has kept Iraqi oil off the market.
Gulf War One, said George Bush at the time, was a test case for the New World Order. With the Cold War was over and the economic basketcase enemy of international communism vanquished, the U.S. would not dismantle its military empire but find new uses for it. U.S. foreign policy elites announced that they were the world's only indispensable nation, the only force standing between order and international chaos. Taxpayers would be looted until the end of time for the sake of this order.
The U.S. continued the Iraq war by another means. That way we could have an enemy--a man who can be relied upon to denounce the U.S. in passionate tones--anytime the president in power happened to need one. To achieve this end, the U.S. decided it would be best to commit genocide, to starve the people of Iraq and encourage them to die from disease as well (that's why U.S. bombers targeted sewage treatment plants, to poison the water supply). This has resulted in 1.4 million deaths, most of them children and old people denied access to food and medicine. But the power elite got what they wanted: a permanent enemy in a world where threats to U.S. interests appear increasingly remote.
When compared to Gulf War One, Gulf War Two has no clearly defined objective. It not going to provide greater access to sites for UN investigators. It is not going to make Saddam less belligerent. It's not going to make him less popular with his own people and thereby undermine his rule. Quite the opposite; Saddam is given credit by his own people for having the courage to stand up to the evil empire.
In the official rationale for this war, Iraq is very mad at the U.S. because Iraq doesn't want Americans on the UN inspection team looking for chemical and biological weapons. Iraq says they might be spies, an accusation that is supposed to prove what a paranoid maniac Saddam is. From listening to his crazed rantings, you might think the U.S. had it in for him.
Yet as Jeffrey Smith pointed out in the Washington Post, if U.S. military planners do attack Iraq, they will be drawing on data about Iraqi capabilities and targets collected by UN inspection teams. Are U.S. inspectors spies? No one doubts it.
So far, the only credible excuse the U.S. can come up with for attacking Iraq is that of his supposed chemical and biological warfare. Yet even if he did use these against the Kurds and threatens their use against Israel, are they a direct threat to Americans? Of course not. If a Texan or a Marylander told you he had bought a gas mask to protect himself from Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, you would likely think him nuts.
But let's just say Saddam did have the military technology to launch chemical weapons against the U.S. What better way to provoke such an attack than a 7-year economic embargo that has reduced Iraq's once-thriving middle class to the status of hunters and gatherers? There is one other better way: have the Secretary of State say on national television that she regards the death of 1.4 million civilians in Iraq as an "acceptable price to pay." That is precisely what Madeleine Albright said over Christmas.
It takes a pretty nasty foreign government to be a greater threat to people than their own government. Yet we have to ask ourselves: which is the greater threat to the livelihood of the Iraqi people? Saddam? Or U.S. bombs and embargos? By any measure, it is the latter, and this is a national disgrace.
Another difference between then and now is the proximity to the Cold War, which had acculturated the public to the idea of empire. Bush's war came a mere 20 months after the unraveling of socialism in Eastern Europe, and before so-called isolationist sentiment began to rise to the surface of public opinion.
But the Cold War ended a decade ago. People now in Junior High School have no memory of it, and thus no memory of a time when the U.S. military empire successfully portrayed itself as a messianic force for good in the world.
And think of this. In every past war, the U.S. gone out of its way to show its enemies as the aggressors, even if it has to phony up the charge. The Maine, The Lusitania, Pearl Harbor, the Gulf of Tonkin, the Berlin nightclub, the invasion of Kuwait–in all of these, the U.S. has always gone out of its way to portray itself as the avenger of foreign aggression, which ultimately desires only peace and justice.
But not this time. As the New York Times put it, this is an openly political as versus defensive war. The Clinton administration is seeking to use the U.S. warfare machine to punish a government headed by a man the White House does not like. It has gone so far as to intervene to scuttle diplomatic efforts at peace. Never before have the aggressive intentions of U.S. foreign policy been so open.
Lacking a precipitating outrage against justice, it has been considerably more difficult for the Clinton administration to whip up public enthusiasm for this war. Of course public opinion polls show public approval of a war to oust Saddam from power. But as the New York Times has also warned, polls on politics increasingly reveal the answers people think they are supposed to give. What is unclear is how well they measure people's actual opinions. This is especially true in times when politics is no longer a public preoccupation.
Reading the polls with this mind--that they are likely to measure more of what people think people think than what they really think--you get some interesting results. For example, support for a military solution against Iraq has dropped 9 points since November, when the policy elites first began to call for Saddam's head on a platter. A two-month public relations campaign to oust Saddam not only failed to whip up war fever; it actually had the reverse effect, at least for a time.
This reflects something more profound than that people think bombing is not a good idea. It reveals that a fundamental shift in the climate of opinion is taking shape, a shift that is likely to have far-reaching effects on the ability of U.S. empire to function with confidence into the future.
Running an empire based on war requires more, much more, than tacit approval from the taxpayer public. It requires the public be charged up and cheering both the objective and methods of war. When the public so charged, the state is provided some public-opinion capital to spend when casualties and bills begin arriving. This is the real point of military parades, war drums, and the symbolic displays of patriotism required by the modern totalitarian project.
In the movie "Wag the Dog," the main responsibility of the team manufacturing a war with Albania is goading public opinion in the right direction. For their purposes--which was to create a massive public distraction from the president's sexual peccadilloes--passive interest was not enough. So the hired team commissioned two popular songs--one rock and one folk--invented phony heros for the public to love, and primed the pump on certain popular sacrificial rituals. The point of all this is to divert the public from thinking too carefully about the lies and false morality of the war itself.
The same pitch is necessary whether we're dealing with a war made in Hollywood, as it was in the movie, or a real war involving actual people half way around the world. In either case, public enthusiasm and calls for foreign blood are necessary to the warfare project. But in post-Cold War times, the drumbeat doesn't always succeed in getting people to dance. In Gulf War Two, the long drumbeat to war has failed to even interest the public in any intense way.
As Meg Greenfield writes in her Newsweek column, "I can't remember a run-up to a war--or whatever it is we are about to have with Iraq--as strong as this. It seems to have all the urgency for people of a once-a-week seminar on international relations.... There have been no constituencies, no sides, no hotly held positions. There are, instead, just desultory statements, odd articles and speculations and musings. The controversy, to the extent there is one, goes in no direction, takes no shape, commands no silent, grim attention of the kind people give when they believe themselves to be in the presence of a large, consequential and risky national undertaking...."
The political parties have been surprisingly silent on the Iraq matter. The Democrats make perfunctory statements in defense of the White House's position. And the Republicans are all over the map, on one hand calling for caution and on the other demanding the immediate murder of Saddam Hussein. But notice that resolutions, for or against any aspect of this Iraq war, were not voted on before Congress could recess for the Valentine's Day week. They decided it was politically safer to make love than war.
This has provided a wonderful opportunity for the forces opposed to war to step into the vacuum and have our voices heard. A prominent Associated Press story last week led with the heroic efforts of Ron Paul to prevent Clinton from using force in the Gulf absent a Congressional declaration of war. He introduced emergency legislation to this effect.
Dr. Paul, you see, is old-fashioned enough to believe in the Constitution. This is the action of a real statesman, a man of courage willing to stand up to presidential power grabs, and say: absolutely not. That is not the way war is conducted in a civilized society. Ron has received more attention and support on this issue than any other he has addressed since he reentered political life two years ago.
Contrast this to Gingrich, the man whose constitutional responsibility it is to check the power of the White House. But in the case of Iraq, he has given Clinton, his supposed political bete noire, complete backing for anything this administration wants to do. Speaking for the entire Republican Party, Gingrich has threatened political retaliation only if Clinton does not go far enough. He has even said that he will not look too carefully into this Lewinsky matter because that would be, at this time, unpatriotic.
Outside the United States, it turns out, there are quite a few Ron Pauls, statesmen willing to stand up to the U.S. global hegemon. In fact, the single most remarkable aspect of this run-up to war has been the utter isolation of the U.S. After years of propaganda about the glories of the international community, about the United Nations and our allies hither and yon, the U.S. can now only consistently count on Britain and Israel as accomplices.
And it's not clear how this action can be good for either Britain--which has a strong interest in keeping the peace in its neck of the woods--or Israel. This week in Bethlehem, some 900 schoolchildren and university students defied a government ban and marched in support of Iraq. "O Saddam our dear, hit Tel Aviv. O Saddam our dear, hit with chemicals," they chanted, according to press reports. The students also burned the U.S. and Israeli flags, shouting "Death to America, death to Israel." As you can see, the peace process is coming alone nicely.
It was several weeks after the U.S. and British governments announced their planned war against Iraq before the international coalition backing the idea began to solidify. First, a trusted and valiant ally came forward: Canada. Then Australia, a country with a huge stake in the outcome. Finally, and most impressively, the great nation of Oman joined our coalition. It was probably the first time in its history that the word "Oman" was said on national radio.
In Gulf War One, using the usual combination of threats and bribes, the U.S. was able to put together a multilateral fig-leaf for its little war. Crucially, this coalition included Arab states. But for the present war, there have been few foreign policy adventures of the U.S. that have so thoroughly united the Arab world against us. Not even the billions upon billions the U.S. has slathered supposed allies with has paid off this time. It's a measure of how utterly implausible U.S. foreign policy has become--not only implausible but also deeply unwelcome around the world and conspicuously immoral to anyone who still cares about justice.
Japan has officially backed U.S. military intervention, but with a surprising degree of reticence. Support among the people of Japan is thin to non-existent, a fact of which the ruling party must take note. Organizations within Japan devoted to kicking out the U.S. military are growing all the time, particularly where U.S. bases are located.
These groups are taking out advertisements in American newspapers to make the case against U.S. imperialism. They mention the rise of crime and auto accidents where bases are located, the noise and danger associated with U.S. overflights, the subsidization of prostitution and cultural degradation that come with the military presence. Americans who live near military bases on our own soil can relate.
This very day, demonstrations are taking place in Tokyo to protest U.S. attacks on Iraq. There are been protest in front of a Yokosuka Army base every day since February 3. On February 6, 56 Japanese peace organizations filed a protest with the American Embassy. In Hiroshima, petitions circulate shopping malls every day in protest, and they are then faxed every day to the White House. These petitions not only call for the U.S. to leave Iraq, but also for the U.S. to leave Japan.
The following letter was sent by the Japanese Network for Disarmament, the leading anti-militarist Japanese organization, to the White House:
"To Bill Clinton:
"The difference between now and the Gulf War seven years ago is that the current crisis is being staged unilaterally by yourself and the U.S. military which you command, not by an invasion or violation of international law on the part of Saddam Hussein.
"On this day, prior to imminent strikes against Iraq announced by you, you must make it clear that no support or agreement whatsoever can be found among the Japanese public for such militaristic adventures and mass slaughter....
"Military attacks not only result in the loss of lives; they are nothing less than the worst form of international terrorism which prevents Iraqis from exercising their right to reform Iraqi society by themselves....
"We are aware than the U.S. itself believes in weapons of mass murder and mass destruction. Has the U.S. not turned its back on the ruling by the International Court of Justice that the use of nuclear weapons is against international law, by, still today, filling its arsenals with more than 15,000 nuclear warheads?
"Which ‘dictatorship' has violated the spirt of the International Test Ban Treaty, again and again, with so-called subcritical nuclear tests? Which country continues to arm destroyers and aircraft and tanks with radiological arms, even after having killed numerous Iraqi children and harmed its own soldiers with depleted uranium weapons? Which country is opposed to a ban...of such weapons? Was it not you, President Clinton, who ordered the decision not to sign the treaty banning anti-personnel landmines...?
"[W]e cannot suppress our astonishment and anger in regard to the fact that the U.S. is intending to use the people of Iraq as guinea pigs for testing newly developed weapons.... We strongly oppose the use of U.S. bases in Japan for such inhuman militaristic adventures....
"We know that the new based which you are about to build in Nago, Okinawa...is intended to serve the projection of national power and a policy of military intervention. Along with the people of Okinawa, we will say again and again that the elimination of these bases, not their relocation, is the solution...." The letter ends with the exhortation: "DO NOT KILL!"
So there's no reason to take Japan's backing of the U.S. war plot too seriously. It demonstrates the extent to which the ruling party is wholly owned by the U.S. and certainly not enthusiasm for the war. Protests against U.S. military bases are taking place in Germany, Italy (where hotdogging Marine pilots just killed 20 people on the Northern Italian ski slopes), France, Spain, Scandinavia, and the U.S. as well. Not even at the height of the Cold War has the U.S. faced such intense international opposition.
The leaders of Russia have been especially resistant to U.S. demands for total global power. For a day or two, U.S. militarists tried to portray Boris Yeltsin as crazy and Yevgeny Primakov as a new Hitler. But there was a problem: their arguments against the Iraq war make an unusual amount of sense, so the only solution was to ignore the screams of protest coming from our on-again-off-again ally in a century of wars. As for Primakov being the new Hitler, an additional problem emerged: it turns out that he is Jewish. But this fact didn't stop the Wall Street Journal from describing him as an Arabist, a mysterious term left over from the Cold War years meaning a critic of U.S. Mideast policy.
Why does it matter that the U.S. is increasingly isolated in running a global imperial campaign? As de la Boettie, Hume, Mises, Rothbard, and many others have emphasized, all government must ultimately rest on the consent of the governed for one clear reason: government represents a tiny minority of the population and the governed represent the great majority. When that consent is withdrawn, the government must necessarily collapse. It issues orders and no one obeys.
In our lifetimes, we have witnessed many examples of this, and, if you are like me, you feel a surge of joy anytime a government anywhere collapses. It's a reminder that no matter how impenetrable and ominous a government can seem, it is ultimately a fragile institution that must constantly tend to its public image to shore up confidence and legitimacy.
It turns out that this Hume-Mises insight also applies on the international scale. The U.S. has long dreamed of establishing a world government. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the prospect seemed to be at hand. The dream of the social democratic, redistributionist, regulatory, welfare-warfare state run by what Clinton calls the indispensable nation seemed close to becoming a reality.
What is the role of the UN in this enterprise? To operate as a democratic fig-leaf for U.S. control. Just like domestic government, world government also needs consensus to survive and thrive. Without that consensus, the U.S. may find itself issuing orders, like Ceausescu in his palace, but with no one obeying. With the growing global resistence to the Iraqi adventure, we are witnessing something like a withdrawal of consent that threatens the very existence of the world state.
A global government run by the U.S. in the manner proposed by Clinton is a fragile project, even more so than the British empire of the 19th century. Britain frequently used native troops, usually from racial and ethnic minorities, to run its colonies. They were highly trained and managed by British officers. But the troops at least had some connection to the cultures they were ruling. Conflicts were handled by local troops and they chose their battles with an eye to not undermining political support for the British regime.
The U.S. empire of our time consists entirely of U.S. troops, periodically touched up by a smattering of players from governments the U.S. keeps on its payroll. Such an empire is as unviable in the long run as socialism itself. It is hardly surprising there is growing resistance, and it is resistance that the U.S. has neither anticipated nor has any way to meet on a civil level.
Most impressively, this resistence is not only political; it is also moral. And here we must give due credit to Pope John Paul II, and indirectly to the U.S. bishops, for protesting this war at every step. The Pope was a leading critic of the last Gulf War, and despite neoconservative attempts to silence him in this country, he helped prepare Christians around the world to say no to the U.S.-run New World Order.
Immediately after leaving Cuba, where his visit has stirred up opposition to communist control and another U.S. embargo, he went to work trying to bring a peaceful resolution to the Iraqi conflict. The Pope has demanded that the U.S. "swear off" military options, and succeeded in persuading Kofi Annan to visit Iraq, thereby forestalling strikes for a bit longer.
Some U.S. commentators say the Pope's interests in this are merely parochial. He knows that Christians are well-treated in Iraq, at least as compared with every other Arab nation. He is concerned for their fate with continued sanctions and military strikes. By describing these concerns as parochial, the intention is to dismiss them, as if to say U.S. political concerns are far more important than the lives of any foreign Christians.
In fact, the Pope's concerns reflect a long-standing Catholic concern that the conduct of war accord with the Augustinian-Thomist doctrine of the Just War. War must be defensive. It must never target civilians. Its means must be proportional to the threat. It must be a last resort. Peace must be established and kept as soon as the fighting is over. Revenge against a defeated enemy is ruled out of order. The U.S. campaign Iraq must be regarded as profoundly unjust according to everyone of these tenets.
The U.S. bishops have exercised uncharacteristic courage in opposing this war, and all seven active Cardinals have signed a letter saying that military force would be "difficult if not impossible to justify" morally. They specifically call for "widening the participation of other governments, especially Arab states, in the concerted effort to bring about Iraqi compliance on these issues."
The ranks of the dissidents on this war contain some interesting new recruits. Tony Snow, the neoconservative columnist, has expressed profound skepticism about the war. Robert Novak has been as sound as Joe Sobran and Ron Paul. I'm pleased to see Pat Buchanan, who seemed to have gone soft on the empire insofar as it is cracking down on supposedly unfair traders, has solidly opposed the Clinton war on Iraq.
Jude Wanniski led the way in condemning the embargo, and has written memo after memo attacking U.S. policy on Iraq. I'm also pleased to announce that William F. Buckley has criticized the idea of bombing Iraq and even suggested loosening the embargo. He has retained some conscience, even after everything.
Just to prove that no one is beyond redemption, Jack Kemp has said of this war: "I don't want to bomb. And I believe the debate right now is between the bombers and those who want to bomb even more. My hope would be that we would exhaust all diplomatic efforts. So I advance that concept in the hopes that we could get out of this cul-de-sac without putting American troops, men and women, on the ground into Iraq."
Good for Kemp. He may be a big-government conservative. He made think that government can work domestic wonders through big-spending HUD programs. But he at least has some skepticism about the ability of Madeline Albright or anyone else to run the world via bombing campaigns. If forced to choose between a cheesy welfare program like enterprise zones and a murderous global military empire run at my expense, I'll take the enterprise zones any day. Meanwhile, Steve Forbes has called for the assassination of Saddam and a massive air war. I think all of us need to hold off when it comes to whom to support in the next election.
Tom Clancy, the warmongering novelist, has also had a change of heart, asking in the New York Times: "Who has told us that it is O.K. to kill women and children? ...Who has prepared us and the world for the unpalatable consequences of even a successful attack? What exactly would we be trying to accomplish? What constitutes success? How likely is failure, and what would be the consequences? Have any of these questions been answered at all, much less sufficiently to take human life? If so, it has escaped my notice."
We must also credit the John Birch Society and its magazine, the New American, which has been vehement in editorializing against the bloody operation. They point out that Saddam is just the kind of foreign enemy an empire on the march likes to have to justify its power. What a nice contrast with the blood-thirsty thirty-somethings at the Weekly Standard, who equate the slaughter of innocents with national greatness.
In fact, outside the Kristolians, I must say there has been a dirth of commentators on the right whooping it up for war. This is a great step. But even so, there has been far too much silence. National Review says nothing. The Cato Institute has said nothing. Heritage called for Saddam's head in November, and has since said nothing since. Neither has Robert Tyrrell.
It's sad to say that the Monica Lewinski matter, just as it has persuaded Clinton to embark on the war many in his administration have wanted, has also provided a nice distraction for many people on the right to not talk about what is ultimately a far more important matter. Impeach Clinton, yes, but for what? For having a sexual dalliance and lying about it, just like most every other powerful man in Washington, or for conducting an unconstitutional military campaign against a starving country and risking, as Boris Yeltsin says, a new world war?
There are plenty of officers and enlisted men in the military that would like to see Clinton impeached for any reason at all. Sexual harassment is the biggest issue in the military today. Any officer that tried to do with his staff with Clinton has done with his would be strung up. Officers know this; it is a continuing threat. The trials that have led high-ranking people to court martial has traumatized an entire generation that thought the military and sexual license were a natural combination.
And now Clinton, who indulges himself with any young thing that crosses his path, dares contemplate sending troops into a ground war to Iraq? He dares tell them what to do? As anyone in the military can testify, the worst thing for morale is the perception that the decision-makers are exempt from the strictures that govern those who take orders. We must never forget, too, that Clinton is widely resented for having skipped out of the draft himself.
In the meantime, the military itself has been seriously disabled as a fighting force since liberals started using it as a training ground for social, sexual, and racial reconstruction. Morale is as low as it has been since the Second World War. Within the last 6 weeks, the Associated Press reports, 1200, or 20% of all US Air Force combat pilots have elected to leave the service. The AP quoted one Lt. Colonel, who after 23 years service, had refused promotion to Colonel and declined command of a squadron, "I've been deployed to the desert twice already this year. Enough's enough." He is leaving the Air Force to take a job with United Airlines.
If this personnel attrition rate is equal for all services and for air crews as well as pilots, 50% of all U.S. combat aircraft will be grounded within 6 months for lack of crews to fly them. In another story, a senior U.S. Army enlisted man with a record of service in 3 wars said "I wouldn't fight for this country right now unless the bad guys were coming up the beach."
An additional difficulty is the interesting split in the U.S. establishment itself. Bill Clinton, it has been noted quite often, is not a favorite of the Georgetown social set and it is an infrequently visitor to the Council on Foreign Relations. His interest group is not the CFR but a younger and more reckless group of social planners, babyboomers who see government as their playground and global social democrats who care nothing about concepts like the long term. These are not the cautious diplomats and wise men of old, constructing the world order according to plan. They are ideologues who have little understanding that power has its limits.
In today's issue of Foreign Affairs, the journal of the CFR, you are far more likely to see articles warning of the pitfalls of a global democratic outlook and U.S. imperial power than in the past. Richard Betts, in his article "Weapons of Mass Destruction," warns that "U.S. military and cultural hegemony--the basic threats to radicals seeking to challenge the status quo--are directly linked to the imputation of American responsibility for maintaining world order. Playing Globocop feeds the urge of aggrieved groups to strike back." Betts warns that the U.S. hegemon actually risks fueling an increase in domestic terrorism, and suggests the U.S. needs to "tread more cautiously, especially in the middle east."
Thomas Friedman writing in the New York Times warns of another potential cost of unrestricted Middle East interventionism. He points out that if it's nuclear proliferation that concerns us, we still have a problem with Russia. Why would we want to continue to irritate a country that has thousands of nuclear weapons floating around, unmanaged and unattended? Is nuclear war an acceptable risk to take simply expand that part of the empire called Nato? Arabist or not, Russia is deeply resentful that the U.S. wants to dictate the terms on which that country can trade with countries like Iran and Iraq.
The problem for the future of American liberty is that the type of domestic terrorism warned about here also provides a convenient excuse for further crackdowns on political dissidents and individual freedom at home. Finally, let me say about few words about the prospect that this entire Iraq war is intended to distract from the Monica Lewinski matter. The answer is exactly as the foreign press describes it: of course it is intended to distract. But that is not the same thing as saying that Lewinski is the only reason the U.S. is prepared to bomb.
At the Pentagon and the State Department, there are people who have long believed that without a major war of Manichaean proportions, the U.S. empire will whither and die. It was the Lewinski matter that persuaded Clinton to pay closer attention to them. If his poll rating weren't as high as they are, we might have begun bombing a month ago.
No one knows whether in the short run, the peacekeepers or the warmongers will prevail. But as bumpy as this road to war has been, it is more likely to harm the empire than beef it up. For the sake of American liberty, we must do everything in our power to stop this war, to oppose it now and even when the bombs start falling and the troops hit the Iraqi sands. Not for us this line that there shall be no criticism of the president once the shooting starts. There's no more important a time to denounce war than in its midst.
Empire is contrary to the American ethos. The American people have made exceptions in this century: the Hitler threat and the Communist threat. But there is no threat on the world scene to our families and property greater than that posed by the U.S. government itself.
In order to beat back the real threat, it will be necessary to expose the phony ones and put obstacles in the way of the empire's global ambitions. Every voice raised in opposition contributes to a more peaceful world in the future, contributes to bringing down the U.S. empire, and, therefore, contributes to the restoring of the liberty from government oppression that is our inheritance.
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Purchase The Costs of War, edited by John V. Denson.