As a point of information to perhaps gain some perspective on the business of Empire in the middle of Afghan-war debate, some facts to consider:
• In 2007, there were 22,000 deaths globally due to acts of terrorism; over half were Muslim.
• Each year, 9,125,000 human beings die due to poverty and malnutrition.
At the risk of being accused of over-simplifying the issue, in light of the above stats, the point of our funding priorities has to be brought up.
It strikes me that in regard to US foreign policy one of the best things we could focus on, aside from solely defending American interests, is to make a difference by saving lives and improving people’s quality of life for those most threatened. This, in turn, helps America because it gains us friends showing a responsible and balanced direction of our intention to do the most good in the world.
What are we doing in Afghanistan? Why are we there?
Putting aside reasons like economic strategy or chess-like positioning to counter world powers for a moment, consider the terrorism arguments (the most popular justifications given in the main stream).
We are in Afghanistan not to prevent the unpreventable, say, an isolated suicide bombing here in America. We are in Afghanistan to stop the re-emergence of a terrorist “safe-haven” that would eventually mount an attack on America rivaling 9/11.
This is where “fighting terrorism” as a justification for prolonged military occupation doesn’t hold water.
Because a counter argument that’s just as plausible immediately pops out, that being, an American military Empire conducting combat operations in multiple countries in the Near East and Middle East, will guarantee heightened motivation for our enemies to attack back — here at home. The longer the occupation, the greater the chances for backfire. From this perspective, at a certain point, maybe after eight or nine years of being in country, withdrawal is the best course.
Interminable militaristic behavior will always create determined opposition. Geopolitics, in this way, follows a well-known rule in physics: for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. In the case of our enemies, human ingenuity will find a way to exact revenge and more violence. There’s a moment when “running out the clock” and hoping things will get better won’t work for our current posture in Iraq and Afghanistan, because the clock that’s really ticking in the minds of our detractors, is:
When will the United States implode economically because it can no longer borrow money to make war?
We are a debtor nation like no other, and all our “banking creativity” not only caused the recent global economic crisis, but allowing US debt to rise exponentially has produced an Achilles heel that could bring down the giant.
What branch of the Department of Defense deals with this threat to national security?
Domestic manufacturing dismantled, industry pieced out, good jobs shipped overseas – all this paints a picture of the strong self-reliant American eagle slowly boiling into a paper tiger. Producers morphed into dependent debt-ridden consumers.
This is a potentially much greater tragedy for our nation; much greater than the difficult task of looking in the mirror, taking inventory and redefining the manner in which our country makes decisions on how to spend tax payer’s money or how we project force. The economic, military and real collapse of over-extended Empires is well trodden ground in world history: British, Roman, Ottoman, et al.
We currently maintain, at an exorbitant expense, military superiority over much of the planet with 7000 bases (6000 here, 1000 abroad), and US troops stationed in a shocking 77% of Earth’s nations. The United States military spending exceeds the next 45 highest spending countries in the world, combined. Totaling nearly $1.5 trillion dollars. So this, then, brings up the subject of why we’re really “over there”. And why we spend more money on war preparation and defense than anyone now, or ever.
Are there benefits gained by select interests in perpetuating US addiction to war?
Yes. Over the decades, Eisenhower’s prophesied “complex” has equaled trillions of dollars of benefit.
Are the results of those benefits and the political manipulations that captured them at odds with what would be good overall for America?
Proof’s in the pudding: considering the direction we’ve been taken and the state of the Republic, yes.
Do those select interests have power to direct US foreign and economic policy vis a vis Washington and Congress?
Yes. Money is power. When the famous Supreme Court case Buckley vs. Valeo said money is free speech, the inevitable coalescing of political power around Big Money was enthroned. Free Speech is for sale — someone richer can “buy” a lot more First Amendment than someone else — and that goes for multi-national corporations as well, legally acting as “corporate persons“, another court ruling coercing concentrations of political power straight to the top. Hence, the ability to control the public mind “every bit as much as an army regiments the bodies of its soldiers”, became merely a question of how large the PR campaign. The more cash used to steer opinion, the more predictable the results. This is just one way how our Republic has been replaced with a Corporatocracy.
A peculiar dysfunction of practiced economics is the need for limitless growth. When combined with the bottomless well of the US Treasury to fund mindless military expansion, this weak spot is an irresistible target vulnerable to profiteers and fiscal opportunists. This dilemma brings everyday Americans to where we are today, faced with wresting back control of our corridors of power to restore the Republic — we must not ignore these parasites compromising our body politic.
It’s my suggestion that, in the big picture, our hand is being forced. Our economy and long-term prosperity is threatened by the fantasy that the US can forever maintain an increasingly expensive war enterprise. We need to ramp down this business of Empire before Lady Liberty gets the wind knocked out of her permanently.
There are easier and less expensive ways to diplomatically achieve our objectives. President Obama speaks of increased engagement with the international c
ommunity – continued reliance on unilateral military solutions would not be part of that portfolio. Obama the candidate and Obama the President are not entirely congruent – in the case of Afghanistan, maybe some of these inconsistencies can work in our favor. In running for President, we heard that Iraq was the dumb war and Afghanistan “just and necessary” countering accusations of Obama being a weak Commander-in-Chief. Some saw this as political positioning, rather than the true aims of our President.
Well, now that he is President, maybe Obama could act on his nuanced understanding of the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq instead of plunging America deeper into endless war.
President Obama should bring the majority of our ground troops home in Afghanistan and maintain an active collaboration with the Afghan military including over-watch responsibilities with air superiority and intelligence to insure no terrorist “safe-haven” would emerge. Special forces could be utilized on the ground in mission-specific operations to insure terrorist containment focusing on the porous 1,500 mile border with Pakistan. No permanent old-school military occupations to fight this asymmetrical and decentralized foe.
This would answer the ‘fighting terrorism’ question with regard to Afghanistan — but other questions remain.
Should we continue to rely so heavily on military solutions and force projection to answer America’s geopolitical challenges into the 21st Century?
How do we as a national family deal with increasing military budgets and escalating force commitments with no end in sight?
In other words, even if we wanted to continue overdependence on militarism, considering our economically weakened condition, is that a burden too heavy to bear? — the risks of fatal economic collapse too great? Do we have a choice, can we even afford continued military expansion?
These are soul searching questions that dig deep down into who and what we are as a people. Avoiding these difficult issues and pretending we’re still in the springtime of America might be easier, summer soldiers sunshine patriots and all. Many activists have experienced at one time or another the life-draining frustrations associated with attempting to unpack the status quo. It is certainly much easier to just decide not to climb that mountain; to acquiesce and to not stand against the river’s mighty flow.
But as Paine said,
He that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman… what we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.
America is dear to us all. The idea of America and what it stands for is sacred, and as forces have led her astray, we are compelled to think, speak and act anew to help straighten her course. It is time to face the music of American Empire sounded, and to make sure she doesn’t play out her last coda.
“We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.” ~ Abraham Lincoln