14 Sep 2014 02:30am IST
Thomas L. Knapp
When I tuned in to US President Barack Obama’s televised speech on his plans for war against the so-called “Islamic State,” I expected exactly what we got — a bland sundae of pseudo-patriotic drivel topped off with some whipped cream of big bucks for the military-industrial complex and the cherry of regime change in Syria. What I didn’t expect was a bon mot homage to a previous era.
We all remember how Vietnam ended. After two lost ground wars in Asia in the last 12 years, after recourse to the history book accounts of the post-WWII era, you might expect Obama to have learned a lesson by now. And you’d be right.
Unfortunately the lesson he’s learned isn’t the obvious one. Rather it’s that modern American wars aren’t meant to be “won.” The measure of success since 1945 is not military victory over a defined enemy, but dollars fed into the maw of “defense” contractors – the more and the longer the better. The aim of successive US administrations in the Middle East seems to be a return to the Vietnam model, with some helpful modifications. The mythology of ISIS as a substantial threat to the US, combined with its actual status as an amorphous, ill-defined bogeyman that can never really be “defeated,” lends itself well to the further extension of 24 years of war.
And the aim of the current administration in Ukraine? To extend NATO’s 70-year career, on its own model and on that of Korea, instead of letting a long since militarily pointless “alliance” shuffle off to the retirement home.
The usual leading and fixed question set on matters of war is: “Can the state afford to have this war?” Quickly countered with “can the state afford to NOT have this war?”
The real question we should be asking ourselves is “can we afford the state and its perpetual wars?”