September 25, 2009

Afghanistan and the Corporate Abyss

Filed under: Afghanistan, Corporatism, Global War On Terror, Globalization — Tags: , , — Russ @ 1:08 pm
As we wait to learn what will be General McChrystal’s troop request (today or in the next few days), and as the neocons across the political spectrum from moderate right to hard right (that’s almost all of it) have been revving up the propaganda machine for war, war, WAR!, we’ve been hearing, wonder of wonders, that Obama may actually be having second thoughts here.
Obama’s warmongering on the campaign trail was one of his few cases of truth in advertising, as he embraced the Afghanistan-as-Good-War theme and vowed to play the tough guy there, even as he withdrew from Iraq.
Well, it turns out we’re perhaps not going to be withdrawing all that much from Iraq after all, and on every other front Obama has been delighting corporate feudalists everywhere, but at least where it comes to escalating in Afghanistan he’s been as good as his word. Early on he replaced the previous theater commander with McC and approved an escalation of 21000 troops. (This was supposed to ensure an orderly, credible election.) With these two actions he took full personal ownership of the war.
For good measure, in an August speech he endorsed all foregoing neocon ideology and “morality”, declaring Afghanistan, and by extension the Global War on Terror, a “war of necessity”.
But now Obama contemplates his handiwork. He sees what a heckuva job we did with the election, what a great friend we have in Karzai (and, perhaps, he looks at the stiffening political resistance he’s facing from all the people he betrayed at home, who he assumed he could strong-arm and kiss off). Now he faces the demand for tens of thousands more troops to continue with an already dubious adventure rendered even more doubtful by the “election”. He sees how his only friends in arms are the Republicans and the neocon establishment, while the people increasingly reject the war.
Is it possible that he might look into the abyss, see the abyss staring back into him, and decide he doesn’t want to become such a monster himself? (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil section 146) And could the transformation of a knee-jerk warmonger into a sober statesman presage a more aggressively human policy on the domestic front, where contrary to the international front, war, on the banks, on the insurance racket, on the agricultural racket, and on all the other rackets, is exactly what we do need?
Maybe it’s too much to hope for such a revolution. (I was indulging some spacious thoughts.)
But according to the reports Obama is for the moment second-guessing the expansion of the war, at least in terms of sending more troops. Thus he’s coming under thuggish pressure from the militarists, for example in the leaking of McC’s policy report.
But such a second-guessing brings up more fundamental questions. Economically America has become a permanent war society. This is true not only regarding direct Pentagon budgets, but extends further and further into what is nominally the civilian economy as well. This is even increasingly true psychologically.
The economy is based on exponential growth, and must collapse completely without such growth. This growth in turn depends on a permanently increasing oil supply, and the ever-repeated feudal accumulation of plunder, as economic fuel which can then be fed into global finance capitalism.
Neither of these are any longer attainable other than through permanent imperial war. To end the Global War on Terror (GWOT), or even significantly hinder its expansion, is tantamount to packing up the whole growth machine. To wince at expanding the Afghanistan theater would make it hard to keep the war momentum going. (There’s some speculation that Obama instead wants war with Iran, and that’s why he’s hesitating on Afghanistan, but speculation is all that is so far.)
The corporate war establishment understands this, as we can see in its ecumenical rhetoric, ideology, and personnel. Robert Gates in particular seems the epitome of the pure permanent warrior, as much at home as Defense Secretary in the Obama administration as he was for Bush. He has effortlessly carried over his rhetoric and policy of permanently looking “beyond the horizon” to “the next war”; “our wars”, whichever we fight at the moment, always simply the stepping stones to the next war, always and forever. America’s military must be organized, its foreign policy tailored, its economy geared, its populace primed, for an endless string of wars of choice to “seize the global commons”, including in “space and cyberspace”.
This overt goal of military world domination dovetails with globalization. In both cases the “global commons”, all public resources, all public property, everywhere, is the corporate target. The GWOT is the military (neoconservative) manifestation of the parallel neoliberal economic onslaught. Just as the financial policy everywhere has been bailouts, “quantitative easing”, and where necessary fiscal stimulus, anything to artificially shock the global economic machine into continued life, so the physical crisis policy has been troop deployments and war. These together, bailouts and war, constitute the imperial momentum. Both have been institutionalized as permanent. The slacking of either threatens to bring on the collapse of Western “civilization”.
This is the prospect Obama faces. By the corporatist logic of his administration, and indeed by the capitalist logic of his whole upbringing (brainwashing), he must push on with the bailouts and the GWOT. As must any corporatist president.
But his domestic political outlook is getting more rotten by the day. More and more he must turn to the Republicans if he wants aid and comfort. (But he won’t find any there. I bet the Reps will happily vote against appropriations, authorizations, whatever, that is fail to “support the troops” by their own standard, and still be able to explain to the hillbillies how that’s really Obama’s fault.) During the campaign McCain was slammed for speaking of how he envisioned a hundred years’ war in Iraq. Turns out he was simply too honest for the campaign, that’s all. Now we have Obama officer Richard Holbrooke (a pacification cadre in Vietnam, perhaps still trying to redeem the crimes of his youth) chirping about victory, “we’ll know it when we see it”.
Even LBJ and Nixon knew what victory in Vietnam was supposed to look like (a lasting South Vietnam; America leaving with “honor” and “credibility” intact), however unattainable this vision was.
But here we have the Obama administration admitting it can’t even visualize “victory” in the GWOT. That’s because by definition permanent war can never realize victory, and a permanent war society, like ancient Sparta, can never know peace. These concepts are simply ruled out of existence, and ruled out of the language as well.
It’s a hideous, anti-American prospect. It’s a betrayal of everything America was founded to be, everything it was ever supposed to stand for.
Is Obama having second thoughts about being such a traitor? Does he really want to surrender America completely to the banks, and through them to the military-industrial and security-industrial complexes? So far his actions have come through loud and clear. He’s governed as this corporatist. If he intends to continue along this path, he has to go all the way with it. If he backpedals on Afghanistan, none of the rest of it makes any sense, and none of the rest of it will stand for even the short time that the doomed attempt at permanent war could help prop it up.
Or, he could take the radical step of relinquishing and reversing the corporate war on all its fronts. Such may be the last chance America has at rediscovering, cleansing, and redeeming itself.
Like I said, this is just a meditation on “what could be”, if Obama really is, for the first time, questioning one of the fundamental props of the nightmare. I’m not saying I think that’s what’s likely to happen, or that those reports themselves aren’t overblown.
And of course, as we speak, he still seeks a reactionary health anti-reform bill. And the bank front keeps caving in (the last few days: caving on “vanilla” requirements; caving on consumer protections vis non-bank entities; bizarre FDIC shenanigans like with the Franklin Bank). Things look extremely bad.
Which always just renders it all the more painful and repulsive, when we see how easily everything could be turned around….


  1. A few thoughts in response to your latest interesting blog entry.

    You wrote:

    “Maybe it’s too much to hope for such a revolution.”

    If “We The People” as it were, are willing to walk on the grass, (see Bertolt Brecht) we have a shot a making headway with a revolutionary program. Anything short of that will fail.

    Walking on the grass in practical terms will require a vociferous repudiation of the status quo which is best embodied in the political sphere by
    the two party system, in the economic sphere by big banking, and in the general cultural realm by the MSM. A turning away from the aforesaid, will likely involve, Civil disobedience and quite likely, in the worst case scenario, tactics of a more draconian nature may be necessary for real meaningful change to be enacted.

    You have described the government, banking and MSM malefactors well in earlier post, and they must be usurped. It’s a tall order, but there really is no avoiding that those three represent a kind of unholy trinity before us.

    With that said, and in the meantime, pay close attention to the fate of H.R. 1207 which concerns the audit of The Federal Reserve.

    As for the U.S. being a permanent war society, Yes, that is absolutely true. It has been pointed out by a diverse section of American intellectuals, and I believe most recently Gore Vidal did so in Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace.

    Comment by Edwardo — September 25, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

  2. Good points, Edwardo.

    On the one hand I sometimes feel despair over the magnitude of the calcified mass, and how unlikely it is that the people could ever muster the bottom-up will to smash it.

    But then I also consider how precarious its perch is, how the Tower of Babel is extremely unstable of its own weight, and how quickly and non-linearly it could collapse of its own weight.

    At that point, given its already intolerable provocations against its own people, it shouldn’t take as much political force for the people to reassert themselves once and for all.

    Comment by Russ — September 26, 2009 @ 3:58 am

  3. […] I’ve written quite a bit on Afghanistan and the Global War on Terror. (For example here and here.) My position is clear – Afghanistan is just the current centerpiece theater for a […]

    Pingback by The Next Level of the War « Volatility — December 2, 2009 @ 6:23 am

  4. Banks get bailouts so they can continue to keep people in debt..the sayin so true.

    “Debt is the slavery of the free.”

    Comment by legal debt settlement — March 31, 2010 @ 11:44 pm

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