Friday, September 4, 2009


Glenn Greenwald On the Permanent US Warfare State

This is a great post; here are some excerpts. Note that the links about US military operations need to be scrolled to be believed, and the bolding is mine:
There was a time...when the U.S. pretended that it viewed war only as a "last resort," something to be used only when absolutely necessary to defend the country against imminent threats. In reality, at least since the creation of the National Security State in the wake of World War II, war for the U.S. has been everything but a "last resort." Constant war has been the normal state of affairs. In the 64 years since the end of WWII, we have started and fought far more wars and invaded and bombed more countries than any other nation in the world...Those are just facts. History will have no choice but to view the U.S. -- particularly in its late imperial stages -- as a war-fighting state.

But at least we paid lip service to (even while often violating) the notion that wars should be waged only when absolutely imperative to defending the nation against imminent threats. We largely don't even bother to do that any more. Consider today's defense of the war in Afghanistan from the war-loving Washington Post Editorial Page. Here's their argument for why we should continue to wage war there:
Yet if Mr. Obama provides adequate military and civilian resources, there's a reasonable chance the counterinsurgency approach will yield something better than stalemate, as it did in Iraq.
Does that sound like a stirring appeal to urgent national security interests? Why should we continue to kill both Afghan civilians and our own troops and pour billions of dollars into that country indefinitely? Because "there's a reasonable chance the counterinsurgency approach will yield something better than stalemate." One can almost hear the yawning as the Post Editors call for more war.
[T]he luxury of viewing war "as an abstraction" -- is a perfect explanation for today's pro-war Post Editorial and for the more generalized willingness to continuously start and continue more and more wars, even in the absence of anything remotely approaching a "last resort" rationale...

There seems little doubt that a major political conflict over Afghanistan in imminent and inevitable. A newly released CNN poll yesterday revealed that opposition to the war is at "an all-time high" -- with 57 percent opposing the war and only 42 percent supporting it. Even more notably, 75% of Democrats and 57% of independents oppose the war...

But as became clear with Iraq, the "mere" fact that a large majority of Americans oppose a war has little effect -- none, actually -- on whether the war will continue. Like so much of what happens in Washington, the National Security State and machinery of Endless War doesn't need citizen support. It continues and strengthens itself without it. That's because the most powerful factions in Washington -- the permanent military and intelligence class, both public and private -- would not permit an end to, or even a serious reduction of, America's militarized character. It's what they feed on. It's the source of their wealth and power.
That, of course, is the trend that has been repeating itself over and over: while Obama has certainly deviated from what the GOP would do in the realm of domestic policy, he has embraced the core prevailing principles of Bush/Cheney in the areas of war fighting, civil liberties, "counter-terrorism," and secrecy/transparency -- i.e., in the full-throated continuation of the National Security State...

All of these issues can't be separated from one another. A country that turns itself into a war-fighting state, a militarized empire, is choosing what kind of country it wants to be. And as long as that continues, everything else -- wild expansions of executive power, the explicit rejection of the rule of law for elites, a continuous erosion of civil liberties, ever-expanding secrecy justifications, supreme empowerment of a permanent national security class whose power transcends elections -- are all necessary and inevitable by-products. As Thomas Jefferson observed in an 1810 letter to Ceasar Rodney: "In times of peace the people look most to their representatives; but in war, to the executive solely." Jefferson was assuming "war" was a temporary state of affairs; where, as with us now, it's the permanent reality, the effect is far greater. As long as a President is waging wars and trying to control the world through military force, he desperately needs the CIA, the military, the entire National Security State apparatus, and thus cannot "change" policies of secrecy, civil liberties, privacy and the like -- even if he wanted to.

That's why being in a state of endless war doesn't merely raise discrete questions of this policy or that; it changes the character of the nation. Whether to continue our massive National Security State and general imperial behavior (unsustainable in any event) is at least as important a question in the debate over Afghanistan as specific questions raised by the war itself.

UPDATE: See also: James Madison,
Political Observations, 1795:
Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.... No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

that is an awesome post. i told this same thing (although not worded nearly as well) to all of my obama-supporting friends well before the election. if they were voting for obama because they thought he would represent a significant change in u.s. foreign policy, the should have been prepared for disappointment.
Wow. The sock puppet master says something deep and profound, rather than dishonest, stupid, or whacked.

I still think his batting average is really low.

But it's good to see at least one lefty who actually really cares about civil liberties -- and not just about the advance of socialism, state power, and Obama's cult of personality.
PP, I disagree w/ your view of Greenwald. He`s a lefty to be sure, but he has always been consistently critical of the aggrandizement of power in the White House and cravenness in Congress in yielding to it, as well as consistently concerned about civil rights and the growth of Big Brother.

Bob, GG`s last quote is a favorite of mine and Lew Rockwell as well:
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