My Country Went to Iraq and All I Got Was This Global Empire
(April 22, 2010)
Consumer spending trumps Global Empire in the Mainstream Media, but Global Empire has consequences.
A number of readers were kind enough to send me an insightful 76-page report, Joint Operating Environment 2010 issued by the United States Joint Forces Command, part of the overarching Pentagon goal of coordinating the efforts of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
I can see the bright, earnest young officers behind this report in every page. The standard-issue Mainstream Media perspective is that America's "best and brightest" migrate to Wall Sreet in search of $10 million (or $100 million) bonuses. As usual, the MSM is grotesquely incorrect; it's the moral cripples and criminals who migrate to Wall Street; the "best and brightest" often join the U.S. Armed Forces.
After they have served the nation's Power Elites and Empire for a length of time, those who don't have the political skills or will to enter the senior ranks often opt out. That is one of the sad consequences of running a Global Empire in service to the financial and State Power Elites.
If you type "Iraq" into the custom Google search in this site's top-left sidebar, you will be served with 10 pages of results. Yes, I care about Iraq because I care about the citizen-soldiers we civilians have sent there via our elected officials.
I also care about the U.S. Global Empire because it is vast, powerful and mostly hidden from view. Those who reckon it a hollow machine doomed to implode don't get it; they have no idea what goes on behind the trickle of MSM "news" they depend on for their understanding.
Back in the early 1970s, when the veil was partly ripped from the nation's Intelligence forces in response to over-reach and criminal violations of the intelligence forces' charters (COINTELPRO, etc.), a few crumbs escaped the layers of secrecy and fell to the ground for citizens to gape at.
One crumb I recall quite vividly is that the U.S. was routinely eavesdropping on senior Soviet phone calls. U.S. Intelligence personnel (undoubtedly NSA employees) listened in while the Soviet premier tearfully bid a doomed cosmonaut good-bye. Naturally, the Soviets buried their numerous space failures and glorified their even more numerous successes; in this case, the cosmonaut's capsule was crippled and could not return to Earth. The world never heard about the failed mission or the loss of life, but U.S. Intelligence knew.
Just as you never heard about Soviet failures, you will never hear about the real U.S. successes.
I have been a student of the U.S. Empire for over 40 years. Whatever I have learned is from unclassified sources which leak out of various cracks like environmental reports, or obscure FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) filings. My stepfather was career U.S. Air Force, and he was one of the smartest people I have ever met. He rose to a level of great responsibility, and while we never discussed classified information I learned things about the point of view and the culture of those entrusted with maintaining the Empire's "tip of the spear."
The ignorance of the average MSM "pundit" and citizen alike about the Empire is staggering. The civilians running the Empire like it that way, of course, and work to keep the Empire's operations low-key and of "no interest" to an MSM obsessed with "entertainment," political theatre and distractions like "consumer spending."
What do you know about tactical nuclear weapons? These aren't the strategic weapons covered by the START Treaty with the Russians; tactical nukes are outside the strategic weapons limitations treaties. If you don't know about tactical nukes, then you should be asking yourself, what else don't I know? The quick answer for all of us on the outside: a lot.
Is it mere accident that Iraq and Afghanistan have dropped almost entirely out of the "news"? They only make a brief appearance when a "top leader" of the Bad Guys gets liquidated, or when a suicide bomber leaves an especially gruesome aftermath.
That Iraq and Afghanistan are rarely in the "news" is understandable because war, occupation and "nation-building" are "normal" in the U.S. Empire. We are there because we're "taking care of business" in the sense of the "noble cause" described so aptly in the 1975 film Three Days of the Condor. I wrote about this back in 2005: "This whole damn thing is about oil, isn't it?" (November 11, 2005).
Here is the key passage from the film's Dialogue Transcript (Three Days Of The Condor).
TURNER (REDFORD): Boy, what is it with you people? You think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth?
So we went out and got it. As I described in The Fulcrum of the Mideast? (May 19, 2008) , the U.S. has neatly carved out a sphere of influence in the fulcrum of the mideast. Geography, demographics and energy will always dominate; please consider this map for clarification.
The U.S. Military is now another "tribe" in Iraq. It is a hyper-violent, resourceful tribe which made a number of beginner's mistakes which have now been largely corrected, usually at the rank of Army or Marine captain--those officers on the ground who interact with other tribal leaders.
The entire world is of "material interest" to the U.S. Empire and thus the U.S. Armed Forces, and the globe is divided into seven theatres for command purposes (there were only six, but Africa has been added as a seventh). The U.S. owns around 737 bases overseas in 63 countries, and has personnel stationed in 150 nations.
Those areas without exploitable resources and functioning states will be left to wither or plumb the depths of chaos; there are limits on the Empire's resources and those tasked with running the Empire are acutely aware of those limitations. (It's the ignorant who overestimate or underestimate the Empire's power.)
So the U.S. prefers to maintain an "over the horizon" presence which can be brought to bear as needed. Thus the permanent bases in Iraq are mostly located in the desert, well beyond urban zones. That's why the nation maintains 11 carrier groups; the carrier groups are over the horizon, invisible except when needed. Discreet may not be the right word, but it is suggestive.
Sometimes "winning" isn't the goal; keeping one's enemies off-center is the goal. Note how the Iraq-Afghan nexus surrounds Iran and offers access to not just the mideast but China, Pakistan, central Asia and Turkey.
It is a strategic power play of breathtaking consequence. Ultimately, the U.S. doesn't have to "win" or even control territory; it simply has to deny control to others, introduce a permanent uncertainty and unease in their plans, and establish forward bases for power projection.
Much has been made of "civilian" Chinese guarding oil facilities in Sudan. China (and every other "great power") has its own "noble cause" of wrapping up resources. But the Chinese lack the ability to project power; they have no airlift capacity, no aircraft carriers, and no global network of bases. While the U.S. effectively controls or influences most of the globe's remaining fossil fuels, China has to make do with a deeply unstable Africa, where the winds of revolution might sweep the party you did business with from power.
That can happen anywhere, of course, but Africa is a special case of instability and fluidity. If you think the U.S. doesn't have "missions" and bases there, you are wrong. Many are humanitarian; that's also "soft power" projection. The U.S. is keenly interested in Africa; you just aren't aware of it unless you're in the machine or especially observant.
In a way most of us mere citizens cannot really grasp, the civilians and officer corps in charge of operating the Empire accept that a few thousand KIAs (killed in action) or gravely wounded servicemembers a year is one "cost of doing business."
The payoff is not just Empire but "on the job training." Which military force do you want when the chips are down? One which hasn't seen combat in decades, whose only experience is in a classroom or exercises, or one which has been at constant war for years? The latter, of course; the learning curve in war, as we have learnt to our sorrow, is very steep. Most of the time you don't get a second chance.
We mere citizens have a hard time understanding the self-perpetuating nature of the Empire--not just the "hard power" of the Pentagon's global reach but the "soft power" of embassies, Intelligence agencies, public relations, university student exchanges, and global "entertainment."
Those tasked with keeping the Empire running are delighted to be underestimated; they know the limitations and the advantages of asymmetry enjoyed by guerrillas, criminal networks and those hybrid groups which combine the "best" of both.
If you read the full 76-page report linked above, you can sense this acute awareness of limits. The enemies grow stronger and more capable even as the homeland (U.S.) is weakened by financial chicanery and rising debt.
The report made quite a splash by noting that the supply of oil could slip below demand as early as 2015--in essence, accepting the Peak Oil scenario and understanding. All the more reason for us to understand why a U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is necessarily permanent. It need not be a large presence in terms of visibility; the lower-profile, the better. The U.S. "tribe" doesn't need to run everything, it simply needs to be at the table when the Powers That Be gather to carve things up.
It just has to be a "tribe" that you don't want to piss off, and a "tribe" that you can never quite be sure about. Recall that keeping everyone off-balance is "winning" in a way that only those playing the Big Board Game fully grasp.
The "noble cause" is trotted out for PR purposes, but the truth is the Empire is self-sustaining; its continuity is its own justification and raison d'etre.
Here is the key passage in the report to my mind:
The ability to innovate in peacetime and adapt during wars requires institutional and individual agility. But above all, innovation and adaptation require imagination and the ability to ask the right questions and represent two of the most important aspects of military effectiveness. The former occurs during peace, when there is time available to think through critical issues. However, in peacetime, military organizations cannot replicate the actual conditions of combat, when a human opponent is trying his best to destroy U.S. forces.
There is an implicit understanding here that 1) we have over-reached; 2) unfavorable homeland financial and demographic trends mean declining military budgets; 3) the world is becoming an increasingly dangerous, chaotic place in which to operate, and 4) we must pick our fights much more carefully in the future, and become more agile, flexible, adaptable and imaginative.
The report understandably leaves out this obvious conclusion:
The leadership of the Empire, from our elected officials on down, has failed in the sense that their imagination has failed. The idea that the nation would have been better served by spending $1 trillion on a vast solar electrical generation plant on Federal land in Nevada (and the power grid to distribute that new power) rather than squander trillions and thousands of lives on expanding the Empire into Iraq and Afghanistan never occurred to our leadership.
In the words of one of my favorite bloggers, Tommy of Freedom Guerrilla (former Armed Forces officer, not coincidentally), America has become comfortable, institutionalized and dependent--and thus comfortably numb.
Among all the tragedies piled up by Empire, one rarely mentioned is the waste of so many earnest, smart young people's energy and commitment to what is presented as a "higher noble cause."
We could do so much better if our imagination wasn't hobbled by Empire.
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