Friday, October 10, 2014

De-politicization and permanent war

Permanent war and de-politicization go together. Here are three complementary observations about militarism, permanent war and the related de-politicization of the public.

John Blake, Is America on the path to 'permanent war'? CNN 11/24/2010:

John Cioffi, a political science professor at University of California, Riverside, says the nation's "increasingly unhinged ideological politics" makes it difficult for the country to extract itself from battles in Afghanistan, Iraq and Central Asia.

"The U.S. is not on the path to permanent war; it is in the midst of a permanent war," Cioffi says.
From Iain Boal, T.J. Clark, Joseph Matthews and Michael Watts, Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War (2005):

The modern state, we would argue, has come to need weak citizenship. It depends more and more on maintaining an impoverished and hygienized public realm, in which only the ghosts of an older, more idiosyncratic civil society live on. ... Weak citizenship, but for that very reason the object of the state's constant, anxious attention - an unstoppable barrage of idiot fashions and panics and image-motifs, all aimed at sewing the citizen back (unobtrusively, "individually") into a deadly simulacrum of community.
From Tom Engelhardt, ISIS in Washington: America’s Soundtrack of Hysteria TomDispatch 10/07/2014:

The history of the demobilization of the American people as a true force in their own country’s actions abroad could be said to have begun in 1973, when a draft army was officially put into the history books. In the years before that, in Vietnam and at home, the evidence of how such an army could vote with its feet and through its activism had been too much for the top brass, and so the citizen army, that creation of the French Revolution, was ended with a stroke of the presidential pen. The next time around, the ranks were to be filled with “volunteers,” thanks in part to millions of dollars sunk into Mad Men-style advertising.

In the meantime, those in charge wanted to make sure that the citizenry was thoroughly demobilized and sent home. In the wake of 9/11, this desire was expressed particularly vividly when President George W. Bush urged Americans to show their patriotism (and restore the fortunes of the airlines) by visiting Disney World, vacationing, and going about their business, while his administration took care of al-Qaeda (and of course, invaded Afghanistan and Iraq).

In the ensuing years, propaganda for and an insistence that we “support,” “thank,” and adulate our “warriors” (in ways that would have been inconceivable with a citizen’s army) became the order of the day. At the same time, that force morphed into an ever more “professional,” “expeditionary” and “foreign” (as in Foreign Legion-style) outfit. When it came to the U.S. military, adulation was the only relationship that all but a tiny percentage of Americans were to be allowed. For those in the ever-expanding U.S. military-industrial-homeland-security-intelligence-corporate complex, terror was the gift that just kept giving, the excuse for any institution-building action and career enhancement, no matter how it might contravene previous American traditions.

In this context, perhaps we should think of the puffing up of an ugly but limited reality into an all-encompassing, eternally “imminent” threat to our way of life as the final chapter in the demobilization of the American people. Terror-phobia, after all, leaves you feeling helpless and in need of protection. The only reasonable response to it is support for whatever actions your government takes to keep you “safe.” [my emphasis]
Andrew Bacevich, Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War (2010):

A minimalist conception of citizenship that relieves individual Americans of any obligation to contribute to the nation's defense allows Washington wide latitude in employing U.S. military power.

... So the need for education - summoning Americans to take on the responsibilities of an active and engaged citizenship - has become especially acute. ...

Americans today must reckon with a contradiction of gaping proportions. Promising prosperity and peace, the Washington rules are propelling the United States toward insolvency and perpetual war. Over the horizon a shipwreck of epic proportions awaits.

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