Friday, May 06, 2005

Military Maneuvers: The Conquest of the State

American military spending will soon equal that of the rest of the world combined, Jane's Defence Weekly reports. The U.S. "defense" budget hit "$417.4 billion in 2003 – 46 percent of the global total." And we know it has only ballooned since then, with more than $81 billion in war pork for Iraq larded on just the other day.

What does this mean? It means that America has become a completely militarized state; or rather, the military IS the state now, and everything else is ancillary to it, mere excess that can be gutted or chopped off in times of "budget crisis." Bush's policies are of course designed to produce just such a crisis, in order to reduce government to a bare-bones operation, powerless to restrain the restless, relentless, all-pervading greed of the oligarchy. This is happening at every level – federal, state and local – as representative bodies are stripped of their powers to regulate business, preserve the environment, and maintain public services.

For example, in state after state, the bribery-lords of the NRA are muscling through legislation that actually prevents cities and counties from suing gun manufacturers to force them to bear some of the devastating financial consequences – in health care, law enforcement, courts, etc. – of their weapons-peddling. Can arguments be made against these lawsuits – restraint of trade issues, etc.? Yes. But such arguments should be thrashed out in open court. The NRA laws strangle this Constitutional process. They prevent the citizens of a community from exercising their sovereign right to have their concerns heard in a court of law.

There is a similar stripping of sovereign rights and local regulatory power in the "free trade" agreements like NAFTA, which give appointed boards of apparatchiks the power to overrule local laws in favor of corporate behemoths – even foreign corporations. (And yes, NAFTA was pushed through by Clinton and Gore; this hideous degeneration of American liberty didn't start with Bush – it's a long-term bipartisan project.) Meanwhile, some communities are being forced to put their public water and sewer systems up for "privatization" – again, often to foreign interests. And the deregulation mania of the 1990s – which gave us the glory of Enron, WorldComm, etc. – has of course only accelerated under George W. Bush.

The structures of civic life in America are being systematically destroyed, replaced by a rapacious "consumer culture" floating on a sea of noise, nonsense and carefully cultivated ignorance. Why? Because an atomized mob of bloated "consumers" – spun around by official lies, bludgeoned by witless diversions, their worst instincts and prejudices stoked at every turn – is easier to handle than a community of genuine citizens: informed, involved, broad-minded, skeptical of power, tolerant of dissent, highly individual yet concerned for others.

The bitter irony is that there is actually more long-term profit for business in a society based on justice, fairness, equality, mercy, learning, tolerance, openness and the active, meaningful participation of engaged citizens in ordering the life of the nation. There's more stability in such a society, more security, more freedom for innovation and invigoration in every aspect of life. But our ruling cliques – epitomized by the Bushists – are afflicted with third-rate minds, stunted imaginations, lizard-brain yearnings for immediate gratification, the short-term money. They will ultimately destroy the community that sustains them. They will end up devouring their own entrails – after they've despoiled the nation, and the world, with their blind, brute greed.

The Bushists' deliberate starving of resources for civic structures (they are even talking openly about "de-funding" the judiciary now) increasingly leaves the military as the only thriving arm of the state. The gargantuan military budgets not only skew the priorities of government toward endless "wars and rumors of war" – they also skew the very economic fabric of the nation itself. More and more businesses are dependent on either direct spending from the Pentagon or else serving the military-industrial complex in some subsidiary fashion, with knock-on effects right down the line – to a convenient store dependent on workers for a tool-making plant which is in turn dependent on orders from a weapons plant. (And you could insert any number of other links along that chain.)

This too is probably more deliberate or not. This chain of dependence means that any major cut in military spending will inflict real pain on millions of people, rippling through the economy to its farthest outposts, places seemingly unconnected in any way to the war machine. The military IS the state now; the military IS the economy.

But, as noted, such a massive military cannot be sustained politically without the constant threat – or reality – of war. And thus America's foreign policy too has become almost totally militarized. Weapons sales constitute the largest share of "foreign aid" by an overwhelming margin. (Most of these "sales" are sweetheart deals, with all of the manufacturer's risks guaranteed by the U.S. government – that is, by the American taxpayer. If, say, Poland defaults on its $3 billion commitment to buy U.S warplanes, the weapons industry will still get its money – from ordinary U.S. citizens.) Diplomatic stances are conditioned almost entirely by military necessities: dictators are embraced if they allow "basing rights" for the Pentagon: see Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc. And the American people must at all times be kept in a ferment of fear about some vast foreign evil that threatens to "destroy our way of life." In such a system, war becomes a routine instrument of policy – the first or second resort, not the last. It becomes the defining element of society itself.

In this light, the article from Jane's is revealing in another way. For the thrust of the story is not how alarming and unbalanced America's military spending has become. No; instead the magazine urges European contractors to get with the program, to "develop a closer association" with the American war machine, in order to "maximize value." Here we can see how the "values" of militarism have been completely absorbed by the "Establishment" world of international business. There is not even a question that this highly unstable and combustible situation – the creation of a war machine that threatens to overwhelm the entire world, economically and militarily – is not a good thing. There is not a hint of skepticism. It is just assumed that this is how the world should work – and boys, make your pile from it while you can.

Militarism first conquers the state; then it colonizes the human mind.