Friday, September 09, 2011

September 11 retrospective: Tom Hayden on the new militarism

Tom Hayden has a long op-ed with some thoughtful observations and reading suggestions, 9/11 blind Sacramento News and Review 09/08/2011, in which he discusses the very real problem presented by the Pentagon's Long War, the state of permanent war we entered soon after the 9/11 attacks in 2001:

The military occupation of our minds will continue until many more Americans become familiar with the strategies and doctrines in play during the Long War. Not enough Americans in the peace movement are literate about counterinsurgency, counterterrorism and the debates about "the clash of civilizations" — i.e., the West vs. the Muslim world.
He's not being hyperbolic. I've written here numerous times about theories of war that have become so popular in the officer corps, according to which the "center of gravity" (the most important point of potential weakness) in war is public opinion in the United States. This view of war, based largely on a deeply flawed reading of the experience of the Vietnam War - and for the Pentagon a self-serving one - inevitably encourages maximum emphasis on attempting to manage American public opinion. It's illegal for the government in general, including the military, to propagandize the US public. But the law is not vigorously enforced in the case of the Pentagon, to put it mildly. Hayden writes:

The Long War casts a shadow not only over our economy and future budgets, but our unborn children's future as well. This is no accident, but the result of deliberate lies, obfuscations and scandalous accounting techniques. We are victims of an information warfare strategy waged deliberately by the Pentagon.

As Gen. Stanley McChrystal said much too candidly in February 2010, "This is not a physical war of how many people you kill or how much ground you capture, how many bridges you blow up. This is all in the minds of the participants." David Kilcullen, once the top counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, defines "international information operations as part of counterinsurgency."

In his 2010 book, Counterinsurgency, Kilcullen wrote that Gen. Petraeus’ goal is to achieve a "unity of perception management measures targeting the increasingly influential spectators’ gallery of the international community."

This new "war of perceptions," relying on naked media manipulation, such as the treatment of media commentators as "message amplifiers" but also high-technology information warfare, only highlights the vast importance of the ongoing WikiLeaks whistle-blowing campaign against the global secrecy establishment.
And he reminds us that despite the commitment of both parties to the present course of permanent war, the public rejects its assumptions:

The more we know about the Long War doctrine, the more we understand the need for a long peace movement. The pillars of the peace movement, in my experience and reading, are the networks of local progressives in hundreds of communities across the United States. Most of them are citizen volunteers, always immersed in the crises of the moment, nowadays the economic recession and unemployment. Look at them from the bottom up, and not the top down, and you will see:

  • the people who marched in the hundreds of thousands during the Iraq War;
  • those who became the enthusiastic consumer base for Michael Moore’s documentaries and the Dixie Chicks'anti-Bush statements;
  • the first to support Howard Dean when he opposed the Iraq war, and the stalwarts who formed the anti-war base for then-candidate Barack Obama;
  • the online legions of MoveOn who raised millions of dollars and turned out thousands of focused bloggers;
  • the voters who dumped a Republican Congress in 2006 on the Iraq issue, when the party experts said it was impossible;
  • the millions who elected Obama president by an historic flood of voluntary enthusiasm and get-out-the-vote drives;
  • the majorities who still oppose the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and want military spending reversed.
As Juan Cole discusses in Sadrists to Demonstrate in Baghdad against US Troops Remaining Informed Comment 09/08/2011, we may be actually about to get nearly all of the American troops out of Iraq, effectively ending the war we started in 2003. And by "we," I mean the Cheney-Bush Administration. It was a wholly unnecessary war.

He recommends two books I've reviewed here, Andrew Bacevich's The New American Militarism (2005) and the collection of essays edited by Bacevich, The Long War: A New History of U.S. National Security Policy Since World War II (2007).

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