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A common belief shared by U.S. political pundits and a compliant and complicit U.S. media is that America never chooses its wars: it’s dragged into them. Last October, I read an article in the “liberal” New York Times that caught the mood perfectly. It worried the U.S. was being “sucked into” wars in the Middle East, drawn in, inexorably, by forces the world’s lone superpower couldn’t control. As if America’s leaders had no choice. As if they (and we) couldn’t walk away whenever we so chose.
What foolishness. By choice the U.S. has been meddling in the greater Middle East for decades (consider the CIA-orchestrated coup in Iran in 1953, to cite only one example). America is not being “sucked in” by uncontrollable forces. Our leaders choose to meddle – most often in extremely violent and prejudicial ways – in regions of the world they understand poorly, if at all
And poor understanding comes despite a massive intelligence complex featuring 17 agencies chewing through $70 billion a year. Indeed, according to a Washington Post study, the U.S. has nearly 1300 government organizations and nearly 2000 private companies devoted to counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence.
Let’s look at a tiny piece of that complex: the presence of 1500 intel operatives working daily to provide “actionable intelligence” for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in Florida. Roughly the equivalent of a military regiment of high-priced intelligence operatives sits on its collective butt in Florida, gazing at computer screens, producing its own fog of war about the Middle East.
Indeed, much of war, American style has degenerated into watching people killed at a distance. Think of video footage from drone strikes that call to mind snuff films. Want explosive climaxes? As Peter Van Buren noted, they’ve got the war porn for you.
War, American style features lots of bragging about the military (We’re Number One!), lots of grinding in wars that last forever, but no satisfying climaxes, whether in Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq or Libya. Lots of steroidal militarism, but no clear military victories.
Donald Trump had a fleeting moment of sanity when he said in the last presidential debate that the U.S. after 9/11 wasted three or four trillion dollars on wars with nothing to show for it. That money should have been invested in America instead, he said, which caused Carly Fiorina to denounce him for sounding like Barack Obama! Yes, Obama the “feckless weakling,” according to that man-burger, Chris Christie.
Ergo I can suggest one safe bet for 2016: more war. At least we’re number one at something.
William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and professor of history.
Copyright 2015 W. J. Astore. First published in The Contrary Perspective.
The National Security Agency, just one of seventeen agencies devoted to intelligence