For a decade my wife and I asked ourselves the question, "How can this go on?" By "this", we meant the inexorable impoverishment of the American consumer, and the consequent deterioration of their ability to consume. Leaving aside our real concerns about the consequences of an economic theology based on the systematic plunder of the earth, and the plunder of each other, we doubted the sustainability of the consumer culture in any case, and therefore the American Empire's viability.
When the "home equity loan" became the source of funds for consumption, we bailed out. We knew it was over- that the motors were now finally silent, that the system was losing altitude fast, and had to crash very soon.
We were wrong. It ran on for another decade, because they found another money pot.
When "funny money" -the rotten, often fraudulent mortgage, attractively mixed and packaged into an investment device, became a fabulously profitable ponzi scheme, we missed it. By that time, the financial system was so out of control, so opaque that few on the outside could see it, and ordinary folks inside the US were as blind as a stump to the last-gasp plunder these things represented.
But now the first shoe has dropped, the crash has come, the Empire is staggering drunkenly about the world stage leaving a trail of wrecked nations and lives, riven by dissension and quasi-fascist factionalism. Reasonable minds want to know---where will the Empire go from here? When will the other shoe drop, and what sort of shoe will it be?
Will it be a rational response, a tactic to engineer a softer landing for the world as well as for the US?
Will the US Empire react in the traditional way, and throw a tantrum, lay waste to the countryside, and then die a noisy death?
There are many possibilities, but one is emerging as the most likely, the choice of the real power centers that control America, and that deeply influence the rest of the world.
It's called The Long War, and it's an upgraded version of a long-running and popular public theater piece that began with the cold war.
The current cast is stellar, and includes all the stars of the Military-Neocon production company.
David Kilcullen, Anthropoligist, soldier and top adviser to:
Gen. David Petraeus, US commander of the iraq forces, and
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, late of the Phoenix project and the equally murderous Iraq ethnic pacification program, now US commander in Afghanistan;
Adm. Mike Mc Mullen, current chairman, joint chiefs of Staff, Pentagon,
Gen. John Abizaid, commander, CentCom, credited with coining the term "Long War"
Robert Kaplan, neoconservative theorist and writer,
John Nagl, leading counterinsurgency theorist and Iraq veteran,
and a host of civilian theorists, commenters and columnists throughout the media.
Andrew Bacevich has collected much relevant historical work describing the strategic and tactical elements, the justifications and some of the doubts into his book, The Long War
He points out eloquently the genesis of this mode of governance and economic management , and it's a must read for armchair futurologists like me. But to see the best of the current thinking on the subject, it's hard to beat Tom Hayden.
The implications of this doctrine are staggering. The very notion of a fifty-year war assumes the consent of the American people, who have yet to hear of the plan, for the next six national elections. The weight of a fifty-year burden will surprise and dismay many in the antiwar movement. Most Americans living today will die before the fifty-year war ends, if it does. Youngsters born and raised today will reach middle age. Unborn generations will bear the tax burden or fight and die in this "irregular warfare."
These projections reveal a staggering audacity--not Obama's audacity of hope but an audacity of martial commitment. A fifty- to 100-year military campaign--the subtitle of Kilcullen's book is Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One--will span thirteen presidential terms and twenty-five Congressional sessions, casting a long shadow over generations of politicians not yet running for office. The Long War assumes either perpetual democratic approval by many voters not yet alive or that democracy will simply be circumvented by the national security state. Bin Laden will be dead of natural causes or otherwise long before it's over.
Hayden also points to the vision of an "Arc of Instability" in which the necessary military operations to come are almost limitless. Among many other insights, he says,
There is a chance, of course, that the Long War can be prevented. It may be unsustainable, a product of imperial hubris. Public opinion may tire of the quagmires and costs--but only if there is a commitment to a fifty-year peace movement.
I'm not optimistic. B.F. Skinner, the influential founder of the cult of behavioral psychology, wrote, in essence, that wars were great things, that they were the ideal device for focusing the public's mind and manipulating mass behavior into making the huge sacrifices necessary to set the stage for the emergence of prosperity. Such notions seem to have been tempting to the military mind, and to the other centers of power that have managed the American machine for so long, Skinner's barbaric personal behavior and the failure of most of his theories to stand the test of time has not altered their allure, perhaps because barbaric behavior is at the heart of warfare, kinetic or economic, anyhow.
What is clear is that, with the technologies and media infrastructure of public manipulation used to gin up the Iraq debacle, any time a new villain is needed, one can be manufactured.
What I'm concerned with here is the overlooked relationship between the first shoe, and the long war, and I'll state my thesis simply:
The long war, behind it's newly spruced-up facade, is primarily a technique to discipline the American public to endure the hardships to come, to condition them to make the sacrifices required to defeat a non-existant enemy, in a war that will never end. It's that long-sought technology to manage the failure of the market theology, and much of doctrinaire capitalism.
Instead of replacing these things with ideas more workable in today's world, and since there seems to be no more easily plucked fruit on the American money tree, we will simply do some operant conditioning on the masses to alter their behavior into one of docile acceptance of a greatly lowered standard of living and reduced civil liberties, as we divert an ever-larger portion of our diminishing wealth into war.
Will it work?
There are two answers to this, I believe.
Yes, the American public will bow to this perceived existential threat, and eat beans and rice for the good of "The War Effort", and
No, it will not work.
Yes, Americans will buy it.
If the giveaway of untold trillions of tax dollars to a banking industry that was itself largely responsible for triggering the current financial catastrophe, while leaving millions of Americans unemployed, increasingly homeless and without medical care has not triggered a massive reaction from the American people, then nothing will. Does anyone out there see this massive reaction? Me neither. And,
No, it will not work.
Tom Hayden details the many holes in the whole thing, historic, strategic and tactical. But it's easy to sum up the reasons why it will not work.
It's a plan from a lost century, lost in the mists of time, a plan from pre-global warming, pre-peak oil, pre-resource stretch, pre-modern China and India. It's a plan based on profligate waste of both human life and the world's resources, a plan based on the assumption that it is our national right to commit waste on a global scale, a plan assuming we will have the power to force acquiescence to such policies on the world. None of this is true.
But it will take a while for this fact to become obvious to the cretins in charge. The Empire will thrash violently in it's last years.
Buckle on your skates.