Wednesday, 10 October 2012

American Empire: A Disaster on Autopilot

by Tom Engelhardt                  Pub. by                 October 9, 2012

Americans lived in a “victory culture” for much of the twentieth century. We experienced an almost 75-year stretch of triumphalism. From World War I to the end of the Cold War, with time off for a stalemate in Korea and a defeat in Vietnam too shocking to absorb or shake off.  When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, it all seemed so obvious.  Fate had clearly dealt Washington a royal flush. The United States was, after all, the last standing superpower, after centuries of unceasing great power rivalries on the planet.  It had a military beyond compare and no enemy on the horizon
And here’s the odd thing, little has changed since then and yet everything seems different.  Everywhere there are now “threats” against our well-being which seem to demand action.  Everywhere the U.S. military still reigns supreme, and yet nowhere can it achieve its goals, however modest.
The Planet’s Top Gun   And yet the more dominant the U.S. military becomes in its ability to destroy the more the defeats and semi-defeats pile up, the more the missteps and mistakes grow, the more the strains show, the more the nation’s treasure disappears down a black hole -- and in response to all of this, the more moves the Pentagon makes.
A great power without a significant enemy?  You might have to go back to the Roman Empire at its height or some Chinese dynasty in full flower to find anything like it.  The U.S. has 1,000 or more bases around the world; other countries, a handful.  The U.S. spends as much on its military as the next 14 powers (mostly allies) combined.  The U.S. military is singular in other ways, too.  It alone has divided the globe -- the complete world -- into six “commands.” No other country on the planet thinks of itself in faintly comparable military terms.
The president now has at his command not one, but two private armies.  The first is the CIA, which in recent years has been heavily militarized, is overseen by a former four-star general, and is running its own private assassination campaigns and drone air wars throughout the Greater Middle East.  The second is an expanding elite, the Joint Special Operations Command, cocooned inside the U.S. military, members of whom are now deployed to hot spots around the globe. The U.S. Navy, with its 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carrier task forces, is dominant on the global waves in a way that only the British Navy might once have been; and the U.S. Air Force controls the global skies in much of the world in a totally uncontested fashion.  In fact, by every measure (except success), the likes of it has never been seen.
Blindsided by Predictably Unintended Consequences    By all the usual measuring sticks, the U.S. should be supreme in a historically unprecedented way.  And yet it’s not.  Quite the opposite, U.S. military power has been remarkably discredited globally by the most pitiful of forces.  Resistance of one sort or another arises and failure ensues in some often long-drawn-out and spectacular fashion. Even as military power has proven itself a bust again and again, our policymakers have come to rely ever more completely on a military-first response to global problems. A deeply militarized mindset and the global maneuvers that go with it are by now just part of the way of life of a Washington eternally “at war.” 
What remains is, of course, a self-evident formula for disaster on autopilot. But don’t tell Washington. It won’t matter. Its denizens can’t take it in.        [Abridged]         via Common Dreams website
© 2012   Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's   

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