Martin LeFevre: America Loves War
America Loves War
Way back in the '80's, during the frozen depths of the Cold War, there was a promising movement in America called ''Beyond War.'' It seems rather quaint now, since America has found an enemy that will never fail it, permitting us the luxury of permanent war - ''a global war on terror.''
However, a curious thing is happening. The more the Bush Administration beats the drums of war, the more hollowly it reverberates amongst the populace. And the more the small man struts his stuff as "a war president," the more of a laughingstock he makes of himself, at home and abroad.
Born of justifiable fears of nuclear war during Reagan's "evil empire" days, the "Beyond War" movement fizzled when Gorbachev came to power espousing policies of glasnost and perestroika. Of course the nukes remain in their silos and subs on both sides, though much more so on the American side.
The Bush Administration, and its media supporters such as Charlie Rose, irrationally insist, "American is a force for good." That's why we must maintain our 10,000 nuclear warheads, as well as develop a new generation of specialized warheads, even as we demand that nations we select, such as Iran (as a designated member of the "axis of evil") dismantle all nuclear programs, commercial or military.
The irony is that the "Beyond War" folks were right‹war has become obsolete. But the very real danger is that the psychological/emotional roots of war, cut off from global reality though they are, still have a stranglehold on the minds of enough Americans to enable the Bush clique to successfully exploit it one more time.
Just as the reality of war has fallen onto the rubbish heap of history on top of the millions of lives that war has wasted over the millennia, the psychology of war is being milked for every last drop of blood it can produce in the age of interconnection.
The "war on terrorism" is a rhetorical device, like "the war on drugs," or even, absurdity of absurdities, the "war on poverty." Bush is so addle-minded that he really believes his own bullshit about being "a war president." But even if he didn't, the metaphor of war doesn't work in attacking intractable problems like drugs, poverty, and terrorism.
The painful truth is that Americans like war. Not even the unimaginably bloody conflict known as the Civil War, in which Americans killed Americans by the hundreds of thousands in the world's first modern war, generated anything more than a weak pacifist current in the body politic, a brief burst known as the Transcendentalism (led by Thoreau and Emerson). Lincoln agonized over the war, and Generals Grant and Lee kept their word and helped heal the nation quickly, but another strutting egoist, Teddy Roosevelt, set the tone for 20th and 21st century US policy.
Few people, even progressives, question the sophistry and see the contradiction between maintaining a high-tech mercenary military machine to protect and project US power, and the sentimental claptrap that revels in 'our heroes' and 'supporting our troops.'
The fact that enlistment by mostly poor or lower middle class kids is driven by economic considerations, does not absolve them of responsibility for carrying out morally, ethically, and spiritually injurious policies. And it certainly doesn't excuse the multitudes of anti-war protestors who think they can have it both ways, by opposing the war but supporting the troops who execute it.
Though the "war on terror" isn't really a war at all, and the world has indeed moved beyond war, war mentality is still being effectively used to uphold the status quo. And not just in America.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.