Saturday, September 19, 2015

September 19 2015. American exceptionalism—and this greatness thing. Being great is not a substitute for looking after ALL your people. It is also a decidedly subjective opinion. Other counties think they are great too—and, in the eyes of their citizens, they probably are.


What is the MICC?

Why, it’s the U.S. Military Industrial Congressional Complex—which  manages to soak up in excess of $1 trillion a year—and cannot be audited.




There are good, practical, reasons why it is in the interests of most of us in the Free World to want the U.S. to remain strong—and be the strongest nation in the world at that.

However, there is a difference between having enough military strength to deter any aggressor, and the current de-facto garrisoning of the world—together with the rather cozy arrangement known as the MICC. There is a difference between walking softly—while carrying a big stick—and being a bully.

The MICC is the Military Industrial Congressional Complex—and consists of senior military officers, both serving and retired, defense contractors, members of both houses of Congress, a slew of lobbyists, consultants, members of think tanks, and complicit media—all of whom benefit from the deep river of money (much of it borrowed) which constitutes the never-ending flow that is military expenditure.

The MICC was the focus of President Eisenhower’s last speech before leaving office. His warning was blunt and evidence of his concern. Unfortunately, his worst fears have been realized. The MICC is now entirely out of control and seriously distorts America’s policies and government. It is rich, powerful, omnipresent—and virtually unchallenged. Though it’s tentacles reach everywhere, few Americans really understand it. It is also deeply and systemically corrupt.

The primary focus of the MICC’s members is not on winning the Nation’s wars, or on National Security, but on keeping the money flowing.

The money-flow is all! To that end, they make sure that Americans live in a climate of fear with at least one existential threat always dominant. It used to be the Soviet Union. Now we have China, terrorism, and a resurgent Russia—and Iran and North Korea as reserves.

All certainly deserve to be treated with some caution, but whether they really harbor hostile military intentions (linked to the necessary capabilities) towards the U.S. is another matter entirely.

Terrorism is certainly cause for concern but we might contain it more effectively if we put vastly more effort into determining its causes. The U.S. is very far from blameless in this regard. Actions have consequences—and the 2003 invasion of Iraq was about as irresponsible an action as can be imagined. The subsequent occupation—must of it brutal and mismanaged—was even worse. ISIS, or something like it, was an inevitable and predictable result.

Certainly, the U.S. is doing little to ease global tensions by literally garrisoning the globe. To make matters worse, few of these bases are sufficiently well manned to be effective unless heavily reinforced. But they are strong enough to alarm and provoke.

Reportedly, there is now a U.S. troop presence in over 160 nations, activity of substance in 70, all of this supported by over 800 bases—to which must be added a global naval presence of several hundred ships and submarines, and, an as yet unchallenged global airpower presence. And I haven’t even touched on U.S. activity in space.

All of this adds up to a pretty good example of imperial overstretch to the point where not only is it unaffordable, but it is counter-productive, in that it incentivizes less than friendly nations to up-arm.

Look at a map with U.S. bases marked on it, and it is not hard to see why nations like Iran feel insecure. There are surrounded by the forces of a country which has a track record of aggression—without the courtesy of declaring war or even a valid reason.

Here, I am not attempting to justify Iran’s various actions over the decades since the shah was toppled—but merely to try and communicate what U.S. military activity must look like from the Iranian perspective.

The phrases ‘threatening behavior’ and ‘hostile intent’ come to mind.

As with so much, the devil is in the detail. Where the MICC is concerned, we don’t even know the necessary detail. The Pentagon cannot even be audited. It says it has too many conflicting accounting systems!

There is a serious need to get matters into balance here. As matter stand, we have a far from cost-effective defense establishment—by which I mean that that it is stunningly wasteful and ill thought-out—combined with massive neglect of the nation’s infrastructure,and the needs of Americans in general. The nation, itself,  has been underinvested in for decades.

It shows.

The MICC is doing fine. Most Americans are not. U.S. infrastructure is in a shabby, crumbling state—and literally trillions of dollars are required just to bring it up to an acceptable standard. Meanwhile, other nations are improving their infrastructure, enhancing their cities, safeguarding the environment—and generally making their particular parts of the world pleasanter places to live in.

Go look. The evidence is right out there in the open. The European investment in infrastructure has been downright astonishing—and commendable.

The U.S. is a study in contrasts—private affluence for the few, and public squalor for most of us. It is downright embarrassing.

This is fairly obvious to anyone who has travelled, and knows what is going on elsewhere.

NYT columnist Roger Cohen is an example. He has recently returned from foreign parts.

He is a thoroughly entertaining writer. The following is an extract from a piece headed AMERICA IS GREAT. It is somewhat tongue-in-cheek—and none the worse for that.

No, greatness is America’s thing now, the recurrent frisson of a still-frisky power not deflated even by two wars without victory. Ronald Reagan, who also had striking hair, declared more than three decades ago, “Let’s Make America Great Again.” Trump is more peremptory, as befits a man of bullying inclination. “Make America Great Again.”

I’m not sure, but I think it was while sitting on the Seventh Avenue express of the New York City subway looking at a map that helpfully showed stops for the Lexington Avenue line, when water started dripping on my head from the subway car ceiling and an inaudible announcement was made, that I realized I was back in the greatest nation on earth.

Or was it as I gazed at a man channeling his bristling defiance into the occupation of three subway seats rather than one, or as I listened to voices much louder and more assertive than they needed to be, or as I struggled to identify a station with no visible sign naming it, or as the temperature in the subway elevator hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit, that the thought hit me that America was indeed the greatest nation on earth?

I cannot say when America being the greatest nation on earth really sunk in. It might have been as I walked along a garbage-strewn street in Queens beneath a bridge so corroded it seemed not of the last century but of the one before that. Or as I peeled small stickers off fruit and vegetables (I’d forgotten in Europe about those pesky little charmers) while listening to Trump confuse Iran’s Quds force with the Kurds. Every foreign war — and plenty loom if there’s a Trump presidency — is an American geography lesson.

America may be great, in fact I would argue it is, but it sure doesn’t look great right now. Europe looks better but is shrunken within.

Europe’s divisions, endlessly pored over, amount in the end to what Sigmund Freud called “the narcissism of minor differences.” The Continent is united in the rejection of greatness, while the United States cannot picture itself without it.

The most dangerous point in the arc of a nation’s power is when the apogee of its greatness is passed but it is not yet resigned to decline. That’s where Trump’s America is. Which is really, really great.

No comments:

Post a Comment