Archive for June, 2010

Some Thoughts on The New American Militarism

June 29, 2010

Andrew J. Bacevich

Some Thoughts on The New American Militarism

Why quit our own to stand on foreign ground?

George Washington (214)

I was taught in the sixth grade that we had a standing army of just over a hundred thousand men and that the generals had nothing to say about what was done in Washington. I was taught to be proud of that and to pity Europe for having more than a million men under arms and spending all their money on airplanes and tanks. I simply never unlearned junior civics. I still believe in it. I got a very good grade.

Kurt Vonnegut

More than America’s matchless material abundance or even the effusions of pop culture, the nation’s arsenal of high-tech weaponry and the soldiers who employ that arsenal have come to signify who we are and what we stand for.

Andrew J. Bacevich (1)

We do not deserve these people. They are so much better than the country…they are fighting for.

Thomas Friedman (29)

From what I’ve seen of these men and I have to agree with you that the people I’ve met in the military are astonishingly capable and superior. There is a feeling of calm that comes over you when you really get to know the men and women that are serving.

Jon Stewart speaking with JCS Chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, Jan. 6, 2010

The striking thing about that final quotation is that it sounds like something Ronald Reagan might have said. But when the closest thing we have to an Official Spokesman for the Counterculture feels the need to preface his gingerly-worded questions to the man in charge of so much mindless carnage with a paean to the competence of our troops, it’s obvious that we’ve come a long way since the 1970s when war was generally regarded to be a bad thing. (The results of the Afghanistan War are at least as bad as anything, say, Jim Cramer ever did, but Stewart wasn’t about to admonish his guest: “Ten Years of senseless war and no end in sight! WTF, Admiral?”)

The problem with fetishizing our young men and women in uniform like this is that it tempts us to send them out into the mad, bad, dangerous world in search dragons to slay instead of thoughtfully addressing our problems and carefully negotiating our place among nations. For the past three decades, we have ignored a plethora of real problems at home–a massive trade imbalance, the hollowing out of our industrial capacity, growing economic inequality, and the collapse of our infrastructure, to name a few. And a pathetic brand of military triumphalism often seems to be all we have left. As historian (and West Point graduate) Andrew J. Bacevich notes in The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War, we have come to a sad state of affairs when “military might–rather than, say, the trade balance, income distribution, voter turnout, or the percentage of children being raised in two-parent families–become the preferred measure for gauging the nation’s strength” (109).

Unlike many commenters, Bacevich does not simply credit George W. Bush and his hapless cohorts for turning our nation into a brainless war machine. There’s plenty of blame to go around. Ever since we elected a president in 1980 who offered simple, painless solutions to all our problems, Americans have chosen to live with our heads planted firmly in the sand. (Why struggle to solve our energy problems by working to find new, cleaner sources of energy when we can just send more soldiers to the Persian Gulf?)

Despite getting over 200 of our marines blown up in a foolhardy mission in Lebanon, Reagan was able to tap into a national appetite for greatness via flowery rhetoric:

“Showering soldiers with praise and celebrating soldierly values provided a neat device for deflecting attention from blunders directly attributable to the White House. Reagan understood the political utility of this device and exploited it to the hilt”
(110-111).

But promoting the New American Militarism was not strictly a governmental enterprise. Bacevich demonstrates how an influential group of thinkers broadly categorized as “neocons” played a decisive role in creating the climate which allowed such reckless American militarism. Bacevich adroitly explains how the neocons utilized think tanks and publications like the Weekly Standard as well as groups like The Project for a New American Century (PNAC) to sow the seeds war. A major player in this effort was Robert Kagan, a man afflicted with perfervid dreams of military possibilities.

For neoconservatives like Kagan, the purpose of the Defense Department was no longer to defend the United States or deter would-be aggressors but to transform the international order by transforming its constituent parts….For the younger generation of neoconservatives, instructing others on how to organize their countries–employing coercion if need be–was not evidence of arrogant stupidity, it was America’s job (85).

One indication of the macabre times in which we live: despite his perpetual endeavor to discover new nations for America to bomb, the bloodthirsty Kagan remains on the board of the Carnegie Endowment for International PEACE.

After our debacle in Vietnam, Americans again learned the lessons of WWI: War is “inherently poisonous” and it should only be considered as a last resort (15). However, subsequent presidents have bamboozled the American people into war by “contriv[ing] a sentimentalized version of the American military experience and an idealized image of the American soldier” (97).

Such schoolboy dreams of warfare have devastating consequences when played out in the real world. The countless people in Iraq and Afghanistan who have been displaced and killed by the fever dreams of a nation which wishes to see its president as an Action Hero are not the only casualties. Our very survival as a democracy is at stake. As James Madison warned: “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare” (7)

by Richard W. Bray

Come Home, America

June 23, 2010

Come Home, America

We’re crossing seas in search of dragons
And other beasts to slay
Come home, America
Time to discover our own way

Solving other people’s problems
Is an errand meant for fools
Come home, America
It ain’t our job to make the rules

Dropping drones on wedding parties
Ain’t the best way to make friends
Come home, America
We have better gifts to send

Puffy, pasty pundits send
Our youngsters off to die
Come home, America
Before our nation is bled dry

We’re blowing up other countries
Instead of fixing up our own
Come home, America
Time to cast away the stones

We have so much to offer
But we ain’t the world’s cop
Come home, America
This madness has to stop

Decline and dissolution
Don’t have to be our fate
Come home, America
I swear it’s not too late

by Richard W. Bray

You

June 13, 2010

You

If I sat down and made a list
For no else to read:
Comfort, love, security
And all the things I need
To make it in this cold, cold world
And heal me when I bleed
I’d save myself some paper
And a bunch of pens
Just by looking at your picture
Once more and again

I knew gals who stood me up
And gals that made me blue
But no one I ever met before was you

I loved girls who did me right
And girls that loved me true
But no one I ever met before was you

So there ain’t no sense in listing
All the things you do for me
My time is better spent
Being the best man I can be

I knew gals who made me cry
And gals that were untrue
But no one I ever met before was you

I loved girls who made my bed
And girls that shined my shoes
But no one I ever met before was you

by Richard W. Bray

Noise Pollution

June 8, 2010

Noise Pollution

Ruben J. Ramos is a tireless worker
And a wonderful husband and dad
Adored and revered by kith and kin
Despite the minor flaw that he had

As soon as he had hit the sack
Ruben began to snore
These nasal spasms were so intense
He once blew off a door

Though his dwelling is reinforced
By the finest Canadian lumber
The house would quake and walls did shake
When he began his slumber

It wasn’t merely Ruben’s house
Which swayed on its foundation
Readings upon the Richter Scale
Alarmed seismologists across the nation

Friends and neighbors offered cures
And various home remedies
He ate raw garlic and slept on his back
And played harmonious melodies

Alas, nothing worked until one day
They came up with a solution
Bankers allow him to sleep in the vault
And there’s no more noise pollution

by Richard W. Bray