Its officials bided their time in the years after the fall of the Soviet Union, when “terrorism” had yet to claim the landscape and enemies were in short supply. In the post-9/11 era, in a phony “wartime” atmosphere, fed by trillions of taxpayer dollars, and under the banner of American “safety,” it has grown to unparalleled size and power. So much so that it sparked a building boom in and around the national capital (as well as elsewhere in the country). In their 2010 Washington Post series “Top Secret America,” Dana Priest and William Arkin offered this thumbnail summary of the extent of that boom for the U.S. Intelligence Community: “In Washington and the surrounding area,” they wrote, “33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings — about 17 million square feet of space.” And in 2014, the expansion is ongoing.
In this century, a full-scale second “Defense Department,” the Department of Homeland Security, was created. Around it has grown up a mini-version of the military-industrial complex, with the usual set of consultants, K Street lobbyists, political contributions, and power relations: just the sort of edifice that President Eisenhower warned Americans about in his famed farewell address in 1961. In the meantime, the original military-industrial complex has only gained strength and influence.
The technocratic-elite is just as much a part of it, and the part of Eisenhower’s address that people often leave out. I’d include a certain connected gaggle of military “intellectuals” and think tank or “private” military analysts I was stupid enough to spend so much time reading. Most of what I learned was a waste of time.
A total bunch of weirdos and it’s my fault for wasting my time.
It seems strange to me that conservatives would assume that the American military or our alliances would remain immune from the complexities of the human heart and its varied motivations such as fear, pride, anger, greed, do-gooderism, meaning-wellism, and the rest of it.
NATO today is a nation building exercise tied to an economic bloc, the EU, and to our own large economy. It is no longer a pristine defensive alliance, if it ever was that, it is an expansionary competitive bloc that strives not only to incorporate others but to use that incorporation to re-engineer societies. How is it conservative to ignore that aspect of it, now, today, in 2014?
If one does think it is important as a defensive alliance, then this aspect needs to be understood because it is hollowing out real defensive capabilities (“a global NATO”, I am talking to you) and hollering about Putin or lack of funding for Ukraine doesn’t change the fact that the billions spent by the alliance, still, somehow, is not enough to do its job. Well, unless its job is to make money and increase the power and funding of bureaucrats and their agencies. Then, it’s doing a mighty fine job.
12 thoughts on “The Borg”
“It seems strange to me that conservatives would assume that the American military or our alliances would remain immune from the complexities of the human heart and its varied motivations such as fear, pride, anger, greed, do-gooderism, meaning-wellism, and the rest of it.”
You get more of what you reward. That applies to the military. Have you read Dereliction of Duty ? It amazes me that McMaster is now a Lieutenant general and survived his devastating criticism of the Army in Vietnam. He is an exception, however, and people like George Casey who commented on the Fort Hood massacre, In response to the November 2009 Fort Hood shooting by Muslim psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan, Casey indicated concern that the “real tragedy” would be harming the cause of diversity, saying, “As great a tragedy as this was, it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well,“ Several months later, in a February 2010 interview, Casey said, “Our diversity not only in our Army, but in our country, is a strength. And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.” Casey’s statements were criticized by some as being most concerned with political correctness.
That’s what a political general looks like and that is what we will have for the next 20 years as the Obama strips the military of its testicles.
A former White House official with Pentagon experience says White House staff often remain willfully uninformed about the logic behind military recommendations: They “don’t want to take the time to go through the slide deck or get the full briefing. Basically, they don’t want to know.”
But it’s OK because the Hagel Pentagon is about to cut 500 majors and 1100 captains . That will make sure we have a good pool of competent officers in ten years.
That’s not all bad as the American Army has always been top heavy with officers but who is chosen to stay and why ? The other medical officers knew Hassan was a nut and dangerous but were afraid to complain. What else is going on ?
I would be a good deal more impressed by the case for Scottish Independence if it were argued that Scotland must not only leave the UK, but also the EU and NATO.
Dearieme, for the EU in particular, why is that? It sounds like you think it’s obvious, but to this USAian it’s at least a little confusing. I don’t claim to understand EU politics, but to the extent that it still has some of the flavor of a regional trade bloc, it seems like the normal outcome would be that it would still want Scotland. (Similarly I would be at least a little surprised if a breakaway Quebec was completely unwelcome in NAFTA.) To the extent that EU has become an income transfer scheme, I can’t guess the natural outcome one way or another; to the extent that EU has become a sort of cartel for internationalization of dirigisme and high taxes, it again seems likely to want Scotland.
Scotland will leave the EU if it secedes. It will be a new country and it will have to apply for membership and get in line behind the current applicants. It will not automatically be admitted. Spain will certainly object to Scottish entry into the EU, and certainly block early entry. Spain wants to make Catalonia think twice about secession.
As to NATO, Scotland will not be a signatory, though it may become a member by the terms of its secession, but I must assume that is subject to the agreement of other NATO members. Several with secessionist parties (Spain, Italy, Belgium) may object to Scottish NATO membership.
“It seems strange to me that conservatives would … ”
What conservatives are you talking about?
This passage seems like a complete non sequitur from the discussion about the Department of Homeland Security.
It does not have any clear application to conservatives and conservatism as I have known them, and it, all my life.
Conservative hawks and interventionists. I’ll leave out neoconservatives because they are basically liberals that migrated to the Republicans out of hawkish convictions but are big staters all around and would migrate back to the Democrats in a heartbeat if they thought the Democrats were more hawkish.
Witness the Kagan-Hillary Clinton “love affair.
The growth of the domestic security state is related to the growth of the security state abroad and to overseas military interventionism. This is a common historical pattern, in this nation and others. Douglas Porch writes quite a bit about this.
Also, I don’t think that interventionism always comes from motives that are pure as the driven snow, all about protecting the US or “freedom.” Clearly, the Bush administration had an agenda early on and used 9-11 as pretext, thus their complete lack of interest in really pursuing OBL in Afghanistan and their easy manipulation in South Asia and on the subject of the Taliban, etc.
“It does not have any clear application to conservatives and conservatism as I have known them, and it, all my life.”
But Iraq proves my point. So too does the growth of the Pentagon and related intelligence agencies and the CIA. If bureaucracies and deep states can hijack policy, why not for foreign affairs as well as domestic policy?
Conservative hawks that normally are suspicious of this phenomenon still view themselves as strong on defense simply by virtue of throwing money at a bureaucracy and mouthing vague slogans like, “we need to be strong.” As if the world, complicated and varied, is unifactorial and the only factor is whether the American President is showing some nebulous concept of “leadership”. This ignores the histories and cultures and complexities of others and dumbs down the entire conversation!
On Scotland and the EU, does the nature of the EU make it more likely that such things are possible and can occur? I’ve often wondered if it’s easier to make the case for separation because of the idea that there is a larger group to belong to so why not separate?
But I don’t know the details well enough. Just wondering.
“The growth of the domestic security state is related to the growth of the security state abroad and to overseas military interventionism.”
This is correct. However there are plenty of Conservatives who have objected to it, and the number is increasing.
Many of us fell for the bullshit after 9/11 and supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq, etc. But many of us have learner our lesson.
I notice the Yezidis and Christians of Iraq are being annihilated by ISIS. One Yezidi spokeswoman said “even Genghis Khan did not do this to us.” Destruction of these ancient communities did not happen under Saddam, and would not have happened if we had left him there. Turns out there are worse things than even a monstrous secular dictator in that country.
I seem to recall that the “deep state” CIA and State Dept. bureaucracies were constantly and effectively undermining Bush’s interventionist foreign policy.
I don’t know who those “conservatives” are who don’t understand the tradeoffs involved in our having international alliances and big defense bureaucracies. I am pretty much a conservative interventionist myself, yet it’s obvious to me that structural bad incentives and corruption in our bureaucracies — all consistent with public-choice theory — are a major problem, and that NATO may have outlived its usefulness. It is possible to understand that the “complexities of the human heart” that affect all human action also affect matters of foreign and defense policy, and still to favor interventionist policies as being less bad than the likely alternatives.
Many of us believed the “bullshit after 9/11” and still do. The fact that people who once agreed with us have since changed their minds does not necessarily mean that someone lied to them. It might simply mean that some people have changed their minds. Reasonable people can disagree.
The simplest explanation for the current debacle re Libya, Syria, ISIS and Iraq isn’t that Bush and the interventionists deposed Saddam Hussein ten years ago. Since North Africa and Iraq were relatively tranquil when Bush left office, a better explanation might be that a combo of American bungling and weakness (Libya, Syria, Iraq withdrawal, etc.) under Obama, and a tech- and demographics-supported Islamist trend, share much of the responsibility for the current situation.
“… some people have changed their minds.”
New information came out, indicating the incompetent planning process for the Iraq invasion, Paul Wolfowitz admitted that the administration was determined to go to war in Iraq and made whatever arguments would allow it to do so, that the Bush administration exaggerated the concern about nuclear weapons intentionally for that purpose, that Shinseki was right that doctrine called for an occupation force much larger than Rumsfeld wanted and was fired for it, that Paul Bremer had no idea what he was doing, and lots more. All this came out after, not before, invasion. Hence supporting the invasion was based on one set of incomplete facts, and comprehending why it turned out to be a catastrophe became at least partially possible after previously concealed facts came to light.
Lord Keynes once wisely said “When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?”
We got nothing out of except dead and maimed Americans, dead and maimed Iraqis, a trillion dollars of wasted money, a far worse situation in the region than when we went in, the only check on our real enemy Iran destroyed, a regime friendly to Iran installed in Baghdad, the elimination of a secular regime that was hostile to Islamists and other psychos, and which did not set out to destroy its Christian minorities, and now we have ISIS running amok — to say nothing of the complete waste of a two term GOP presidency that accomplished nothing whatsoever of value domestically because the war totally dominated everything.
I really do not see how any reasonable person can say that the American invasion of Iraq was anything but an unmitigated disaster for the United States.
“Paul Wolfowitz admitted that the administration was determined to go to war in Iraq and made whatever arguments would allow it to do so”
What he said was that “Iraq sits on a sea of oil” and therefore sanctions would never work. A true statement. He was attacked by the left who interpreted this as “war for oil” which was untrue and they knew it or were too stupid to understand.
“I really do not see how any reasonable person can say that the American invasion of Iraq was anything but an unmitigated disaster for the United States.”
You may not but many of us thought that Iraq had the best chance of any Arab state to become a modern state, even if not a democracy. It had oil for revenue, a middle class and, we thought, a relatively secular society. The tribal nature of all Arab states was not appreciated enough but the conclusion still stands, in my opinion, that it was worthwhile to try. The execution was incompetent, mainly because the tribal nature was not appreciated and because of the outside forces. Had we stayed with a stabilizing force, as we did in Japan, Korea and Germany, we probably would still have a stable situation.
What was never going to work was nation “building” in Afghanistan. There has never been a nation of Afghanistan. The King was referred to as “Mayor of Kabul” prior to the Soviet intervention.
The argument about nuclear weapons was accepted by all parties and was used as one of over 30 reasons for the invasion, chiefly to assist Blair in his argument for Parliament. After 9/11, Bush could not allow Saddam to win that standoff and the sanctions were collapsing after making Putin a billionaire.
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