Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dangerously Naive - Americans Piss Me Off

Think of the things America has not experienced.  Ever.

Aerial Bombardment.
If you tried to make a list of the nations our bombers, fighters and drones have attacked in the hundred years that there has even been such a thing as military air power, you would quickly find it to be an almost impossible task.  The list is so long it's mind boggling.  And when you add to the list all the other nations that have endured aerial bombardment by other nations (or even their own feckless government), and you will find that virtually all societies, in just the last several generations, know that particular terror.  But we, alone among modern nations, have never experienced air attacks on our soil.

Foreign Invasion/Occupation.
Europe is the poster child for this horrific experience, but one cannot forget that throughout Asia, the sub-Continent, Africa and Latin America it has been a regular experience, with all the brutality and slaughter that comes directly from an enforced occupation.

Nuclear Coercion.
This is simple.  We were the first to develop nuclear weapons.  To this day still the only nation to use them in anger.  We have been threatening the entire world with apocalyptic destruction for sixty years, and have NEVER, not for one second, known the feeling of being defenseless before a nuclear threat.  Oh, we have feared our own holocaust - but only with the knowledge that any attacker would be signing their own death warrant.

Yes.  The Civil War was an insurgency.  But how many nations have suffered the slow bleeding of a low level internal conflict, and the brutality of draconian police measures that always result, just in the last fifty years?  Yes, the Civil War was horrific, but with modern weapons and modern technology, insurgency is easier, more lethal and requires fewer committed rebels.  1865 was so long ago as to be meaningless.

*  *  *

Now think of the torments we routinely inflict on other nations, without hesitation or even consideration of what precisely it might be that gives us the RIGHT, whether these actions are those of the global "Good Guy" or whether the actions make us a rogue nation and the single greatest threat to peace in the world today.  Try to come up with a functional definition of the term "Terrorism" that excludes anti-tank missiles launched from stealthy drones into houses and cars in unsuspecting civilian neighborhoods.  Go ahead. I'll wait.

If Venezuela had nuclear missiles and the US did not, can you imagine any scenario where the US didn't throw out the IAEA inspectors, abrogate the NPT and go for broke to build a nuclear deterrent?  How can we expect the Iranians, or for that matter the Syrians, Saudis or Egyptians to stand confronted by a nuclear armed Israel when we KNOW we would not be willing to do the same thing ourselves?  Wouldn't it be more aligned with our professed values to pressure Israel to give up their illegal weapons then to try and prevent other nations legally developing their own nuclear capabilities?  Wouldn't it actually reduce the likelihood of a nuclear attack if there was a more balanced nuclear presence in the region?

Where is the value in loudly and publicly declaring China our next great adversary?  Do we really NEED a great adversary all the time?  Isn't it possible to have a world where the great powers do not divide themselves into warring coalitions, but rather compete to increase trade, wealth and global quality of life?  Why is that so incomprehensible?  How might China, in her role as grand adversary, go about harming the US without destroying herself in the process?  Wars are destructive for trade - they reduce global demand, divert resources from commerce to war-making, and they reduce access to all manner of raw materials.  And if the fear is that China will use force to re-take possession of Taiwan, that's just silly.  They want Taiwan intact, with all its wealth, not an economic and human basket case of smoldering ruins and shattered infrastructure.   And the Chinese know that it is inevitable, a matter of time only, before Taiwan chooses to rejoin the mainland all on its own.  There is no other path for them, and even now, this is becoming clear.

All around the world, we are seeing the rapidly eroding utility of military force.  The US invasions of both Iraq and Afghanistan were very brief, overwhelming military victories followed by long, grinding, bloody debacles.  Nothing was gained in either case, and a great deal was lost.  Not the least of which was a global perception of US military superiority.  Every nation now understands, from China to Syria to Sudan, that the US can defeat their military, but that won't achieve their aims, and they can be bled out in a long insurgency.  The US, on the other hand, is still locked in a World War II mindset, building huge, heavy tank brigades and powerful air forces to defeat - who, exactly?  There are exactly two kinds of warfare possible in the modern era, and we are seeing them both.  Most common is the war between a government and it's people - a rebellion as we see in Syria and before that, Libya, or a civil war as in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Typically these sorts of insurgencies pit a much better armed and funded government against a smaller, weaker foe, and they are fought in a series of ambushes, bomb blasts, kidnapping, assassinations, torture and executions.  They last for years or decades, because there is no clear cut way for them to end - no path to anything that might be described as "victory".  The other kind of war is the kind the US is fighting all over the world.  No matter what you believe about the morality of drone strikes and special operations raids, there is very little doubt about their efficacy.  They are merely an extension of the tactics of terrorism - designed to create fear to achieve primarily political ends.  There have always been elite fighters in every culture, and much of the advanced technology used in drones is software, and therefore available to any nation, so this kind of warfare will soon become commonplace around the world, and make no mistake, it will be used against the US.

All apropos of nothing I suppose, and unlikely to lead to anything revelatory, but I think, when you get past our indoctrination and the fog of lies about American Exceptionalism and "False Equivalence", there's something important here to be learned about who we are.  We are an optimistic and inventive people, certainly, but that optimism, coupled with a geographic location rich in resources and virtually invulnerable to military attack, seems to have lead to a kind of a cruel nationalism, an inward-focused hubris that allows us to forgive virtually any criminal act, as long as it was committed by Americans.  Where all cultures have a great capacity for ethnic hatred, and all religions are steeped in a particularly irrational loathing of "unbelievers", Americans, with their unique history, couple a kind of hyper-tribalism with a dangerous belief that violence is a perfectly appropriate approach to conflict resolution.

It is nothing short of astonishing that we, as a people, are not hated and feared much more than we are...


  1. ...OT, but with the goofy word verf now prevalent on Blooger blogs, I expect the bitching about my blog's comment system to IMMEDIATELY CEASE.

  2. And amusingly, the new Blogger interface does not have a method for turning WV off. I did some investigation, and discovered you need to go back to the OLD interface to disable it. Hmmm. One of the keys to good UI design is to make sure there are not elements that cannot be accessed from the interface. Or, I suppose, they could supply a good old fashion CLI, but they didn't. It should be gone now. I hope.

  3. An outstanding post, Mikey. This is why you will not get a gig on Fox, too much truth.
    My question about is: Why has religion continued to play such a large part in your society? It has largely subsided here and I cannot remember the last time a Prime Minister mentioned God or even Jesus. We have the usual zealots and occasionally they will have a large, smelly fart in public, but usually they keep out of elections. They talk about social problems, all right and some have been critical of the government but the recent schemozzle with birth control just wouldn't happen, here.

  4. Where is the value in loudly and publicly declaring China our next great adversary? Do we really NEED a great adversary all the time?

    Do we really need to start a war with our major microchip provider?

    The U.S. royally screwed up when it deposed Mossadagh in Iran at the behest of B.P. We are an unstoppable cultural juggernaut, yet we always seem to prefer the iron boot to the velvet glove. If we had backed Iranian democracy in the 50's there'd be no Ayatollahs of note, and the rest of the Middle East would be more secular and less polarized along Sunni/Shiite lines.

    We fucked up... bad.

  5. mikey, when I saw this post on my bogroll, I thought it read "dangerously native".

    If we had backed Iranian democracy in the 50's there'd be no Ayatollahs of note, and the rest of the Middle East would be more secular and less polarized...

    B^4, this is certainly true. So you have to ask yourself, why do we keep doing the same things?

    Insane, or insanely corrupt?

  6. Speaking only for myself, I would like to thank America for The Ramones and Bugs Bunny. Surely they compensate for all the needless slaughter and torture and repression. Right?

    Imagine a global hegemon that isn't also a cultural juggernaut. I wonder how long that would last.

  7. Which came first, the hegemony or the juggernaut?

    Isn't it possible to have a world where the great powers do not divide themselves into warring coalitions, but rather compete to increase trade, wealth and global quality of life? Why is that so incomprehensible?

    Now you're getting into what is wrong w/ the entire damn species, not just Yankee pig-dogs.

    I hate & fear us ("Americans" & the rest of humanity) immeasurably.

  8. As has come to be expected, Bouffant provides the key insight.

    Perhaps the problem isn't so much humans who are Americans, but simply that Americans are a particularly noxious strain of humans....