Saturday, August 05, 2006

Defense imPosture


This "Bush Resigns" hack of a Time Magazine cover was posted in the department office, prominently. It was up at least two hours before someone took it down.
The office is administrative HQ for one of the technology development programs run by the laboratory where I work. I did not find out who put the picture up and I was surprised enough to see it that I thought it wiser not to ask. Most of the paychecks here ultimately flow from DoD or DoHS and the customers are often in uniform. I would never have dared to put that thing up even in my office behind my coat rack. But there it was one morning, drawing chuckles and comments about the US's most-hated-nation status.

Are we autistic? Do we take no clues from the feelings of the world's people? The go-it-alone ideology has to make a virtue out of indifference toward the esteem other nations accord us. "Its not a popularity contest" the conservatives insist. "It is about security and only power can guarantee that" we are told. Is that why JFK launched the peace corps? Such thinking reveals how very little trust conservatives put in democracy for when democracy is at work, power flows from popularity. Conservatives will cite polls too but only as long as the crowd smiles on their brand of selfishness. Smoke and mirrors public relations and domestic psychological warfare can manipulate popularity only temporarily. Images conjured and interpretations insinuated into popular discussion start to crack and peel away from the minds of a population whose work-a-day realities degrade year by year from the consequences of empire pursued in the name of security. Empire is always pursued under the justification of "defense" against the world. How did we take arms against whole countries and threaten several more when in fact a miniscule faction of that world were all that good reasoning could blame? Why did "Terror" become the name for every inconvenient power, every offended sensibility that stood between the US and oil reserves?

The game has been changed by the current administration. It has been accepted for decades that "defense" departments are mostly in the business of marshalling offensive capabilities. Noone complains of the misnomer any longer. Who is simple or drunk enough to spend trillions of dollars taking literally the brutish maxim "the best defense is a good offense"? People inclined to base opinions of war on what they know of football should be issued a gun and a uniform. The "assurance" of the old MAD has been replaced by uncertainty all around because MAD only works if noone pulls a trigger: once a shot is fired all bets about rationality and restraint are off. Offense WAS the product and muscle behind what we called Defense ...until we actually used it. Now we have so badly squandered our popularity among nations that we do indeed need to protect ourselves. The disproportionality glaring at the world from a policy that might as well be the bully's "the best defense is a good offense", whether US policy or Israeli policy, will win us nothing but insecurity. That sad, angry joke may have come down but the checks will continue to come in because as things are going, we do need to protect ourselves. Better long term policy, and much less expensive, would be to rebuild our reputation as the world's buffer against other agressive nations and live down our new reputation as the worlds most agressive nation.

As to Bush's popularity: There is a certain quality of intellect which cleaves to the man and his mission: This letter to an editor is an exemple. How can a person ignore that we have lived with friskings, checkpoints at our borders and subway stops and ever wider spying on civilians yet do not feel safer and are in fact more threatened than ever? How can one ignore that thousands have died because resources were diverted from places in dire need of civil defense to sites of foreign adventure? If the war in Iraq has somehow stopped terrorism, what WERE the Madrid and London bombings or the recent arrests in Canada? Like a decoy for the hate-filled muslims [whose small numbers, we have greatly multiplied] who want a shot at Americans, we threw our troops into Iraq with half a plan like so much hamburger to a menacing doberman. When we run out of hamburger, will they hunt closer to our home or just declare victory? I am speaking of consequences, not intentions. There was not some calculation of policy that considered our soldiers as bait, only stupid arrogance and goals of oil and empire. The reality, for those of us who are reality based, is that our troops are, in effect bait for the idealistic suicides that Bin Laden's brand of islam begets. I am not talking about malice aforethoght but the malice of poor thought. I like to think I know the difference between brave and stupid. Stupid is the one that always calls itself brave


By the way, you might be amused, in light of Turkey's understandible step back from its sometimes cozy US relationship, to read up on the Turkish culture's reading of Bush's favorite hand gesture.

6 comments:

cul said...

I want to kiss you! That made my day! Must copy and post. Thanx.

cul said...

ps. as far as the semantics go, I lost all hope for the empire when the words "shock and awe" appeared

GreenSmile said...

There is hope.

The best kind of hope comes from the least expected sources.

JahTeh said...

It's a bit hard to look at what remains of New Orleans and know how much money is being used on the military machine when people still haven't got homes.

I hope they make that sign into a lapel pin.

Davo said...

"'Tis a consumation greatly to be wished"

Dr. Forbush said...

Brilliant commentary on very wishfull thinking. We had a chance almost two years ago to fix the problem, and the nation quivered in its boots and couldn't muster the courage. Hopefully this November will be different, but I'm not holding my breath....