Once upon a time, The Greatest Generation fought The Good War, and it was Freedom’s Finest Hour. Or something like that.
As hard as that might seem to top, it has become evident that The Therapeutic State has devised a plan for an injection of national self-esteem so magnificent that it will last us centuries.
The events of the last few months have been quite convincing that the current “crisis” will be the catalyst for what is becoming The Perfect War.
What is The Perfect War, from the perspective of The State? It is simply that which is the opposite of what a patriotic people desire. If war is necessary for their defense, The People want closure, they want a war that will minimize the loss of life, treasure, and time.
So in short, The Perfect War is perfectly indefinable, ineffective, and unresolvable. It is open-ended, perfectly consuming every resource of humanity, substance, and productivity.
How does one design The Perfect War? Let’s examine the most recent evidence.
I Will Return! … Again … and Again and Again …
Above all else, the definition of mission success must be sufficiently vague. For example, phrases like “make the world safe for democracy” or “defend freedom and all that is good and just in the world” or “root out evil wherever it appears” do quite nicely, especially since they properly convey the omnipresent characteristic of Empire.
But if one gets trapped into defining mission success (someone might ask, but don’t hold your breath), there’s no need for alarm that one was compelled to do so. If at some later time the definition of mission success becomes inconvenient, simply change the definition.
For example, the majority of American people considered “success” as the capture or death of Osama bin Laden. But, in slapstick comedy worthy of Charlie Chaplin or The Marx Brothers, Mullah Mohammed Omar escaped The Supreme Force of the Western World on a rickshaw. (Rumors are that they’re getting closer.) And of course, Osama bin Laden also escaped (perhaps by canoe).
So, when it appeared they would not be found, at least in the near future, our government immediately moved the propaganda campaign away from “chasing the shadows” of bin Laden and Omar, and toward conducting the War on Terror elsewhere. This is the real reason for discussions of imminent attacks on Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Somalia, The Philippines, etc., not because of any serious perceived threat.
And since the parameters of success can be recomposed any number of times, The Perfect War is self-propagating and self-perpetuating.
American military ubiquity will not hinder the creation of future military conflicts. Since the United States has troops in around 160 nations, and al Qaeda has terrorist cells in around 60 nations, the uselessness, at best, of American military presence is manifestly seen.
And, it’s obvious there’s no time frame for departure, because, in fact, we never leave any place where we set foot. Have we left the Balkans? Of course not. We haven’t even left Germany and Japan. Or for that matter, we never really left The Philippines — and we’re returning with greater force to fight the same Moslem Filipinos (who have only the most tenuous connection to al Qaeda) we fought over a hundred years ago.
With an amorphous and atemporal definition of mission success, our government ensures an infinite regression of conflicts in space and time. What more could The State want than an everlasting international blood feud?
Martin Luther, Call Your Office
When American soldiers were captured in Vietnam, they were threatened with torture. According to the film Return with Honor, they asked their captors, in light of their rights under the Geneva Convention as prisoners of war, “How could this be?” The reply was, “What war?”
This seems to be the same line of reasoning that Bush & Co. have employed with respect to The War on Terror. In The Perfect War, it would seem that the manipulation of language is the preferred modality for razing the rule of law, and you can’t run The Empire until you’ve done so.
In what makes Newspeak sound like Clearspeak, our government wants to conduct a thing called a “war” on “terror,” and it’s a “war” because it’s been declared by Congress against those who support “terror” or harbor “terror” or know about “terror” or think about “terror”; but if the nation-state is sufficiently old and/or powerful, by definition the nation-state cannot commit “terror,” though these activities are sometimes called “terror,” e.g., “Le terreur,” Dresden “terror-bombing,” etc., which is not the same as a “war on terror,” and is certainly not a “war” against the Afghani people or other passers-by, who are the victims of “war,” except not “terror,” because it’s actually “collateral damage”; but to be sure, the “combatants” are “illegal,” because they don’t dress right and they didn’t properly “declare war,” but we did “declare war,” even though we don’t always, but we always dress right; anyway, the “illegal combatants,” which are now “detainees,” were not accorded rights under the Geneva Convention as “prisoners of war,” because it’s not really a “war,” even though we declared it, but it’s just called a “war”; but our government changed their minds, and now the Taliban “detainees,” who didn’t “declare war,” would receive treatment as “prisoners of war” consistent with the Geneva Convention, but not al Qaeda “detainees,” who did declare “holy war” on the decadent West, but that’s not real “war,” but still, neither Taliban nor al Qaeda “detainees” will be treated as “prisoners of war.”
That sounds pretty clear, doesn’t it?
United States citizenship does not seem to make one immune to this mercurial rule of law. One may have no special sympathy for John Walker, but he is an American citizen, and thus is presumably accorded legal rights as such.
Once wounded and captured, Walker was by all reasonable accounts denied medical treatment for serious wounds, denied adequate food and water, escaped intentional incineration and drowning (those not able to stand died), threatened with more torture and death, etc., and finally was not told that legal counsel had been arranged for him by his parents.
If anyone needed a comprehensive medical plan, it’s Mr. Walker. Where’s Hillary Clinton when you need her?
Under the law, this is an innocent man, and somewhere during this ordeal his identity became known.
But what’s in store for more ordinary citizens? The USA PATRIOT Act gives us ample indication. The Act defines “terrorist association” as any criminal activity that may “relate” to supporting terrorists, and “terrorist activity” as any criminal activity that “participates” in “World Markets” that terrorists may use or depend on for their support.
What does this mean? The environment that this creates is evidenced by the disgusting Super Bowl commercial that equates using drugs with being a terrorist. And speaking of drugs, why would The War on Terror be any different than The War on Drugs? Perfectly innocent people are routinely jailed and all their possessions confiscated for the sin of crossing the path of a drug user. Isn’t The War on Terror likely to be far worse?
Our Great Protector of The Rule of Law, Attorney General John Ashcroft, told the nation, “To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists.”
This is a chilling statement from the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. This is not indicative of a nation that enjoys the rule of law.
President Bush declared that “No people on Earth yearn to be oppressed, or aspire to servitude or eagerly await the midnight knock of the secret police.” Indeed.
But one doesn’t have to connect too many dots to realize that aiding and abetting terrorists can be defined in virtually any way, context, time, and place — and that no one is immune from that midnight knock on the door.
War Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry
The Perfect War cannot be conducted if there is any significant resistance to it.
But the solution is simple, and The State has devised The Perfect Culture that has the same self-propagating and self-perpetuating characteristics as its war abroad.
The Therapeutic State continually informs The Culture of all the awful things The Culture has done (and is still doing), and thus fills it with self-hatred. But as The State creates the psychological pathology, it provides the psychological remedy. As partners, The State and The People set sail in The Campaign of Goodness, fighting Worldwide Evil. In the president’s recent address, he provides an example:
The last time we met in this chamber, the mothers and daughters of Afghanistan were captives in their own homes, forbidden from working or going to school. Today women are free, and are part of Afghanistan’s new government, and we welcome the new Minister of Women’s Affairs, Dr. Sima Samar.
Yes, there’s nothing
that can’t be accomplished by a social worker.
In The Perfect War, our government heralds its great concern for the human rights and freedoms of all peoples; except their own, of course, because both The State and The People agree that they don’t deserve it, lo, The People cannot be punished enough. Or in the case of “conservatives,” because of their manliness, they don’t really want it at all. One would suppose that “conservatives,” who by nature of their name, would defend the rights laid down by the Founders. Nevertheless, they roll their eyes at the mention of the loss of rights and freedom, because you see, they know that, as pragmatists, they alone have the capacity to “do what must be done.”
But to be certain, wherever we tread abroad, human rights abound. Human rights in Afghanistan have risen to spectacular heights.
Burkas have disappeared, though some still voluntarily wear them — they have yet to be indoctrinated in less modest Western dress. But not so Afghanistan’s new leader, Hamid Karzai. Gucci’s creative director Tom Ford is said to have described Karzai as the world’s “most chic man.” When such things are offered for public consumption, it demonstrates the absolute proof that The Campaign of Goodness is just and fruitful.
Less reported are other great strides in civil justice of which the average American would surely approve. Stonings are still the preferred method for adultery, for males and females (no hypocrisy here — NOW must have already made great inroads in Afghanistan), but Judge Ahamat Ullha Zarif has told Agence France Presse that they now will use smaller rocks. Also, “the Taliban used to hang the victim’s body in public for four days. We will only hang the body for a short time, say 15 minutes.”
Perhaps they need more time to come up to sacred Western standards.
It looks like the Balkans could use a little more time as well. The Kosovo Liberation Army — in case you forgot your playbook, those are our al Qaeda terrorist drug dealers — are busy ethnically cleansing Kosovo of Serbs, Gypsies, Jews, Turks, etc.
But see, that’s the beauty of it all — no one is paying any attention. In the age of information saturation, attention flits to and fro at the speed of an electron. So the ephemeral Seeds of Goodness do not have to bear much fruit or for very long, because the press is never around long enough to notice. They have better things to do, like aid The State in continuing The Perfect War.
You Supply the Picture, I’ll Supply the War
Yes, speaking of the press, The Perfect War could not be complete without a Fourth Estate who will submissively look the other way.
One often hears of the revolving door between the military industry and government, but it seems the lines between The State and The State Press are becoming increasingly blurred.
The Weekly Standard has elevated this haze to an art form. For example, once David Frum tired of writing for the Standard, he became a speechwriter for President Bush. After all, why write for a political journal that Bubba wouldn’t even use to paper train his Retriever when one can write speeches for The President of The United States? How many ears were elucidated by Frum’s “axis of evil”? Surely many orders of magnitude more than if he had written them in the pages of the Standard.
And Frum’s former associate and Weekly Standard editor-in-chief Bill Kristol used to draw on the order of $50K a year for two years on an Enron advisory board assembled by CEO Kenneth Lay. I truly admire Mr. Kristol’s efficient use of time, being editor of the Standard and doing all that hard work for Mr. Lay as well. But alas, that didn’t work out to be a permanent gig — about as long as his stint on This Week — so maybe he’ll follow Frum’s lead and work for the puppet president.
So, as The State Press spends more time influence peddling and less time looking under rocks, they’re not likely to discover the real axis of evil: Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and James Woolsey, who, as suggested by former Iraq arms inspector Scott Ritter, will never waver until they have fashioned the evidence that links al Qaeda to Iraq, no matter how dubious. But leave such details to real investigative reporting, like the Christian Science Monitor — after all, how many people outside The Beltway read the Monitor?
But in fact, why wouldn’t The State and The Press seem like the same thing? They both purport to work for the interests of The American People and both claim to know what is best for them, both are ontological liars, obfuscate their real agendas, and are as sincere as serpents, both are hell-bent on the destruction of The Culture, both are hopelessly self-righteous busy-body do-gooders, both love war but pretend that they don’t, both take huge amounts of money for doing nothing except creating chaos, both say a great deal but communicate little, and both claim to be in a competitive environment but their members behave without phenotypical variance.
And if anyone can appreciate the entertainment value of The Perfect War, it’s the press. Aside from precision bombs with video cameras and night vision, even the obsessive daily details of war can fill the vacuum of any mindless venture. The Wall Street Journal has called the Rumsfeld press conference the “best new show on television.” So “Must see TV” is no longer Friends, but DOD press conferences.
During The Good War, the press was not allowed to say unpleasant things about “Uncle Joe” Stalin. Now, The State Press seems more than happy to comply with any request — “for the sake of security.” So in the Perfect War, The State Press will hardly be predisposed to provide a brake on The State.
Hey! Don’t You Know There’s an Undeclared War On?
The War Party goes by more than one name, but make no mistake, it is of one voice and purpose. No more of that which is the dream of every free, democratic people: legislative gridlock.
Of course, our entire precious security is predicated on the federal budget.
No budget increase is too large, such as the proposed overall budget increase of nine percent, including a $48B increase in defense spending (only $10B is for Homeland Defense) — the largest increase since 1966.
And no expenditure is too pointless or absurd. Missile defense, which has consistently been shown to be highly unreliable, is opposed by every government on the planet (except ours), will only accelerate worldwide increases in missiles and technology, and is utterly useless against the most probable types of attack, will be under next-to-no oversight. Donald Rumsfeld just announced this program
… will be exempt from regulations that compel military commanders to specify requirements for new weapons. The agency also will not be subject to traditional reporting about program timelines and costs. And many of its testing efforts will be free from oversight by the Pentagon’s test evaluation office.
technology has overcome all hindrances to time, space, and substance,
as the president proclaimed “America is no longer protected by vast
oceans.” Obviously, since the post-modern world worships at the alter
of technology, this is an easy sell. There’s no need to change behavior.
But always thinking of The Little People, our president stated that, “Our men and women in uniform deserve the best weapons, the best equipment and the best training, and they also deserve another pay raise.” In that order — let’s not get carried away by salary increases for the indentured servants of the military.
Of course the president linked the Warfare and Welfare State: “We have clear priorities and we must act at home with the same purpose and resolve we have shown overseas: We’ll prevail in the war, and we will defeat this recession.”
It is heartening to see the president and long-time Senator Ted Kennedy become such fast friends. This is the cue for all legislators that under the cover of war anything can be accomplished beyond a socialist’s dream.
“Security in retirement,” “new safeguards for 401(k) and pension plans,” “patients’ bill of rights,” “sound Medicare system,” “coverage for prescription drugs,” “broader home ownership, especially among minorities,” “every American the dignity of a job,” …
In The Perfect War, no assertion can be too audacious or condescending. Be bold! Our president provides the example: “When they got their checks in the mail, most Americans thought tax relief was just about right.” And in an unparalleled moment of inspiration, he boomed, “Let’s make these tax cuts permanent!” [Thunderous Applause.]
In this way, the president will surely defeat this recession. After all, everyone knows that wars are good for the economy.
Notwithstanding the “broken window fallacy” writ unimaginable, The State will self-propagate and self-perpetuate The Perfect War from the economic front as well.
Just as the dollars of the American people financed the tunneling of Tora Bora — their dollars are used to destroy it. Spend millions “protecting the borders” with one hand and converting another three million non-citizens into citizens with the other.
It’s the perfect system for The Perfect War.
The End of History has been Postponed
With cooperation from The International Community, all states not powerful enough to stand alone will be subdued. Even in The West, The International Community was ready to re-enact the Anschluss when they did not approve of Austria’s democratically-elected government. The International Community has even threatened the crown jewel of banking, Switzerland, with sanctions for its free-market banking system.
But alas, when all nation-states have been made submissive to The International Community, there will only be The End of History, synonymous with boredom.
Nevertheless, there is always hope for The State. Does The State even need conflict among nation-states to justify its existence?
Surely, even with one world government, The State could entertain itself with quashing subversives, intellectuals, dissidents, and undesirables of every kind that will be seen to threaten the Omnistate. Wherever passivity exists, The State will always be there to synthesize the perpetual and controlled tension required to justify its existence.
Could The War on Terror be a template for, or even a prototype of, this form of State?
“Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”
In the State of the Union Address, President Bush instructed us that
We have no intention of imposing our culture, but America will always stand firm for the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law [as long as it retains the capacity for capricious and constant change], limits on the power of the state [including, contrary to the conception of some, controlling the weather], respect for women [as long as women see themselves, and are seen by men, as helpless victims], private property [as long as you allow the government to confiscate over half of it], free speech [as long as you don't tell the truth], equal justice [as long as you have plenty of money] and religious tolerance [as long you're not a Boy Scout, or want to display a Christmas crèche, or pray at a football game, or …].
like a great place. I’d love to live there.
Brian Dunaway [send him mail] is a chemical engineer and a native Texan.