Rubicon in the Rear-View, Part II: Perpetual War, Here and Abroad

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“We have entered an era of persistent conflict…. [We face] face new security challenges influenced by the effects of globalization, especially in failing states and in ungoverned areas…. Radicalism influenced by extremist ideologies and separatist movements will remain attractive to those who feel threatened and victimized by the cultural and economic impacts of globalization….”

~ From the 2008 Army Modernization Strategy

We are entering the age of “persistent conflict,” advises the Army’s 90-page official report on modernization and strategy. Dr. Tom Clonan, the international security analyst for the Irish Times, usefully peels away the thin veneer of euphemism applied to that phrase, rendering it “perpetual warfare.”

The Army document is an admission that our rulers intend to divest us of what few tangible liberties we still enjoy. James Madison’s warning resonates again: “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

Had the Billionaire Bailout, aka the Mother of All Swindles, been consummated in the teeth of nearly uniform public opposition, the Regime ruling us would have achieved a Platonic ideal of plutocratic corruption. The Army’s strategic preview still seems to anticipate this development, given its astonishing candor in expressing the ethics of the Robber State.

In describing the mission of the military over the next generation or two, the document dutifully refers to the threat of a “radical, ideology-based, long-term terrorist threat….” Additionally, insists the report, Washington faces “a potential return to traditional security threats posed by emerging near-peers as we compete globally for depleting natural resources and overseas markets.”

What proper role can the military play in “competing” for “natural resources and overseas markets”? The military embodies the refined essence of the murderous ugliness to which we’ve given the name “government”: It is an instrument employed to kill and destroy, not to “compete.” It can conquer territory, but it cannot create a market — except in the crudest corporatist sense of reducing a country to rubble as a prelude to taxpayer-subsidized “reconstruction” efforts of the kind that have succeeded so marvelously in Iraq.

The vision expressed in the Modernization Strategy is a more elegantly phrased version of the familiar Ditto-head bumper-sticker sentiments, like “Kick their ass and take their gas,” or “What is their sand doing on top of our oil?” (Another variation of that trope we may soon see: “Begin the slaughter — seize control of their water.”) Of course, that approach engenders terrorism, rather than pacifying it — but this is an entirely suitable outcome for our rulers, since it relieves them of the trouble of dreaming up new pretexts for the wars they desire.

Seizing resources through military force is one of the best ways to destroy a market: Military control over a given resource is, after all, nationalization in its bluntest form. The truly remarkable — and terrifying — aspect of the Army’s new strategy is the evidence it provides that our rulers have now embraced, without qualification, the socialist premise that the government’s role is to administer an economy based on scarcity.

Here we collide with one of the defining ironies of our age. At a time when Washington now candidly admits its intention to acquire vital resources through military pillage, Russia and China, the “near-peers” clumsily alluded to in the document, are acquiring resources through commerce, rather than conquest.

A case can be made that a modest, mobile military establishment is necessary in order to protect freedom of commerce abroad; at least, that was the view of those who wrote the constitutional provision requiring Congress to “maintain” a Navy. But the Framers who composed that provision were steadfastly opposed to a standing Army, quite properly fearing that an establishment of that kind would be used precisely as the new Army strategic document describes: To carry out perpetual war abroad, and regiment society here at home.

Granted, the latter half of that formulation — domestic regimentation — is not made explicit in the Modernization document. But it becomes very clear when key strategic considerations from that document are viewed in the light of the increasingly overt role played by the military in domestic law enforcement.

The implosion of America’s financial system is now all but a moral certainty. The increasingly panicked corporatist elite have abandoned any pretense of acting on behalf of the public good, seeking to preserve their own power and plundered wealth by any means.

It is this corporatist financial elite that ultimately controls the legions deployed both here and abroad.

Recall again Madison’s warning that wars beget “armies, and debts, and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many beneath the domination of the few.” Yes, as Machiavelli noted in chapter ten of his Discourses, it is iron rather than gold that is the “sinew of war.” But it is gold, or whatever prevailing substitute, that buys and bridles those who deploy iron in wartime. The creators and exploiters of public debt — the FED and the nomenklatura it serves — also created, and remain in control of, Washington’s sprawling military establishment and rapidly catalyzing system of internal repression.

Acting through Henry Paulson — soon to be our first economic dictator — the oligarchy threatened, bribed, bullied, and extorted from Congress a measure permitting them to plunder the wealth of the embattled remnants of the Middle Class. According to a visibly and audibly overwrought Texas Republican Congressman Michael Burgess, this was achieved by effectively holding Congress hostage in a condition he referred to as “martial law."

Whether or not Comrade Pelosi’s expression was intended metaphorically, we have to believe that extraordinary duress was required to compel congressmen to support, or at least to countenance, the Mega-Swindle in the face of ferocious public opposition just weeks before those same congressmen stand for re-election.

It is relatively easy to neutralize the rebellion of a relative handful of politicians. But the public can expect no deference or delicacy when the time comes to deal with the social upheaval that will (not “would,” mind you — will) accompany the full-orbed economic collapse our rulers have now arranged for us.

Recall the excerpt from the Modernization Strategy document that was used above as an epigram, and note the reference to “those who feel threatened and victimized by the cultural and economic impacts of globalization.” The imponderably huge heist being carried out on behalf of Wall Street is a splendid example of the globalization of corporatist crony capitalism, and its impact on our standard of living will be immense.

A large and ideologically heterogeneous movement has taken shape that opposes “globalization,” as the term is variously defined and understood. We can expect to see this opposition become much larger, much better organized, and much more militant. And we can also expect to see these developments over-matched by an even more dramatic escalation in the tactics used by the domestic arm of the Empire’s military.


Here is the caption supplied by the US Army for this photograph: “Minnesota National Guard Soldiers with the 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 194th Armor stand guard to assist police in maintaining order during an overly-aggressive demonstration Sept. 1, in St. Paul, Minn. The demonstrators were protesting during day one of the Republican National Convention.”

There are elements of the anti-globalization movement that, either out of ignorance or (more likely) ideological malice, target private enterprise as the enemy, and act out their rage against private property. Protesters of that persuasion have made their unwelcome presence felt at every significant anti-globalist event since the much-romanticized 1999 “Battle in Seattle.” When they destroy private property and imperil innocent people, such protesters are criminals, not activists, and should be dealt with accordingly.

However, in recent years the prevailing “security” model treats the act of public protest itself as an assault on public order. That model embraces the use of “non-violent” means of crowd control — such as the use of pepper spray, tasers, clubs, bean-bag rounds, and “rubber bullets” — and the mass arrest of anyone found in a targeted area, whether or not any particular detainee was actually involved in a protest.

An independent journalist covering a Labor Day demonstration in St. Paul that coincided with the beginning of the Republican National Convention captured a striking example of this tactic: Militarized riot police detained nearly 300 people, without probable cause of any kind, who were sitting peacefully in a public park. In carrying out these arrests, the police were provided with on-site support by the National Guard. The reporter had to bury the video record of this event in order to prevent its confiscation by the police.

As I’ve commented before, the recently concluded national nominating conventions by the two retail outlets for the Ruling Party served as a coming-out party for the Homeland Security State’s enforcement apparatus. It was also a foretaste of what we can expect to see as the economic collapse accelerates, if public resistance solidifies.

The Strategic Modernization document makes it plain that the ground-based military will be fighting among targeted populations, with “commanders employing offensive, defensive and stability or civil support operations simultaneously.” This is the kind of hybrid mission we’ve seen in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, and Somalia, in which soldiers are also required to behave as beat cops.

In its new strategy, the Pentagon envisions the deployment of a new generation of soldier, a “Future Force Warrior” digitally interconnected not only with his command base and fellow troops, but also with a large and sophisticated array of remote, unmanned weapons, both aerial and ground-based. He would have access to intelligence provided by both aircraft and satellites.

Through the use of such “force-multiplying” technology, the military would be able to deploy small brigade combat teams (remember that term — “brigade combat team”) to carry out challenging missions within a targeted population.

Granted, the technology behind this vision isn’t yet widely available. But elements of this approach have already been used domestically, this year, for the purpose of enforcing “public order.”


Support your local paramilitary bullies: This commemorative T-shirt, featuring a caricature of an abusive cop, was not produced by an anti-police group. It was created by the Denver police union, which gave one to each member of the Denver PD and expects to sell 2,000 more at $10 a copy. When the police — who in this case were backed up by the military — actually celebrate the abuse of civilians, it’s time to admit that the government is at war with the American public. (Thanks to StrikeTheRoot.)

During the recent Democratic National Convention, a specialized National Guard unit of 1,700 troops, “Joint Task Force-DNC” (JTF-DNC) was deployed in Denver. Ostensibly there for the exclusive purpose of backstopping “civilian” law enforcement in the event of a terrorist event, JTF-DNC also provided “information such as satellite imagery to assist law-enforcement authorities, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the U.S. Secret Service,” boasted an all-but-buried press release.

“About 40 Guard Soldiers assigned to the 1st Space Brigade’s 117th Space Battalion have been preparing for the convention by monitoring computer images, uploading data and reviewing map printouts,” continued the account.

These Guard troops weren’t there merely to stand sentinel against terrorist attacks. JTF-DNC was sent to Denver following several months of specialized training, including weeks of practice in riot gear at a MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) at Fort Carson.

“If there are [violent] demonstrations, these National Guard Soldiers will have to protect people and business from protests that could get out of hand,” explained Lt. Col. Don Laucirica.

There were no “violent” protests in Denver. Yet the National Guard JTF-DNC was there, along with its array of cutting-edge weaponry and intelligence-gathering assets, to provide defense in depth to a contingent of militarized police.

The same configuration was on display a few weeks later at St. Paul, where the Secret Service and local law enforcement agencies liaised with the National Guard’s JTF-RNC. Some 150 soldiers were deployed in St. Paul on the first day of the convention when the local police complained that protesters were becoming “increasingly aggressive.”

That was the day, recall, when 284 people were arrested for the supposed crime of “aggressively” enjoying a late summer day without harming anyone.

“Our main mission is to support law enforcement,” explained 1st Lt. T. Zdon, an armor officer with the Minnesota National Guard. “Soldiers in their uniform and gear provide a strong presence, or show of force, for local law enforcement, if they need us.”

Spc. Ben Doran, an infantryman with the same unit, elaborated that the Guardsmen were there to use “shields and batons to keep crowds back. We want to use the minimum amount of force necessary to complete the mission.”

“The mission.” That’s the language of a military occupier, not a peace officer in a free society.

In his video-recorded remarks to troops before the convention, Brig. Gen. Joseph Kelly, commander of JTF-RNC, pointed out that the task force was composed of members of the U.S. military from all branches of the service, including some who had been brought back to the “homeland” from overseas. “Our primary mission,” he told the troops, “is to conduct military operations in support of civil authorities…. [W]e are working for the law-enforcement organizations responsible for the security of the convention.”

While the Secret Service was the lead agency, and local police exercised operational control, some Soldiers would be expected to carry out routine security duties “to free up police officers for higher-level law enforcement tasks.”

“As during any other operation, you must take care of yourself, each other, and your equipment. Please, be safe,” intoned Kelly, as if preparing his troops for D-Day rather than an operation on their home soil in which they would confront unarmed fellow citizens.

In his post-convention message congratulating his troops, Gen. Kelly strained to extract drama and heroism from a “mission” that was little more than an exercise in adolescent posturing and gratuitous bullying.

“There were some long, hard days,” Kelly warbled, as if his subject were the Siege of Stalingrad, rather than a four-day deployment in the warm, placid, and comfortable setting of St. Paul, Minnesota. “Monday, September 1 — Labor Day — was a day of special challenge, and you all met that demand with skill, determination, professionalism, and in some cases, personal courage.”

Once again, Gen. Kelly is referring to the episode referred to previously, in which police and Guardsmen surrounded and incarcerated hundreds of people who had done nothing, and who put up no resistance. Kelly’s account makes me suspect that at least some of the Soldiers who participated in that event will be receiving service commendations.

Some might contend that the role played by the Guard JTFs in Denver and St. Paul were exceptional, given that the conventions were “National Special Security Events.” But this is to concede the fact that it is now routine for nominating conventions and similar events to take place amid an atmosphere of martial law.

Furthermore, the behavior of Guard JTFs at the conventions underscores the real significance of the permanent Homeland Security response unit that will begin operations this Wednesday (October 1).

The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, which has spent three of the last five “in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle,” has been “training for the same mission — with a twist — at home,” reported the Army Times. Remember — the Pentagon’s new Modernization Strategy emphasizes the role of brigade combat teams (or BCTs) in deployments among targeted populations. In the case of the 3ID 1BCT, the new mission for the next year will be serving under the US Army North as an “on-call federal response force” to deal with contingencies ranging from natural disasters to terrorism to … widescale civilian rebellion.

No, the third contingency is not explicitly stated. In fact, the official posture of the Army is that the “response force” would be devoted entirely to dealing with contingencies beyond the competence of local law enforcement — natural catastrophes or unconventional weapons attacks.

Patti Bielling, Chief of Media Operations for the US Army North, informed Pro Libertate that the force would be on call to deal with “a catastrophic incident and in support of a civilian agency. Posse Comitatus applies [meaning that the military personnel would not be directly involved in law enforcement]. The role of federal DOD forces in a civil support mission is to save lives, reduce human suffering and mitigate great property damage. Likely … missions would be air evacuation, medical response, decontamination, logistics support, and transportation.”

However, the commander of the unit has a very different perception of the mission.

As noted by the Army Times, “the 1BCT’s soldiers also will learn how to use `the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded,’ 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them. `It’s a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they’re fielding. They’ve been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we’re undertaking we were the first to get it.’ The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets.”

None of this has any necessary connection to post-WMD incident response. All of it would come in quite handy in dealing with civil unrest. When I pointed this out to Capt. Carla Gleason, a very earnest, helpful, and professional information officer for Northern Command’s Joint Task Force-Civil Support, she noted that the training and non-lethal hardware being provided to this unit will be used in Iraq, once the 1 BCT’s domestic deployment ends and they’re rotated overseas once again.

Here’s why no solace can be found in that explanation: The skills and hardware in question can, and most likely will, be employed both in Iraq and here at home, as the National Command Authority sees fit. They can be used to subdue unruly Iraqis who display their lack of “gratitude” for the occupation of their country, or unruly Americans who object to the destruction of their economic future in order to preserve the perquisites of the Power Elite.

It is impossible to maintain a republic at home while supporting an empire abroad. Imperial commitments abroad inevitably mean the corruption of the currency, the destruction of the rule of law, the liquidation of the middle class, and a descent into national bankruptcy, undisguised oligarchical rule, and the imposition of some variety of martial law.

We are likely to learn, very soon, in very painful ways, we enjoy no happy immunity to the consequences of the policies we have permitted our rulers to impose on us.

Dum spiro, pugno!

William Norman Grigg [send him mail] writes the Pro Libertate blog.

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