Hearing 2010 predictions by futurists and others is both entertaining and educational. National and state bankruptcy, discombobulating failures in corporate state health, finance, domestic security, intelligence and military industries, the breakup or collapse of both halves of the American political duocracy — political and economic crises and chaos are predicted by many observers.
One thing not predicted in 2010 is a reduction of American forces, or the numbers of American interferences and entanglements overseas. No one is predicting the ending of America’s illegal wars, or even the ending of a front in just one of the illegal wars. However, government spokesmen are aware that this is exactly what Americans want, and are beginning to pander. Case in point is JCS Chairman Admiral Mullen on The Daily Show last week discussing how we are coming out of Iraq in 18 months, and how the US military is 40% smaller than it was at the end of the Cold War.
Naturally, Mullen represents his case well, and is lying. In 1988, about a year before the end of the Cold War, a Congressional Research Service chronology of military spending put the DoD take at $451 billion (in 2005 dollars). In 2009, DoD got $460.5 billion (in 2005 dollars). The real military budget in 2009 was larger, not smaller, than at the end of the Cold War. But there’s more, namely the modern habit of funding any actual wars the DoD may be fighting through separate supplemental Congressional appropriations and authorizations. Not only is the DoD budget share larger in comparable dollars than just before the Cold War ended, it is a lot larger.
In terms of people, seems like this country has today 1,473,900 active duty personnel, and 1,458,500 reserves and that is indeed technically smaller than in 1988, when the US military had over 2.1 million men and women under arms. But that was before the broad-based government and military outsourcing rage of the last 15 years, which as one economist correctly wonders,
"…was it really about saving money? Or was it a way to ramp up the effective size of the fighting force without having to institute a draft or some other means of increase the size of the military (e.g. increasing pay substantially)? And perhaps sending a few, more than a few actually, bucks in certain directions?"
Admiral Mullen was applauded by The Daily Show audience when he stated that the US military is leaving Iraq in 18 months, and that the military is smaller. Under a security pact signed with Iraq, all U.S. forces are indeed to be out by the end of 2011. But General Odierno recently stated that he would be looking at whether there is a significant increase in violence after the [March 2010 Iraqi] election or major problems seating a new government when he makes his decisions [italics added] about whether to continue with the drawdown as scheduled." Certainly Obama’s speech (and the still employed Bush defense strategy team of Gates, Mullen and Odierno) of a year ago all indicate that when the US leaves Iraq, 50,000 soldiers (and presumably many more civilians and security contractors) will remain forever, housed in our monster embassy and the four major bases we constructed.
This kind of deployment should be familiar — Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo is nearly 1000 acres and holds 5,000—7,000 American troops and civilians/contractors. But like our bases in Iraq, it is a robust military lily pad in a client state, designed for and capable of housing 70,000 combat troops. There has been no publicity at all about how we are actually going to turn our brand new, massive and US-tailored military bases in Iraq over to Iraqis in 2011. This suggests that as the administration and its military leadership have already stated, 50—70 thousand American "non-combat" troops will remain permanently stationed in Iraq to "secure" its borders, or its position as lackey state.
Even though we don’t want to hear about it, as the pandering Mullen understands, many news outlets are predicting expanded wars, while others are simply reporting them. Some suspect, as history has amply demonstrated, that when a state is in trouble, with its finances, credibility or politics — it will seek new or expanded war.
Chris Hedge’s 2002 book War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning examines the excitement and attraction of "the communal march against an enemy." Before the rise of the state in North America and everywhere else, young men in particular sought ways to prove themselves, in manhood or adulthood ceremonies pitting them against their fears, against nature, and testing their worthiness to be good sons, good husbands, good neighbors, good men. If war can be co-opted by the state, the innate energy in human emotions, the combination of testosterone and uncertainty of young men everywhere, and mob tendencies can prolong the survival of that state.
So why am I excited about 2010? I think this year many more Americans will begin to bear the pain of the corporate and warmongering state, led by a gutless, fat-cat Congress and its fake but very expensive wars on terror, drugs, tobacco, alcohol, fat, privacy, private property, guns and free speech. They will bear it with decreased personal revenue and the frustration of dealing with government at all levels. They will increasingly suffer repeated small humiliations associated with living in a mature confiscatory and emerging police state. As they suffer, they will be increasingly exposed to the utter waste and stupidity of our government, at home and abroad — and will begin to consider themselves superior to it.
What if, instead of a new series of state-created and state-led wars, we got some recombination of a people-created and people-led war against the state? We have seen and lived the Ron Paul revolution, and witnessed the undeniable rise of Tea Party populism. Coming mass tax increases combined with state and federal defaults, and inflation, will shape the American psyche in a way that could make us quite ungovernable. In government circles, 2010 could become known as the Year of the Bad Serf.
In the face of expensive wars and a dying desperate federal state, 2010 will mark the year that Americans self-consciously embrace the power of civil disobedience, and launch a decade of fundamental and good-natured repudiation of all things government — its wars, its debts, its never-ending lies and yes, even its promises. It’s already happening, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.
LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for MilitaryWeek.com, hosts the call-in radio show American Forum, and blogs occasionally for Huffingtonpost.com and Liberty and Power. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here.