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Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Bipartisan imperialism

I knew about Barack Obama, but I wasn't aware that all three major candidates (as well as the major Republican candidates, natch) are now calling for "substantial" increases in the size of the U.S. military:
Is the U.S. Army too small?

The Democrats vying to succeed George W. Bush think so. Presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama all promise, if elected, to expand our land forces. Clinton has declared it "past time to increase the end-strength of the Army and Marines." Edwards calls for a "substantial increase." Obama offers hard numbers: His program specifies the addition of 92,000 soldiers.

Leading Republicans concur. John McCain has long advocated a bigger Army. Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney are now chiming in. Giuliani wants to expand the Army with an additional 10 combat brigades. Romney says that "at least 100,000" more troops are needed.
The op-ed article from which this comes was written by Andrew Bacevich, the professor and retired Army lieutenant colonel whose son was killed in Iraq last month. Bacevich's analysis of why this is is interesting, and scathing, but wrong:
This bipartisan consensus — which even includes Bush, who recently unveiled his own five-year plan to enlarge the Army and Marine Corps — illustrates the inability or refusal of the political class to grasp the true nature of our post-9/11 foreign policy crisis. Any politician who thinks that the chief lesson to be drawn from the last five years is that we need more Americans toting rifles and carrying rucksacks has learned nothing.

In fact, this enthusiasm for putting more Americans in uniform (and for increasing overall military spending) reflects the persistence of a second consensus to which leading Democrats and Republicans alike stubbornly subscribe.

This second consensus consists of two elements. According to the first element, the only way to win the so-called global war on terrorism, thereby precluding another 9/11, is to "fix" whatever ails the Islamic world. According to the second element, the United States possesses the wherewithal to effect just such a transformation. In essence, by employing American power, beginning with military power, to ameliorate the ills afflicting Islam, we will ensure our own safety.

This is sheer twaddle, as events in Iraq have manifestly shown.
Alas, Bacevich's illusion that U.S. imperialism is waging a so-called war on terrorism in order to "'fix' whatever ails the Islamic world," while perhaps not qualifying as "sheer twaddle," misses the drive for oil (as well as broader economic control) and power which are at the heart of U.S. foreign policy. Bacevich would do well to read Antonia Juhasz' The Bush Agenda if he wants to really understand what is driving the U.S. ruling class to push for an even larger military.

Supporters of mainstream Democrats like Edwards, Obama, and Clinton, will no doubt delude themselves into thinking that those candidates (and others) don't really want a larger military nor are they motivated by the desire to expand U.S. economic might at the point of a gun, but that they're just making such calls so they don't appear "weak" and ruin their chances of being elected. They would be wrong.

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