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The Art of the Deal, Pentagon-Style

Roundup
tags: military history, Trump



William Astore, a TomDispatch regular, is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and history professor. His personal blog is Bracing Views.

The expression “self-licking ice cream cone” was first used in 1992 to describe a hidebound bureaucracy at NASA. Yet, as an image, it’s even more apt for America’s military-industrial complex, an institution far vaster than NASA and thoroughly dedicated to working for its own perpetuation and little else.

Thinking about that led me to another phrase based on America’s seemingly endless string of victory-less wars: the self-defeating military. The U.S., after all, hasn’t won a major conflict since World War II, when it was aided by a grand alliance that included Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s godless communists. And yet here’s the wonder of it all: despite such a woeful 75-year military record, including both the Korean and Vietnam wars of the last century and the never-ending war on terror of this one, the Pentagon’s coffers are overflowing with taxpayer dollars. What gives?

Americans profess to love “their” troops, but what are they getting in return for all that affection (and money)? Very little, it seems. And that shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been paying the slightest attention, since the present military establishment has been designed less to protect this country than to protect itself, its privileges, and its power. That rarely discussed reality has, in turn, contributed to practices and mindsets that make it a force truly effective at only one thing: defeating any conceivable enemy in Washington as it continues to win massive budgets and the cultural authority to match. That it loses most everywhere else is, it seems, just part of the bargain.

The list of recent debacles should be as obvious as it is alarming: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen (and points around and in between). And even if it’s a reality rarely focused on in the mainstream media, none of this has been a secret to the senior officers who run that military. Look at the Pentagon Papers from the Vietnam War era or the Afghanistan Papers recently revealed by the Washington Post. In both cases, prominent U.S. military leaders admitted to fundamental flaws in their war-making practices, including the lack of a coherent strategy, a thorough misunderstanding of the nature and skills of their enemies, and the total absence of any real progress in achieving victory, no matter the cost.

Of course, such honest appraisals of this country’s actual war-making prowess were made in secret, while military spokespeople and American commanders laid down a public smokescreen to hide the worst aspects of those wars from the American people. As they talked grimly (and secretly) among themselves about losing, they spoke enthusiastically (and openly) to Congress and the public about winning. In case you hadn’t noticed, in places like Afghanistan and Iraq that military was, year after endless year, making “progress” and “turning corners.” Such “happy talk” (a mixture of lies and self-deception) may have served to keep the money flowing and weapons sales booming, but it also kept the body bags coming in (and civilians dying in distant lands) -- and for nothing, or at least nothing by any reasonable definition of “national security.”

Read entire article at Tom Dispatch

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