STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In a previous Commentary on this subject, I endeavored to "set the stage." I briefly retailed the history of the establishment of US Permanent War policy by BushCheney. In a recent speech, President Barack Obama appeared to attack the policy head-on, and suggested that he would endeavour to end it. This President is known for giving very pretty speeches, seemingly showing a great deal of resolve to solve very difficult problems, but then for one reason or another failing to follow through and surely failing to achieve the goals he appeared to set forth. There are a variety of reasons for this. Some have to do with his apparent dis-interest in engaging in heavy-duty political battling. Some have to do with his traditional right-wing Democratic politics. Some have to do with the well-known total intransigence of the Congressional Republican Party in dealing with him.
But there are some major structural problems in the US economy and in US society in general that make it very hard for President Obama to follow through on his proposal. (It should be noted that here, for the sake of this discussion, I am taking him at his word that he really wants to do this and is not just blowing smoke. However, it is well-known on the Left that that may very well not be the case.) And so, not necessarily in order of importance, let's consider the question, "why Permanent War." The central element is the nature of modern US capitalism. Until the advent of the Reagan Administration, since the end of World War II US capitalism focused on domestic production for profit-making (and profit-making is the number one goal of capitalists. Any other positive achievements for society as a whole may be called "collateral benefits," for lack of a better term.) Then things began to change. Since this history is well-known to most readers of these pages, I will review it very quickly.
The Reaganites ramped up the Cold War very quickly with the goal of finally destroying the Soviet Union, which they would do at the end of the "75 Years War Against the Soviet Union, 1917-1992." As part of this effort, the US military-industrial complex was expanded well beyond where it had stood, even at the end of the War on Viet Nam. At the same time, faced with a falling rate of profit from domestic manufacturing the Reaganites began the process, accelerated under "Bill" Clinton (and being further accelerated by Pres. Obama, see the "Trans-Pacific Partnership"), of making it easier and easier for US manufacturers to ship capital and US jobs overseas. Paralleling this was the movement of capital into making money by trading pieces of paper, which led to the Crash of 2008, which led in turn to the Great Recession, which is hardly over. The fourth major profit-center for US capital is energy production and use. There is only one major domestic manufacturing profit-center for US capital: the military-industrial complex (the MIC). It is hardly a coincidence that the US spends more on weapons and the military than all of other countries in the world combined.
Three of the four principal profit centers are inter-related. The MIC produces handsome profits on its own. The MIC is necessary to protect the world-wide interests of the US energy production/consumption industry. The MIC is also necessary to protect the loci of US capital around the world, the so-called global economy. And now we come to the first reason why it is highly unlikely that President Obama would be able to bring the Permanent War to an end. The US political system as a whole could hardly sell Permanent War to the US people on the basis of its real "whys." So it has to create the necessity of Permanent War, known colloquially in the US as the "War on Terror." And what a nice state-of-being this so-called "War" (the equivalent in conventional military parlance would be something like, as a US General once said, a "War on Flanking Maneuvers") creates for the Permanent Warriors. There will always be terrorists, or potential terrorists, or (created, false flag terrorists, if needed), and the "War" itself creates even more of them. Thus, by its very nature, it can never end.
But further, the US political system, as least as it now constructed, will never let it end. The "Permanent War" Party is the GOP. They are the bought-and-paid representatives (along with certain Democrats to be sure) of the interests whose interests are served by Permanent War (as above). As is well-know, even though center and center-right Democrats don't want to admit it, the GOP controls the Congress, through its majority in the House of Representatives and the (un-constitutional, but that's another matter) super-majority rule in the Senate. With gerrymandering/re-districting and small-state dominance of the Senate, this is not going to change any time soon. (Certainly it will not change through any effort of the present Congressional Democratic Party, of which too many members are just as bought-and-paid-for by the Corporate Power as are the Republicans.) You just have to listen to the response of the McCains and the Grahams to know that to the limits of their power they will do everything they can to block Obama from ending the war (that is if he really wants to).
Finally, there is the fear-factor, the great distractor. As is well-known, the US media are dominated by the Right-wing and right-wing influences. As long as some significant sector of the US population can be kept afraid of "terrorism" the only response that has been represented to them as being even possibly useful, that is the "War on Terror," will retain their support. Whether or not 9/11 was a false flag operation (and there are many respected authorities who suspect that it was), it certainly served to place fear of both real and potential "terrorism" in the minds of many US. The fear factor is pumped on the Propaganda Channel and SavagelyLe-vinitatingO'Rhannibaugh 24/7. It is served by Permanent War and Permanent War fuels it. This is another reason why Permanent War is not going away any time soon.
Orwell was right. Permanent War serves the interests of a ruling class that has nothing to offer everyone else in its drive to greater and greater profits, with no sharing, not even a little bit. President Obama might want to bring it to and end (or he might, really, not). But absent major political and economic changes in this country, neither he nor anyone else for that matter is going to be able to do so anytime soon.
(Photo: Vasily Vereshchagin)
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for BuzzFlash@Truthout he is the Editorial Director of and a Contributing Author to The Political Junkies for Progressive Democracy (http://thepoliticaljunkies.org/). Dr. Jonas' latest book is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, and available on Amazon.