THE CHALLENGE OF TRANSFORMING THE U.S. WAR ECONOMY
Hal Pepinsky, email@example.com, “peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com
September 25, 2013
“War is the health of the state,” the radical writer Randolph Bourne said, in the midst of the First World War.” Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (1999 edn.), p. 359.
War has indeed been the continual remedy for economic malaise in the US. It has its roots in Anglo settlement and conquest that since the establishment of the Massachusetts colony. In recent times, WWII lifted us out of the Great Depression, and has fueled the military-industrial complex, and its post-Cold War prison-industrial complex, to this day. In 1999, the Project for a New American Century declared that in this century the US needed a new Pearl Harbor, and so we were “blessed” by 9/11 and the well prepared Patriot Act, war on terror, and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, caught in the “Great Recession,” the pressure is on, as President Obama put it yesterday, to defend our “core interests,” by unilateral military attacks which violate the UN Charter if necessary, in the Middle East, because of the “exceptional” US obligation to play father-protector to the entire world.
It is discomfiting to see President Obama and former anti-war activist John Kerry give the threat of expanded launch of missiles credit for our bow to Russian diplomacy over Syrian chemical weapons, while agreeing to talk rather than fight. It is discomfiting to see Secretary of State Kerry beg the Senate to ratify the newly signed arms trafficking treaty by arguing that it will not affect the hallowed right of private persons to keep and bear arms. It is discomfiting to see continuing efforts to glorify “our troops” while we continue the tradition of victimizing veterans by sending them to be killed, maimed and neglected and abandoned when they return home. It is discomfiting to see US economists almost universally declare the imperative to redress economic malaise and decline for the bottom 99 percent of the US population by “growth,” meaning getting further ahead of the rest of the world by economic and military might if necessary, by rebuilding an industrial and manufacturing employment base that has only been resuscitated by war, in a cultural ethos that holds all public service employment to be the enemy of human freedom and prosperity. How typically, perpetually, “American.”
And yet, the US government concession to the Russian peace initiative for Syria may, I hope, become the moment at which the US begins to let go of its claim to global military domination, supplanted by public investment in national care and well-being represented by the seemingly inexorable implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act, which in undying US racism has been called “Obamacare” as though our first black president wrote and enacted the law he merely signed off on. The transition from one male-warrior, Euro-American nation specially favored by the God that belongs to Protestants, to one multi-colored country among many will long remain painful, especially to those whose identity rests on the faith that ours is the greatest nation on earth. Devolution of economic power into secure, democratically owned and operated local economies like those springing up in Detroit remains in its infancy. Even as our lives become busier at cyber-speed, transformation of our culture of perpetual warfare abroad, let alone at home as against “criminals” and “underperforming” schoolchildren, like all major cultural transformation, will at best undoubtedly entail generations of homeland struggles to become recognized as our prevailing national identity. Meanwhile, in moments of US military restraint as now in Syria, I take heart. Love and peace--hal