Tuesday, April 6, 2010

War as City-State: We Force-feed it, We Pay

This great post from Tomdispatch offers some mind-boggling numbers for materiel involved in the War in Iraq whose "drawdown" is described thusly:

the American drawdown will be the "equivalent, in personnel terms alone, of relocating the entire population of Buffalo, New York."

Now there's a thought. It's as if the whole war were a city-state in itself, complete with food, shelter, weapons, infrastructure - and of course, a nice big population.

Whether it’s 3.1 million items of equipment, or 3 million, 2.8 million, or 1.5 million, whether 341 “facilities” (not including perhaps ten mega-bases which will still be operating in 2011 with tens of thousands of American soldiers, civilians, and private contractors working and living on them), or more than 350 forward operating facilities, or 290 bases are to be shut down, the numbers from Iraq are simply out of this world.

The conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is unprecented, and yet Americans are mostly oblivious, unaware that we are creating little islands in about the least compatible environments imaginable. What does this mean to the Iraqis and Afghans, to see not only war, but an entire set of city-states forcibly planted in their own beautiful and unrelated culture, shocking them without their participation in it.

In this way, our troops carry not just packs on their backs, but a total, transplantable society right down to the PXs, massage parlors, food courts, and miniature golf courses. At Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan, there was until recently a “boardwalk” that typically included a “Burger King, a Subway sandwich shop, three cafes, several general stores, a Cold Mountain Creamery, [and an] Oakley sunglasses outlet.”

And of course, there's the staggering cost. The cost in lives, American, but far more Iraqis and Afghanis, is something we'll have to live down. And our children will have to live down. And our future generations, if we have any, will have to live down.

This is the second bubble, courtesy of Republican war strategy. "Down with Government, Up with War". As if war was waged by individuals, not a government. As if war led to freedom. As if war liberated people, instead of enslaving them to its consequences. The aftermath, the bloody, destructive aftermath of war is always littered with lies, claims of victory, claims of power, claims of valor.

But as the second bubble, the bubble of war, is already bursting, its inevitable failure becoming clearer even to a propaganda-numbed, not-very-free-minded (Texas schoolbooks, anyone?) American public, as this becomes then another collapse like the economic collapse, the collapse of the war machine will likewise have worldwide implications. That's because it's ultimately another economic collapse.

It's one thing to wage war. Bad enough. But to conduct war by imposing little city-states within sovereign nations is like forcing a rejected transplant without medication. It's unsustainable. Let's hope this drawdown is for real, and that we seriously draw down on ALL fronts, without leaving our unsustainable "islands" behind.

And by the way, thanks to a load of idiots on both the right and left, there's not much chance of that. Look for Collapse II. Doubt it'll be pretty.

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