Who Will Save (the) US?
A recent article in Nation of Change (Tom Engelhardt, "Monopolizing War", September 13, 2012) starts with a multiple choice question about Marines carrying out combat operations in a certain foreign country. The article goes on to list nine possible answers (that's right, boys and girls, not the usual four) – and one of the choices wasn't "all of the above.” It turns out it was a trick question. In fact, the correct answer was all of the countries on the list, to include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Central Africa, Northern Mali, the Philippines, and Guatemala.
Only a tiny percentage of voters in November will have read the article or will have any idea that the US military is so, um, active in so many places around the world some two decades after the end of the Cold War. Okay, okay. Let's not forget that the shocking events of 9-11 changed the game 11 years ago (as we are all gravely reminded every year at this very time with a barrage of hair-raising, heart-breaking images, look-backs, documentaries, op-eds, flags, and bumper-stickers).
We're in a war. On terror. It's different from all other wars. Even the Cold War. Different from all the wars that have ever been fought. Anywhere. Anytime. It's a war without end. Against a fanatical, hate-filled enemy that is also invisible, amorphous, and relentless. An enemy that has no state and no army, navy, or air force. An enemy that cannot be defeated by conventional or unconventional military means. Or nuclear weapons. Ever.
Got it? That's why we need a bigger and better army, navy, and air force. Not to mention more and better missiles.
When I'm not somewhere else, I live on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. In Colorado. It's a place that defines natural beauty. Verdant. Majestic. Quiet except for birdsong and the soughing sounds of the wind in the trees. And airplanes.
What we fear most in the mountains is not a terrorist attack, but something that terrorizes everyone who lives there all the time. Fire. And wind. For forest-dwellers in rugged terrain, the combination of fire and wind presents a terrifying prospect. Clouds and rain spell salvation, except for one thing. Fire from the sky. Lightning.
So everyone is alert to any danger or sign of fire. The Ouray County sheriff's office regularly sends out email and cell phone alerts to let everyone in the area know if there's a controlled burn going or, heaven forbid, a forest fire in progress. We are all accustomed to getting these alerts from time to time and we take them in stride.
But this morning was different. The alert we received was alarming in a different way. Here's what it said: "Rumors of plane crash in Ouray County are unfounded jet stream that was spotted was from an unarmed missile test from Ft. Wingate NM."
Rumors…plane crash..jet stream..unarmed missile test. What rumors, you ask? Why would a plane crash or jet stream cause panic? Well, remember what mountain people fear most? That's right: fires.
And then there's the low-flying news received in June of this year that the Air Force was planning to do low-altitude combat aircraft training through the valleys and over the mountains of northern New Mexico and southwestern Colorado (the Four Corners part).
Hit the deck! Incoming missiles! No wait, it's just a CV-22 Osprey on a training flight. Nothing to worry about. Relax, it could have been a C-130. And who really cares if the famous Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep get stressed and the ewes stop ovulating? We've got a war to fight!
But I digress. Back to the article about where the Marines are engaged in combat. The point of that article, which ought to be read by everybody who plans to vote in November, is that the US is currently engaged in a massive build-up in the Persian Gulf, largely because Iran has, shall we say, nuclear ambitions. Now I ask you, what country that does not intend to immolate other countries would think it's necessary to have a massive nuclear arsenal? Back to multiple choice:
a) United States
d) United Kingdom
You probably guessed that it's another trick question. The answer is "all of the above", plus North Korea and who knows who else? Moreover, there are – or will be – other earnest nuclear wannabes as time goes by. The point is that we have the most and best nuclear weapons in the world (including missiles of both armed and unarmed varieties that cause mysterious jet streams and unfounded rumors to fly in Colorado); we are the only country ever to use nuclear weapons in a war; and – punch line alert – we are not Iran's natural enemy. Or vice-verse.
Top secret (don't whisper a word, promise?): Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu – you know, the guy with the textbook symptoms of paranoid personality disorder that make him the Man of the Hour for anyone pining for the mother of all Middle Eastern conflicts – wants the US to attack Iran's nuclear facilities so he (Israel, that is) won't have to do it. So far, a dovish President Obama—the same Obama who closed down Gitmo, refused to order a troop surge in Afghanistan, and didn't kill Osama bin Laden when he had the chance (wink, wink)— is resisting this brilliant idea. Or is he? And if so, why the big and costly build-up in the Persian Gulf when Congress is willing to pay any price (with appropriate exceptions) to cut the deficit?
Who will finally say that it's time to pull back from all these military adventures? Time to cut the Pentagon's bloated budgets rather than Social Security, Medicare, and, say, school lunch programs? Time to reorder our priorities and reallocate this country's vast resources and the huge tax revenues our governments collect (mainly from the middle-class) in ways that benefit the country (not just the wealthy) and make the world a better and safer place? It clearly won't be Wilbur Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
But who then? If Barack Obama will not – or cannot – restore a measure of sanity to our public and private finances, our public policies, and our hopes and dreams, who will? And what would have to happen for that to happen?
These two questions loom very, very large as we approach the November elections. The hope is that President Obama gets re-elected and on the morning after the election wakes up as if from a bad dream and suddenly discovers – or remembers – who he really is and why he wanted to be president.