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Commentary :: War and Militarism
The Troop Question
28 Aug 2006
As the shaky ceasefire between Lebanon and Israel lumbers on, the European governments expected to ‘enforce the peace’ have been stuttering and stalling in the face of actual commitment. It was France who took the initiative originally, who as head of UNISFL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon), promised 3000 troops. After analyzing the situation further, an about-face occurred, and the troop level was reduced to 400 non-combatant personal. Italy saw opportunity and declared itself the replacement, promising 2000 troops; France, not to be outdone, reasserted leadership responsibilities, but with 2000 troops this time; Italy was then, thanks to its charitableness, awarded France’s old job as head of UNISFL. After all this, the seesawing attitude of the rest of Europe continues. These governments are demanding more definitive ‘rules of engagement’; they’re curious about the prospects of actual fighting, and are rightfully scared of being viewed as a foreign occupier in Hezbollahland. Bush is intent on seeing that his backfired war-effort is partially salvaged, and has insisted that Europe “hurry up” with military aide, since the U.S. has none to spare. It may be prudent to examine why Europe— who views Israel and the U.S. with apt distrust— is both eager and terrified to help them pursue their interests. Note: a working assumption will be that ‘humanitarian reasons’ is a sophistic answer, meant to lure citizens into obedience.
To really get into the heads of Europe’s leaders, a quick look into their rise to power is necessary. Much of Europe is a step ahead of the U.S. in regards to the school of ‘lesser evil’ politics, since Americans, who after being bipartisanly swindled into the Iraq war, will naively rely on the Democrats to get them out of it. The current leaders of Italy, France, Germany, England, et al, were all alternatives to the ‘truly dangerous leaders’ further right (keep in mind that Tony Blair is the Labor Party head, supposedly ‘left’ of our Democrats— whatever that means now-a-days). Jacque Chirac, who enjoys popularity levels as low as Bush, was given the combined support— like Kerry in the U.S.— of different ‘radical’ groups and parties; his domestic policies— installed to conform to ‘economic reality’— sparked a mass movement with the energy to potentially tear the roof off of French society. Needless to say, the governments of Europe are as alienated from public opinion as their transatlantic rival.

Europe is also having problems— like the U.S. — in the economic growth arena. Competition from the countries paying their workers slave-wages has had the same effect on Europe as the U.S., prompting the unpopular domestic measures that all European governments have unanimously agreed on. What Europe cannot agree on— besides a common currency— is everything else. The conflicting interests of the corporations within the various nations of Europe will never allow full unification: the continent remains divided politically, economically, and militarily. The individual nations are thus subject to domination by the larger world economies, and are reduced to fawning gestures towards the U.S. in the hopes of a handout, such as donations of cannon-fodder to Lebanon.

Europe needs Lebanon for the same reasons the U.S. does— market access, raw materials, rebuilding contracts, etc. Likewise, European governments are dominated by the same corporations that control social life in the U.S. — war manufacturers, oil, steel, and auto interests, banks, etc; These European interests, in reflecting the need for profits to expand, are willing to support U.S. aggression as long as there is meat to be plucked from the bones of the Middle East, no matter how slim the pickings.

Unfortunately for Europe, they are in no position to build a military capable of insuring the needs of their corporate backers; the U.S. escaped WWII industrially unscathed, and was able to use the ‘fight against communism’ to scare Americans into accepting a truly sinful military budget. Since the fall of the U.S.S.R, the elite needed a new threat to mask the harsh realities of imperialism— enter the buffoonish ‘war on terror’.

Both Europe and the U.S. have found a common interest, based on the fact that neither can compete with the emerging economies in producing wealth ‘the old fashioned way’, i.e., by making things; militarism is their trump card, enabling them to secure raw materials and markets, while monopolizing the energy reserves they can use as leverage against their competitors. What prevents Europe from mobilizing militarily is the same thing keeping them from committing troops to Lebanon, namely, the social consequences; no population likes paying for shoddy military hardware when the money could be going to schools; similarly, nobody enjoys having their sons shot in a foreign country when it could be otherwise. The governments of Europe, already facing intense hostility from within, are caught in the same bind as the U.S. – the conflict between the military demands of business and the emotional outbursts of their citizens.
It’s difficult for a government to act warmongerish when it’s unpopular; with the recent actions of the U.S. acting as proof. So as not to open Pandora’s Box by declaring a draft, a variety of measures have been adopted to squeeze every ounce of life out of those already fighting overseas. In a span of a week, two more signs of military desperation were announced: the recalling of 1,200 Marine Corps inactive reservists, as well as the tour extension of the US Army’s 172nd Stryker Brigade. These recent actions are consistent with the calling up of Reserves, the National Guard, as well as ‘stop loss’ or ‘stop gap’ procedures that have detained soldiers indefinitely past their contractual duties, wrecking havoc on their lives and affecting millions of their family members at home. It is these unsupportive measures that have allowed U.S. troops to fall victim to demoralization and the physical and mental breakdown consistent with military occupation.
It may be redundant to mention the fact that all the ‘conflicts’ the U.S. is involved in are unwinnable. The Afghan insurgency is gaining strength (with Europe now thirstily leading the ruckus), Hezbollah will not be disarmed (eventually leading to more warfare), and Iraq is, more than ever, in anarchy; the New York Times reported a record 3,438 civilian deaths in Iraq last month, in conjunction with 2,625 exploded roadside bombs. Instead of admitting the obvious, both political parties are skillfully avoiding the issue through talk of new strategies, tactics, and accusations. Bush, for his part, reaffirmed that “we’re not leaving so long as I’m the president.” This statement, aside from being horribly anti-democratic, makes the unthinkable idea of a draft seem inevitable. The possibility of a draft increases again when one considers that many Democrats are still parroting the ‘rebelling General’s’ demands for “more troops”— this, when there are none to be found. Further credibility towards draft speculation occurs in lieu of the so-called opposition party’s opposition to anti-war candidates. If an anti-war Democrat happens to appear on a primary, an outpouring of aide is given to the opponent. The two-party system, having a monopoly of Democracy in the U.S., and knowing it cannot compete globally in any other fashion, is eschewing popular opinion rather then face the frightening consequences of a military withdraw, meaning, the abandonment of the U.S.’ global position as sole superpower.

The social consequences of a draft would immediately conjure up a resistance far more powerful than the likes of the Vietnam War. Political awareness— for much of the country— is far greater than previous generations, thanks in no small part to Vietnam. Distrust of government has crept out of the underground and into popular culture, where movies like Fahrenheit 9-11, V for Vendetta, and Syriana have— regardless of their artistic merit or political conclusions— raised the consciousness of millions of Americans. One example of this cultural shift was captured in a recent NY Times poll, revealing that half of Americans see no connection between the Iraq War and the so-called ‘War on Terror’; this after perhaps the largest propaganda campaign in earth’s history. However, one shouldn’t discount those in power; they are akin to a diseased and aching horse that refuses to go to pasture. When a draft is eventually called, it will most likely be under a different name; the Selective Service System has already talked openly about a “targeted draft” to enlist those who have the “special skills” the army is short on; as of now, only language and computer skills have been mentioned. The potential for wider needs, including human muscle, is easily imaginable.

The uneasy alliance between the U.S. and Europe is based on the shared interests of the crisis-ridden corporations at their helm; only this explains why both continents are attacking the status of workers, social services, promoting the intellectually-challenged ‘War on Terror’(always without any investigation into its causes), and consequently, destroying the freedoms that enable effective protest. The profit-crisis also explains why on an international level, corporations are lining up behind the lunatic right-wing political groups that best express the interests of the stock-exchange, rather than the vast majority of the population. This too is why the U.S. Democrats are unwilling to challenge the Republicans on any important issue, even though a half-wit would be perfectly capable of pointing out the blatant lies, the breaking of international law, and obvious war crimes. As the corporate-driven governments of the U.S. and Europe continue their maddened drive for profits, the people at home financing the wars with tax dollars and bodies turn to cynicism and hate. Large sections of the global population have the shared mindset of a powder keg, while the elites carelessly play with fire.
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