09-16-07, 06:13 AM #1
The 1948 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell was written from the viewpoint of a citizen of one of three fictional world-dominating superstates. These nations are in a state of perpetual war with each other. The state of war is used by each of the states to justify the control of their populations using Stalinist or other methods. By artificially creating fear and hate of an enemy, the actual existence of which is never made completely certain, the governments provided an excuse for their failures and, in the case of Oceania, enforced obedience to Big Brother. Moreover, eternal war formed the bedrock of the economy, as people could be kept busy manufacturing goods that would not improve their living standards, but would instead be destroyed on the battlefields. Thus perpetual war not only kept the population busy, it also encouraged a "siege mentality" in which hatred of the enemy and love for the government's protection were social norms.
UNLEASHING THE DOGS OF WAR
Zogby Poll: A majority of Americans - 54% - believe the United States has not lost the war in Iraq.
John Robb: "In 4th generation warfare (guerrilla warfare), the war typically ends when one side, usually the nation-state, suffers moral collapse and loses the will to fight (ala Vietnam) -- this is in contrast to a collapse in means due to attrition (WWI) or a collapse in ability due to disruption (WWII)."
If you think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will end with this US presidency, think again. These wars will likely outlast the next several Presidents. The old Vietnam era formulas don't apply anymore. The reason is that the moral weaknesses that have traditionally limited the state's ability to fight long guerrilla wars have dissipated, and modern states may now have the ability and the desire to wage this type of war indefinitely. Here's what changed:
A radical improvement in marketing war. The US military learned from Vietnam that it needed to be much better at marketing wars to domestic audiences in order to prevent moral collapse. It has gotten better at this, and that information operations/strategic communications capability has reached a new level of effectiveness with General Petraeus. Despite this improvement, the military and its civilian leadership still don't have the ability to garner wide domestic support for guerrilla wars beyond the initial phases. However, they do have the ability to maintain support within a small but vocal base -- as seen in the use of weblogs to generate grass roots support for war -- and the capability to trump those that call for withdrawal (by keeping the faintest glimmer of potential success alive and using fear/uncertainty/doubt FUD to magnify the consequences of defeat). In our factional political system, that is sufficient to prevent withdrawal.
The threat that justifies the state and the perpetual war that codifies it. The ongoing threat of terrorism has become the primary justification for the existence of a strong nation-state (and its greatest instrument of power, the military) at the very moment it finds itself in decline due to globalization (or more accurately: irrelevance). The militarization of "the war against terrorism" reverses this process of dissipation, since it can be used to make the case for the acquisition of new powers, money, and legitimacy (regardless of party affiliation) -- for example, everything from increases in conventional military spending to the application of technical reconnaissance on domestic targets. Of course, this desire for war at the political level is complimented by the huge number of contractors (and their phalanxes of lobbyists) attracted by the potential of Midas level profits from the privatization of warfare. The current degree of corporate participation in warfare makes the old "military industrial complex" look tame in comparison.
The privatization of conflict. This is likely the critical factor that makes perpetual warfare possible. For all intents and purposes, the US isn't at war. The use of a professional military in combination with corporate partners has pushed warfare to the margins of political/social life. A war's initiation and continuation is now merely a function of our willingness/ability to finance it. Further, since privatization mutes moral opposition to war (i.e. "our son isn't forced to go to war to die") the real damage at the ballot box is more likely to impact those that wish to end its financing. To wit: every major presidential candidate in the field today now gives his/her full support to the continuation of these wars.
Do we need a question? ok. The question is: has reality begun to mirror fiction?
09-16-07, 07:47 AM #2
Not quite. Authoritarianism isn't clearly prevailing yet- although it's obviously gained some ground. The subheader, and John Robb's last sentence in the thought-provoking quote above reveal that such rumors of the demise of reason may be greatly exaggerated.
When the American majority that publicly supports perpetual war surpasses not 54% but 84%; when no Paul, Kucinich, Gravel, Biden, Richardson, Edwards, or Obama can get airtime; and when we've had our Washington Tienanmen- then we can declare Orwell's 1984 to be inescapable prophecy of our fate, and many of us will probably throw in the towel. Some would surely keep fighting beyond such a dark progression, until freedom's very last breath. But for now, hope for sanity and humanity still burns bright.
The neocons didn't invent spin. It will require far more competent fascists than the Bush 43 Administration to bring our undoing.
09-16-07, 09:16 AM #3
It was true then, it was true before then, and it's true now. War unifies the public behind the state. The threat of (and also existence of) war justifies the existence of the state.
So to answer the quesion, no reality isn't mirroring fiction because fiction observing an already existing state of affairs (although also magnifying it).
Last edited by maxg; 09-16-07 at 09:17 AM. Reason: Typos
09-16-07, 09:20 AM #4
Modern governments have got much better at stage-managing these affairs and maintaining popular support beyond that initial wave of enthusiasm.
There have been few notable successes in Iraq of late and the percentage of Americans supporting the occupation has fallen to a (substantial) minority, but still no thoughts of withdrawal are being countenanced (except by whiny liberals on the left, of course - who, unfortunately, just can't muster the votes to make it happen). The current plan is to withdraw 30,000 troops by next summer (leaving 130,000 still in place) but no indication of anything beyond this.
Where's the endgame here - will any of us live to see it?? Will a Democratic president launch the rapid withdrawal that the Democrat powerbase wants? Seems unlikely.
09-16-07, 09:28 AM #5
09-16-07, 09:50 AM #6
redarmy11: "Well, as is implied in the thread title, what I'm asking is 'have we entered the era of perpetual warfare' rather than 'are we headed for a 1984-style authoritarian state'."
We can't have the one without the other: Only an authoritarian state can force acceptance of perpetual warfare and the associated progressive concentration of the diminishing spoils.
09-16-07, 09:54 AM #7
Who needs force when you have increasing competence in the dark arts of oily persuasion and voter manipulation?
09-16-07, 11:03 AM #8
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