MoJo Author Feeds: William Astore | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/rss/authors/21286 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Why Did the Iraqi Army Collapse So Easily? http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/10/4-biggest-takeaways-americas-effort-build-iraqi-army <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175907/" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>In June, tens of thousands of Iraqi Security Forces in Nineveh province north of Baghdad collapsed in the face of attacks from the militants of the Islamic State (IS or ISIS), abandoning <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/11/mosul-isis-gunmen-middle-east-states" target="_blank">four major cities</a> to that extremist movement. The collapse drew <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/13/world/middleeast/american-intelligence-officials-said-iraqi-military-had-been-in-decline.html" target="_blank">much notice</a> in our <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/06/13/why-the-iraqi-army-collapsed-and-what-can-be-done-about-it/" target="_blank">media</a>, but not much in the way of sustained analysis of the American role in it. To put it bluntly, when confronting IS and its band of lightly armed irregulars, a reputedly professional military, American-trained and -armed, discarded its weapons and equipment, cast its uniforms aside, and melted back into the populace. What this behavior couldn't have made clearer was that US efforts to create a new Iraqi army, much-touted and funded to the tune of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/13/world/middleeast/american-intelligence-officials-said-iraqi-military-had-been-in-decline.html?_r=0" target="_blank">$25 billion</a> over the 10 years of the American occupation (<a href="http://www.military.com/daily-news/2013/03/06/too-much-money-spent-in-iraq-for-too-few-results.html" target="_blank">$60 billion</a> if you include other reconstruction costs), had failed miserably.</p> <p><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="http://motherjones.com/files/images/tdispatch-notch.jpg" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>Though reasonable analyses of the factors behind that collapse <a href="http://warontherocks.com/2014/07/inside-the-collapse-of-the-iraqi-armys-2nd-division/" target="_blank">exist</a>, an investigation of why US efforts to create a viable Iraqi army (and, by extension, viable security forces in Afghanistan) cratered so badly are lacking. To understand what really happened, a little history lesson is in order. You'd need to start in May 2003 with the decision of L. Paul Bremer III, America's proconsul in occupied Iraq and head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2007/09/who_disbanded_the_iraqi_army.html" target="_blank">to disband</a> the battle-hardened Iraqi military. The Bush administration considered it far too tainted by Saddam Hussein and his Baathist Party to be a trustworthy force.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/10/4-biggest-takeaways-americas-effort-build-iraqi-army"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Iraq Military Tom Dispatch Thu, 16 Oct 2014 10:00:09 +0000 William Astore 262486 at http://www.motherjones.com America Is Addicted To Bombing. Does It Even Work? http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/08/us-america-bomb-iraq-syria-yemen-does-work <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175883/" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>When you do something again and again, placing great faith in it, investing enormous amounts of money in it, only to see indifferent or even negative results, you wouldn't be entirely surprised if a neutral observer questioned your sanity or asked you if you were part of some cult. Yet few Americans question the sanity or cult-like behavior of American presidents as they continue to seek solutions to complex issues by bombing Iraq (as well as numerous other countries across the globe).</p> <p>Poor Iraq. From Operation Desert Shield/Storm under George H.W. Bush to enforcing no-fly zones under Bill Clinton to Operation Iraqi Freedom under George W. Bush to the latest "humanitarian" bombing under Barack Obama, the one constant is American bombs bursting in Iraqi desert air. Yet despite this bombing&mdash;or rather in part because of it&mdash;Iraq is a devastated and destabilized country, slowly falling apart at seams that have been unraveling under almost a quarter-century of steady, at times relentless, pounding. "<a href="http://www.today.com/video/today/51237983/#51237983" target="_blank">Shock and awe</a>," anyone?</p> <p><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="http://motherjones.com/files/images/tdispatch-notch.jpg" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>Well, I confess to being shocked: that US airpower assets, including strategic bombers like B-52s and B-1s, built during the Cold War to deter and, if necessary, attack that second planetary superpower, the Soviet Union, have routinely been used to attack countries that are essentially helpless to defend themselves from bombing.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/08/us-america-bomb-iraq-syria-yemen-does-work"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics International Military Tom Dispatch Tue, 19 Aug 2014 21:33:28 +0000 William Astore 258676 at http://www.motherjones.com Ex–Air Force Lt. Colonel: You've Been Drafted and You Don’t Even Know It http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/us-military-service-modern-draft <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175855/" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="http://motherjones.com/files/images/tdispatch-notch.jpg" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>I spent four college years in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) and then served 20 years in the US Air Force. In the military, especially in basic training, you have no privacy. The government owns you. You're "government issue," just another G.I., a number on a dogtag that has your blood type and religion in case you need a transfusion or last rites. You get used to it. That sacrifice of individual privacy and personal autonomy is the price you pay for joining the military. Heck, I got a good career and a pension out of it, so don't cry for me, America.</p> <p>But this country has changed a lot since I joined ROTC in 1981, was fingerprinted, typed for blood, and otherwise poked and prodded. (I needed a medical waiver for myopia.) Nowadays, in Fortress America, every one of us is, in some sense, government issue in a <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175849" target="_blank">surveillance state</a> gone mad.</p> <p>Unlike the <a href="http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/images/tlc0090.jpg" target="_blank">recruiting poster</a> of old, Uncle Sam doesn't want you anymore&mdash;he already has you. You've been drafted into the American national security state. That much is evident from <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175843" target="_blank">Edward Snowden's</a> revelations. Your email. It can be read. Your phone calls. <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nsa-phone-record-collection-does-little-to-prevent-terrorist-attacks-group-says/2014/01/12/8aa860aa-77dd-11e3-8963-b4b654bcc9b2_story.html" target="_blank">Metadata</a> about them is being gathered. Your smartphone. It's a perfect <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175803/" target="_blank">tracking device</a> if the government needs to find you. Your computer. Hackable and trackable. Your server. It's <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/07/technology/internet-giants-erect-barriers-to-spy-agencies.html" target="_blank">at their service</a>, not yours.</p> <p>Many of the college students I've taught recently take such a <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175822/" target="_blank">loss of privacy</a> for granted. They have no idea what's gone missing from their lives and so don't value what they've lost or, if they fret about it at all, console themselves with magical thinking&mdash;incantations like "I've done <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-astore/government-prosecuting-whistleblowers_b_3244332.html" target="_blank">nothing wrong</a>, so I've got nothing to hide." They have little sense of how capricious governments can be about the definition of "wrong."</p> <p>Consider us all recruits, more or less, in the new version of Fortress America, of an ever more militarized, securitized country. Renting a movie. Why not opt for the first <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0458339/" target="_blank"><em>Captain America</em></a> and watch him vanquish the Nazis yet again, a reminder of the last war we truly won. Did you head for a baseball park on Memorial Day? What could be more American or more innocent. So I hope you paid no attention to all those <a href="http://shop.mlb.com/category/index.jsp?categoryId=37771106" target="_blank">camouflaged caps and uniforms</a> your favorite players were wearing in just another of an endless stream of tributes to our troops and veterans.</p> <p>Let's hear no whining about <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomwatson/2014/05/26/a-memorial-day-question-has-military-cause-marketing-gone-too-far/" target="_blank">militarized uniforms</a> on America's playing fields. After all, don't you know that America's real pastime these last years has been <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175271/" target="_blank">war</a> and lots of it?</p> <p><br><strong>Be a Good Trooper</strong></p> <p>Think of the irony. The Vietnam War generated an unruly citizen's army that reflected an unruly and increasingly rebellious citizenry. That proved more than the US military and our ruling elites could take. So President Nixon ended the draft <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0112/72085.html" target="_blank">in 1973</a> and made America's citizen-soldier ideal, an ideal that had persisted for two centuries, a thing of the past. The "all-volunteer military," the professionals, were recruited or otherwise enticed to do the job for us. No muss, no fuss, and it's been that way ever since. <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175762/" target="_blank">Plenty of war</a>, but no need to be a "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-astore/our-militarys-disturbing_b_664543.html" target="_blank">warrior</a>," unless you sign on the dotted line. It's the new American way.</p> <p><a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/1608463710/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank"><img align="left" alt="" hspace="6" src="http://www.tomdispatch.com/images/managed/jonessoldiers.jpg"></a>But it turned out that there was a fair amount of fine print in the agreement that freed Americans from those involuntary military obligations. Part of the bargain was to "support the pros" (or rather "our troops") unstintingly and the rest involved being pacified, keeping your peace, being a happy warrior in the new national security state that, particularly in the wake of 9/11, grew to enormous proportions on the taxpayer dollar. Whether you like it or not, you've been drafted into that role, so join the line of recruits and take your proper place in the garrison state.</p> <p>If you're bold, gaze out across the increasingly <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175834/" target="_blank">fortified and monitored</a> borders we share with Canada and Mexico. (Remember when you could cross those borders with no hassle, not even a passport or ID card. I do.) Watch for those <a href="https://www.aclu.org/blog/tag/domestic-drones" target="_blank">drones</a>, home from the wars and already hovering in or soon to arrive in your local skies&mdash;ostensibly to fight crime. Pay due respect to your increasingly <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/09/us/war-gear-flows-to-police-departments.html" target="_blank">up-armored police forces</a> with their automatic weapons, their <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175781/" target="_blank">special SWAT teams</a>, and their <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/04/18/congratulations-your-tiny-town-has-an-mrap-and-is-ready-for-war/" target="_blank">converted MRAPs</a> (mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles). These vintage Iraqi Freedom vehicles are now military surplus given away or sold on the cheap to local police departments. Be careful to observe their draconian orders for prison-like "<a href="http://contraryperspective.com/2013/10/27/that-word-again-lockdown/" target="_blank">lockdowns</a>" of your neighborhood or city, essentially temporary declarations of martial law, all for your safety and security.</p> <p>Be a good trooper and do what you're told. Stay out of public areas when you're ordered to do so. Learn to salute smartly. (It's one of the first lessons I was taught as a military recruit.) No, not that middle-finger salute, you aging hippie. Render a proper one to those in authority. You had best learn how.</p> <p>Or perhaps you don't even have to, since so much that we now do automatically is structured to render that salute for us. Repeated singings of "God Bless America" at sporting events. Repeated viewings of movies that glorify the military.(Special Operations forces are a hot topic in American multiplexes these days from <em>Act of Valor</em> to <em>Lone Survivor</em>.) Why not answer the call of duty by playing militarized video games like <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Call_of_Duty" target="_blank"><em>Call of Duty</em></a>. Indeed, when you do think of war, be sure to treat it as a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-astore/the-militarization-of-sports_b_912004.html" target="_blank">sport</a>, a movie, a game.</p> <p><br><strong>Surging in America </strong></p> <p>I've been out of the military for nearly a decade, and yet I feel more militarized today than when I wore a uniform. That feeling first came over me in 2007, during what was called the "Iraqi surge"&mdash;the sending of another 30,000 US troops into the quagmire that was our occupation of that country. It prompted my <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174845" target="_blank">first article</a> for TomDispatch. I was appalled by the way our civilian commander-in-chief, George W. Bush, hid behind the <a href="http://pileusblog.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/general-petraeus-tough-as-nails/" target="_blank">beribboned chest</a> of his appointed surge commander, General David Petraeus, to justify his administration's devolving war of choice in Iraq. It seemed like the eerie visual equivalent of turning traditional American military-civilian relationships upside down, of a president who had gone over to the military. And it worked. A cowed Congress meekly submitted to "<a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/king-davids-war-20110202" target="_blank">King David</a>" Petraeus and rushed to cheer his testimony in support of further American escalation in Iraq.</p> <p>Since then, it's become a sartorial necessity for our presidents to don <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-astore/military-clothing-for-pre_b_517635.html" target="_blank">military flight jackets</a> whenever they address our "<a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174957" target="_blank">warfighters</a>" as a sign both of their "support" and of the militarization of the imperial presidency. (For comparison, try to imagine Matthew Brady taking a photo of "<a href="http://www.sonofthesouth.net/civil-war-pictures/photography/lincoln-mcclellan.htm" target="_blank">honest Abe</a>" in the Civil War equivalent of a flight jacket!) It is now <em>de rigueur</em> for presidents to praise American troops as "the <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175337/" target="_blank">finest military</a> in world history" or, as President Obama typically said to NBC's Brian Williams in an <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/exclusive-obama-defends-taliban-swap-says-hed-do-it-again-n124736" target="_blank">interview</a> from Normandy last week, "the greatest military in the world." Even more hyperbolically, these same troops are celebrated across the country in the most vocal way possible as hardened "warriors" <em>and </em>benevolent freedom-bringers, simultaneously the goodest and the baddest of anyone on the planet&mdash;and all without including any of the ugly, as in the ugliness of war and killing. Perhaps that explains why I've seen military recruitment vans (sporting video game consoles) at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Given that military service is so beneficent, why not get the country's 12-year-old prospects hopped up on the prospect of joining the ranks?</p> <p>Too few Americans see any problems in any of this, which shouldn't surprise us. After all, they're already recruits themselves. And if the prospect of all this does appall you, you can't even burn your draft card in protest, so better to salute smartly and obey. A good conduct medal will undoubtedly be coming your way soon.</p> <p>It wasn't always so. I remember walking the streets of Worcester, Massachusetts, in my freshly pressed ROTC uniform in 1981. It was just six years after the Vietnam War ended in defeat and antiwar movies like <em>Coming Home</em>, <em>The Deer Hunter</em>, and <em>Apocalypse Now</em> were still fresh in people's minds. (<em>First Blood</em> and the Rambo "<a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174859" target="_blank">stab-in-the-back</a>" myth wouldn't come along for another year.) I was aware of people looking at me not with hostility, but with a certain indifference mixed occasionally with barely disguised disdain. It bothered me slightly, but even then I knew that a healthy distrust of large standing militaries was in the American grain.</p> <p>No longer. Today, service members, when appearing in uniform, are universally applauded and repetitiously lauded as <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175276" target="_blank">heroes</a>.</p> <p>I'm not saying we should treat our troops with disdain, but as our history has shown us, genuflecting before them is not a healthy sign of respect. Consider it a sign as well that we really are all government issue now.</p> <p><br><strong>Shedding a Militarized Mindset</strong></p> <p>If you think that's an exaggeration, consider an old military officer's manual I still have in my possession. It's vintage 1950, approved by that great American, General <a href="http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1953/marshall-bio.html" target="_blank">George C. Marshall</a>, Jr., the man most responsible for our country's victory in World War II. It began with this reminder to the newly commissioned officer: "[O]n becoming an officer a man does not renounce any part of his fundamental character as an American citizen. He has simply signed on for the post-graduate course where one learns how to exercise authority in accordance with the spirit of liberty." That may not be an easy thing to do, but the manual's aim was to highlight the salutary tension between military authority and personal liberty that was the essence of the old citizen's army.</p> <p>It also reminded new officers that they were trustees of America's liberty, quoting an unnamed admiral's words on the subject: "The American philosophy places the individual above the state. It distrusts personal power and coercion. It denies the existence of indispensable men. It asserts the supremacy of principle."</p> <p>Those words were a sound antidote to government-issue authoritarianism and militarism&mdash;and they still are. Together we all need to do our bit, not as G.I. Joes and Janes, but as Citizen Joes and Janes, to put personal liberty and constitutional principles first. In the spirit of Ronald Reagan, who <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tear_down_this_wall!" target="_blank">told</a> Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this [Berlin] wall," isn't it time to begin to tear down the walls of Fortress America and shed our militarized mindsets. Future generations of citizens will thank us, if we have the courage to do so.</p> <p><em>William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and </em><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175337/william_astore_we're_number_one" target="_blank"><em>TomDispatch regular</em></a><em>, edits the blog </em><a href="http://contraryperspective.com/" target="_blank"><em>The Contrary Perspective</em></a><em>. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com <a href="http://tomdispatch.us2.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=6cb39ff0b1f670c349f828c73&amp;id=1e41682ade">here</a></em>.</p></body></html> Politics Military Tom Dispatch Thu, 12 Jun 2014 23:32:11 +0000 William Astore 253996 at http://www.motherjones.com Why War Is the "New Normal" in America http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/10/america-shutdown-military-industrial-complex <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175762/" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>There is a new normal in America: our government may shut down, but our wars continue.&nbsp;Congress may not be able to pass a budget, but the US military can still launch commando raids in Libya and Somalia, the Afghan War can still be <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175754/">prosecuted</a>, Italy can be <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175755/">garrisoned</a> by American troops (putting the "empire" back in Rome), Africa can be used as an <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175743">imperial playground</a> (as in the late nineteenth century "<a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/0380719991/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20">scramble for Africa</a>," but with the US and China doing the scrambling this time around), and the military-industrial complex can still <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175493">dominate</a> the world's arms trade.</p> <p><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="http://motherjones.com/files/images/tdispatch-notch.jpg" title="" width="100"></span></a>In the halls of Congress and the Pentagon, it's business as usual, if your definition of "business" is the power and profits you get from constantly preparing for and prosecuting wars around the world.&nbsp;"War is a racket," General Smedley Butler <a href="http://contraryperspective.com/2013/05/30/war-is-a-racket/">famously declared</a> in 1935, and even now it's hard to disagree with a man who had two Congressional Medals of Honor to his credit and was intimately familiar with American imperialism.</p> <p><strong>War Is Politics, Right?</strong></p> <p>Once upon a time, as a serving officer in the US Air Force, I was taught that Carl von Clausewitz had defined war as a continuation of politics by other means.&nbsp;This definition is, in fact, a simplification of his classic and complex book, <em>On War</em>, written after his experiences fighting Napoleon in the early nineteenth century.</p> <p>The idea of war as a continuation of politics is both moderately interesting and dangerously misleading: interesting because it connects war to political processes and suggests that they should be fought for political goals; misleading because it suggests that war is essentially rational and so controllable.&nbsp;The fault here is not Clausewitz's, but the American military's for <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175208/">misreading</a> and oversimplifying him.&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps another "Carl" might lend a hand when it comes to helping Americans understand what war is really all about.&nbsp;I'm referring to Karl Marx, who admired Clausewitz, notably for his idea that combat is to war what a cash payment is to commerce.&nbsp;However seldom combat (or such payments) may happen, they are the culmination and so the ultimate arbiters of the process.</p> <p>War, in other words, is settled by killing, a bloody transaction that echoes the exploitative exchanges of capitalism.&nbsp;Marx found this idea to be both suggestive and pregnant with meaning. So should we all.</p> <p>Following Marx, Americans ought to think about war not just as an extreme exercise of politics, but also as a continuation of exploitative commerce by other means.&nbsp;Combat as commerce: there's more in that than simple alliteration.</p> <p><a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/1608461548/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20"><img alt="" src="http://www.tomdispatch.com/images/managed/fear2.gif" style="margin: 6px 10px; float: left;"></a>In the history of war, such commercial transactions took many forms, whether as territory conquered, spoils carted away, raw materials appropriated, or market share gained.&nbsp;Consider American wars.&nbsp;The War of 1812 is sometimes portrayed as a minor dust-up with Britain, involving the temporary occupation and burning of our capital, but it really was about crushing Indians on the frontier and grabbing their land.&nbsp;The Mexican-American War was another land grab, this time for the benefit of slaveholders.&nbsp;The Spanish-American War was a land grab for those seeking an American empire overseas, while World War I was for making the world "safe for democracy"&mdash;and for American business interests globally.</p> <p>Even World War II, a war necessary to stop Hitler and Imperial Japan, witnessed the emergence of the US as the arsenal of democracy, the world's dominant power, and the new imperial stand-in for a bankrupt British Empire.</p> <p>Korea?&nbsp;Vietnam?&nbsp;Lots of profit for the military-industrial complex and plenty of power for the Pentagon establishment.&nbsp;Iraq, the Middle East, current adventures in Africa?&nbsp;Oil, markets, natural resources, global dominance.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2013/10/america-shutdown-military-industrial-complex"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Military Tom Dispatch Mon, 21 Oct 2013 19:07:38 +0000 William Astore 237296 at http://www.motherjones.com Drone Warfare Isn't Cheap, and it Isn't Targeted http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/03/drone-warfare-isnt-cheap-or-targeted <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175665/" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>Today's unmanned aerial vehicles, most famously Predator and Reaper drones, have been <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/02/world/awlaki-strike-shows-us-shift-to-drones-in-terror-fight.html">celebrated</a> as the culmination of the longtime dreams of airpower enthusiasts, offering the possibility of victory through quick, clean, and selective destruction. Those drones, so the (very old) story goes, assure the US military of command of the high ground, and so provide the royal road to a speedy and decisive triumph over helpless enemies below.</p> <p>Fantasies about the certain success of air power in transforming, even ending, war as we know it arose with the plane itself. But when it comes to killing people from the skies, <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174887">again and again</a> air power has proven neither cheap nor surgical nor decisive nor in itself triumphant. Seductive and tenacious as the dreams of air supremacy continue to be, much as they automatically attach themselves to the latest machine to take to the skies, air power has not fundamentally softened the brutal face of war, nor has it made war less dirty or chaotic.</p> <p>Indeed, by emboldening politicians to seek seemingly low-cost, Olympian solutions to complex human problems&mdash;like Zeus hurling thunderbolts from the sky to skewer puny mortals&mdash;it has fostered fantasies of illimitable power emboldened by contempt for human life. However, just like Zeus's obdurate and rebellious subjects, the mortals on the receiving end of death from on high have shown surprising strength in frustrating the designs of the air power gods, whether past or present. Yet the Olympian fantasy persists, a fact that requires explanation.</p> <p><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="http://motherjones.com/files/images/tdispatch-notch.jpg" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p><strong>The Rise of Air Power</strong></p> <p>It did not take long after the Wright Brothers first put a machine in the air for a few exhilarating moments above the sandy beaches of<strong> </strong>Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in December of 1903, for the militaries of industrialized countries to express interest in buying and testing airplanes. Previously balloons had been used for reconnaissance, as in the Napoleonic wars and the US Civil War, and so initially fledgling air branches focused on surveillance and intelligence-gathering. As early as 1911, however, Italian aircraft began dropping <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13294524">small bombs</a> from open-air cockpits on the enemy&mdash;we might today call them "insurgents"&mdash;in Libya.</p> <p>World War I encouraged the development of specialized aircraft, most famously the dancing bi- and tri-winged fighter planes of the dashing "knights of the air," as well as the more ponderous, but for the future far more important, bombers. By the close of World War I in 1918, each side had developed multi-engine bombers like the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gotha_Raids">German Gotha</a>, which superseded the more vulnerable zeppelins. Their mission was to fly over the trenches where the opposing armies were stalemated and take the war to the enemy's homeland, striking fear in his heart and compelling him to surrender. Fortunately for civilians a century ago, those bombers were too few in number, and their payloads too limited, to inflict widespread destruction, although <a href="http://www.firstworldwar.com/airwar/bombers_gotha_giant.htm">German air attacks</a> on England in 1917 did spread confusion and, in a few cases, panic.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2013/03/drone-warfare-isnt-cheap-or-targeted"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Military Tom Dispatch Mon, 25 Mar 2013 21:25:48 +0000 William Astore 219786 at http://www.motherjones.com America Needs to Stop Sucking Up to Generals http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/11/america-needs-stop-sucking-generals <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175622/" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>Few things have characterized the post-9/11 American world more than our worshipful embrace of our generals. They've become our heroes, our sports stars, and our celebrities all rolled into one. We can't stop <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174924/engelhardt_falling_upwards">gushing about them</a>. Even after his recent <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175619">fall from grace</a>, General David Petraeus was still being celebrated by CNN as the best American general <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/10/opinion/bergen-petraeus-legacy/index.html">since Dwight D. Eisenhower</a> (and let's not forget that Ike commanded the largest amphibious invasion in history and held a fractious coalition together in a total war against Nazi Germany). Before <em>his</em> fall from grace, Afghan War Commander General Stanley McChrystal was similarly lauded as <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=5344967n">one tough customer</a>, a sort of <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175074/the_pressure_of_an_expanding_war">superman-saint</a>.</p> <div class="sidebar-small-right"><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/11/david-petraeus-scandal-explained" target="_blank"><strong>The mind-bending Gen. Petraeus scandal, explained.</strong></a></div> <p>Petraeus and McChrystal crashed and burned for the same underlying reason: hubris. McChrystal became cocky and his staff <a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-runaway-general-20100622">contemptuous</a> of civilian authority; Petraeus came to think he really could have it all, the supersecret job and the supersexy mistress. An ideal of selfless service devolved into self-indulgent preening in a wider American culture all-too-eager to raise its star generals into the pantheon of Caesars and Napoleons, and its troops into the halls of Valhalla.</p> <p><a target="_blank" href="http://www.tomdispatch.com"><span class="inline inline-left"><img width="100" height="33" src="http://motherjones.com/files/images/tdispatch-notch.jpg" alt="" title="" class="image image-preview"></span></a>The English used to say of American troops in World War II that they were "overpaid, oversexed, and over here." Now we're overhyped, oversold, and over there, wherever "there" might happen to be in a constantly shifting, perpetual war on terror.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2012/11/america-needs-stop-sucking-generals"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Afghanistan Media Military Tom Dispatch Top Stories Thu, 29 Nov 2012 18:05:50 +0000 William Astore 208756 at http://www.motherjones.com We're Number One in Global Weapons Sales http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/01/us-number-one-global-weapons-sales <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175493/tomgram%3A_william_astore%2C_confessions_of_a_recovering_weapons_addict/" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>Perhaps you've heard of <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CW5GRilRyE" target="_blank">"Makin' Thunderbirds,"</a> a hard-bitten rock &amp; roll song by Bob Seger that I listened to 30 years ago while in college. It's about auto workers back in 1955 who were "young and proud" to be making Ford Thunderbirds. But in the early 1980s, Seger sings, "the plants have changed and you're lucky if you work." Seger caught the reality of an American manufacturing infrastructure that was seriously eroding as skilled and good-paying union jobs were cut or sent overseas, rarely to be seen again in these parts.</p> <p><a target="_blank" href="http://www.tomdispatch.com"><span class="inline inline-left"><img width="100" height="33" src="http://motherjones.com/files/images/tdispatch-notch.jpg" alt="" title="" class="image image-preview"></span></a>If the US auto industry has recently shown sparks of new life (though we're not making T-Birds or Mercuries or Oldsmobiles or Pontiacs or Saturns anymore), there is one form of manufacturing in which America is still dominant. When it comes to weaponry, to paraphrase Seger, we're still young and proud and makin' Predators and Reapers (as in unmanned aerial vehicles, or <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175489/" target="_blank">drones</a>) and Eagles and Fighting Falcons (as in F-15 and F-16 combat jets), and outfitting them with the deadliest of weapons. In this market niche, we're still the envy of the world.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2012/01/us-number-one-global-weapons-sales"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Economy Military Tom Dispatch Tue, 24 Jan 2012 22:22:43 +0000 William Astore 158651 at http://www.motherjones.com Our Remote Wars Are Hitting Home http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/12/american-remote-wars-are-hitting-home <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>This </em><a target="_blank" href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175477/tomgram%3A_william_astore%2C_the_remoteness_of_1%25_wars/"><em>story</em></a><em> first appeared on the </em><a target="_blank" href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/"><em>TomDispatch</em></a><em> website.</em></p> <p>America's wars are remote. They're remote from us geographically, remote from us emotionally (unless you're serving in the military or have a close relative or friend who serves), and remote from our major media outlets, which have given us no compelling narrative about them, except that they're being fought by <a target="_blank" href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175276/william_astore_our_american_heroes">"America's heroes"</a> against foreign terrorists and evil-doers. They're even being fought, in significant part, by remote control&mdash;by <a target="_blank" href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175447/tom_engelhardt,_sex_and_the_single_drone">robotic drones</a> "piloted" by ground-based operators from a <a target="_blank" href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175454/nick_turse_america%27s_secret_empire_of_drone_bases">secret network of bases</a> located hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from the danger of the battlefield.</p> <p>Their remoteness, which breeds detachment if not complacency at home, is no accident. Indeed, it's a product of the fact that Afghanistan and Iraq were wars of choice, not wars of necessity. It's a product of the fact that we've chosen to create a "warrior" or <a target="_blank" href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174957/william_astore_generation_war-fighters">"war fighter" caste</a> in this country, which we send with few concerns and fewer qualms to <a target="_blank" href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175034/william_astore_an_american_foreign_legion">prosecute Washington's foreign wars</a> of choice.</p> <p><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img width="100" height="33" class="image image-preview" title="" alt="" src="http://motherjones.com/files/images/tdispatch-notch.jpg"></span></a>The results have been predictable, as in <a target="_blank" href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175464/tom_engelhardt_an_all-American_nightmare">predictably bad</a>. The troops suffer. Iraqi and Afghan <a target="_blank" href="http://www.salon.com/2011/11/25/the_fruits_of_liberation/singleton/">innocents suffer</a> even more. And yet we don't suffer, at least not in ways that are easily noticeable, because of that very remoteness. We've chosen&mdash;or let others do the choosing&mdash;to remove ourselves from all the pain and horror of the wars being waged in our name. And that's a choice we've made at our peril, since a state of permanent remote war has <a target="_blank" href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175178/william_astore_they%27re_wasted">weakened</a> our military, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175431/chris_hellman_how_safe_are_you">drained</a> our treasury, and <a target="_blank" href="http://www.salon.com/2011/11/20/the_roots_of_the_uc_davis_pepper_spraying/">eroded</a> our rights and freedoms.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2011/12/american-remote-wars-are-hitting-home"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Afghanistan Economy Foreign Policy Iraq Military Tom Dispatch Thu, 08 Dec 2011 20:01:16 +0000 William Astore 151111 at http://www.motherjones.com How the US Military and Government Are Like Siamese Twins Sharing the Same Brain http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/06/american-militarism-astore <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em><a target="_blank" href="http://www.tomdispatch.com"><span class="inline inline-left"><img height="33" width="100" src="http://motherjones.com/files/images/tdispatch-notch.jpg" alt="" title="" class="image image-preview"></span></a>This </em><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175404/" target="_blank"><em>story</em></a><em> first appeared on the </em><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/" target="_blank"><em>TomDispatch</em></a><em> website.</em></p> <p>I have a fairy tale for you. Once upon a time, a representative democracy was established with a constitution that distilled the wisdom of the ages. Its foundational principles included civilian control of the military and a system of checks and balances that encouraged vigorous public debate as a basis for effective policy-making.</p> <p>In this fabled land, the role of civilian leaders was, in part, to serve as a check on military ambition and endless wars. They were to prove cautious, too, in committing their citizen-soldiers to battle, and when they did, they would issue Congressional declarations of war so that everyone could grasp the nature of the national emergency at hand and the necessity of military action. In waging war, they would rely on shared sacrifice and even raise taxes. When necessary, it was their job to rein in or even remove military leaders who acted like Caesar (read: General Douglas MacArthur) rather than <a href="http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/rulersleaderskings/p/Cincinnatus.htm">Cincinnatus</a> (read: General George Washington).</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2011/06/american-militarism-astore"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Military Tom Dispatch Wed, 15 Jun 2011 00:04:49 +0000 William Astore 118031 at http://www.motherjones.com The Crash and Burn of Old Regimes http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/05/american-decline-historical-examples <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img height="33" width="100" class="image image-preview" title="" alt="" src="http://motherjones.com/files/images/tdispatch-notch.jpg"></span></a>This </em><a target="_blank" href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175273/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_american_war_versus_real_war___/"><em>story</em></a><em> first appeared on the </em><a target="_blank" href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/"><em>TomDispatch</em></a><em> website.</em></p> <p>The killing of Osama bin Laden, "a testament to the greatness of our country" <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/02/world/middleeast/02obama-text.html">according to</a> President Obama, should not be allowed to obscure a central reality of our post-9/11 world. <a href="http://www.salon.com/news/us_military/index.html?story=/opinion/greenwald/2011/04/28/petraeus">Our conflicts</a> in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Libya remain instances of undeclared war, a fact that contributes to their remoteness from our American world. They are remote geographically, but also remote from our day-to-day interests and, unless you are in the military or have a loved one who serves, remote from our collective consciousness (not to speak of our consciences).</p> <p>And this remoteness is no accident. Our wars and their impact are kept in <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175314/tom_engelhardt_the_new_american_isolationism">remarkable isolation</a> from what passes for public affairs in this country, leaving most Americans with little knowledge and even less say about whether they should be, and how they are, waged.</p> <p>In this sense, our wars are eerily like those pursued by European monarchs in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: conflicts carried out by professional militaries and bands of mercenaries, largely at the whim of what we might now call a <a href="http://civilliberty.about.com/od/waronterror/p/imperial101.htm">unitary executive</a>, funded by deficit spending, for the purposes of protecting or extending the interests of a ruling elite.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2011/05/american-decline-historical-examples"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Foreign Policy Tom Dispatch Thu, 12 May 2011 20:01:58 +0000 William Astore 113191 at http://www.motherjones.com