One day after posting Part One of this article, which focused on seven pages found in Ismael Hossein-Zadeh's recent book, The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism, I ran across Chris Floyd's article: "Doomsday Book: Bush Literary Lunch Foretells Horrors Ahead," which linked to Glenn Greenwald's article at salon.com ("The president receives 'lessons' from his neoconservative tutors"). Both articles provided new evidence substantiating Bush's God-emboldened narcissism and, thus, the continuing menace he poses to the United States, the Middle East and the rest of the world.
Messrs. Floyd and Greenwald discussed the literary luncheon that Bush attended on February 28, 2007. It was at this luncheon, and with the full support of the few neoconservative and conservative ideologues in attendance, that Bush rationalized away his widespread unpopularity in the United States and much of the world's hatred of him by asserting: "I want to have my conscience clear with Him. Then it doesn't matter so much what the others think." [Greenwald]
True, but what if the person clearing his conscience with "Him" is a narcissistic psychopath? Remember, Bush is the same fellow, whose early narcissism produced an ill-bred wastrel and who, soon after "finding God," possessed the narcissistic chutzpa to think, "I feel like God wants me to run for President. I can't explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me." More significantly, he's the same God-emboldened narcissist, who initiated the greatest (and most immoral) strategic blunder in U.S. history - naked aggression against Iraq - because, as he said, God "instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did."
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Readers of Ian Kershaw's biography Hitler: 1889-1936: Hubris — especially his description of Hitler's hospitalization in Pasewalk in October 1918 — will see similar God-emboldened narcissism at work. Hitler "told a variety of associates that as he lay blinded in Pasewalk he received a type of vision, message, or inspiration to liberate the German people and make Germany great again. This highly unlikely, quasi-religious experience was part of the mystification of his own person which Hitler encouraged as a key component of the Fuhrer myth that was already embryonically present among many of his followers in the two years leading up to the putsch attempt." [p. 103]
But, regardless of whether it was the narcissism of God-emboldened psychopath or the deliberate "mystification of his own person" that manifested itself at that literary luncheon, Bush's recent behavior provides more evidence to justify Professor Hossein-Zadeh's fear that he's the type of person "capable of blowing up the world and calling it good."
But, as I also mentioned in Part One of this article, Professor Hossein-Zadeh believes that the United States suffers from a more enduring affliction, "parasitic militarism" — which might cause the ultimate collapse of America's empire. Moreover, he thinks parasitic militarism is more responsible for the war in Iraq than four other factors commonly cited: (1) the influence of America's neoconservative militarists, (2) President Bush's "intellectual inadequacies," (3) the influence of the Zionist lobby or (4) the need to "gain access to more and cheaper sources of gas and oil." [p. 3]
Parasitic militarism is the extreme militarism that afflicts a country, usually after "a prolonged reliance on military power for economic, territorial, or geopolitical gains." Such extended reliance "gradually creates a dynamic out of which evolves a large standing military apparatus that tends to perpetuate itself - and develop into a bureaucratic empire." [p. 3] It's commonly known as the military-industrial complex, but it also includes the U.S. Congress, the mainstream news media and major research universities.
What makes the U. S. militarism unique, asserts Hossein-Zadeh, is its unprecedented reliance on the predatory market forces and profit incentives that drive commercial defense contractors. Earlier empires were forced to rely largely upon arms supplied by comparatively benign state-run arsenals.
Thus, in past military empires, "arms production was dictated by war requirements, not the market or profit imperatives of arms manufacturers." [p. 18] Today, U.S. defense contractors not only market their newly proposed weapons, they also market (if not invent) the threat that their newly proposed weapons will combat. They also make political contributions (bribes) to congressmen who vote for their weapons programs, fund militaristic think tanks and employ workers, most of whom have a vested interest — and, thus, vote accordingly — in the job security that even unnecessary arms production provides them.
Believe it or not, prior to World War II and the subsequent, almost immediate, rearmament to wage Cold War, the United States cherished two proud traditions: (1) mistrust of standing armies and (2) rapid post-war demobilization. George Washington believed that a large peace-time military "hath ever been considered dangerous to the liberties of a country." In June 1784, Congress asserted, "standing armies in time of peace are inconsistent with the principles of republican governments, dangerous to the liberties of a free people, and generally converted into destructive engines for establishing despotism." [pp. 11-12]
Unfortunately, by January 1961, no less a personage than President Dwight D. Eisenhower felt compelled to warn his fellow countrymen: "The conjunction of an immense military establishment and a huge arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence - economic, political, and even spiritual - is felt in every city, every state house, and every office of the federal government….In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex." [p. 11]
But, some forty-six years later, today's parasitic militarists have succeeded in creating a force that "currently deploys nearly 1.5 million military personnel in 6,000 domestic bases and 702 overseas bases in 130 countries…and about a dozen carrier task forces in the oceans and seas of the world." [p. 12] (Consider for a moment: Why don't other countries have overseas bases in the United States?)
"For FY 2008, the Bush administration has requested $647.3 billion to cover the costs of national defense and war. This includes the Defense Department budget ($483 billion), some smaller defense-related accounts ($22.6 billion), and the projected FY 2008 cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and counter-terror operations ($141.7 billion). However, it does not include non-DOD expenditures for homeland security ($36.4 billion) or the Veteran's Affairs budget (84.4 billion). Nor does it include the request for supplemental funds for outstanding FY 2007 war costs ($93.4 billion). [Carl Conetta, "America speaks out: Is the United States spending too much on defense?" Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Memo # 41, 26 March 2007]
Not only does the U.S. defense budget constitute 50 percent of the world's total annual defense spending, the Defense Department cannot account for $1.1 trillion lost over the years. Yet, while most of the world rolled its collective eyes in stark disbelief, by early 2003 a majority of Americans ignorantly swallowed the alarmist propaganda by the Bush administration, which alleged that a weakened, brittle regime in Iraq, already subjected to economic sanctions and two no-fly zones — and, which, in 2001, spent a comparatively measly $1.4 billion on defense — posed a grave and growing threat to the United States.
Professor Hossein-Zadeh believes he knows why: "Arms industries need occasional wars not only to draw down their stockpiles of armaments, and make room for more production, but also to display the 'wonders' of what they produce: the 'shock and awe' inducing properties of their products." Thus, he was not surprised to see that "the military side of the Pentagon was not as eager to wage war in Iraq as the civilian side, which is primarily a front for powerful corporate interests, especially those vested in war industries." [p. 19] After all, at one point the Bush administration employed 32 major policy makers, who had significant ties to the defense industry. [p. 17]
Moreover, "from the viewpoint of the beneficiaries of war dividends - the major force behind President Bush's policies of war and militarism - military success or failure, as well as death and destruction, are of secondary concern." Or, more to the point, while "the war on Iraq has been a fiasco" from a military point of view, "from the standpoint of the beneficiaries of war dividends it has been a boon." [p. 176]
From his perspective as a professor of economics, Mr. Hossein-Zadeh sees two powerful groups of U.S. political elites jousting for power, the parasitic militarists and the neoliberals, who primarily represent the interests of nonmilitary transnational capital. "In essence, it is a conflict between parasitic military imperialism, which relies on war and international political tension in order to justify the colossal existence of an overextended military-industrial complex, and free trade imperialism, which relies on free trade and technological superiority for international economic gains." [pp. 236-37]
Although militarism usually prevails, both sets of elites have "diligently made it certain that increases in the Pentagon budget would not divert investable resources away from the nonmilitary private sector." In fact, "increases in U.S. military spending since the early 1980s have been accompanied by decreases in taxes on corporate profits and higher earnings." [p. 215]
Thus, in essence, parasitic militarism grows at the expense of social or nonmilitary public spending. It's a case of guns and butter. The growth of parasitic militarism "crowds out" spending for both human capital (health care, education, nutrition and housing) and physical capital (roads, bridges, mass transit, schools, drinking water, wastewater, dams, solid waste, hazardous waste, navigable waterways and energy). Thus, while the Bush administration spent much of 2001 pushing to build an enormously expensive (and still unworkable) boondoggle that is near and dear to the hearts of many defense contractors, national missile defense, the 2001 "Report Card for America's Infrastructure" issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave a grade of D+ to the 11 infrastructure categories listed above, plus aviation. [p. 222]
According to Professor Hossein-Zadeh, sustained increases in defense spending are "financed primarily by sustained cuts in nonmilitary public spending." And he observes: "Opponents of social spending tend to justify these policies in terms of market mechanism: that all they want is to keep 'government's hands out of people's pocket[s], and to let the 'invisible hand of the market mechanism' regulate the economy. Yet, the twin policy of tax break[s] for the wealthy and the lion's share of public money for military industries seems more akin to an iron fist that is designed to redistribute national resources to favor the wealthy than the invisible hand of market mechanism." [p. 226]
Unfortunately, absent popular pressure to tax the rich and adequately fund social programs, [p. 256] Hossein-Zadeh can offer only this weak admonition: "A disproportionately large and escalating military apparatus tends to undermine the socioeconomic and political base that is supposed to sustain the apparatus." [p. 203]
Because his focus is on the political economy of U.S. militarism, Professor Hossein-Zadeh might be forgiven for the slight attention he pays to parasitic militarism's assaults on individual liberty. But he might have summarized them by quoting from John Quincy Adams's speech of July 4, 1821: America "goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own…She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication…The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force….She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit." And so she isn't!
Finally, Professor Hossein-Zadeh's book probably would have gained depth and context had he familiarized himself with Paul A. C. Koistinen's prodigious four-volume history, The Political Economy of American Warfare, (covering the period 1606-1945), as well as the following indispensable studies: The Pursuit of Power (Willam H. McNeill), The Dominion of War (Fred Anderson and Andrew Clayton), Innovation and the Arms Race (Matthew Evangelista) and In the Shadow of War (Michael Sherry).
Nevertheless, The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism is a timely and provocative study, which merits far more readers than it probably will receive.
Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA).
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