Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Americans are largely unaware that they are surfing the crest of this global military spending tsunami in pursuit of imperial dominance. Most are still under the illusion that the United States is the leading nation in the world for generosity, showering other nations with unmatched aid. Even in terms of brute numbers, though, this is not the case: Japan gives more.

The 2006 budget showed that US military expenditures were twenty-one times larger than diplomacy and foreign aid combined, and that the United States was dead last among the most developed nations in foreign aid as a percentage of gross domestic product. One wonders what would happen if good-hearted Americans realized that a mere 10 percent of the US military budget, if reinvested in foreign aid and development, could care for the basic needs of the entire world's poor. Or if they realized that one-half of 1 percent of the US military budget would cut hunger in Africa in half by 2015. Would there be marches in the streets calling for budgetary reform?

Many Americans may also believe that this rush toward imperial militarization reflects a needed response to 9/11. But actually, it reflects a rather long-standing foreign policy. For example, many will recall the "shock and awe" compaign that launched the second Iraq war in 2003. The term shock and awe (which suggests an almost reverent and worshipful attitude toward crushing miliary attack) was not new at all; its roots can be traced back to 1996 during the Clinton administration, when the Pentagon's National Defense University released a report called "Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance." Notice the report's reverential use of capital letters:

One recalls from old photographs and movie or television screens, the comatose and glazed expressions of survivors of the great bombardments of World War I and the attendant horrors and death of trench warfare. These images and expressions of shock transcend race, culture and history. Indeed, TV coverage of Desert Storm vividly portrayed Iraqi soldiers registering these effects of battlefield Shock and Awe.

In our excursion, we seek to determine whether and how Shock and Awe can become sufficiently intimidating and compelling factors to force or otherwise convice an adversary to accept our will in the Clausewitzian sense, such that the strategic aims and military objective of the campaign will achieve a political end.

The similarity between the words "shock and awe" and "terror" should cause every reader some pause: when these 1996 words were put into play as part of the "war on terror" in Iraq in 2003, the US Department of Defense made clear its intent to fight the terror of terrorism with the terror of "Shock and Awe."

Perhaps we could say, then, that the war on terror had identified itself as a war of terror--or a war of competing terrors: organized and wealthy US terror against random and improvised jihadist terror. Such a war seems suicidal for all parties concerned, and for those caught in the crossfire as well."

-Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change


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