Saturday, March 12, 2005

War on Terrorism, World War IV, or War on No War

A friend recently led me to an article about the War on Terror by Tom Engelhardt. The article was at and also on Tom’s personal site Tom tackles the question of whether the War on Terror is in fact a World War IV and certainly does a good job. I agree with most of what he has said but still feel the need to put in my own thoughts.

It is quite silly to think of the War on Terror or the Cold War as World Wars. While the Cold War mobilized large segments of society and shaped global society and was fought in various places, at various times, to varying degrees it in no way was a World War in the same way as World War I and certainly not World War II. The two World Wars were wars of immense scale that forced nations to mobilize all resources and take command of their economies and societies for a single-minded effort towards survival. While this was true to some extent in the beginning of the Cold War (in the early years there seemed to be no likelihood of co-existence) as the Cold War wore on into the later years the US and the United States had clearly developed their ability to co-exist with each other. While the likelihood at the outset of the Cold War was the destruction of one by the other, or the mutual destruction of each other, by the end it just turned into who could outlast the other like one extended staring competition amongst quarrelling children. In the end one blinked and it was over. It was rather an anti-climactic event in retrospect. Throughout the whole thing individuals in both societies had managed to function in relative independence of the War compared to people living during WWI or WWII.

The War on Terror cannot remotely compare to a World War. The War on Terror is a war on fundamentalist Islamic bandits. This decentralised and largely uncoordinated group of groups have only their religion in common. Outside of fundamental Islamic tenets and a hatred of the West for varying reasons there is no true unifying force in this wide-ranging group. These groups all have various ends and it is only their means to those ends that unify them. Tom Engelhardt points out these groups are probably best tackled with policing techniques rather than traditional notions of War. Aside from lacking a truly identifiable enemy or state to fight the War on Terror lacks any comparative degree of mobilization of national resources as either WWI or WWII did. Life goes on in large measure for all people outside very particular areas of fighting. The structure of global society and how resources are managed goes on just the same as before the war began for most.

So what is World War-like about the War on Terror? It is the same element that made the Cold war something World War-like: the idea of civilisation under attack.
Arguably WWI and definitely WWII had the common element that an idea of preferred civilisation was under serious threat of destruction. The Cold War certainly maintained this element too although it lacked the same mobilization of resources and society as WWI and WWII. All three were never short of rhetoric and neither is the War on Terror. Perhaps this is the only element that brings the War on Terror to the rank of World War.

The War on Terror does not lack the grand civilisational battle narrative. The difference between now and the rest of the century is that now this narrative is a flagrant construction of political convenience. The scourge of terrorism is held up to be a uniting cause for all free peoples to rally around and once again the Americans take their position at the front leading the rest of the world in the head on charge. The difference this time is that it is patently obvious that the threats are exaggerated and the rallying cry is much more a cry of wolf. Hidden behind this cry of wolf is the wolf in shepherd’s clothing, America. This exploitative and opportunistic America aims to consolidate its position in the world as the pre-eminent pre-emptive powerhouse by putting its paws all over the precious oil of the Near East. The hope for the spread of ‘freedom’ in the Middle/Near East is nothing but a grab for the taps that will presage the continued dominant position of America over its rival China and potential rival Europe. The generation of the freedom narrative further serves to maintain a societal discourse focused on a critique or attack of the external while serving to deflect criticism away from the internal functions of those in the ‘coalition’ of ‘freedom’. The enemy is the focus of our anxieties, anger and dissatisfactions rather than our selves. Parsimonious social spending and action is all but forgotten or at least excused in this time of crisis. The cloak of the freedom narrative and the war on terror provide the perfect cover for maintaining an American position of benevolent dominance.

Soviet International Affairs expert Georgi Arbatov, at a meeting in 1988, said to Western reporters,

“We are going to do something terrible to you. We’re going to deprive you of an enemy.”

Now they have a new one, however real or not.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Why the left can never really be taken seriously...

If one wonders why the left, since the end of the Cold War, has never organised itself to mount a serious challenge to the expansion of the right and the seeming dominance of the belief that Liberal-capitalism is the be all and end all I implore you to read this article. If the left is busily engaged in attempting to convince us to follow the path to socialism based on an analogy that basketball equates to socialism then I truly think the left is much worse off than I thought.
While it may be a noble attempt to 'reach out to the people' and transpose socialism into a more digestable format for the ordinary man has Ollman really thought everything through. Yes everyone loves team play, it is beautiful, it's what we really like....blah blah blah blah....
Come on!!Fuck that!!
Who doesn't love watching one man going coast-to-coast and slamming in a dunk with nuclear force?!? That's what people pay to see. I hate basketball but I always tuned in to see Jordan in the play-offs. I watched to see that guy with skills that everyone envied, even his own teammates. Tell me one fan who doesn't love seeing dominant individual efforts by great athletes like Jordan or Kareem versus pass-it-around, run-the-clock, textbook basketball.
If you want to compare basketball to great ideology compare basketball to Capitalism. Yes, everyone can play. You can even play in a wheelchair, but not everyone is going to get to the top and make huge money. To get to the top (The NBA is the top. We all know it. Who plays and doesn't/didn't dream of it?) get to the top requires some luck in the physical attributes department (come on we don't all start off from the same position in life as we all know) as well as some hard work busting your ass to get even better and then a hell of a lot of luck in just getting through life in one piece just to the point where someone in a position of power might choose to pay you millions of dollars. For the rest of us we are all stuck playing pick-up games watching the stars from afar and dumping our money down on expensive shoes, jerseys, tickets, or just simply providing advertisers an audience and making rich players and owners richer. That's basketball.
The only socialism I see in the whole thing is perhaps the redistribution of wealth from middle and upper class folks down to the formerly poor black kids turned b-balls stars/multi-millionaires that dominant the game.
Let's leave sports out of ideological battles and find a new angle.

Eating words....

Having described this as a comical war is of course not taking war seriously. In many respects we can describe the justification and actions of the cavalier cowboy Americans as comical but in no ways can we ever describe war itself as comical. The left wing types who love to denounce the war( which I sometimes would include myself as) must keep their heads when attacking the Iraq war and those involved in it. Yes, it is farcical that some say the war is about freedom for Iraqis. The war is clearly about the pursuit of American goals in their grand strategy of making the 21st century an American Century by solidifying American global hegemony.
The focus of opposition is most often placed on those civilians dying in the war on the Iraq side and the heavy toll occupation takes on the Iraqi people. However American soldiers involved in this war cannot so easily be cast aside as baby-killers and war criminals. Abu Ghraib and other acts of such cruelty and barbarism are deplorable and certainly cannot be justified or rationalised in any way, but even most American soldiers can also be seen as victims. The average soldier did not join for glory or testosterone filled conquest of others but likely out of need. The average soldier is in a horrible situation where the value of life, other than his own and those closest to him, has been discarded. The soldier is in many respects living in what is close to a Hobbesian state of nature. We cannot hold soldiers to the same accounts as civilians and must respect the hardships they endure in spite of whether we agree with the mission.
If you care to glimpse into the soldier's lives in Iraq I suggest you click on over to
and watch the recent docs on soldiers in Iraq before making any rash judgements about soldiers involved in Iraq.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

A truly comical war deserves a comic

Follow the misadventures of the War on Terror at "get your war on."
Every good war deserves a good dose of popaganda against it. One of my favourites of course was the American Crusade playing card set. Another was the Propoganda Remix Project.
I have now been alerted to get your war on. Although not as colorful as the other two it stands up as some of the best anti-war popaganda I have seen. Get your war on on David Rees's website or in every issue of Rollingstone.


Bush compared Al Queda to corporate America in an attempt to show how successful the US has been in the war on terror. In another demonstration of his perspicacity Bush asserted, "If Al Qaeda was structured like corporate America, you'd have a chairman of the board still in office, but many of the key operators would no longer be around."
Bush neglected to mention that if Al Qaeda was structured like corporate America they would likely be his best friends and supporters not his enemy. He also neglected to add that if Al Qaeda was like corporate America they would likely have hundreds of operatives running around DC lobbying for a change to an Islamic Fundamentalist system while screwing millions of ordinary shareholders out of their money with fraudulent accounting practices.
Most press failed to report( WORLD EXCLUSIVE RIGHT HERE!!!) that Bush further added,
"If I was smarter I wouldn't be so dumb."


He who laughs last...

A beautiful statement on human rights in America coming from the only country credible enough to deliver it came out yesterday.
It's nice to see the Chinese trying...HA!
Truly Amusing

Sisyphus arrives Posted by Hello

Friday, March 04, 2005

First out of the gate...

Freedom Slopes.
Freedom is a pinnacle, something all humans should and usually do strive to attain. Almost everything in life is done according to this end. However unattainable freedom is, we are forever caught in the struggle for freedom on a personal level or as part of humanity as a whole. The climb to freedom is noble and fruitful no matter how vain it may seem at times. Freedom is a slope and just as the subjectivity of freedom allows all to determine their own ideas of what freedom means the slope of freedom varies. At times it is a precipitous slope nearly impossible to climb while at others it may seem a leisurely Sunday stroll. It is our perceptions and actions that shape the slope of freedom and we must maintain an acute awareness of this. Freedom slopes but it is up to us to determine how steep and slippery a slope we would like to climb.