The Long War

(noon. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

For those who have not noticed, the Global War on Terror has morphed into what is now being labeled as “The Long War”.

Soon after the neo-cons got their “Pearl Harbor”, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Americans what to expect. “Forget about ‘exit strategies, we’re looking at a sustained engagement that carries no deadlines.”

Donald Rumsfeld is today a discredited and widely reviled figure. Robert Gates, Rumsfeld’s successor as Defense secretary, is generally admired for manifesting qualities that Rumsfeld lacked — a willingness to listen not least among them. Yet on one crucial point, the two see eye to eye: Both believe that the United States has no alternative but to wage a global war likely to last decades.

LA Times The ‘Long War’ Fallacy by Andrew J. Bacevich

Speaking at West Point in April of this year, Gates, echoed his predecessor’s assessment. “There are no exit strategies.” Gates described a “generational campaign” entailing “many years of persistent, engaged combat all around the world.”

The Preface of the latest Quadrenial Defense Review Report (PDF) – published every 4 years – begins with this sentence.

The United States is a nation engaged in what will be a long war.

The report is frightening and yet while reading it I found it ludicrous, full of neocon talking points and blatant Orwellian propaganda. Noteworthy is the terminology shift:

the Pentagon document defines the main enemy not as terrorists, but rather as violent extremists or merely extremists. This choice of words is not accidental. The thrust of the strategic conceptions outlined by the Pentagon review is the organization of the US military to violently quell any and all opposition to US domination.


What are the origins of this agenda, what are its true goals? More importantly, how and when will it end?

One of the prominent neo-conservatives who served in the Bush Administration is Richard Perle. Perle is a PNAC member, a member of the Hudson Institute, a member of AEI and also is a member of the influential Council on Foreign Relations. Below is a quote from Perle noted by John Pilger writing for ZNet in December of 2002.

I interviewed Perle when he was advising Reagan; and when he spoke about “total war”, I mistakenly dismissed him as mad. He recently used the term again in describing America’s “war on terror”. “No stages,” he said. “This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq… this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don’t try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war… our children will sing great songs about us years from now.”

Andrew Bacevich, in the LA Times piece linked above, noted that back in September 2001, Rumsfeld put it this way: “We have a choice — either to change the way we live, which is unacceptable, or to change the way that they live; and we chose the latter.” In this context, “they” represent the billion or so Muslims inhabiting the greater Middle East.

It should not be difficult to understand exactly what Rumsfeld was saying, basically that our 5% of the planet’s people are consuming 25% of it’s resources and we’re going to keep it that way. Bill Moyers succinctly put it this way.

“The pursuit of freedom, as defined in an age of consumerism, has induced a condition of dependence on imported goods, on imported oil, and on credit. The chief desire of the American people is that nothing should disrupt their access to these goods, that oil, and that credit. The chief aim of the U.S. government is to satisfy that desire, which it does in part of through the distribution of largess here at home, and in part through the pursuit of imperial ambitions abroad.”

Bill Moyers

Our imperial ambitions serve to create resistance to our presence resulting in a positive feedback loop which will continue to provide the never-ending pretext for a never-ending war against an ubiquitous enemy. Perpetual war. It’s not stupidity. They know very well what they are doing just as certainly that they knew there were no WMDs in Iraq.

How is the Long War effecting our lives and how will it effect us in the future? Gregory D. Foster wrote more than two years ago:

Even as Long War rhetoric artfully circumvents such politically discomfiting terminology as “insurgency,” its underlying message should be clear: We dutiful subjects should be quietly patient and not expect too much (if anything) too soon (if at all) from our rulers as they prosecute their unilaterally proclaimed war without end…

Common Dreams from April 2006

Below is a listing of what Foster told us to expect. Much is already evident.

• It will give permanency to the manufactured state of collective fear and emergency that provides pretext for the further imperialization of the presidency.

• It will thereby extend the self-marginalization of a cowardly Congress that is shamelessly willing to waive its constitutional prerogatives rather than stand up to a self-anointed wartime commander in chief.

• It will have a “cry wolf” effect by numbing the public, which is tired of the permanent state of false emergency, to real threats and emergencies when they arise.

• It will provide a defensible excuse for those in power to indefinitely postpone any meaningful demonstration of conclusive results, and thus full accountability, in their expanding martial forays abroad (except, of course, when it is politically expedient to declare that a successful end is at hand in a particular situation).

It similarly will provide an excuse for the continued neglect of other critical national (especially “soft” domestic) priorities – Social Security, health care, education, the environment – in favor of war’s overriding importance.

• It will aggravate the undisciplined, unchecked practice of prolonged deficit spending that threatens to produce severe economic stagnation and budgetary crisis, especially as baby boomers become eligible for retirement.

• It will perpetuate the use of “emergency” supplemental military spending to circumvent the checks of the regular budget process and surreptitiously pad a bloated, gluttonous defense budget.

• It will lend continuing tacit legitimacy to the regularized use of force as a first (rather than a last) resort, diminishing the legitimacy and desirability of time-consuming, seemingly less decisive diplomacy.

• It will further blur the lines of demarcation between war and peace, domestic and international, military and police, criminal justice and intelligence, normalcy and emergency. The blurring of lines among military, police and intelligence activities will make the military less accountable to civilian authority.

• It will further threaten civil liberties, marginalize dissent and dissenters as unpatriotic, heighten government secrecy at the expense of transparency and engender continuing media self-censorship, all in the name of necessity, urgency and clear and present danger.

• It will perpetuate the self-serving Pentagon mythology of defense transformation by fostering the misleading impression that the rhetorical commitment to the Long War is matched by an underlying reality of overhaul in military missions, structures and capabilities.

• It will accentuate the alienation of the military from society in two ways: first, by reinforcing the belief of those in uniform that they are especially at risk and making undue sacrifices on behalf of a soft, lazy, unappreciative public; second, by exacerbating recruiting shortfalls and the attendant prospect of an increasingly unrepresentative force.

There is an alternative. Once again Andrew Bacevich in the linked LA Times article:

Rumsfeld got it exactly backward. Although we do face a choice, it’s not the one that he described. The actual choice is this one: We can either persist in our efforts to change the way they live — in which case the war of no exits will surely lead to bankruptcy and exhaustion. Or we can recognize the folly of generational war and choose instead to put our own house in order: curbing our appetites, paying our bills and ending our self-destructive dependency on foreign oil and foreign credit.

Now all we have to do is change course. No easy task. This war machine is barreling down the tracks and its momentum is going unchecked. As Bacevich has written in his book, The Limits of Power – “It has eaten all our seed corn, and must keep prowling constantly in foreign lands to feast on the resources of others. So war and the ever-present threat of war will continue to be the driving forces of American policy, at home and abroad, both in the public and private sectors – because that’s where the money is.”


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  1. McCain should be elected or selected. Obama is a question mark. His comments regarding Afghanistan and going into Pakistan to pursue al-Qaeda and the Taliban are worrisome.

    Also Obama’s comments indicate that he has bought into the meme that Iran could quickly become a nuclear threat and that with respect to the “Iranian threat”, everything is still on the table.

    How do you all feel about this? I have very little confidence that the “Long War” will be ending any time soon.

  2. Permanent war definitely fits into the desires of Neo-con elites to drain resources that could be used for American citizens ( improving infrastructure/schools/health care blah blah) and divert them. It gives them something to scare us with. It further justifies turning the government into a shopping mall were people have to purchase services… privatizing government in order to continue fighting wars and making the concept of government itself a hollow shell.

    And if we find enough wars to fight then the Christians that want the final battle will get their wish to.

    • Edger on August 22, 2008 at 16:58

    to get rid of the people who want a Long War, I think….

  3. included so much from Bacevich.  I did not know anything about him until I saw Bill Moyers interview with him last week and was really impressed.  Jimstaro did a short diary with clip from that interview earlier in the week, but not many saw it here, I’m afraid.

    Maybe Bacevich is one of the leaders we need?  

    • Viet71 on August 22, 2008 at 19:45

    I’d say, fuck it.

    The long war will be a long-time transfer of wealth to major corporations and devaluing of life in America.

    I say, turn this whole bullshit war over to police agencies.  And be done with it.

    I really wouldn’t give a shit if terrorists took out a building or a bridge or a mall or an embassy every 5 to 10 years, so long as the U.S. government was attending to the real needs of the American people.

    Truth is, the presidents during my lifetime have done (with congress) FAR more damage to this country than all the terrorists who have struck here put together.

    • RUKind on August 24, 2008 at 07:33

    That’s the bottom-line. When you look at what’s happening now from that angle it all falls into place. The MIC needs constant cash flow to survive. Constant war means constant cash flow. The GWOT is an unwinnable, never-ending state of war. It’s a cloud-like hydra of exploitable vague fear.

    It’s another beautiful implementation of the Universal Fear of Death scam. This has legs. It can run for centuries uninterrupted. Hell, it can run for eons. It is beautiful in its simplicity and effectiveness. And the vast majority will always fall for it.

    • RUKind on August 24, 2008 at 07:41

    This site has some basic everyday news of on the ground happenings. They seem to be coming from a strictly militarist viewpoint but the accounts are supported here and there, occasionally, in the MSM. Personally, I’ve learned a lot about the PK provinces situation from these posts.

    Basically, we’re fucked. It’s only a matter of time until the PK nukes get loose.

    • banger on August 24, 2008 at 13:56

    War is what has kept the U.S. oligarchy and state in power–it has solved the problems of unity in a multi-cultural society. The U.S. has used war throughout its history to keep the oligarchy in power and it always works. Permanent war changes little except the fact that you don’t have to create enemies anymore since they are everywhere and invisible.

    We have to learn to live within that context and hope it evolves. As long as the culture glorifies violence and primitive morality in the various “entertainment” (entrapment) media we will have war as the central organizing principle of American life. One can only hope that the oligarchy is practical and has a somewhat broader view of its self-interest than the current bunch. I believe this is possible and even likely. This will allow those of us who see life differently a chance to flourish between the cracks. As for hope for major reform or a movement towards actual rule centered on the good of the people–forget that. The people themselves don’t want it. Democracy is nearly dead not from the actions of the oligarchs but from the deliberate ignorance and selfishness of the American people as a whole.  

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