Thursday, January 25, 2007

Robert Nisbet on U.S. War Preparation

In The Present Age: Progress and Anarchy in Modern America, conservative American sociologist Robert Nisbet wrote his opinions regarding why war and preparation for war have become such powerful influences on American government and on the American people (see my earlier post). He argued first that America's participation in World War I had a large impact upon us. However, when addressing why the defense budget and preparation for war loomed so large in the 1980's when he was writing he noted that the Cold War would not do as a complete explanation even though it was the explanation to which observers most often resorted. He wrote (for a book published in 1988) that there were two forces that "would surely continue to operate even if the Soviet Union were miraculously transformed into a vast religious convent [p. 24]." The first of these forces was the military-industrial complex against which Eisenhower warned us. This included a huge government defense bureaucracy and the "militarization of intellectuals" and "intellectualization of the military." The latter involved the universities which had become so addicted to the money flowing from defense expenditures and the " 'terror experts,' 'strategy analysts,' 'intelligence consultants,'" and others who manned institutes and think tanks and regularly appeared on TV. Nisbet wrote (pp. 28-9) quite presciently:
Even if there were no Soviet Union or its equivalent to justify our monstrous military establishment, there would be, in sum, the whole self-perpetuating military-industrial complex and the technological-scientific elite that Eisenhower warned us against. These have attained by now a mass and an internal dynamic capable of being their own justification for continued military spending.... Take away the Soviet Union as crucial justification, and, under Parkinson's Law, content of some kind will expand relentlessly to fill the time and space left.
This prediction proved true in just 5 years during which the Soviet Union did disappear and 'neo-conservatives' stepped forward to argue that the U.S. must take full advantage of this "unipolar moment" to make sure that no other power would be able to challenge the U.S. again. And, indeed, it was these 'neo-conservatives, the Krauthammers, Kristols, Feiths, Ledeens, et. al. who pushed us to spend yet more on the military and who provided the justification for invading Iraq.

The second force to which Nisbet referred was "the moralization of foreign policy" that began perhaps with Woodrow Wilson but continued up to today. Indeed, the so-called 'neo-conservatives' unite both forces in their rhetoric, they are huge cheerleaders for American military might and perhaps the most extreme moralizers of our foreign policy ever. It is these so-called 'neo-conservatives' who trumpet America's remarkable 'exceptionalism' and virtues and advocate using military might to bring 'democracy', 'freedom' and 'free market capitalism' to the rest of the benighted world. The majority of these individuals are also aggressively pro-Israeli and frequently pro-Zionist, and they support the far-right within Israel as well as in the U.S.

Here Nisbet merits the label 'conservative' because he breaks with pseudo-conservatives like William F. Buckley in noting the swelling of central government by the military and in maintaining some skepticism about "America the Virtuous." You cannot stand for small central government AND huge military budgets and an evangelical foreign policy, as people like Buckley and Reagan tried to do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It should be noted that there is a significant difference between the past era, when the military/industrial complex actually provided innovative, working weaponry, and the present era. Today, the money is being spent, the military/industrial complex is receiving it, but the war materiel needed is NOT being provided to the troops.

In an article in the Baltimore Sun, David Wood writes:

"After nearly four years of war in Iraq the Pentagon's effort to protect its troops against roadside bombs is in disarray, with soldiers and Marines having to swap access to scarce armored vehicles and the military unsure whether it has the money or industrial capacity to produce the safe vehicles it says the troops need...

"The Baltimore Sun has re­ported that most of the 21,500 troops President Bush has ordered to Iraq as reinforcements will not have access to specialized blast-resistant armored vehicles because they are in such short supply...

"The Army has acknowl­edged, for example that it is still 22 percent short of the armored Humvees it needs in Iraq. But with roadside bombs and other explosive devices accounting for 70 percent of American casualties in Iraq, senior officers acknowledged that even heavily armored Humvees don't provide enough protection.
Accordingly, the Army is shipping 71,000 sets of fireresistant uniforms to Iraq so soldiers will have a better chance of surviving the fires that often consume Humvees that hit roadside bombs...

"...the military is intent on buying thousands of new armored vehicles whose V-shaped hulls deflect blasts from beneath upwards and outwards, unlike the flat bottomed Humvees that absorb the blasts. These Mine-Protected Vehicles, or MPVs, have been designed and manufactured for years by South Africa and other countries.
Based on requests from commanders in Iraq, the U.S. military needs 6,465 MPVs. The first of those couldn't be delivered to Iraq until March 2008 or later..."

Despite all of the effort and investment, our military/industrial complex has obviously failed completely in its main (only) area of competence: war preparation.