FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The War Comes Home

by TRACY MCLELLAN

Another Century of War?
by Gabriel Kolko, 2002, The New Press, 165 pp.

With the attacks of September 11 says Gabriel Kolko, the war has come to American shores, and will remain there. To avoid future similar catastrophes, the US should become realistic in its ambitions, recognize the limitations of military power, and end the folly of thinking it necessary to micromanage the affairs of other countries. Helpful too he says would be eliminating the breeding grounds of “terrorism” by raising the standard of living of the destitute around the world. The prognosis is not good, as the US continues to pursue in spades policies similar to those that have produced catastrophe.

In a slim, powerfully written volume of flawless prose, Kolko draws together seamlessly the many divers threads of what he shows to be disastrously misguided continued attempts of the United States to intervene militarily and meddle in the affairs of nations around the globe in a world far more complex than it was even fifty years ago. He covers whole histories of wide and disparate political domains in literally several sentences or paragraphs. His voice is unique in bringing the light of truth and understanding to US foreign affairs and the mess we’re in.

Kolko’s fundamnental thesis, obvious, as it so often is with genius, is that political problems have political and social, not military, solutions. With the notable exceptions of Vietnam and Korea, the US military machine is quite capable of gaining victories in its imperial adventures. Unfortunately, these more often result in concomitant political catastrophe: US “arms have not brought peace to the world even though Communism has virtually disappeared and can no longer explain the behavior of the US and its allies…we now live in an era of growing insecurity that will very probably see more trauma like (September 11) as well as (similar) responses…”

Kolko points out the monstrous irony that the two nemeses the US has most demonized over the last decade, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, it has previously supported with massive military, economic, and diplomatic aid and treated as friends. Because of these and similar Machiavellian intrigues, and despite the fall of the Soviet Union, the world is a far more dangerous place. And what is new, especially for the American people.

The examples of military triumphs that have become political calamity is a long list and continues to grow; and will continue to grow under the unilateralist and militarist policies of the Bush administration. Worse, and far more ominous, is Kolko’s analysis of Bush foreign policy as being ad hoc, improvised, opportunist, and confused. He documents flip-flops in Bush policy, which show the conservative ideology to be as malleable as conservatives often lament of the liberal. Kolko is very edifyingly in and out of a complex and lucid history of the petrol- and geo- politics of the Middle East like a cold bath.

The CIA, for example, assassinated the moderate but nationalist Iranian President Mossadegh in 1954 and installed in his stead the extremist Shah. He instituted policies supposedly beneficial to US interests, that is, multinational oil corporations – a military victory. With the Iranian Revolution of 1979 however, the US ushered the Shah into exile, and Khomeini came to power – a political catastrophe. Iran became far more influential in the region in a way supposedly inimical to US interests. In another Machiavellian intrigue, the US supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in its war with Iran 1980-88. Indeed the US helped both sides against the other in that war because, as Henry Kissinger so eloquently put it, we hope they both lose. There were millions of casualties in the war, another US military triumph. But when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the US had another major political calamity on its hands, which has festered into today’s crisis.

It is often mentioned as proof of Saddam being a thug and a tyrant that he launched chemical attacks on the Kurds. In a case of intentional amnesia, ignored is that the US continued to support him as staunchly after he did so as before. Often noted is that Hussein launched chemical attacks against Iran in the war, but, more amnesia, rarely that he did so with the help of US intelligence and Western corporation-supplied technology for WMD. These are the rule rather than the anomaly in US foreign affairs, and makes Kolko’s formulation that political problems have political and social, not military, solutions, all the more urgent.

Turning his attention to Afghanistan, Kolko says despite the idealistic protestations, the US went to war out of revenge and to maintain its military “credibility.” Because the US always needs help from other nations in its military adventures (and almost as often makes promises it doesn’t keep to get it) the maintaining of this “credibility” now extends beyond the domains of the US itself and its troops, to a wide variety of shifting and changing alliances and coalitions, says Kolko. A political complication which often seeks, in the final analysis folly, military solution. While US power, largely unchallenged by a countervailing threat since the demise of the Soviet Union, often guarantees military victory against the Taliban and elswhere, for example, political catastrophe is much more likely to follow than solution.

In Afghanistan, the US reluctantly supported the Northern Alliance, not a far cry from the Taliban. The military action largely completed, the area now suffers the same neglect which is sure to exacerbate the poverty and political chaos that gave rise to three decades of war. Worse, and Kolko examines this in terse detail, the war in Afghanistan has brought increased destabilization to all of South Asia, and especially to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which ramifications and consequences will be of far more significance to American “interests” and security. Add in the increasing destructiveness of modern weaponry, and their proliferation, and US adventurism and unilateralism, and what do you have? Nostalgia for the simpler and more secure political times of the Cold War.

This review originally appeared in March 2003 FORsooth, monthly newsletter of the Louisville chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

TRACY MCLELLAN may be contacted at tracymacl@yahoo.com

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail