Yeh Man, the U.S. Has an Addiction to War and Empire

Photograph Source: Chic Bee – CC BY 2.0

What explains the Biden Administration’s obsession with the Houthis and the Pentagon’s almost daily launching of missile and air strikes on targets in Yemen? The ostensible rationale is to protect shipping in the Red Sea. Yet, other Arab allied nations, with the exception of Bahrain (a country that houses the largest US military base in the region), have not joined Biden’s very limited “coalition of the willing.”

There are certainly geopolitical considerations behind this latest in a long line of US military interventions in the region and, indeed, around the globe. However, the desire by this and so many other preceding administrations to remain the “indispensable” nation constitutes a determining ideological commitment so such interventions. Thus, to wage war on designated enemies in the middle east, as in Yemen, or to enable US allies, like Israel, to devastate the population of Gaza is a key and lethal component for the US of being the “indispensable” nation.

One particular pertinent insight into the ideology of “indispensability” was delivered early in the so-called “War on Terror” by Emmanuel Todd. According to Todd, “the US is pretending to remain the world’s indispensable superpower by attacking insignificant adversaries. But this America – a militaristic, agitated, uncertain, anxious country, projecting its own disorder around the globe – is hardly the indispensable nation it claims to be and is certainly not what the rest of the world really needs now.”

It should not be a surprise to anyone who has studied US history (and not the whitewashed version being peddled by the right-wing culture warriors) that war and empire have been integral to the birth, expansion, and global hegemony of this nation. So many of us writing about the long history of US involvement with war and empire have underscored its devastating effects on its victims abroad, but also on the population at home (see, for example, Dying Empire)

With such a deeply-rooted engagement with empire and war, it is not surprising that this connection has metastasized into an addiction. Using elements from the Merriam-Webster definition of addiction, the following symptoms could apply to the US: “a compulsive, chronic…psychological need for a habit-forming behavior or activity having harmful…psychological and social effects.”

Of course, any addition takes place within an environment that becomes conducive to that addiction. In turn, there are forces within that environment that are critical to the reinforcement of that addiction. In this regard, I want to highlight the part played by a pivotal pusher in this addiction. Like so many enablers of those with a biochemical addiction, the drug dealers, whether in Big Pharma, or other predatory profiteers, operate in the shadows, hiding either behind corporate immunities or extensive shadow networks.

In the case of the arm dealers who feed the war machine and its imperial operations, there is a clear revolving door between the Pentagon, Congress, and the arms industry. According to a 2022 Senate report, among the leading US defense (sic) contractors, there were close to 700 former government officials offering their “expertise” to those helping to enable the addiction to war and empire. Even with so-called reforms in this revolving door, there is now more access and less transparency. The pusher men just keep the nation strung-out.

With the continuing obscenely growing Pentagon budget (without even an audit – Al Capone must be turning over in envy is his grave!) – now close to $900 billion (larger than the defense expenditures of the next eight countries combined!) – there is at least a public record to record this trope of addiction. Of the top six weapons manufacturers in the world, five are in the US. They are General Dynamics, Northrup Gruman, Raytheon (now RTX), Boeing, and Lockheed Martin Corp. Not only are they pushers in the US, but for a ten-year period through 2019, US arms exports averaged around $162 billion. And, of course, one of the biggest recipients with special deals and expedited service was and is Israel where now US-made weapons are slaughtering innocent Gazans by the tens of thousands.

This awful addiction, while profitable for some, is, thus, deadly to others and, even, debilitating to the whole nation. Taking on this addiction and its pushers is a never-ending and difficult task. However, we owe it to the world and to ourselves to help kick this habit. The sooner, the better!

Fran Shor is a Michigan-based retired teacher, author, and political activist.