Thursday, 24 June 2010

Wars for profit: The Military Industrial Complex and winning the unwinnable

I originally wrote this in March, but felt uncomfortable with some of the detail. As such, I have edited and extended it.

I only hope the reader feels it explains my original point more thoroughly.


on his last day in office President Eisenhower, a man made famous for the role he played in helping to rid continental Europe of Nazi occupation, gave his final address to the people of the United States. During his address to the nation he warned of the potential for a “disastrous rise in misplaced power” as the result of the huge Military Industrial Complex that had sprung up during two world wars. What Eisenhower never knew however, although he certainly feared it, was just how prophetic his words would came to be.

The birth of a superpower

Following Word War 1 the American people were angry. Essentially their argument was that America had no business involving itself in European affairs and it would be best for the US to maintain a more protectionist foreign policy. Over time this would come to be the cornerstone of American policy making, with high import tariffs being set on foreign made goods. The problem though was that by shutting itself away from the rest of the world and an isolationist economic and foreign policy, the world only responded in kind.

So it was that in 1929 an increasingly worsening trade deficit and a run on the banks saw the US suffer economic meltdown. The great depression had begun and it wasn't until the outbreak of World War Two that the US began to make serious ground towards recovery.

Essentially the US found itself in a very favourable position. Not wanting to involve itself in any more major wars it was inevitable that the US would begin WW2 as a neutral power. However, whilst a denial of military support to Allied Forces was to remain in place until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, there were certainly no objections to support in the form of equipment, arms and ammunition. Even those whose loyalties went elsewhere found they were able to be discreet in their support of the Axis powers, and the first few years of war saw a great deal in the way of a turnaround of Americas economic fortunes.

By the end of WW2 the United States had amassed a huge fortune. The only problem was, what were they to do with the Military Industrial Complex that had sprung up during the war years. As it turned out, America was quick to find out and with the arrival of the Cold War came the biggest arms race in modern history.

The problem was that whilst the production of new weapon and missile systems skyrocketed, what there lacked was a theater in which the latest weaponry could be put to use. After all, without a need to resupply weaponry and without the continued provision of ammunition, the Military Industrial Complex risked stagnation. And so it was that following the assassination of President John F Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President of the United States. His first act as President was to sign the piece of paper that dramatically increased the US presence in Vietnam and effectively started the Vietnam war; even though Kennedy's intention had been to pull US peace keepers out of the country.

Over the next fifty years America was to see its role on the world stage change. Where as previously it had opted for a protectionist stance, the US Government had realised that it could no longer afford to take such a position. As a result the American presence in the world grew and, maybe not too coincidentally, begun to take on the role of world policeman as movements were made towards creating a New World Order based around globalised governmental institutions.

The war for profit and the Global Jihad

In September 2001 the world changed as two passenger planes flew into the World Trade Centre. To begin with, it all seemed like a rather typical terrorist incident when a Saudi called Osama Bin Laden, claimed responsibility. However, not all was as it seemed.

In no time at all questions were being asked about the events of that day in 2001. Reports of explosions just before the twin towers collapsed, the fact the twin towers collapsed at the rate of free fall, NORAD standing down, the Bin Ladens and George Bush Snr's business connections, along with allegations of CIA and Israeli Mossad involvement were just a few chips taken from a very large iceberg. But it was too late and in no time at all President George W Bush had declared a War on Terror.

As the result of 9/11, with full UN backing, coalition forces marched into Afghanistan. The objective was to remove the ruling Taliban Government from power and to find Osama Bin Laden. But by the time coalition forces had reached Kabul, Osama Bin Laden was nowhere to be seen. Over the next few years peacekeeping efforts were stepped up as Coalition Forces begun reconstructing Afghanistan's broken government and it wasn't until 2003 that events took a turn for the worse.

Initially the invasion of Iraq only lasted seven days, but the subsequent Iraqi insurgency saw to it that coalition forces were to become engaged in a long term conflict in the Middle East. Essentially, whilst there was strong international support for the earlier invasion of Afghanistan, the same could not be said for Iraq which unlike Afghanistan lacked a mandate. In any event, the US and UK governments proceeded with the invasion despite allegations of its illegality

what the world came to witness was a rapid growth in support for fundamentalist Islam. And to make matters worse, the defeated Taliban had returned to Afghanistan with a vengeance. Whilst they had been weakened by the successful US led invasion, they had gained in support as the result of the Iraq War and what the Jihadists called western persecution of the Islamic world. The fact that the US was massively supportive of Zionist Israel didn't exactly help matters either and British Forces who were deployed on Operation Herrick were forced to engage the Talibans Jihadist army in what was soon to become an extremely costly conflict.

All in, the position the world now finds itself in is an awkward one. Whilst the rise in fundamentalist Islam is something that is largely the result of US led operations in the Middle East and Asia, it is something that has now grown to a point whereby a simple conflict with those extremist elements is not going to be enough to control the situation. In effect, the west had hit a point of no return by launching the illegal war in Iraq, and the resultant propaganda coup and the subsequent outbreak of violence in Afghanistan now means that the west is fighting an unwinnable war. The only question then can be how to detalibanise Afghanistan without drawing ourselves into another thirty years of costly conflict that promises defeat at the hands of an enemy constantly growing in size and confidence.

Furthermore, given the current economic climate, along with the American economies dependence upon the military industrial complex, one could even be forgiven for wondering if the west can even afford to pull back. After all, to do so would mean a huge drop in business for the worlds biggest arms trader in a world where growth is the only way to keep a healthy, dynamic and competitive industry from stagnation and eventual collapse.

trampling hearts in search of minds

Ever since the 1947 Malayan Emergency British forces have focused on a policy of 'hearts and minds' when engaged in overseas military operations. The idea being to pollute the water in which your enemies fish swim by using a low number of troops who then infiltrate enemy occupied areas and forge strong links with the local population; who then turn their backs on their oppressors. As opposed to troop surges and large scale use of advanced weaponry which only causes collateral damage and turns the very people you are trying to win over against the “peace keeping” force.

The problem with the current strategy however is that it is all too easy to see how the local population would be left between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand they can live under the Taliban and be guaranteed security by people who would offer no less a draconian and extreme form of government than the current incumbents; or they can support western forces who bring with them allegations of freedom, a corrupt government, and an assortment of weaponry that more often than not leaves innocent civilians being caught in the crossfire between coalition troops and Taliban forces.

The choice therefore is over freedom or security, and given the rising insecurity in the region it is very easy to see how freedom would wind up coming second to the promise of peace as the result of a Taliban victory. The west however, can no longer afford to allow this to happen. After all, It seems that the battle has become one that not only seeks the retalibanisation of Afghanistan, but also the talibanisaton of neighboring Pakistan. Meaning that what was a war of resistance has now become full blown Global Jihad.

You could even argue the presence of a profit driven foreign force in Afghanistan, working under the assumption that they're somehow helping to deliver Afghanistan from tyranny, is in itself a complete and utter fallacy. After all, whilst the Afghani government aligns itself with western forces, they risk associating themselves with rising insecurity, which only plays into the hands of the Taliban and breeds resentment of what is seen as a puppet government. In effect the question that might be asked is, if the US backed government is so capable of governing, why do they need Western support to do so?

After all, all these efforts to get electricity to the Afghani people would not have been so possible if it weren't for the west. Leaving me to wonder just what it is that the west may expect in return? A question no doubt being asked by the very same people who have managed to survive without electricity for thousands of years.

The argument here is that these people don't need or want a western way of life, but their own. And it could easily be argued that western attempts to modernise and westernise Afghanistan are not only going to breed resentment of a culturally destructive foreign force, but will increase support for a culturally aware Taliban enemy as the local populations way of life is changed beyond recognition and younger members of the various tribes begin to move away to the cities in search of safety, jobs and a way of life that is anything but the one their ancestors followed, no more superior and anything but the one that the creators of 'hearts and minds' were thinking off when they came up with the policy.

After all, imagine the result if British forces had responded to the Malayan emergency by arrogantly suggesting that the local way of life was insufficient and outmoded by setting up electricity sub stations, cutting down the ulu and throwing up roads all over the place. They would have lost the support of the local population, their efforts at targeting communist insurgents would have been greatly hampered and the emergency would have been one which would not only have continued, but would likely have worsened as the Guerrillas claims of capitalist influence and destruction of culture became ever more visible and undeniable.

Sure, everything would have been modern and the locals would have had coca cola instead of river water. But given they had lived the same way of life, under the same conditions for generations; any suggestion of change would have appeared suspect. Meaning that the designers of 'hearts and minds' would likely have been viewed as a greater threat to their way of life than the insurgents. Leaving open the possibility for a very different outcome.

Instead, they built strong links with the local population, who not only taught them to survive in the jungle, but also helped them to overcome an enemy by providing intelligence and useful local knowledge. More than that though, to this day those very same tribes maintain strong links with the very people who helped maintain their way of life. Suggesting that the result of a good hearts and minds policy is not merely victory, but good personal links which help drive diplomacy and good international relationships for generations.

Avoiding defeat by compromising on victory

Bearing in mind then the vast differences that exist between the Malayan and Afghan conflicts, the argument is not so much over whether improving hearts and minds will win the conflict, but whether it will improve the Afghani governments standing well enough to force the Taliban into peace talks. After all, a clear victory for either side looks so uncertain that the issue of talks will have to be raised at some point. And I suspect it may be prudent to explore this option now whilst the west is in the position to do so. Especially given that western governments will be wanting to avoid losing control of the Trans-Afghanistan pipeline that brings gas through to the west. Thus eliminating our dependence on Russian gas.

Essentially the argument is that rather than increase conflict by increasing troop numbers and combat operations, talks with the enemy might go some way to ending the will to fight. For if the Taliban feel they're being engaged by the new government, they may be less willing to engage in a battle which promises no more than perpetual war. Especially given that unlike the Malayan insurgency, the Taliban are not merely a highly politicised insurgent force with their own agenda, but the deposed rulers of Afghanistan.

Not only that, but such talks would also put the west in the very valuable position of peacemaker. Allowing them the chance to show the local population that they're trying to create peace; a position which would also improve the 'hearts and minds' effort by presenting ISAF in more of a conciliatory light than that of the aggressive force claiming to work against terror in a land that they helped to tear apart.

After all, let us not forget that the wests initial reason for invading was not only to find the mastermind behind 9/11, but given that the invasion was the result of the Talibans inability to find and deliver Osama Bin Laden to his western accusers, western backed forces can hardly continue to justify their presence given that they have had no more luck than the former Taliban government in targeting so called terrorists. A failure which not only calls into question the demands the west made of the Taliban government post 9/11, but the very argument for the initial invasion of Afghanistan. Especially given that as a direct result of that invasion Afghanistan now has more terrorists than it did pre 9/11.

The horrible truth though is that insofar as Afghanistan is concerned, not only is pulling out no longer an option for fear of the Islamist cause gaining confidence and spreading throughout Asia; but neither is victory a possibility. Leaving compromise the only option in a war that looks set to continue for lack of any willingness to find a more peaceful, and less profitable alternative. For whilst troop numbers in the region increase and the war spreads to neighboring countries the struggle looks like one that is to become a perpetual war against the Islamist ideology. A war which with the resultant rise of Jihadism in western lands threatens to consume us all and drag us ever closer to the dollar lined abyss created by the western arms establishment.