Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Things Aren't What They Seem

Reviewing what has happened electorally, I notice that increasingly political news lacks sufficient depth to get to the heart of the matter, so that we are presented with a reality that isn't real. A few instances ...

TAKE ONE

During the campaign, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) said "You know education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

What his script said was: "Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq."

There isn't a substantive difference between the two and, frankly, any sane group of people who were not soaked in political rhetoric and gamesmanship would admit that the troops in Iraq are
  1. not the sharpest knives in the cupboard (see Lynndie England, the poster child for the lower-middle class whites pressed into service with little or no preparation); and
  2. nearly completely devoid of representatives from the privileged class, which is busy making money off the poor saps sent out to die for no reason we know of yet (one day we'll find out which corporations the soldiers died for).
What was the ruckus about the "honor" of the troops? The Republicans and rightwingers have already mocked the troops eleven ways to Sunday. How's being sent to die for a lie honorable, for starters? How does it "honor" troops that their home towns had to hold bake sales to buy them body armor?

And what was the "apology" all about? The statement was entirely right. You study, you become Bernie the Bond-trader with the SUV, McMansion, blonde wife and 2.5 kids. You don't study, you become a dropout whose only career choice is to chase molotov-cocktail throwers in Fallujah.

TAKE TWO

Here's a different nonreality: the chorus that demanded -- and got -- Donald Rumsfeld's departure from the Pentagon.

Sure, he made for a perfect campaign foil. Rumsfeld was excoriated as the source of everything that went wrong in Iraq by generals, the military press, Republicans, Democrats -- in short, the whole political establishment.

I get nervous when so many folks in the hot-air industry all agree. Don't you? When a cleric speaks about the evils of sex, watch your wallet. When politicos agree, look for what's not being said.

In the case of the former secretary of defense, absent from the debate was the substance. The only substantive matter on which Rummy, whose military experience went no further than a peacetime stint as a flight instructor, had a significant policy opinion regarding business at usual in the Pentagon -- such as $640 toilet seats -- was his well-known differing view of war economics.

Some called it "war on the cheap." Others called it war as a wholly owned subsidiary of Halliburton.

But what Rumsfeld really advocated was far from the headlines: it was a restructuring of the U.S. military away from the massive total-war machine suitable for World War II, with 600 ships in the Navy, countless bombers and fighters, and tons of equipment, to a very lean, easily deployable force capable of waging battle in what since Reagan administration days has been known in military-security circles as "low-intensity conflict" (aka guerrilla warfare).

This has been the challenge to the United States since Korea. No sane nation-state will declare war on, or deploy an army against the United States for the foreseeable future. None has since 1951. In fact, even North Korea originally thought it would fight its neighbor, not the USA and the United Nations.

This is also why a bunch of half-starved Vietnamese in black pajamas defeated the U.S. military. Our troops were fighting World War II-Pacific Theater, they were waging low-intensity conflict.

I don't like any kind of war, but if you're going to wage it, Rumsfeld's doctrine makes sense. What is the problem with Rumsfeld's doctrine? The principal resource is human.

The Rumsfeld doctrine doesn't require purchase of as much heavy equipment meant to be blown up and purchased again and again (talk about planned obsolescence!). Generals can't retire and go to work for Lockheed, Boeing and Grumman. The Rumsfeld doctrine was a menace to something President Dwight David Eisenhower warned us about in his departing speech, the thing he dubbed "the military-industrial complex."

That's why the chorus of the wholly owned subsidiary on Capitol Hill (some also call it Congress) was so dead-set against Rummy. Congresspersons get lots of bribes (aka campaign contributions, junkets, gifts) from the "defense" industry. (Why don't we call it the War Department, which it is, the way we used to? That's another whole blog.)

TAKE THREE

Let's do a quick little bit of Tuesday morning quarterbacking on the election, now that Monday's way past gone, to note that the results were a resounding victory for ... Wall Street.

Oh, yes, we're going to hear a lot of bad news that was suppressed until after the election. The Bush II jobless "boom" is losing steam. Stop the presses: the Republicans did not abolish the business cycle. We're headed for another recession -- in my opinion a stealth recession has been going on for about two years, but that, too, is another blog.

But Wall Street loves divided government.

In the next two years, investors can be assured that nothing dramatic or upsetting will take place in Washington. Nothing radical a few Democrats will offer has any chance of surviving a presidential veto; nothing crazy the White House might concoct has the slightest chance in a Democratic House and Senate.

So much for the purpling of America. The business of America is business, that's the greening of America that's going on -- for the top 2 percent, anyway.

Nothing is what it seems.
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