The Kinda Sorta Maybe Forever War

by Bob Wallace

Concerning long wars (and this includes Dubya's undeclared and mispronounced "Warren Terrism") the Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu (author of The Art of War) wrote, some 2500 years ago, "In all history, there is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. Only one who knows the disastrous effects of a long war can realize the supreme importance of rapidity in bringing it to a close. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war who can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on."

Boy, ain't that the truth. Sometimes I think there aren't any separate wars, just one eternal war that goes to sleep for a while then wakes up later. World War I led to World War II, then WWII led to Korea, Vietnam and the current slaughter in the Middle East (I'm sure that Hitler is laughing, "Har har! I won! Ooch, ouch, damn, it's hot here! I got the Jews to move to Israel and now the Muslims are trying to finish the job for me!")

There are not many people in the media that I take seriously. Let's just say that 99% of them are not Brainzillas (and some, like Dan Rather, are just plain Nutzilla). My opinion comes from being a former newspaper reporter and editor, and finding the majority of "journalists" to be ignorant and arrogant (one correspondent asked me for a word to describe this condition; after some thought that I decided the ancient word, "hubris" – a combination of ignorance, arrogance, grandiosity, blindness to the facts, and feelings of invincibility – is the best term). And what follows Hubris? Nemesis.

One of those whom I do take seriously is Richard Maybury (who is the author of - ha ha – The Thousand-Year War). He recently pointed out something that no one in the mainstream media has mentioned: that in our glorious March 4 victory in the Shah-i-Kot Valley in Afghanistan, we suffered a casualty rate of sixty-one percent. Of the 28 troops on the ground, seven were killed and ten wounded.

"A casualty rate this high – sixty-one percent – is almost unknown among American troops," writes Maybury (who flew on a helicopter in Vietnam) on his website. "In World War II, the willingness to accept a casualty rate of ten percent among bomber crews was considered a sign of extreme desperation."

Admittedly, this was just one battle, and probably an anomaly. But it raises the question of how it happened. How could these mountainbilly troglodytes in Afghanistan - a country so backward it makes the Flintstones look like the Jetsons - do this? These are guys so dumb they wear towels as helmets and fire their rifles standing up instead of lying down ("This is the way we've always done it," they told American soldiers).

It turns out they didn't do it; we did it to ourselves. "In the American armed forces," Maybury explains, "long tradition holds that when troops are in serious danger of being overrun, all available resources are sent; nothing is held back. Always use however much treasure it takes to save blood. Air Force Times says jet fighters and AC-130s arrived 'within minutes,' yet the troops remained pinned down 14 hours, gradually being picked off. This was a repeat of the horrific Somalia disaster shown so accurately in the movie Black Hawk Down."

He concludes: "It is hard to escape the conclusion that the number of jet fighters and AC-130s was woefully inadequate. Also, the rescue force sent in to help the downed troops was only 'about two dozen rangers,' against hundreds of enemy, reports Air Force Times. This incident is another dramatic piece of evidence that Washington is in over its head. The U.S. armed forces are spread way too thin; they are a mile wide and an inch deep. The war cannot be continued much longer without a massive military buildup. My guess about the upshot of this incident is that now there are continual emergency meetings in the Pentagon and White House. I think officials are trying to decide how to break the news to the American people that military spending must be boosted by at least $100 billion per year."

At least one hundred billion dollars? That sounds like it might be way on the low side. Imagine my surprise – I was shocked! Shocked! – to hear the Pentagon recently admit $700 billion is wandering around, lost in red tape, bureaucracy, and corruption (amusing, isn't it, that all three are the same thing?)

Recently Dubya asked lawmakers for an additional $27.1 billion to finance the war on terrorism overseas, and for more pretend-security at home. And this request was on top of $40 billion that Dubya and Congress provided last fall as the response to September 11. While the $67.1 billion total is a fraction of the $2.1 trillion the government will spend this year, it still exceeds the budgets of all but a few federal agencies.

"I know it's a lot of money, my request, but I want to remind you all, we fight for freedom," Dubya told the media. Not only does his proposal include money for the Pentagon, airport security, New York city, and foreign aid, it also includes at least $29 million to help Colombia in its escalating war against rebels, many of whom finance themselves through trafficking in drugs.

Where is this money going to come from? And what about new troops?

There is only one place the government gets its money: the people. It's also the only place it gets soldiers. There is only one way the government gets money from people. Taxes. There are, however, three ways to tax people: direct taxes, inflation, and deficits.

I can't imagine direct taxes going up anymore. I think they're at their limit. Americans pay a mean average of 40% of their income in various taxes; if you include all the rest (such as the fact that corporate taxes are passed on to consumers) some economists think it's 50%. I have no idea what the critical mass is, but at some point people will revolt and say, "No, that's it, no more." I do, however, think we are close to that mass, no matter how much the military dodgers in the current administration think we should sacrifice (as if they're going to sacrifice anything themselves).

Okay, then, there's inflation. And that's what Alan Greenspan has been doing. Most people don't really understand what inflation is. I took four economics classes in college (Intro to Micro/Macro and Intermediate Micro/Macro) and exactly once heard a professor say that inflation was caused by the government pumping excess money into the economy).

Mostly my instructors babbled about "cost-push" and "demand-pull" inflation and drew a bunch of goofy graphs on the blackboard. Most of the students looked at them just like the kids looked at Ben Stein in Ferris Bueler's Day Off.

I am convinced that inflation is the main cause of what makes "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer." Inflation doesn't descend uniformly over the nation; it starts in certain spots and then spreads out. Those who get the money first use it to buy up everything; those who get it last have devalued money that can't buy much. Considering the fact the dollar lost 99% of its value in the 20th century (due to the creation of the Fed in the early 1900's) it's obvious we've endured a slow, insidious and very damaging inflation.

And who gets the money first? Generally speaking, the well-to-do. So they buy up everything, and have been for a century. Their standard of living goes up. They get richer. Those who get the money last have their standard of living go down. So – they rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

In the '90's the inflated money went into the stock market and the dot.coms. Then came the meltdown (which always follows inflation) and the collapse. There are half-built skyscrapers standing on the West Coast which were supposed to house all the dot.coms.

Since Greenspan is now inflating the money supply again, where is the money going to go this time? Into defense. Into more planes, helicopters, warships (most people don't know it, but a lot of our military equipment is worn out and the armed forces are in pretty poor shape; soldiers, for example, don't have up-to-date body armor). Inflation is one of the ways our coming military build-up is going to be financed. One of the problems with this is that with all the money going into War, and the corresponding misallocation of scarce recourses, there will be much less money and resources for Civilization. That is one of the things Sun Tzu meant in the opening paragraph.

The third way the government will finance the military build-up is through running deficits. Again, this pulls money away from the free market and the advance of civilization, and toward war. No matter how the government finances war and the military's build-up, it's going to hurt the average citizen, and society. The US is already responsible for 40% of all military spending in the world; soon it might spend more money for war than the rest of the world combined. And yet, with all that money, look at the shape our military is in.

Troops? Where are they going to come from? I'm sure the administration knows the current crop of young people are the offspring of those who grew up during Vietnam. I think they understand very well the draft will never work in this current conflict. I think we'll see something we've ever seen before: disillusioned parents opposing their kids joining the military. And not a few. A lot. We've lost about 40 soldiers in Afghanistan so far. What will happen when we put troops on the ground in Iraq? How many parents are going to send their sons to die for Dubya's delusions? For Richard Perle's and Paul Wolfowitz's incompetence and blood-thirstiness? For William Bennett's and Rush Limbaugh's cowardice and hypocrisy? (Both of them, if they really wanted to, could still join the military. When I think of how fast both took their pudgy selves away from military service, I am reminded of the truth of Voltaire's saying, "Lord, please make my opponents ridiculous.") In a sentence - we're not going to have the troops.

The US government's sending $29 million dollars to Columbia to fight drugs is another example of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Drug smuggling finances a lot of terrorism. If drugs were legal, the money currently available would dry up (Harry Browne recently wrote an excellent article about terrorists' profit from drugs).

Speaking of profits going to terrorists...we have sent hundreds of billions of dollars to the Middle East for their oil. The money we send them is funneled to terrorists trying to kill (and killing) us. If we drilled for oil in our backyard, the money going to them would reduced enormously. We spend huge amounts of money protecting the sleazy House of Saud from its own subjects, while it takes our money and gives it to terrorists. The House of Saud created and financed the Wahabis to deflect the citizens from toppling the self-appointed "royalty" of Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden is a multimillionaire Saudi. He's using our own money against us.

I'm beginning to think bin Laden is winning this war, no matter what the deluded leftist neocons think (the neocons are oblivious to the fact they're the ones aiding the terrorists). Like all terrorists, bin Laden does not care who dies. Or how many. Every person we kill over there just converts more people to his cause (unless, of course, we kill all of them). And at home - and it's just as surely a law of the universe like gravity - domestic freedom shrinks as the Empire grows abroad. And it is freedom - political and economic - that creates great civilizations. As Pierre Proudhon wrote, "Liberty is the mother, not daughter, of order."

The Vietnam debacle was run by the "Best and the Brightest" – pencil-necked, Brylcreem-stinkin' geeks like Robert McNamara. People who went to Harvard and Yale. They created a catastrophe then, and they're gonna do it now. Only now they have names like William Kristol and Robert Kagan.

If I was a member of this Al Qaida or whatever they call themselves now (or whatever they will call themselves in the future), I wouldn't be planning any new attacks just yet. I would torment the administration into thinking I was going to do something, to keep them hysterical. I would be looking around the US using all the Muslim terrorist sleeper cells here (and laughing that the government actually allows this kind of Fifth Column in this country), and then in five years, once things start to calm down again...I'd pull off another attack and start the whole thing over again ("Oh, no, now they're based in Pakistan! The Philippines! Columbia! Boliva! Peru! Cuba! Yemen! Indonesia! Somalia! Sudan! Syria! Lebanon! Libya! The West Bank! The Gaza Strip! Iran! Iraq! Bosnia! Kashmir! Malaysia! Nigeria! Chechnya! Georgia! Egypt! Detroit! Brooklyn! Attack! Attack! Attaaackkk!!!")

They'd be getting a huge amount of bang for a little bit of buck. Just keep this nonsensical war going for 20 years, and watch what happens to the US (and since I'm quoting people, I'll quote Will Durant: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within"). All they have to do is gig this country every five years, and in the meanwhile kick back, relax, and laugh. Five years is a long time to find several dozen flaws in the perpetual joke that is the nature of federalized security.

I'll bet you a penny people in Al Qaida have read Sun Tzu.

Those in the current administration should pay attention to what George Washington said in his Farewell Address (which I quote at length):

"Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all...It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence...In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

"So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation."

If this keeps up, Dubya, may be a one-term president, just like the dim-bulb who sired him. He may think the American people will support World War III, but I don't think they will, no matter how much propaganda the administration throws out. Many Americans supported Vietnam – at first. Then the war escalated and the draft started. Let's see what happens if we really do invade Iraq.

(The quotes from Richard Maybury are used with permission. Copyright c2001 by Richard Maybury.)

March 28, 2002

Bob Wallace [send him mail], a former newspaper reporter and editor, and an incurable lover of puns, lives in St. Louis.

Copyright c 2002

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