Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Re: Bush's Speech Upcoming This Evening Announcing More Troops in Iraq

This is a talk that I gave back in April 2003 at the Pacific Sociological Association Meeting in a panel session entitled "The War on Civil Liberties and the War on Iraq." This was in the very early days of the US invasion. Association meetings such as this require you to plan your sessions a year ahead and I'm proud to say that we anticipated correctly with our title that the US was going to war in a year. (Although we certainly would have been happier if we'd been proven wrong!)

I think that my talk makes useful reading in light of the speech Bush is going to deliver later today. The key points here in my 2003 talk, I think, are 1) that the debacle in Iraq was predictable from the inception and 2) that the neo-cons STILL have no idea that they can't possibly win, regardless of the number of occupational troops they bring in. (I noticed today there were still some abbreviations in the text and typos that I hadn't changed. This should be fine now.)

“Unintended Symmetry? Asymmetrical Warfare and Full Spectrum Dominance”
by Dennis Loo PSA Pasadena, April 2003.

Asymmetrical warfare (ASW) refers to tactics, often unorthodox, used by combatants against a militarily superior foe. It has been used to describe the war, e.g., between Chechnya and Russia, between al-Qaeda and the US, between Palestinians and the Israeli State. The war on Iraq could be described as asymmetric when one considers the vast difference between Iraq’s military hardware and the US's, with Iraq using weapons that are 25-30 years older than the US's – two generations in weaponry lives.

In some senses ASW is not new. The American colonists used unorthodox techniques against the British in the Revolution. In fact, the British complained that the Americans weren’t fighting fair since they wouldn’t stand together in neat lines and wait to be shot at. But ASW is more salient today in large part because of the US’s undisputed position as No. 1 imperialist superpower today because of the collapse of the socialist bloc.

Full Spectrum Dominance (FSD) = the ability of the US military, with or without allies, to dominate and control any situation across all military operations. “FSD” comes from the US military’s "Joint Vision 2020," released on May 30, 2000. Joint Vision 2020 is their blueprint for the DOD in the future. While this is a military term, I use it for this paper to refer to the larger strategy of the US government that was first articulated in 1992 by the Project for the New American Century. PNAC is a neocon think tank whose principals include Bill Kristol, Dick Cheney, George and Jeb Bush, Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz (Deputy Defense Secretary), Lewis Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff), Richard Perle, Steve Forbes and others. The PNAC’s vision for the US is also sometimes referred to as the Bush Doctrine. It was spelled out in Bush’s speech at West Point in June 2002 and formalized in the National Security Doctrine of the US principally written by Rice and issued in September 2002.

The reason I describe ASW and FSD as an unintended symmetry is because there is an identity or unity of opposites here. That is, FSD produces ASW. FSD is intended to be a guarantor of the US’s pre-eminence, its unchallenged dominance, but it only provokes more opposition to it by its very nature - in the form of ASW as well as in other ways. Another way of putting this: oppression breeds resistance. Before elaborating on this, I’d like to explicate the Bush Doctrine/FSD further since it lays the groundwork for this and for the world situation as we confront it today.

Briefly put, PNAC and the Bush Doctrine that comes from it see an historic opportunity to expand US imperialist dominance in the world now, a window of opportunity, to clean up in the face of the relative weakness of the other imperialist powers and the fact that there is no socialist rival of any great significance at this time. Iraq is part of this grand scheme.

PNAC’s 1992 document, entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century," called for a war on Iraq, notably, long before 911: “The US has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in the Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

The fact that Hussein and regime change is a pretext for war was further underscored when Colin Powell stated after Bush gave Hussein that 48 hour ultimatum that the US would enter Iraq even if Hussein did get out of town.

You can go look up the PNAC’s document yourself. You will find in it, among other things, the following, which makes interesting reading in light of the attacks on Iraq for supposed stockpiling of chemical and biological agents: “New methods of attack – electronic, ’non-lethal,’ biological – will be more widely available….combat likely will take place in new dimensions, in space, cyberspace and perhaps the world of microbes…advanced forms of biological warfare that can ‘target’ specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.” [See this frightening article for example.]

What FSD (or the Bush Doctrine) calls for is arming the US and expanding the US military to unprecedented levels. The arms buildup under Bush is the biggest since the Reagan years. This is being done under the rubric of combating terrorism. But the plans that we are seeing being implemented date from nine years before 911. During Reagan’s presidency from 1981-1988 you will recall, the other superpower, the Soviet Union, collapsed. The Cold War was over. The US had won. The Berlin Wall came down. The good guys had won. Everything was going to be great. Military strategy that focused on the race between the Soviet bloc and the Western bloc of confrontation and competition for global dominance (colonial empires to be brief) was now for the first time in decades obsolete. Many people thought this meant that we could now enjoy a “peace dividend.” Money that had gone to arming ourselves and our allies and client states such as Israel could now be used for education, social programs, etc., even international humanitarian aid.

The Peace Dividend never materialized because the essential nature of capitalist economies did not change with the Soviet Union’s collapse. The official rationale for the cold war had been the communist threat to the American way of life, democracy, freedom, liberty, and so on. Now that the Soviet threat has disappeared, and both Russia and China have really restored capitalism, what can the rationale be for the arms race? Terrorism and “terrorist” states such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, N. Korea… are now the dire threats we’re told.

FSD/Bush Doctrine is an extreme and very risky new imperialist strategy to create a world in which the US is undisputed hyperpower – a solitary, unmatched superpower. The nature of imperialism and of capitalism hasn’t changed. It is still about superprofits derived through superexploitation of the Third world, about rivalry between imperialist powers over colonies (their resources and peoples) and efforts to politically, economically and militarily maintain dominance and control over colonies. What is new about it:

1) it calls for a permanent arms race;

2) openly pre-emptive wars (as opposed to bothering to provide a pretext that the other side shot first);

3) moves to prevent any “peer” imperialist rival from emerging (controlling Iraq is partly about that since even though the US doesn’t use that much Iraqi oil, France, Germany and Japan do, so if the US can control Iraq’s oil, it can strong arm these other countries. Further, the neocons want to eventually go after the Saudis, and if they’ve got Iraq in their pocket, then they can afford to push Saudi Arabia around);

4) the dismantling of long-standing international bodies and agreements (e.g., the UN, 1972 ABM Treaty, Kyoto Protocol on Global Warming, making the UN Security Council give the US temporary immunity from the UN punishing war crimes, refusing to abide by the Geneva convention re: treatment of POWs since this would prohibit their unlawful detention of prisoners in Guantanamo, Biological Weapons Convention’s verification procedures because the US doesn’t want others to know too much about the US’s biological weapons programs), to be replaced by unilateral US actions, and where possible the piecing together of a coalition of the willing (i.e., the UK, Britain, and England!);

5) new forms of colonial dominance over 3rd world countries. Iraq can be used as a base area for the US military to control the Middle-Eastern region which is rife with contradictions and extremely volatile; and

6) as a result of the preceding, more far-reaching, and more intensive ideological, political and coercive forms of control over the domestic population. In short, more fascistic laws. The USA Patriot Act is a key expression of this. 911 was the justification for the Patriot Act, but 911 really is a pretext since the plans for this clampdown (including the Homeland Security measures) were in the works before 911. Cheney has described these new laws as “the new normalcy” i.e., permanent features of American life.

The Bush Doctrine and FSD call for ongoing wars in multiple theatres when necessary to expand US interests and eliminate or contain rivals. The justification for this kind of permanent warmaking is no longer that someone else has attacked us.

When this panel [that this speech was given in] was suggested by our PSA committee a year ago, we had no idea whether we’d be at war with Iraq when this panel met, though we strongly expected/feared that we would. When I proposed my paper’s topic on the symmetry between ASW and FSD I had no idea how the war on Iraq would go. I knew that Hussein, judging by the first Gulf War, was really an inept military strategist, and a tyrant to boot. Events have shown the basic truth, however, of the juxtaposition of ASW and FSD: superior firepower, hi-tech weaponry and surveillance, overwhelming resources at your command, command over the skies, the ability to inflict great destruction from afar – all essential elements of the FSD doctrine – do not guarantee victory against a foe that is determined, well-trained, has the moral high ground, and is fighting on its own turf against an invading army.

One of the things the neocons counted on going into this war on Iraq was that the Iraqis would surrender in short order, that the sheer firepower of our troops would intimidate them – they’d be shocked and awed. FSD as a doctrine assumes that our technical superiority will allow us to rule like Rome, only on a much grander scale. Cheney and Perle and Wolfowitz, no matter how much they deny it now, were explicitly and very publicly declaring that this would be a cake walk. Christopher Hitchens, the ex-leftie now born again right-winger, in a Vanity Fair piece on 1/28/03: “This will be no war – there will be a fairly brief and ruthless military intervention. The president will give an order. It will be rapid, accurate and dazzling… It will be greeted by the majority of the Iraqi people as an emancipation. And I say, bring it on.”

It is at once infuriating and terribly amusing to watch US reporters and government officials try to explain the unexpected resistance. One reporter, Alex Witt, in charge of hosting CNN’s or MSNBC’s “International Media” program, declared several days ago that the Iraqis had received reports that “coalition” forces would inject them with poisons if they surrendered, which would explain why they are shooting at their “liberators !!?"

The more sophisticated the weaponry, the more expensive it is and the more intricate its working systems are. This makes them sexier to the military planners and procurers when they’re demonstrated, but in actual battle conditions, they are also more fragile. The M1A2 Abrams main battle tank, e.g., is being severely hampered by the heat and the hot sand and dust, suffering from power surges and disabled electronic equipment. The Anglo-American troops no longer travel at night for this reason. Relatively inexpensive rocket launchers can take down extremely expensive high-tech aircraft. Many of the troops are bitter that they were led to believe they’d get a victory march and flowers on the armor and instead are coming up against determined fighters and fighting sand constantly. Brass such as Lt. Gen. William Wallace openly complain that the enemy they war gamed against isn’t the one they’re finding in Iraq. The fact that they are encountering much stiffer resistance than they ever expected is creating problems not only on the ground in Iraq, but perhaps equally important, creating cracks in their armor at home.

Most people in the US didn’t think the government had made the case for going to war on Iraq. Once the war started, a number of people fell into line and backed the war in part because of that slogan “support the troops” and in part because of patriotism – the spontaneous tendency among citizens is to rally around the flag in times of war no matter what.

The problem for our leaders, and they know this, is that the American public’s appetite for war is thin. A majority will go along if the war is quick and relatively painless, and if they don’t see too much of the truth about civilian deaths. What the early stages of the Iraq war points to is that FSD can only succeed if they can get secure quick victories.

The US empire has enormous ambitions, grander than any rulers have ever had in world history. They are gambling recklessly, buoyed by unmatched arrogance, and they do have enormous resources to draw upon: the biggest, most expensive, best equipped military force in history, pre-eminent economic power that allows it to pay for that military, hi-tech R and D, and a corporate media that might charitably be described as National Pentagon Radio. The problem comes back, however, to the fact that oppressing people creates resistance. High tech wizardry does not guarantee you success. Carrying out unprovoked aggression on other countries and peoples requires straining credulity among your own citizens. Already the Iraqi resistance is making dents in the supposedly invincible American military. Ultimately, the Colossus has feet of clay, or as Mao used to say: “US Imperialism is a Paper Tiger.”

We have an enormous responsibility as residents and citizens of the US not to let these wars they plan to go unchallenged. If they succeed in Iraq, they are next going after Syria, Lebanon, Iran, N. Korea, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and China. It’s all in their written documents for all who choose to look it up. It makes the US by far the most dangerous rogue state in the world today. The question is: will we let this go on in our name?

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