Thursday, April 21, 2005

America at the Crossroads: War and Empire

Flaming Banjo has a post about the future of warfare and the rise of warbots.

Finkelstein, a leading proponent of the automation of combat represented by the [Future Combat Systems] program, is echoing an often-repeated promise of the modernized military, the promise of combat with no casualties. Recognizing that the loss of soldier’s lives is the single greatest factor making the American public reluctant to wage war, many military strategists see automating the most dangerous battlefield tasks as holding tremendous promise in the ongoing PR battle to justify overseas engagements, along with the more obvious benefits to life and limb.

Unfortunately, the scenario painted by Finkelstein and others leaves out a crucial point: When he says there will be no people on the battlefield, what he actually means is no American people on the battlefield. |Link|(Emphasis added)


Flaming Banjo's discussion of the rise of warbots and the power of the military-industrial complex reminded me of the interview at TomPaine.com with Chris Hedges, the author of War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.

The defeat in Vietnam made us a better nation and a better people. We were forced to step outside our own borders and see how other people saw us. We were forced to accept very unpleasant truths about ourselves -- our own capacity for evil. I think that that process [of self-reflection], especially during the Reagan years...began to disintegrate. War once again became fun: Grenada; Panama, culminating in the Persian Gulf War.

...Freud argues that all of life, both for the individual and within human society, is a battle between Eros, or love, and Thanatos, or the death instinct. And that one of these instincts is always ascendant, at one time or another.

I think after the Vietnam war, because of the terrible costs that we paid, because of the tragedy that Vietnam was, Eros was ascendant. I think after the Persian Gulf war, where we fell in love with war -- and what is war, war is death -- Thanatos is ascendant. It will, unfortunately, take that grim harvest of dead, that ultimately those that are intoxicated with war must always swallow, for us to wake up again.|Link|


This struggle between Eros and Thanatos is crystal clear with Bush in office. Our government continues to cut social spending and scientific programs while fully funding programs for high-tech killing toys and occupying Iraq. How much weaponry do we really need? We are a nation awash in small arms and in control of tens of thousands of nuclear weapons...how many warbots do we need?

I guess it depends upon our aim. If our goal is to establish a globe-spanning empire that disempowers and enslaves billions, maybe there is no limit to the need for self-propelled implements of destruction.

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