Monday, August 20, 2012

Diagnosing The Dogs of War - 2

Political Party = Broadway Play
In the first post of this series we referred to the book "The Dogs of War", by author Frederick Forsyth, as a source for some interesting but peculiar quotes.

For today's post I want to refer to the book "The Party Is Over", by author Mike Lofgren, as another source for some additional interesting but peculiar quotes.

The basic thrust of this series implicates, in whole or in part, the long term debate among scientists that is generally called "the nature vs. nurture" debate within some scientific circles.

That debate is substantially removed from the fog of lore by realizing that it is fundamentally a debate that has to do with two fundamental viewpoints concerning how much of human behavior is "hard wired" verses how much of human behavior is of our own free will, which would include those instances where our will is modified in some degree by the society we live in.

Let's take a look at some aspects of both sides of the debate, noting that the "hard wired" side of the debate tend to use the older science:
"The destructive intensity of the aggressive drive that propels us to war is mankind’s hereditary evil, as Lorenz termed it, and its evolutionary origins can be sought in tribal conflict."
(Liam Heneghan). A "hereditary evil" is another way of saying "hard wired", so let's take a look at the side of the debate that uses more recent science:
"the genetic argument allows us the luxury of ignoring past and present historical and social factors. In the words of Louis Menand who wrote in the New Yorker very astutely:
“It’s all in the genes”: an explanation for the way things are that does not threaten the way things are. Why should someone feel unhappy or engage in antisocial behavior when that person is living in the freest and most prosperous nation on Earth? It can’t be the system! There must be a flaw in the wiring somewhere.”
... which is a good way to put it. So the genetic argument is simply a cop-out that allows us to ignore the social and economic and political factors that in fact underlie many troublesome behaviors"...
(The It's In Your Genes Myth, quoting Dr. Maté). This is in accord with anthropologists who have looked closely at the data:
Even more important, the first solid evidence of lethal group violence among our ancestors dates back not millions, hundreds of thousands, or even tens of thousands of years, but only 13,000 years. The evidence consists of a mass grave found in the Nile Valley, at a location in modern-day Sudan. Even that site is an outlier. Virtually all other evidence for human warfare—skeletons with projectile points embedded in them, weapons designed for combat (rather than hunting), paintings and rock drawings of skirmishes, fortifications—is 10,000 years old or less. In short, war is not a primordial biological “curse.” It is a cultural innovation, an especially vicious, persistent meme, which culture can help us transcend.
(Discover, emphasis added; see also Augustin Fuentes). In the U.S. one party is primarily responsible for warmongering, while their competition is responsible for caving in to that warmongering:
While the me-too Democrats have set a horrible example of keeping up with the Joneses with respect to waging wars, they can never match GOP stalwarts such as John McCain or Lindsey Graham in their sheer, libidinous enthusiasm for invading other countries. McCain wanted to mix it up with Russia - a nuclear-armed state - during the latter's conflict with Georgia in 2008 (remember? - "we are all Georgians now," a slogan that did not, fortunately, catch on), while Graham has been persistently agitating for attacks on Iran and intervention in Syria. And these are not fringe elements of the party; they are the leading "defense experts," who always get tapped for the Sunday talk shows. About a month before Republicans began holding a gun to the head of the credit markets to get trillions of dollars of cuts, these same Republicans passed a defense appropriations bill that increased spending by $17 billion over the prior year's defense appropriation. To borrow Chris Hedges' formulation, war is the force that gives meaning to their lives.

A cynic might conclude that this militaristic enthusiasm is no more complicated than the fact that Pentagon contractors spread a lot of bribery money around Capitol Hill. That is true, but there is more to it than that. It is not necessarily even the fact that members of Congress feel they are protecting constituents' jobs. The wildly uneven concentration of defense contracts and military bases nationally means that some areas, like Washington, DC, and San Diego, are heavily dependent on Department of Defense (DOD) spending. But there are many more areas of the country whose net balance is negative: the citizenry pays more in taxes to support the Pentagon than it receives back in local contracts.

And the economic justification for Pentagon spending is even more fallacious when one considers that the $700 billion annual DOD budget creates comparatively few jobs. The days of Rosie the Riveter are long gone; most weapons projects now require very little touch labor. Instead, a disproportionate share is siphoned off into high-cost research and development (from which the civilian economy benefits little); exorbitant management expenditures, overhead and out-and-out padding; and, of course, the money that flows back into the coffers of political campaigns. A million dollars appropriated for highway construction would create two to three times as many jobs as a million dollars appropriated for Pentagon weapons procurement, so the jobs argument is ultimately specious.

Take away the cash nexus and there still remains a psychological predisposition toward war and militarism on the part of the GOP. This undoubtedly arises from a neurotic need to demonstrate toughness and dovetails perfectly with the belligerent tough-guy pose one constantly hears on right-wing talk radio. Militarism springs from the same psychological deficit that requires an endless series of enemies, both foreign and domestic.

The results of the last decade of unbridled militarism and the Democrats' cowardly refusal to reverse it, have been disastrous both strategically and fiscally. It has made the United States less prosperous, less secure and less free. Unfortunately, the militarism and the promiscuous intervention it gives rise to are only likely to abate when the Treasury is exhausted, just as it happened to the Dutch Republic and the British Empire.
(Mike Lofgren, emphasis added). The GOP is the meme complex that leads the U.S. in wanting to be associated with the warmongering of recent years.

But since the democrats do not have the backbone to stop it, what we have are two Broadway Troupes putting on Theatrical Plays with a script that is already written, but with both calling themselves political parties.

War is not in the genes of Americans, it is something that has been taught and learned, but it has become habitual for our system.

1 comment: