Sunday, January 28, 2018

"We like the clarity of big wars"

According to Nicholas Schmidle, New Yorker Magazine staff writer (Trump's Pentagon tries to move on from the war on terror, Jan. 19, 2018), U.S. foreign policy advisors expressed a new alarm in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and occupied Ukrainian territory.  The problem, as described by Phillip Breedlove, then the "top U.S. general in Europe," was that, "All eyes were on ISIS all the time."  

According to Breedlove and other Pentagon policy-makers, since 9/11 the U.S. has to some extent wasted time concentrating on terrorism while the nation-state system has been chugging along, so that now we've got superpower nation-states challenging us as in days of old.

We learn that U.S. military policy is changing in response.  The latest National Defense Strategy report asserts: "Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security," with China and Russia "principal priorities."  Schmidle quotes an official who describes the current Pentagon view as, "Real men fight real wars.  We like the clarity of big wars."

Leaving aside the question of what kind of wars real women like, we can only wonder what kind of "clarity" to expect.  

Will it be the clarity of chess, in which one knows exactly who the enemy is and where he lives, or the clarity of an emotional state that focuses all hate, love, fear, desire, uncertainty, panic and despair on one object, one nation-state?  We're screwed either way.

I close with a history lesson: 

What caused World War I?

On a clear summer day, June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, arrived in Sarajevo.  Waiting for him was Gavrilo Princip, one of a group of six assassins, members of the Serbian Black Hand Society, which sought independence from the Empire.

At the same time, throughout Europe and the Americas, people were desperately lonely.  They could not relate to each other by talking or engaging in sex or cooperating in the workplace.  Of course, talking and sex and working together took place, but people felt an emotional vacuum during the activities.

When the Archduke was assassinated, newspapers called for revenge and honor.  The empty place inside people yearned for this conflict, because no one has time to be lonely when they are busy killing and being killed.  Male loneliness in particular might be assuaged.  As numerous soldiers have testified, camaraderie in battle surpasses any other.

When
 the lonely people were sold on the idea that there would be no more loneliness during a major war, they showered support on their governments and young men enlisted.  Four years later, 18 million people were dead and, presumably, no longer lonely.    

Further reading: 

Point Counter Point, 
by Aldous Huxley.  

Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization, 
by Nicholson Baker 

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