A Milo Minderbinder Moment

Neoconservatives have a lock on American foreign policy with an intellectual conformity among analysts, commentators and government policy makers that is breathtaking. This has happened, I believe, because neoconservatism represents the strong state necessary for neoliberal economic policies to be implemented nationally and globally. Neoconservatism also appeals to “American exceptionalism,” where in the post 9/11 milieu no politician wants to appear unpatriotic.

“…underneath all the maneuvering, the War Party thrives.  You simply can’t operate in Washington without in some fashion declaring your fealty to wartime thinking and the sanctified post-9/11 dead air that goes with it.  No alternative possibilities, no other options are on that “table” on which “all options” are always said to sit in the nation’s capital.  Should you not toe the line, the national security equivalent of excommunication is in order.” 

Again, that part about neoliberal economic policies requiring a strong state is salient. The US, as the dominant hegemon, uses force to implement its neoliberal economic policies.

“The problems between Ukraine and Russia over Crimea and federalism within Ukraine are a mask designed to cover Obama’s true intentions, which are the smashing of the BRICS as a viable alternative to the neo-colonialist financial systems of the West and subsuming the economies of the BRICS to the whims of the United States and the ever-teetering European Union.”

However, neoconservatives, because of greedy/ideology seem incapable of pursuing a foreign policy that is either wise, coherent, strategic, or cost-effective. To the uninitiated, American foreign policy appears to be a hash.

“Despite ongoing wars and operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, among other places, the results of that experiment are in.  No single war, intervention, or minor conflict in which the U.S. military has taken part in these years has even come close to achieving the objectives set out by Washington and most have proven outright disasters.  In just about every case, armed intervention, whatever form it took, demonstrably made matters worse, increased the destabilization of whatever country or region was involved, and led to the creation of more extremists and terrorists.”

Much like neoliberalism, neoconservatism ideology succors the wealthy and powerful in the US, allowing a small intellectual faction outsized influence, and ensures that neoconservative policies will continue, no matter the outcome. Neocon’s are interesting characters, to say the least.

“The core group consists of neoconservative defense intellectuals. (They are called “neoconservatives” because many of them started off as anti-Stalinist leftists or liberals before moving to the far right.) They are products of the influential Jewish-American sector of the Trotskyist movement of the 1930s and 1940s, which morphed into anti-communist liberalism between the 1950s and 1970s and finally into a kind of militaristic and imperial right with no precedents in American culture or political history. The corners of the neoconservative pentagon were linked together in the 1990s by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), run by Kristol out of the Weekly Standard offices. Using a P.R. technique pioneered by their Trotskyist predecessors, the neocons published a series of public letters whose signatories often included Wolfowitz and other future members of the Bush foreign policy team. They called for the U.S. to invade and occupy Iraq and to support Israel’s campaigns against the Palestinians.”

Neoconservative ideology is one of the chief culprits for the hyper-belligerent US foreign policy since the fall of communism. Neoconservatives have come to articulate, in the post Cold War era, a moral case for worldwide intervention in the name of free market capitalism. The invasion of Iraq was the tragic result of this murderous ideology. In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein, vividly depicts neoconservatives using Iraq as their test subject for “disaster capitalism.”

“The Iraq invasion marked the ferocious return to the early techniques of the free-market crusade–the use of ultimate shock to forcible wipe out and erase all obstacles to the construction of model corporatist states free from all interference.”

Because neoconservatism has many factions and because this is America, it’s hard to tell where ideology ends and greed begins. The invasion of Iraq was the example of this overlap. Was it ideology, or greed? Hard to tell, maybe a bit of both. It sure helped your case as an investor in post invasion Iraq if you were also a true believer. Remember New Bridge Strategies, started by Joe Allbaugh, Bush’s head of FEMA, that promised to use its political connections to get American corporations a piece of the action in rebuilding Iraq after the US invasion? What about the poster-child for military privatization gone bad–Halliburton–overcharging taxpayers, while electrocuting US servicemen? Or, Blackwater, the mercenary army hired by the State Department to provide security, murdering Iraqis in Nisour Square? Oh, and don’t forget about the 20 billion dollars sent to Iraq in the early days of the occupation that vanished.

“The cash was literally delivered shrink-wrapped, on pallets, enormous bundles of Benjamins. So where did all that money go? Here and there on the web you can find a conspiracy theory or two, but the obvious answer is usually the correct one. There are no doubt Dubai-based bank accounts of current and former Iraqi government officials swollen with cash, perhaps some accounts of American contractors and various U.S. officials as well.”

There are still enormous amounts of money to be made from the neoconservative project to spread their free-market gospel. Take the war on terror. The more we fight terrorists, the more terrorist we create, and the more money the war on terror participants make. It’s a powerful feedback loop–a self licking ice cream cone. For the military-industrial-complex it’s a beautiful thing.

“But that by now seems to be not a bug but a feature. The “fear business” James Risen talks about is now driving billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars per year into a few private hands. Another 9/11 like event every few years will keep that business going. Letting al-Nusra get experience with U.S. tactics and weapons can only help to further that.”

Recent events are almost surreal in their similarity to fiction and replete with dark humor. In Syria, not only is the US arming and training extremist Sunni fighters, but they are simultaneously bombing them.

“With the documented conspiracy of the US and its allies to create a sectarian mercenary force aligned to Al Qaeda, the so-called “moderate rebels” the US has openly backed in Syria now fully revealed as sectarian extremists, and now with DW documenting a torrent of supplies originating in Turkey, it is clear that the ISIS menace NATO poses as the solution to, was in fact NATO all along. What is  revealed is a foreign policy so staggeringly insidious, few are able to believe it, even with international broadcasters like DW showing ISIS’ supply lines leading from NATO territory itself.”

It’s a Milo Minderbinder moment. First Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder was a fictional character in Joseph Heller‘s Catch-22. As the mess officer, Minderbinder was a war profiteer during World War II. Eventually, Minderbinder begins contracting missions for the Germans, fighting on both sides. At one point Minderbinder orders his fleet of aircraft to attack the American base where he lives, killing many American officers and enlisted men.

“In a democracy, the government is the people,” Milo explained. “We’re people, aren’t we? So we might just as well keep the money and eliminate the middleman. Frankly, I’d like to see the government get out of war altogether and leave the whole field to private industry.”

In the US, we are well on our way to Milo’s dream. To a large part we’ve privatized and outsourced our military, intelligence and diplomatic functions to the corporate state. And, because the neoconservative war party goes on forever, it doesn’t matter how much they fuck up. They always win.

George Orwell explained why this was so in the novel 1984.

The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.”

Update: Robert Parry takes neoconservatives to the woodshed, in a scathing critique of The New Republic.














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