Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Posts Tagged ‘American Empire

Is it World War Three yet?

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Yes, yes it is. See, question answered at beginning of post, people who are in a  hurry can move right along now. What, the gentle reader wants details? OK, I guess I have to actually write the rest of the post. We’ll start with what I don’t mean. Usually when someone talks about World War Three they are talking about a nuclear war between the USA and the USSR, basically a continuation of World War One and Two. Since the Soviet Union is no more, and World War Two is fading rapidly into history, technically World War Three is no longer possible. However, the term has so insinuated itself into the culture that the next major global war involving the industrial powers will likely be called World War Three. Some people decided after 9/11 that there was now a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the west,  even going so far as to call it a World War. I could write a whole post on what a load of propaganda and malarkey that idea is, suffice it to say that’s not what I mean by World War Three either.

What I mean is what I have been saying for at least 20 years, World War Three is going to be the First World against the Third World. Granted in a  certain sense that is what has been going on since the beginning of the European colonial era, but I think we’ve reached a point where the majority of the warfare on the planet is more or less the West, IE the first world, trying to impose its will on the third world. Basically to maintain the fiction that the governments and even the borders in the third world are legitimate. The ugly truth is that most of the third world’s borders were drawn up by the European powers for their own benefit, and most of the third world’s governments are willing partners in the exploitation of their nation’s resources for the benefit of their ruling elite only.

One excellent indication of this is how the UN has morphed into an organization that is now concerning itself with the “legitimacy” of nation’s governments, rather that acting as an agent to mediate conflicts between nations. This both gives a green light to colonial wars, it reinforces the fiction that the various countries in the Third World are actual legitimate nation states. And of course the western corporate controlled media plays right along with this, and regularly regurgitates the UN’s stance on whether or not a government is “legitimate.” Somalia is an excellent example, they always talk about the Somalian “government” as if it is some legitimate Somalian entity, instead of an ad hoc collection of exiles only kept in power by foreign troops. It’s about as legitimate as the US government would have been had England defeated the revolutionaries and installed a government. The other indication is to look at the so-called pariah nations, like Cuba, North Korea, Iran, etc. They are roundly and endlessly demonized in the western press, not to mention being endlessly persecuted via sanctions and embargoes, the US leading the way; but all they have in common is a refusal to let the IMF and the west dictate how they run their economies.  This was Qaddafi and Milosevic’s crime, though of course in all cases the west uses the rubric of “democracy” and “human rights” to cover up its crimes. And of course with the blessing of the UN, the new version of the Vatican bestowing its blessings on crusades.

Then there’s the USA’s global military empire. And I mean that quite literally, the USA has divided the world up into military commands, with a space command and a cyber command to boot. With hundreds of overseas bases as well, this isn’t some exercise on paper. No nation in history has ever had a world-wide military deployment like the USA. And it’s not just deployed, the USA is actively waging war in numerous countries. And the vast majority of the people we are fighting pose zero threat to the USA, in fact most of them are fighting for self-determination against a UN approved government. Granted I’m not saying that every insurgency or independent government on the planet is some force for good, far from it, they are all over the map when it comes to how justified their actions are. By the same token though, the propaganda fantasy that the US is fighting some vast evil “terrorist” network (They’re aligned with Al-Qaeda, so we can do whatever we want!) is equally silly.

My point is that the standard view most people have of the world, the view reinforced by the western media and education system, is a fiction. What’s really going on is far uglier. Granted this is the point I’ve tried to make in every other blog post, but I keep coming at it from different directions. It helps clarify my thinking, and if I’ve made some egregious leap of logic, usually some gentle reader sets me straight. On the plus side, like all empires that have vanquished all their foes, the USA is the most byzantine, corrupt, inefficient, bloated, and wasteful empire in the history of the world. I suspect it’s reached its high water mark. Time will tell.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit. I got it off of some random web page that didn’t attribute it. Always glad to add a link doing so if so requested.)

Written by unitedcats

October 16, 2012 at 6:38 am

The Ten Horseman of the Appocalypse … or why the collapse of the American Empire is inevitable

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I know I have discussed many of these before some of them at great length. There are several aspects to this list. For one thing, each of these ten items is something that has occurred since or was a radical departure from America in the 196os. An America whose schools, infrastructure, health care, and middle class were the envy of the world. And each of these things has been an epic fail, something that has cost the nation staggering sums of money and/or blood while simultaneously making the situation worse. And lastly, it’s the sum total of all of them that is alarming. Any one of them is a national calamity, with all ten of them (and likely a few more I didn’t cover,) its beyond me how the future can be anything but bleak. In no particular order, and there is some overlap:

1. The War on Drugs. Hundreds of billions of dollars spent, whole police forces, armies and even governments corrupted by drug money, countless lives ruined, tens of thousands dead … and drugs are as cheap ana available as they ever were. In fact the only drug that has seriously declined in use since this prohibition madness began … is tobacco. Americans in the 30s were able to understand that prohibition was creating more problems than it solved, not so much today apparently.

2. Public Education. In the 1960s the USA’s educational system was the envy of the world. It was actually possible for people to work their way through college. And the whole point of the educational system was to produce well rounded peopl who would be enlightened and productive citizens. Now it produces standardized tested drones designed to be cubicle workers for corporate America.

3. Prison Policy. California illustrates that nicely. In the 1960s CA had an incredible prison system that concentrated on rehabilitating prisoners. And the recidivism rate was the envy of the world. Since then California has gone to a prison policy of  “punishment only,” and the results are predictable. Prisoners are dehumanized by prison, and completely unprepared for society when released. So the recidivism rate has gone through the roof, and huge numbers of people are imprisoned at vast public expense. It’s literally insane.

4. Afghanistan and Iraq. Trillions spent, tens of thousands of Americans dead and maimed, and the only thing we have to show for it is we are more hated than ever. Even ARVN (South Vietnamese) troops didn’t kill our GIs, Iraq has allied with Iran, and our Afghan allies kill and wound our troops almost daily. And Obama with a straight face says both invasions are both “victories.” Right.

5. Health Care. France provides its citizens, every one, with cradle to gave health care that is the envy of the world for about 11% of their GNP. The USA spends 16% of its GNP on health care and provides its citizens with the worst health care in the developed world. Not only are Americans paying through the nose for the shittiest health care in the developed world, many of them are deluded into thinking its the best health care in the developed world.

6. War on Terror. Staggering sums of money spent, the largest expansion of government since the 1930s, government power to intrude on American’s lives expanded and still expanding … to defend against a threat that is so small it is statistically zero. That’s right, an American’s chances of being killed by terrorists have remained the same forever, essentially zero. As threats to our lives terrorism is not even on the radar.

7. Infrastructure Fail. Again, in the 1960s America’s infrastructure was the envy of the developed world. And since then spending has  been diverted into the military, and what spending does get made on infrastructure is so rife with corruption that mind numbing amounts of money get spent to accomplish very little. And we are now two trillion dollars in the hole.

8. War on the Poor and Middle Class/Upwards Transfer of Wealth/Legalized Corruption. This is a big one, in some senses the biggest one of all. From the end of World War Two until the late 1970s rising tides did lift all boats, and the American middle class was the most prosperous the world had ever seen. Since then the rich have gotten richer while everyone else has lost ground, and this has been very deliberate and systematic. This is trillions of dollars that has been taken out of circulation an invested in offshore bank accounts, if such a word like investment can properly be used.

9. War on Science. In the 1950s and 1960s everyone knew that science and scientists were one of the core things that had led America to greatness. Not so much anymore. And a huge percentage of our science infrastructure is now devoted to military research, or simply devoted to subsidizing corporate research in what were once public colleges and universities. This has impoverished us all from any number of perspectives.

10. Theocracy in America. I don’t know what else to say, a significant minority in the USA is bent on turning the USA into a Biblical Theocracy. This is crazy on so many levels, the first of which is that biblical prinicples fail as any sort of social policy. In the Bible punishment and prohibition are the only social policies, both of which are demonstrably the least effective social policies.

I could go on. And these all tie together in horrible ways. One of the most obvious is that there are powerful institutions and forces working very very hard to make sure that none of the above change. The prison lobby isn’t interested in rehabilitating prisoners for example, they want as many prisons and prisoners as possible. And they’ve succeeded, with 5% of the world’s population we have about 25% of the prisoners. A staggering waste of money and resources when it comes right down to it.

That’s the crux of it: staggeringly wasteful spending that doesn’t create any wealth whatsoever, but it enriches a tiny number of people who fund powerful lobbies to keep it so. Often with horrific unintended consequences on the side as well. This is no way to run a  nation.

And most Americans are oblivious. Or worse.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. It’s from the History Channel program Life After People, a show that I heartily recommenced and encourage people to watch.)

Written by unitedcats

May 21, 2012 at 7:58 am

Evolution = God, Etc.

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A big part of the reason I haven’t been posting much daily is that I want to fit all my latest epiphanies into one post. I’ve come to a new understanding of a lot of fundamental things in the past few years, and I feel like I need to add vast codicils to anything I write to accommodate them. The good kind of accommodate. Since that isn’t going to ever happen, at least not blogwise, I’m going to take a different approach. I’ll start at some fixed point and ramble as I may. And I’m starting with Evolution = God. What do I mean by that? I could write a book. I mean that the Universe we find ourselves in is so complex on so many levels that it is mind boggling, we are the product of processes that have gone on for billions of years through gigatrillions of iterations. And every single step of the way leading to us was ordered on levels of precision that are again, mind boggling. We appear to be just one product of a reality that literally appears to have infinite possibilities to create different complexities. Yet here we are. When one truly grasps that, it’s amazing beyond belief.

It also makes the idea of a Biblical God who is concerned with promulgating his narcissistic cult throughout the human race on the threat of eternal torture seem like something a psychotic two year old would come up with. I mean, really? And every faith convinced that they are following the one true messiah, and the followers of the other faiths are inherently violent and somehow less than human. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism demonstrate that most clearly. Anything resembling an impartial look at even 20th century history has to conclude that each is capable of horrific barbarism under the right circumstances. If we go back further in history, it gets much much worse. Religions are ideologies, and with an ideology, it’s easy to manipulate people into committing atrocities. I use those three as examples, they are all the same. Political ideologies are no different, communists, socialists, capitalist, fascists, the whole lot have committed the most unthinkable atrocities throughout their histories.

Unthinkable being the word. Adherents of such ideologies either deny that their ideology committed the atrocity, holocaust deniers being a prime example, or they claim that the atrocities committed in their name were the only choice, forced on them by the enemy’s atrocities. America’s Obama supporters are a great example of this, but every president since World War Two has hands drenched in blood. As do their die hard apologists. The USA has been an empire since the Spanish American War, and there’s no such thing as a peaceful empire. Again, anything resembling an objective view of America’s actions in the twentieth century shows an empire drenched in blood like all the rest. And not blood for blood’s sake, that’s not my point, but if you are going to steal from people, they are going to fight back. It goes downhill from there.

That’s basically what the modern world is based on. People accumulating wealth at the expense of poor people. And nations accumulating wealth at the expense of poor nations. The upwards transfer of wealth combined with the colonial transfer of wealth. This isn’t really civilization, it’s looting with high tech gadgets. At least the Romans knew that the heart of their empire was productive provinces and an educated population. A lesson that seems to have been lost since then. There’s two big problems with this looting mentality being the heart and soul of the empire. For one thing, it creates horrific problems in the parts of the world we exploit. Some appreciate this, many don’t. More importantly, and the point that almost everyone seems to miss, is that the upwards transfer of wealth can only go so far. At some point the whole system collapses, usually because the wealth becomes so concentrated that the people at the top lose touch with reality. Mitt Romney’s feeble attempts to portray himself as a “common man” illustrate that nicely. He considered it a “hardship” when he was forced to live off of the income from his investments!

So as my regular readers may have noticed, I’m not particularly optimistic about the future of America. We seem to have the same hubris, shortsightedness, and corruption that have led to the downfall of so many empires in the past. In my next post I have a list of ten ghastly expensive mistakes the USA has made in the past decade or so, mistakes that will cost us all dearly … yet most Americans are oblivious too them. Worse, they are led around the nose by pundits and shysters and politicians and getting all worked about about such things as gay marriage, Obama’s birth certificate, and the like. Afghanistan is the longest war the USA has ever been in, and we are holding elections to deprive Americans of their rights. Jesus wept.

(The above image is Public Domain under US copyright law. It’s Photograph of Utah Battery on McCloud Hill, in the Philippines. It was taken in 1899, shortly after the Spanish American War. I was looking for a photo of the Spanish American War, but the ones I could find were all kinda lame. This was during fighting in the Philippines, our first real war of colonial repression. One of the men in this image was killed within by fire from Philippine Freedom Fighters.)

Written by unitedcats

May 19, 2012 at 12:47 pm

The Libyan Army Changes the Rules of the Game

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Well, I was wrong. I’d feel stupid, but since many other people including high ranking military professionals were also wrong, I don’t feel too bad about it. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of Mr Qaddafi, and the last time I thought war was glorious was when I was ten years old, but something unusual is happening in Libya. The Libyan army has done something no one thought they were capable of, and it may change the nature of warfare. And it might even win the war for Qaddafi … and wreak havoc with what is left of America’s foreign policy. Mr Qaddafi (or more correctly, the unknown military genius who is conducting his war) may very well humiliate Obama on the field of battle. WTF?

OK, so continuing from my last post, most people expected the rebels to quickly gain the upper hand now that they had American air support. I predicted they would chase Qaddafi’s military back to Tripoli. And initially they did so, USA air strikes destroyed Qaddafi’s air force, tanks, and artillery; his forces retreated, and the triumphant rebel army pursued him. And there’s where it stopped following the script. At Sirte Qaddafi’s army not only took a stand, they thrashed the rebel forces and have been chasing them back to Benghazi since. And this was after the USA bombed the piss out of the Libyan army, what the hell is going on here?

Two things as far as I can figure. For one thing I overestimated the military capabilities of the rebels. They, literally, are a disorganized mob. A mass of armed men, enthusiastic, but there is little resembling military organization. Not surprising, it takes six months to a year to put together a military. Basically the rebels are a militia force. A militia is a group of untrained armed men. Historically they were an important adjunct to regular military forces until the mid nineteenth century or so, and they have become progressively less useful since. Basically, if a militia’s morale is good, they fight. If things are going bad, they run. And if a militia fights regular troops, things generally go badly for militias.

Still, with the USA bombing their tanks and guns and supply columns, how did the Libya army keep fighting? And this is where it gets interesting. The Libyan army did something that no one expected. They abandoned their heavy military equipment and converted to what is now call technicals. These are fighters, in this case professional soldiers, who only carry light infantry weapons and travel in civilian type vehicles like SUVs and pickup trucks. And modern light infantry weapons can pack a wallop indeed. Rifles, machine guns, and RPGs for one. And more importantly mortars, which trained troops can use to drop high explosives on top of people miles away, people that can’t even see where the mortar rounds are coming from. And the biggest advantage of course is simple, from the air a force of Libyan soldiers is now indistinguishable from a  force of rebels. Simply by chucking the trappings of a professional army, the Libyan military has adopted tactics that largely nullify the USA’s air-power. (Or worse.)

This is  a surprising development. Militaries tend to be rather inflexible institutions, slow to adopt new tactics. Not the Libyan army. They’ve also been reportedly using mines to great effect when they retreat, something that also speaks of an effective military. And as a last point, it obviously hasn’t escaped them that Libya has no railroads, bridges, or other obvious and crippling infrastructure for the USA to attack. Their supply columns can travel overland pretty much everywhere, the USA is not going to be able to cripple their supply situation by blowing up a bridge or two. This all strongly suggests that whatever Qaddafi’s failing as a leader may be, he has some sharp people running his military. So  much for the idea that they were a poorly trained poorly armed bunch, their training and arms appear to be quite up to the job.

And this is especially worrisome compared to the USA’s almost frighteningly unimaginative cookie cutter approach to this crisis. We tried the usual threats and sanctions. Yeah, that always works wonders. A no-fly-zone, like the one that, well, inconvenienced Saddam for what, a decade? And lastly bombing, which has a very mixed track record. Bombing is great for destroying infrastructure and obvious military targets, but not much good for anything else. Destroying Libya’s infrastructure would be counterproductive at best, and the Libyan military has adopted tactics that minimize their vulnerability to American air power. What’s superpower to do? Hell if I know. There hasn’t been an original idea in Washington in decades, so the USA has only one arrow left in its quiver. Ground troops. I hope not.

In any event, the above is all conjectural and subject to errors in my source material, but the basic fact that Qaddafi’s forces are holding their own seems clear. And yeah, Qaddafi is suffering from some high level defections, but so did Hitler. And if anything, what defections Hitler suffered made the remainder of his supporters all the more devoted and fanatical. While Libyans most definitely did not have political freedom under Qaddafi, the ones that are still fighting for him have every reason to continue to do so. I don’t know how this is going to turn out, but right now it looks like the USA has managed to turn another country into a permanent bloody failed state with constant USA support required to keep “our” faction in power. Smooth move Mr Obama.

(The above image is from the Australian National Library and is public domain under US copyright law. It’s sunken ships in Tobruk harbour, Libya, sometime during World War Two. I thought it nicely captured the bleakness, waste, and pointlessness of war. This will be my last post on Libya in the near future unless there’s further developments. Next, the Koran burning riots in Afghanistan, what’s going on with that?)



Written by unitedcats

April 3, 2011 at 2:39 pm

McCain Proposes Indefinite Detention Without Trial for Citizens … and Why I Still Think We Would All Be Better Off If He Had Won the Election

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Still, this proposed law is scary. The whole concept is so foreign to the principles the country was founded upon that it’s like being in a bad dream and not being able to wake up. This proposed law basically turns the Constitution and the Bill of Rights into a piece of toilet paper and gives the President dictatorial powers to have anyone he likes locked up, permanently. I wonder if it has occurred to the good Senator that a future president could simply have Congress detained if the president was frustrated by them? I doubt it, Congress has so long gotten away with exempting themselves from their own laws that I don’t think it even crossed his mind. On the other hand, laws like this have made it onto the books before without people being locked up as a result. So who knows what this means, incipient fascist police state, or politicians pandering to the law and order sheep? It’s just one more piece in the puzzle, and there’s no box lid with a picture to see how it’s supposed to all turn out.

In any event, I’m more convinced than ever that we all would have been much better off if McCain had won the election. Well, maybe better off is not quite the word, but if McCain had won, there would still be hope. There would still be hope, because there’d still be an opposition movement to the “borrow and spend” and “war forever” insanity that is making a tiny number of people very very rich, while impoverishing the rest of us. I mean, Obama has not only continued Bush’s policies, in most cases he’s actually expanded on them. He really is the Manchurian candidate, though not in the silly way the Tea Partiers and such espouse, he’s no socialist or Muslim. He’s simply the complete political tool utterly craven to the rich and powerful who have been running the country as their own company town for the past few decades (at least.) Far from being an opposition party, the Democrats are now just the other face of the Republicans. Both are big business, big military, and big war supporters. For those of a literary bent, we are living in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and the pigs and the farmers just merged.

So it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, but I don’t think this fall’s elections really mean a damn thing. Even if the Tea Partiers are swept into power, they will deviate as much from the course we are already on as Obama. Anyone who seriously thinks that any Republican or Democrat is going to shrink government and cut government spending is living in a dream world. Well, a propaganda world more precisely. A world where the rich are victims, and the poor and immigrants are the source of all our problems. A world where blowing up brown woman and children on the other side of the planet in droves isn’t even newsworthy, but some guy lights his pants on fire on a  plane and it’s an existential threat to the USA. I have to admit I never ever thought when I was a a kid that I’d grow up and find myself living in a world that was sillier than the comic books I was reading.

Where this is all going is anyone’s guess. The current situation is frighteningly similar to Rome at its height. An empire basically grown too large to manage, and hollowed out at the core by corruption and greed. An empire that is surviving by debasing its currency and looting foreign lands. Neither is a good long term strategy for a nation or an empire, but boy, a tiny number of people get rich beyond imagining. Sooner or later it will all fall apart, maybe with a whimper, maybe with a bang. It’s the bang that scares me most. A single event in the US even remotely like 9/11 and the country will go cuckoo bananas. Literally. And sooner or later one of our ever increasing number of enemies, or even one of our “friends,” is going to pull it off. It’s inevitable, 9/11 wasn’t the first terrorist attack in the USA and it won’t be the last. It’s the first one though where a rudderless administration seized upon it to make terror mongering a structural part of US politics and society. Yes, now we’re stuck with 9/11 mania forever, thank you Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney.

Lastly, while my assessment of the overall situation is bleak, it has to be balanced by the fact that throughout history, no matter what great events and catastrophes were raging, most people in most places managed to live out their lives. I dare to say that most cities in the Roman Empire are still cities today. I was reading the other day there’s one of the grand villas (palaces) built by a Roman emperor that’s still remarkably well preserved today, because a local village grew into it and used (and preserved) its buildings. I plan to live my life and enjoy the company of my friends and loved ones no matter what, as long as people do that, ultimately the bastards will never win.

(The above image of Diocletian’s Palace. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Credit and copyright: Rialfver at nl.wikipedia. If I was a better artist I’d create an image of the ruins of Washington being viewed by tourists 2,000 years from now. And I don’t mean any of this in a  bad way, American simply fell prey to the same sorts of greed and corruption that have destroyed so many prior empires. It’s been a hell of a ride, and it’s not over yet by a long shot. Parts of the Roman Empire for example carried right on for a thousand years after the fall of Rome.)

Written by unitedcats

September 27, 2010 at 9:43 am