By Glenn Greenwald
Something very unusual happened on The Washington Post Editorial Page today: they deigned to address a response from one of their readers, who "challenged [them] to explain what he sees as a contradiction in [their] editorial positions": namely, the Post demands that Obama's health care plan not be paid for with borrowed money, yet the very same Post Editors vocally support escalation in Afghanistan without specifying how it should be paid for. "Why is it okay to finance wars with debt, asks our reader, but not to pay for health care that way?"
The Post editors give two answers. They
first claim that Obama will save substantial money by reducing defense spending
-- by which they mean that he is merely decreasing the rate at which defense
spending increases ("from 2008 to 2019, defense
spending would increase only 17 percent") -- as well
as withdrawing from
The Post attempts to justify that disparity with
their second answer, which perfectly captures the prevailing, and deeply
warped, Beltway thinking: namely, escalating in
recent study from the
But it becomes so much worse when one considers what we're
ostensibly going to do in
I think the best way to understand the term "counterinsurgency" is to understand what the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps today mean by that term. What they mean is an approach to warfare in which success is to be gained not by destroying the enemy but by securing the population.
The term "securing" here means not simply keeping the people safe, but providing for the people a series of services -- effective governance, economic development, education, the elimination of corruption, the protection of women's rights. That translates into an enormously ambitious project of nation building. . . .
John Nagl says that in effect we are engaged in a global counterinsurgency campaign. That's his description of the long war.
Now, think about it. If counterinsurgency, according to current doctrine, is all about securing the population, if securing the population implies not simply keeping them safe but providing people with good governance and economic development and education and so on, what then is the requirement of a global counterinsurgency campaign?
Are we called upon to keep ourselves safe? To prevent
another 9/11? Are we called upon to secure the population of the entire globe?
Given the success we've had thus far in securing the population in
Can anybody possibly believe that the United States
So according to The Washington Post,
dropping bombs on, controlling and occupying Afghanistan -- all while
simultaneously ensuring "effective governance, economic development,
education, the elimination of corruption, the protection of women's
rights" to Afghan citizens in Afghanistan -- is an absolutely vital
necessity that must be done no matter the cost. But providing basic
services (such as health care) to American citizens, in the U.S., is
a secondary priority at best, something totally unnecessary that should wait
for a few years or a couple decades until we can afford it and until our
various wars are finished, if that ever happens. "
As demented as that sounds, isn't that exactly the priority
scheme we've adopted as a country? We're a nation that couldn't even
manage to get clean drinking water to our own citizens who were dying in the
What we have today in my judgment is just the inverse of that. War has become a permanent condition.
Beltway elites have health insurance and thus the costs and suffering for those who don't are abstract, distant and irrelevant. Identically, with very rare exception, they and their families don't fight the wars they cheer on -- and don't even pay for them -- and thus get to enjoy all the pulsating benefits without any costs whatsoever. Adam Smith, all the way back in 1776, in An Inquiry into the Nature And Causes of the Wealth of Nations, described this Beltway attitude exactly:
In great empires the people who live in the capital, and in the provinces remote from the scene of action, feel, many of them, scarce any inconveniency from the war; but enjoy, at their ease, the amusement of reading in the newspapers the exploits of their own fleets and armies . . .
Lounging around in the editorial offices of the capital of a rapidly decaying empire, urging that more Americans be sent into endless war paid for with endless debt, while yawning and lazily waving away with boredom the hordes outside dying for lack of health care coverage, is one of the most repugnant images one can imagine. It's exactly what Adam Smith denounced. And it's exactly what our political and media elite are.