Columns / Discourse / April 11, 2018

The Diagnosis: The war machine keeps turning under command

Amongst the hysteria which now infects our nation, have you ever honestly considered the prospect of war in our time? Forget in our time; how about this presidency? Forget this presidency, how about now? And I do mean honestly. We may like to joke or grimly speculate to remind ourselves of our sanity (dinnertime references to “before Trump blows up the world” and so on), but it is a different matter to honestly and realistically imagine it. We never see that late night address to the nation, that emergency headline, that frighteningly cold address to Congress before it is too late and we are entrenched in a state of war.

I do not wish to be fatalistic and I think it is foolish to consistently fall for the political theater’s tragic pendulum of emotion Ñ an apocalypse one second and paradise in our time the next second Ð but I would be dishonest if I did not say I have concerns. The news of the hour: President Trump pledges military response to suspected chemical attack in Syria. After whispers of the attack circulated — which in itself is suspect, for it has long been speculated that these are either exaggerated, fabricated or solely delivered by one news source — there has been an utter media frenzy surrounding whether President Trump will authorize a military response. It seems he has.

Under the president’s new warhawk cabinet, with Mike Pompeo and John Bolton at the wheel of destruction, pushing a return to aggressive foreign policy, these “new” developments are most shocking in one way: they aren’t new at all. America, by all accounts and means, is a nation which relies upon and perpetuates a continual machine of imperialism. This is no surprise. The renewed American interest in Iran and Syria doesn’t seem like a new chapter in our nation’s history. It’s more like going back to some unfinished business and Bashar Al-Assad’s grace period is running out.

My concern is not whether or not the government, the elected officials or the media of this country will protect our interests, safeguard our humanity and resist the imperialist lion’s roar — I know they will not. It has yet to be decided whether the Democrats will choose between defying Trump, satisfying their establishment backer’s interest or putting their force behind military action in Syria as an insult to Putin. I don’t know what they will do, but I have little to no faith that they will make the humane decision and stop more needless war. In the media, the pulse-keepers of political landscape in this country, I have even less faith. Here’s an idea for a fun evening: look through the channels, pages and websites of our media and watch them struggle between their typical lashing of the president and supporting the subtle imperialist narrative this country relies on. It is like watching two lap dogs fight over the attention of their owner.

For every darkened photograph of an unhinged president, there is endless reference to the evil and dark criminal element in Syria which must be stopped. They seemingly can’t resist repeating the president’s words over and over … “Barbaric attack” … “big price to pay”…

The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos’ gig which formerly changed its motto simply to scorn the president, is now airing in its opinion sections calls for the president to toughen up on Assad and put the tyrant in his place.

And everywhere they are flashing graphs and percentages proclaiming how popular the president’s strikes on Syria last year were, another grim reminder of the oft-forgotten truth that public opinion polls are meant to sway public opinion, not capture it.

This is my concern: I believe that in our typical discussions about the system of American political authority, checks and balances be damned, we often forget that the most important check or balance is the people of the country themselves. It is always amongst times of uncertainty that strong strides for warfare are made, because the people of a country are most often too debilitated by fear to speak up. I have a fear, scorning my usual belief in the citizens of this country, that like times before, Americans are so exhausted and ill from the political disease of this country that they will fall upon the establishment’s door, begging for anything to take their minds off their worries. Even if the price of the cure is bombing several thousand people in a country far far away which they can’t even find on a map. I am worried that in the feverish hysteria encapsulating the country, the machine will do what it’s always done and take the consent to commit warfare from a people intoxicated and debilitated by the exact same machine. Because war, poverty and suffering in this country all come from the same machine.

Maybe I am wrong about everything. Maybe I am wrong about warfare in our time. Maybe I am wrong about the citizens. Maybe we will, in the horrible scenario of war, finally decide we need to go cold turkey. Or maybe we’ll just fix ourselves some drinks and go to bed. Who’s to say.

 

Matt Milewski

Tags:  Donald Trump syria the diagnosis

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