Coming Home from the Wars

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    America has been at war in Asia for longer than any other war in which we have engaged. True, it’s not total war, we do employ contract mercenaries, and we have a volunteer military which is composed of people, fellow Americans just the same as you or I but for their choice of jobs and, perhaps, that their dedication to their country goes down a different path from that of civilians. I come from a military family myself, and I remember the horrible dailiness of living week after empty week in an incomplete family, the money problems, the endless and ever-present background fear that Daddy (or, today, Mommie) might never return, or return disabled for life, forever.  

    How much more difficult now for the families of those in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan, when their fellow Americans, standing in the line at the grocery store with them, do not even remotely have in mind that we are at war, and that other Dads and Moms are not present, but in harm’s way a long way from home. Still.

    Leave aside arguments or rationale for being where we are, the monetary cost to us for our overseas adventures is often cited as cause for alarm, and reason to get out as soon as possible, to stop hemorrhaging billions and billions of dollars and blood. This is one reason even many true conservatives support reducing our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan—- and, certainly, the consequences of reducing and eventually ending our footprint will show up in reducing the budget deficit… despite the greedy importuning by the industrial-military complex.

    President Obama, to give him credit, after creating his own Surge in Afghanistan, has started that drawdown process for Iraq, in the face of pompous militarism from die-hard reactionary Republicans. Afghanistan is another place where Obama is betting his presidency on creating space for the Afghans to reach an accommodation with their Taliban, and supposedly he will begin withdrawing troops from there within another year, too, even though I suspect neither our military nor the Afghans really believe he will.

    Can he really mean it? Will we really stop being the world’s policeman? Will we finally have the time and the budget to pay attention to our own infrastructure, our own economy…. our own families?

    The world has moved on: Bush’s aggressivness completely changed America’s place in the world; he squandered our treasure and the good will of the world with his arrogant, instinctive bullying, especially with what was essentially an illegal war in Iraq. The costs of his adventurism and peculiar political philosophy (unitary executive, free market de-regulation, profits as sacred) will have their own surge down through history. We are living with the consequences, and paying for them today and will be for several generations more—- I refer to the unintended consequences as well as the obvious, fiscal consequences.  

    I refer to such things as the damage to our society with years and years of ongoing veteran support costs not to mention the broken families, the missed opportunities because we spent money and attention on Iraq-Afghanistan when so many other geopolitical threats or changes were afoot and yet ignored, or at best pushed to the back burner.

    What could that be? The Palestinian-Israeli open wound which is like a case of yaws, the rise of non-European states with utterly different intentions, the upcoming world shift in economic power, the very real threat of an upended climate that cannot be treated as frivolous, the obvious faults and crises of modern capitalism as it creaks toward one crisis after another, collapsing while changing into—– what? a new form of capitalism as feudalism, or something quite different, at least on a global scale?

    The neo-cons were convinced that the “Great Crisis” of Bush’s time was what they called the “clash of civilizations” that they interpreted as Islam vs. Christianity, which for them had replaced the previous Great Crisis of Communism vs. Capitalism, which had replaced the previous previous Great Crisis,Totalitarianism vs. Free World. Their mindset requires a life-or-death struggle complete with victims—- if no such Great Crisis is readily available, they will eagerly create one, and drag the rest of us, willynilly, into their Hobbesian world.

    Unfortunately, they missed the mark with Islam vx. Christianity, although they did everything they could to make their Great Crisis come true. We are now winding down that mis-managed stupidity and will have to deal with its collateral damage for some time to come. Dealing with all this, and whatever black swan swims by in the interim, begins with Coming Home From the Wars.

    Yet let us not lose sight of the human costs of that transition. so often overlooked as we argue about budgets, immigration, drilling for oil, whatever new crisis-mess is vomited on to poor Obama’s desk. See here below how soldiers come home from the war. Forget the monetary bit, here is the human face of the dividend for coming home from the wars:

    • Teddy Goodson

      Once the Soviet Union collapsed, we were supposed to get a peace dividend, that is, much of the money previously poured into defense spending would be freed up to be applied to domestic uses.

      “Oh, No!” said the military-industrial complex, which feared its profits would diminish if there were no boogey-man enemy to prompt emergency war expenditures. Can’t lose profits, so Quick! gin up another threat. Yet, briefly, we did have a surplus….. immediately squandered by Bush II who gave it all to the wealthy with his tax cuts, and who then promptly emobroiled us in fighting what he and the neo-cons claimed was another existential threat to America. So, Quick! increase “defense” budgets up the Yazoo, even if you have to cut silly stuff like wages, social programs, or the expense of regulations and oversight.